Military history takes to the skies in special program at museum

Elliott White Springs

COLUMBIA, S.C. – On Saturday, Sept. 29, history will take to the wild blue at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.
“Early Aviation Daredevils and Pioneers!” is the name of the day-long program, and it will take visitors back to the days when human flight was a brand-new and extremely dangerous thrill on multiple fronts, involving a variety of flying machines.

At 11 a.m. at the museum, Curator of Education Joe Long will talk about the role blimps played in early military aviation. His talk is entitled “Lighter Than Air Croix de Guerre: Columbia’s WWI Blimp Pilot.” Long will tell the story of James Franklin Griffin, who saw his first dirigible at the South Carolina State Fair in 1916. Two years later, he was flying combat missions in such a craft off the coast of France for the U.S. Navy. His exploits in anti-submarine and other operations led to his being among the first few men in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps decorated with the French Croix de Guerre.

At 1:30 p.m., Curator of History Fritz Hamer will turn the topic to early biplanes with “Palmetto Aces: WWI Fighter Pilots from SC.” He will look at the origins of the U.S. Air Service and how it scrambled to recruit and train pilots when Congress declared war on Germany. Even though the most important duties of the air service in WWI was to provide reconnaissance, it was of course the fighter pilots who garnered the most national press. The presentation will focus on some of South Carolina’s pilots, such as Elliott White Springs of Lancaster and Greenville’s John O. Douglas.

Then at 2:30, author Jason Ryan will speak on the subject of his book, Race to Hawaii: The 1927 Dole Air Derby and the Thrilling First Flights that Opened the Pacific. That daring race was a 26-hour ordeal undertaken in the heady days right after Charles Lindbergh had first crossed the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis.

Come on out to learn about the time when flying was for daredevils, both in war and at peace.

About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to

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