Major Ralph Royce, August 1929
Among military aviators, Major Ralph Royce was a frequent
visitor to Tucson. He landed and signed the Register six
times between 1927 and 1932. He was based variously at Langley,
Selfridge and Bolling Fields during this time. He twice commanded
the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, from 1928-1930
and from 1934-1937.
Image, left, from the NASM shows Major Royce in front of
a Curtiss airplane in August 1929 at the National Air Races
in Cleveland. Note the well-used A-1 jacket.
Royce was supremely prepared for a career in military aviation.
He was born June 28, 1890 at Marquette, MI. He attended the
U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY from 1910-1914 and
received his B.A. and commission as second
lieutenant of infantry upon graduation.
He learned to fly in 1915 at North
Island, San Diego, CA. He was promoted to 1st Lt. and Captain
in 1916 and flew with the 1st Aero Squadron in Mexico and
in France, 1916-1919. He was promoted to Major in 1917. For
his service in France, he was awarded the Croix
de Guerre with the citation: "Commanding
the 1st American Observation Escadrille, he insisted on making
the first reconnaissance above the enemy lines himself. Gives
to his pilots generally an example of admirable dash and
Ralph Royce, Ca. 1921 (Source: Royce)
From 1920-26 he was commanding officer of the primary flying
school at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL. Photo, left, shared by his son, was taken at Brooks Field, San Antonio in 1921.
In 1926 he was transferred
to Langley for duty as a student at the Air Corps Tactical
School. We find him at Tucson on July 8, 1927 with his home
base identified as Langley. After graduation a year later
he went to Ft. Leavenworth, KS as a student in the General
Major Royce then took on the responsibility of the 1st Pursuit
Group at Selfridge Field until 1930. We see him in command
while he was based at Selfridge during his next two visits
to Tucson on September 7 & 18,
1928. He was part of a flight
of at least 16 aircraft of the 1st Pursuit Group (see below).
Flying Curtiss P-1 aircraft, they were all on what appears
to be a round-robin, mass formation from Selfridge Field,
Detroit, MI to Rockwell Field, San Diego, CA. Image, below,
of the 1st Pursuit Group at Cleveland, OH during the 1929
National Air Races. Royce can be identified, bare-headed,
standing under the root of the left-hand propeller blade.
The 1st Pursuit Group, 1929
Ralph Royce (L) & Victor Strahm (Source: NASM)
Another photo, right, was taken about the same time as the one above. Royce stands at left next to fellow Register signer Victor Strahm.
Royce was not
a stranger to long cross-country flights. During January 1930
he commanded the 1st Pursuit Group again in a flight across the
northern U.S. from Selfridge Field to Spokane, WA and return.
According to the Newark Star Eagle of March 9, 1931
and the Washington
September 18, 1931 (I have no idea why these news items appeared
six-months apart), he won the Mackay Trophy for the effort,
the paper reporting, "The flight developed valuable information
concerning the use of planes under severe winter conditions." Fellow Register pilot Harry A. Johnson was one of his team of aviators.
1934, he was one of the participating pilots in the Air Corps
expedition of ten Martin B-10 bombers from Washington, DC
to Fairbanks, AK, and return. Register pilot Hap
Arnold led that flight.
As well, in February 1935 he led the 1st Pursuit Group on
a cold weather flight. The entire month was spent in the
northern states where snow and ice prevail during the entire
winter season. A total of 21 officers and 25 enlisted men
participated in this flight. During their flying operations,
the airmen were overtaken by blizzards, and at times
the temperature hovered between 20 and 28 degrees below zero.
In and among his aviation exploits, Royce attended the Army
War College 1933-34. In 1935 he was promoted to Lt. Colonel,
and to full Colonel in 1938. At the time of his 1938 promotion
he was stationed in the Philippines as Philippine Department
Air Officer. He then became Commanding Officer of the 7th
Bomb Group from 1939-1941.
He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1941 and became
Commanding General of the 20th Wing in 1941. During WWII
Royce was stationed all over the world from Cairo to the
Pacific, winning the Distinguished Service Cross for leading
a raid from Australia on the Japanese in the Philippines.
He served as Chief of Staff to Register pilot Lt. General
George H. Brett, then commanding Allied air forces in the
Below, Royce with his son. He was a Brigadier General then, so this photograph was taken sometime after 1941.
Ralph Royce (Seated) and His Son, Ca. Early 1940s (Source: Royce)
Soon after he transferred to the United
States (April 1943) taking command of the 1st Air Force at
Mitchel Field, LI, NY. He was described by the NY Herald
Tribune as a, "...big-nosed battler from Marquette...and
is almost bald." His final promotion was to Major General.
Image, below, is from Dick &
page 179. Elwood Quesada is also a signer of the Davis-Monthan
Register. You may see another image of Royce at the Klein Archive on
Major General Ralph Royce received a disability retirement
from the military in July 1946. He
died on August 7, 1965 at 11:30PM of leukemia at the Homestead
(FL) Air Force Base Hospital.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 10/26/07 REVISED: 11/18/09, 06/20/11