California State Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
115th Observation Squadron
The History of the 115th Observation Squadron, 40th Division Aviation, dates from March 25, 1924, when General R.E. Mittelstaedt, Adjutant General of the State of California, addressed in a letter to the Militia Bureau, Washington, D.C., stating that the time to organize an Air Service Unit in California, was at hand, and that the office of the Adjutant General was willing and anxious to proceed with its formation, providing the Militia Bureau would authorize the same.
In reply to the Adjutant General's letter, the Militia Bureau, on April 5, 1924, authorized the immediate organization of the 115th Observation Squadron, 40th Division of Aviation.
When the 115th Observation Squadron, 40th Division Air Service, was formed in 1924, the Unit held its meetings at Clover Field, Santa Monica, using Reserve Equipment planes for flying. Later on, the Squadron met at the National Guard Armory and also at the University of Southern California. In 1925, several months after its organization, the Squadron moved to permanent quarters at Griffith Park, Los Angeles.
Distinguished visitors were frequent guests of the 115th, including Colonel T.F. Lahm, Air Officer of the 9th Corps Area at the Presidio, who flew in and inspected the camp. General R.E. Mittelstaedt, Adjutant General of California, spent a day reviewing the maneuvers. Friend W. Richardson, the Governor of California, visited the Squadron and was the guest of honor at a luncheon given by the Officers of the Aviation Unit. Colonel William "Billy" Mitchell, formerly Assistant Chief of the air service, also visited the unit and was a welcome guest owing to the fact that many of the Officers of the 115th Observation Squadron had served under Colonel Mitchell at the front. Colonel Mitchell praised the unit highly on their accomplishments, and was especially pleased with the layout in the Operations room and with the type of Missions that were carried out.
On June 3, 1931, the 115th Squadron participated in the National Air Corps maneuvers. Each airplane of the 115th Squadron that participated in the maneuvers had flown approximately one hundred hours including time from Griffith Park, Los Angeles, to Dayton, Ohio, and return. Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Douglas MacArthur, commended the officers of the Aviation unit of the California National Guard, for the efficient manner in which they performed the work that was assigned to them during the National Air exercises at Dayton. The unit demonstrated a high degree of training and morale which placed them on an equal footing with the National Air Corps. The Chief of the Militia Bureau, W.H. Waldron, also expressed his personal gratification for the cooperation of the unit which assisted so greatly in making the maneuvers a complete success and especially for the manner in which the safety maneuvers were carried out.
In 1940, the 115th was mobilized and sent to Sherwood Field in northern San Luis Obispo County. The field was named for Captain George Sherwood, the first commander of the 115th Observation Squadron of the California National Guard. Sherwood was killed in 1935 while flying civilian mail near Burbank, ironically crash-landing in a cemetery. The squadron was the first military group to occupy Sherwood Field. According to Dan Krieger, writing in War Comes to the Middle Kingdom, the 115th was comprised of many photographers from southern California, some associated with the movie industry in civilian life. Sometimes Hollywood starlets would be brought to Paso Robles to entertain the troops.
Movieland expertise was evident in the 115th's winning entry in the 1941 Pioneer Day parade, a train complete with masked robbers who staged attacks on the locomotive along the parade route. One member of the 115th organized a baseball team to play against a local girls' team. He requested ten baseball bats from Warner Brothers Studio. When the studio mistakenly sent one hundred bats, the surplus was used as fuel for a post-game barbecue.
But it was not all fun and games for the one hundred-plus enlisted men and twenty-some officer-pilots. They continued training in observation and air reconnaissance as well as participating in flour-bombing and target-towing exercises with the recently completed Camp Roberts.
The early years of the air arm of the California National Guard demonstrated a high degree of professionalism and esprit d'corps. World War II saw the 115th fly patrol missions along the California coastline. Eventually, the organization provided its members to other elements of the Army Air Corps which helped build the mightiest Air Force in the world. Members of the 115th served in New Guinea and eventually concluded their wartime service flying light observation aircraft in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.
Today, the lineage of the squadron is carried on by the 115th Airlift Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Island Air National Guard Base
To view a pictorial history of the 115th Observation Squadron, CLICK HERE
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Updated 19 July 2017