Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series about General George Squier.
After being assigned as executive officer to the Chief Signal Officer of the U. S. Army in 1907, he recommended the formation of the Aeronautical Division of the U. S. Signal Corp.— the first ancestor of the U.S. Air Force. This division was formed to develop the specifics for the Army’s first airplane.
Major Squier wrote the specifications for the Army’s first airplane, the Wright Flyer. He was head of the army board responsible for the performance and trials of the airplane. He oversaw the trial flights and flew as an observer on some of them.
On September 12, 1908, Orville Wright took Major George O. Squier on a flight that lasted 9 minutes and 6 seconds, making George the second person to fly as a passenger in an airplane. This flight, and one taken by another passenger three days before, essentially marks the beginning of modern air travel. This flight occurred at Fort Myers, Virginia just outside Washington, D. C. Congress adjourned to view the flight and inspect the airplane. This flight established an endurance record for flights taken up to that time.
On another flight on September 17, 1908, Orville Wright crashed his plane into Arlington National Cemetery and was injured and hospitalized. His passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, unfortunately died. In 1917, while in charge of the Aeronautical Division, General Squier named the air field constructed near Mt. Clemens in the lieutenant’s name— Selfridge Field.
In 1912, George was sent to London as a military attaché. He was selected by General Leonard Wood, Army Chief of Staff, because Squier’s background and education were needed to understand the complexities of modern warfare. This was done with the anticipation that there would be a conflict in Europe in the near future. While in London, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on March 17, 1913.
His reports on the communication services and methods and the developments in aviation provided the U. S. military with vital information for the improvement needed in these two areas.
In May 1916, Lieutenant Colonel Squier was recalled by President Wilson with the purpose of correcting problems in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corp. The Aviation Section was plagued with multiple serious problems. Pilots were dying due to inadequate training and unsafe aircraft. There was insubordination in the ranks and insufficient funding from Congress.
He so successfully completed this assignment that he was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed Chief Signal Officer for the U. S. Army in February 1917.
In 1917, General Squier established the Aviation Research Laboratory at Langley Field, the oldest air field in the United States. Langley Field was a training site for the Army’s pilots. More importantly, Langley Field was the site of the development of future versions of the Army’s aircraft. It was the site of the majority of the advancements in aviation for over 80 years.
With the creation of Langley Field, General Squier established the use of the scientific method into the development of Army aircraft. The specific functions of a particular plane were established, a prototype constructed, the prototype evaluated against the specifications, changes were made to the specifications and/or the prototype to meet the Army’s needs, and only then was a plane put into production for the Army’s use.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s Homecoming book, “Remembrances of Almont 2020”can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or firstname.lastname@example.org or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.