Dargue, Herbert Arthur
Military Test PilotEnshrined 1997 1886-1941
Herbert Arthur Dargue was born on November 17, 1886. He entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1907 and graduated in 1911. In July of 1913, he received his wings.
On December 16, 1914, Dargue and Lt. J.O. Mauborgne became the first Army airmen to transmit and receive radio messages while in flight. Soon after, he was transferred to the Signal Corps Aviation School at San Diego and then to the 1st Aero Squadron at San Antonio.
The primary mission of the First Aero Squadron was surveillance, from their Curtiss JN-2 Jennys, of the U.S.-Mexico border. In 1916, the Squadron was detailed to Brigadier General John Pershing’s command to furnish air support and reconnaissance for the expedition to pursue Pancho Villa into Mexico.
Later, Dargue returned to the Signal Corps Aviation School. In 1917, he and another pilot made the first planned Army night flight and landing. Later that year, he helped establish, and later commanded, the School for Aerial Observation in Oklahoma.
In 1926, Dargue was chosen as Commanding Officer of the record-making Pan-American Good Will Flight. This entailed the first aerial circumnavigation of South America. Dargue and Lieutenant E.C. Whitehead flew in the New York. Dargue experienced a close brush with death in a mid-air collision over Buenos Aires which took the lives of the two pilots of the Detroit and demolished the New York. Dargue and the other pilots returned to Washington, D.C. on May 2, 1927. There, President Coolidge awarded Dargue and the other members of the Pan-American flight the first Distinguished Flying Crosses.
In 1930, Dargue was assigned as commanding officer of the 2nd Bombardment Group at Langley Field. In 1934, he became Assistant Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama. There he helped to develop and test what would become the Norden Bombsight.
In the latter part of 1941, Dargue took command of the First Air Force at Mitchel Field. A few weeks later, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Dargue was chosen by Secretary of War Stimson to proceed to Hawaii to take command. En route, Dargue’s plane crashed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, killing all aboard on December 12, 1941.