Lahm, Frank Purdy

Object ID: 2012-007-877

State: OH


USA 1954 pc sig. Gen. Frank Lahm, Aviator BRIGADIER GENERAL FRANK P. LAHM Retired Nov. 20, 1941, Died July 7, 1963 Frank Purdy Lahm was born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1877. He attended public school in Mansfield and later a Dominican school near Paris, France. Lahm then spent two years at Michigan Military Academy preparing for West Point, where he entered in June 1897. Although he graduated in the top fifth of his class, he found plenty of time for athletics. He held the rope climbing record at West Point, and his great enthusiasm for riding led him into the Cavalry upon graduation in 1901. He became a second lieutenant of cavalry and served in the Philippines for two years. Upon his return to the United States in 1903, Lieutenant Lahm was stationed at West Point as an instructor in French. The summer of 1904 was eventful. It marked the beginning of his activities in aeronautics. Lahm’s father had joined the Aero Club of France and owned the balloon the Katherine Hamilton, named in honor of his daughter. The elder Lahm made frequent ascensions and initiated his son in a night ascension. In the summer of 1905 young Lahm completed the requirements of six ascensions, including one at night and one alone, to win his Federation Aeronautique Internationale license as a balloon pilot. In July of the same summer Lahm became a first lieutenant. In 1906 young Lahm won the International Balloon Race, flying across the Channel from Paris, France to Yorkshire, England. Lieutenant Lahm contracted typhoid in the spring of 1907. He spent part of his convalescence at a rest home in St. Germain. One day the garden gate opened and in walked the senior Lahm and Wilbur and Orville Wright. This was the beginning of a warm friendship which lasted until the two brothers died. In August 1907, Lieutenant Lahm was assigned to the Aeronautical Division of the 0ffice of the Chief Signal Office in Washington. At Fort Myer Va., Lahm and a detachment of Signal Corps soldiers constructed a hydrogen generating plant and practiced captive observation balloon work. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and an early aviation enthusiast, often invited Lahm and young scientists to his Washington home for discussions on many subjects, especially aviation. The Wright brothers brought an improved version of their 1908 plane to Fort Myer, Va., in 1909 for official War Department tests. After practice hops Orville Wright, with Lieutenant Lahm as a passenger, made the first official test flight on July 27. He and Lahm established a world’s record for a two-man flight – one hour, 12 minutes and 40 seconds. The Wright Brothers set out to fulfill their Army contracts by teaching officers to operate the machine. In October 1909 Wilbur Wright trained Lieutenants Lahm and Frederic E. Humphreys at a field in College Park, Md. Both officers soloed. With little more than three hours apiece flying time, Lahm and Humphreys were pronounced pilots on Oct 26.