The First Yale Unit and WW I

Highlighting the YaleNews article "Defending Allied Skies" by Amy Athey McDonald, which draws heavily on the collections of Manuscripts and Archives.

Personnel of the First Yale Unit of the United States Navy Air Reserve during aviation training in West Palm Beach, Florida, ca. 1915-19, photographic print, F. Trubee Davison papers, 1882-1961 (inclusive). Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library.

Personnel of the First Yale Unit of the United States Navy Air Reserve during aviation training in West Palm Beach, Florida, ca. 1915-19, photographic print, F. Trubee Davison papers, 1882-1961 (inclusive). Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library.

"In 1916 as America faced a revolution in Mexico and full-blown war in Europe, a group of 12 friends at Yale University decided it was time they learned how to fly. That summer the young men, led by Frederick Trubee Davison ’18 (1896–1974) — manager of the Yale crew team — formed the Yale Aero Club and the volunteer Coastal Patrol Unit #1, later known as the First Yale Unit.

They would become the country’s first naval aviation unit in World War I — the eyes in the skies that spotted enemy troops and land mines, chased U-boats and zeppelins, and engaged enemy planes in battles over Dunkirk and Paris.

They came from great wealth, social standing, and privilege. With surnames like Rockefeller and Gates, members of the First Yale Unit were star athletes and students, part of the “silver spoon” set. Schooled in leadership, service, and sacrifice, they were willing to risk everything to join a war 4,000 miles away in Europe." Read more ...