Foulois, Benjamin Delahauf
PilotEnshrined 1963 1879-1967
Benjamin Delahauf Foulois was born in Washington, Connecticut on December 9, 1879 to the son of a French veteran of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), and a Boston-born nurse.
At age 18 he used his older brother’s birth certificate to enlist in the Army to support the Spanish-American War, but arrived in Puerto Rico just weeks before the armistice was signed. He served with the engineers in 1898-1899 and the Infantry in 1899-1901. In 1901 he received his commission as second lieutenant and upon graduation from the Army Signal School on June 19, 1908 he was detailed to aeronautical duty.
Appointed to an Aeronautical Board of Signal Corps Officers for conducting airship and airplane performance trails, he was one of three officers taught to fly Dirigible No. 1 in August 1908 following its acceptance.
Foulois participated in the trials of the Wright 1909 Flyer and the Army Airplane #1. During the trials of the Wright 1909 Flyer, Foulois served on the official board and during the speed qualifications test by Orville Wright, was the passenger carried in accordance with provisions of the contract.
He was then selected along with Lt. Frank P. Lahm to become one of the two Army officers to be taught to fly the Army’s first airplane, but before training could be initiated, he was sent to France as the official delegate from the United States to the International Congress of Aeronautics.
Returning from Europe in October 1909, he was given flight training on the Army’s first airplane, but on November 5 the craft was damaged. He was then ordered to take the airplane and a small group of enlisted men to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas and teach himself to fly it.
Despite the lack of adequate funds and support, Foulois began his course of self-instruction, aided by letters from the Wright Brothers which provided sound advice for correcting his piloting errors. In order to keep the plane in flying condition, he was forced to supplement an official allotment of $150 with personal funds.
Relieved from flying in July 1911, Foulois returned to aviation duty with the Signal Corps Aviation School in North Island, San Diego, California, in December 1913. He later commanded the 1st Aero Squadron in Mexico during the campaign to arrest the bandit Pancho Villa in 1916, and served as Chief of Air Service, A.E.F. in France for a period in 1917-1918. He was in charge of the Materiel Division at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio in 1929-1930 and on December 20, 1931 he became Chief of Army Air Corps. Foulois retired from active military service on December 31, 1935.
Benjamin Delahauf Foulois died at age 87 on April 25, 1967 at Andrews Air Force Base and is buried in Washington, Connecticut.