The region had a number of World War I ace pilots

Published 6:47 pm Friday, October 2, 2020

Soon you will be able to see some of artifacts collection concerning Ironton’s WWI ace, Capt. Bill Lambert.

The plan of the museum committee is to provide a place to display the important items from Lambert’s life to commemorate his accomplishments. The United States Air Force recognized him for destroying 22 enemy aircraft.

The committee has purchased new display cases, which were assembled by the Lions Club. They are awaiting installation of the glass and LED lights. The Lions Club has been a big help in getting this project off to a good start. These displays will be available for viewing at the Ironton City Center.

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I was surprised to read in a Charleston, West Virginia paper that the state had a WWI ace right here in Ohio’s neighboring state, Lt. Louis Bennett Jr. He did not survive after being shot down in flames. He was hit with ground fire. I found that he trained in the Curtis Flying school in Toronto, Canada, which was established in 1914 by J.A.D. McCurdy, the first Canadian citizen to fly a plane.

McCurdy worked with Alexander Graham Bell. There is no doubt in my mind that our Ironton WWI ace, Capt. Bill Lambert, learned to fly in the same school.
Bennett grew up in Weston, West Virginia, which is famous for the defunct Trans/Allegheny Lunatic asylum that dates back to 1800s. He flew for the Royal Flying Corps, which later called the Royal Air Force, He flew in the same type plane that Lambert loved – the S.E. 5a.

Bennett had a record of shooting down 12 enemy aircraft, including 10 balloons, in just nine days of combat. The balloons were filled with hydrogen in those days and flamed easy with a few shots. They were observation balloons to lift an observer up high enough to see the battle field and check on the activity. It was reeled up on a steel cable up to 3,000-4,500 feet. Some of the observers had parachutes to escape when they were under attack.

Hearing about Lambert made me more aware of the history of WWI. I found that other states had flying aces’ careers that were similar to Lambert.

Another neighboring state, Kentucky, had an ace who shot down 17 enemy aircraft. He was Lawrence Callahan from Louisville. He was in the U.S. Signal Corps and then was on exchange duty with the Royal Flying Corps.

He originally flew the S.E. 5a, but then moved into the Sopwith Camel, which picked up the nickname because of the cover over the machine guns to protect them from freezing.

It was a unique plane that was very deadly for enemy aircraft in the hands of a good pilot. It had a rotary engine with the crankshaft anchored to the fuselage and the cylinders spun and had the propeller attached to the crankcase. With the gyroscopic effect from that huge flywheel it could turn very fast to the right, but very slow to the left.

It was credited with 1,294 enemy aircraft shot down.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at