Douglas Campbell

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Douglas Campbell

Birthdate: (94)
Death: 1990 (94)
Immediate Family:

Son of William Wallace Campbell and Elizabeth Ballard Campbell
Husband of Ilka "Boo" Renwick

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Douglas Campbell

Douglas Campbell (June 7, 1896-December 16, 1990) was an American aviator and World War I flying ace. He was the first American aviator flying in an American unit to achieve the status of ace.

Early life

Campbell was born in San Francisco, California. He was the son of famed astronomer William W. Campbell, the head of the Lick Observatory and future president of the University of California. At the time the United States entered World War I in April 1917, he was a student at Harvard University noted for his athletic prowess. Campbell and close friend Quentin Roosevelt, the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, immediately dropped out of college and enlisted in the United States Army. He would receive an A.B. Harvard Class of 1917

Service career

Assigned to the Air Service, Campbell learned to fly in a Curtiss Jenny aircraft and was later trained in a Nieuport fighter. He was assigned to the famous Pursuit 94th Aero Squadron (the "Hat in the ring" gang) - at this stage flying Nieuport 28 fighters. He was noted for several firsts in his service. He flew the squadron's first patrol along with two other famous aviators, Eddie Rickenbacker and Raoul Lufbery. Due to supply problems, the trio flew their first mission in unarmed planes. His first kill came while flying in an aircraft armed with only one rather than the usual two machine guns.

He shared credit with Lt. Alan F. Winslow for the squadron's first confirmed victories, which were the first victories by fighter aircraft of any American flying unit in the war. Campbell and Winslow each shot down and captured a pilot from Jasta 64w on April 14, 1918. He became the first American flying for an American unit to become an ace when he downed his fifth enemy aircraft over Lironville, France on May 31, 1918.

Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster for bravery in aerial combat over Flirey, France on May 19, 1918. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre avec palme by the French military. He scored his sixth and final victory on June 5, 1918.

During this last action, Campbell was wounded by an exploding artillery shell and was sent back to the United States to recover from severe shrapnel injuries to his back. During his recuperation, he made appearances at numerous war bond rallies. Campbell hoped to return to combat and was reassigned to his squadron in November 1918. By then however the war was winding down and he saw no further frontline action before the Armistice of November 11, 1918.

After the war, he took a job for W.R. Grace and Company. He became the Vice-President of Pan-American Airways in 1939 and was named the airline's general manager in 1948. He died in Greenwich, Connecticut at the age of 94.


The serial number of Campbell's Nieuport 28C1 fighter was #6164 and was marked as squadron aircraft #10. Replicas of his aircraft along with its markings are popular with modern model builders.
Although Campbell's official victory count stands at six, Eddie Rickenbacker in his autobiography Fighting the Flying Circus credited his fellow ace with downing at least seven aircraft during the war. He also concluded that had he remained healthy, Campbell could have surpassed him and become America's leading ace of the war.
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Douglas Campbell's Timeline

Age 94