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David Sinton Ingalls

Ingalls, David Sinton

Military Strategist
Enshrined 1983 1899-1985

During World War I at Gosport, England, Ingalls, the U.S. Navy’s only ace, found his natural bent for air combat. He was viewed as a pilot who was preparing himself for the fight againt the Germans in the months ahead. He had discovered the most wonderful game in the world – a game that demanded the greatest courage to face fiery death in the air every day.

    During World War I Ingalls was the U.S. Navy’s only ace.
    Between 1926 and 1928 he was a representative in the Ohio Legislature, and co-sponsored the Ohio Aviation Code.
    In 1929, while serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he guided the Naval Aviation Test and Development program.
    He helped develop the Naval Air Transportation Service in 1942, supplying naval ships in the Pacific.
    He was the Air Center Commander at Guadalcanal.
    As a Rear Admiral he served as plans officer of the South Pacific and then commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station.
    After World War II he served as vice president of Pan American World Airways, and actively promoted air safety aviation, and private flying.



David Sinton Ingalls was born in Cleveland, Ohio on January 28th, 1899. His father, Albert S. Ingalls was from a long line of railroaders and was associated with the New York Central Railroad. His mother, Jane Taft Ingalls, was from Cincinnati, Ohio. She was the niece of President William Howard Taft and her family was of writers and editors.

Ingalls’ primary and secondary education began in Cleveland. He attended the University School there, and also attended St. Paul’s school in Concord, New Hampshire. He entered Yale University in the Fall of 1916 to begin his studies as a pre-med student. Here Ingalls followed his natural interest in aviation and in 1917 joined the so-called “First Yale Unit,” a group of Yale students who were learning to fly.

Soon after 18-year-old David Sinton Ingalls earned his wings in 1917, he received a commission and sailed for war-torn Europe. Stationed at the school of special flying at Gosport, England, he received instructions in an Avro trainer, and experienced the sheer joy of flying solo in a Sopwith Camel.

On the day he arrived at the U.S. Northern Bombing Group Headquarters at Dunkirk, France, the Germans launch a massive offensive and drove a wedge 37 miles deep into the Allies’ lines. Ingalls was pressed into service with the 13th Squadron of the British Royal Air Force, which was operating along the French and Belgian coasts. He went aloft time after time with the British, sharpening his skills as he began to take part in aerial combat. After more combat training at Clermont, Ingalls drew a short tour of duty with the British 218th Squadron, and flew DH-9 bombers in attacks on German submarine bases. While serving with the 218th, Ingalls scored his first two unconfirmed victories in the air, an enemy biplane and an observation balloon. Unfortunately, the records for these were lost.

However, Ingalls was soon back with the 213th British squadron in Flanders, raiding German North Sea coast bases. His first “official” aerial victory came on August 11th, 1918, when he and his flight leader downed a German observation plane behind the lines. Two days later his squadron, along with five others, made a surprise dawn attack on a German aerodrome far behind the lines. Flying in at tree-top level, they bombed and machine-gunned hangars, planes and barracks, destroying 38 planes. Then on an afternoon patrol about a week later, Ingalls and two of his squadron mates attacked a German two-seater and sent it down in flames. Now Ingalls had two victories!

As the intensity of the air war rose, Ingalls took part in a massive raid on another German aerodrome. Leading a flight of five Camels, he dropped out of the clouds and strafed hangars and bombed the planes on the ground. On the return flight to his aerodrome, Ingalls spotted an enemy observation plane and, after he and another pilot dove to the attack, they saw it burst into flames and crash. It was his third victory!

On September 18th, he scored one of his most brilliant aerial victories when he and two others attacked an enemy observation balloon over Ostend. Diving out of the sun, he fired incendiaries at the balloon while anti-aircraft shells burst all around him. Suddenly, the balloon burst into flames and crumpled in a fiery mass upon the sheds below. Two days later, while escorting a squadron of bombers, he ran into a flight of Fokkers. In the ensuing dog fight he sent one down, trailing smoke, for his fourth victory.

Then on September 24th his flight ran into 12 Fokkers. Three were shot down, but Ingalls did not down any of them. However, later that day, he and another pilot attacked an enemy plane over Nieuport. He fired 200 rounds at close range before it went down. Ingalls was elated, for this victory, his fifth, made him an Ace.

On October 3rd he flew his last sortie of the war. He had flown 63 combat missions and scored five official victories. Home from the war as a hero, and the Navy’s only Ace, Ingalls returned to Yale and earned a bachelor of arts degree. After earning a law degree from Harvard in 1923, he passed the Ohio bar, and joined the famous law firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey in Cleveland. He also soon married Louise Harkness of New York City. In 1926 he was elected to the Ohio legislature. During his second term in office, he co-sponsored the Ohio Aviation Code, which became the model for many other states.

By 1929 his approach to the administration of aviation won the approval of President Hoover who made him Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics. Working hand in hand with Admiral Moffeto Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics, Ingalls tripled the number of naval aircraft and the hours flown by Navy pilots all without recording a single fatality. He also pushed for a fully deployable carrier task force. As a result, work began on the carrier Ranger and four more were planned.

After he was appointed a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserves, Ingalls also became a good friend of Charles Lindbergh and helped him solve navigation and communication problems in charting new air routes to the Orient for Pan American Airways. With the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, Pan Am’s president, Juan Trippe, made Ingalls Vice President and General Manager of Pan American Air Ferries, with its headquarters in Miami, Florida. From there Ingalls directed the ferrying of American-built warplanes to Allied bases all over the world.

After the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, his friend, Admiral John Towers, asked him to develop the Naval Air Station at Honolulu to handle the newly-established Naval Air Transport System. As a result, he reported for active duty on the staff of the commander of Naval Air Forces in the Pacific. In mid-1943 he became chief of staff for the Forward Area Air Center Command based on Guadalcanal, where he directed the transport of vital supplies to the Allies in the Pacific. After serving as Plans Officer for the Navy’s South Pacific Air Force, Ingalls became commander of the Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station, a major terminal for military air transport services.

At the war’s end, Ingalls retired with the rank of rear admiral and again became associated with Pan Am serving as a Vice President in charge of its overseas operations. In 1954 he became president and publisher of the Cincinnati Times-Star newspaper, and vice chairman of the Taft Broadcasting Company. In this capacity, he publicly advocated support of aviation.

From 1958 on, Ingalls practiced law in Cleveland. During this time he traded in his E-90 Beechcraft King Air E-90 for a new Beechcraft King Air F-90 and continued to add to the more than 14,000 hours he had acquired in the air, as he continued to fly to and from the Chagrin River airfield.

David Sinton Ingalls died in Chagrin Falls, Ohio on April 26th, 1985.

For more information on David Ingalls, you may want to visit these websites:

World War I Bios
Aerodrome Bios