Iowa's Famous Aviator to
Appear at the Auditorium
Monday night at the state university James Norman Hall, Iowa's
famous aviator, is to tell about some of his adventures.
"American army officers, who found their way from a German prison
Switzerland immediately after the armistice, were suspected of
being Bolshevik agitators and were care- fully guarded by the
Swiss soldiers." So says Captain James Norman Hall, soldier of
adventure, twice reported killed in airplane accidents, many
times decorated, author of two books on the war, and a veteran of
three armies in this war.
One of his decorations is the French military medal - and he
chuckles to read the wording of it - "to this gallant soldier who
died in combat."
In his lecture he will touch on the high spots of his
experiences, for it would take several volumes to tell them all.
In fact, an unknown reporter before the war, he has now become a
famous author, as is attested by "Kitchener's Mob" and "High
Adventure," two books in which he recounts his thrilling
He walks with just a little lameness. Both his ankles were broken
when he was shot down as an American flight commander, commanding
the unit in which Eddie Rickenbacker was flying at the time, May
"Escapes? Oh, I had no escapes," he said when interviewed. "We
were sent to the prison at Landstutt. And it was a good life
there. Honestly, we were sorry the war ended when it did - we had
such a wonderful escape planned for that winter. I though by foot
would be better by then." "And we had got together a great
library and for the first time since 1914 I had a real chance to
read -- and the war ended".
"The minute the armistice was signed they told us we could walk
away to freedom if we wished. But no arrangements had then been
made for exchanging prisoners or releasing us, so we simply
walked out on our own and got across the Swiss border into a
little town." "Switzerland then - Nov. 17 - had just succeeded in
putting down a tremendous general strike. It was a real
revolution, although I understand no news of it was ever sent out
in dispatches to the world. The whole Swiss army had been
mobilized immediately and the country was under martial law."
"It was for this reason that we were suspected of being
bolshevists in disguise. I suppose Guards were stationed outside
our door and watched us all night. Finally, higher officials were
reached and we were released." "They had to record us as 'escaped
prisoners' because no arrangement for releasing American officers
had then been made. This is the reason stories were sent out that
we had 'escaped,' whereas we had simply come out with permission
from the Germans."
Norman Hall's remarkable record started when he was standing on a
London street corner - September, 1914. He describes his early
experiences in his book, "Kitchener's Mob." He had gone to
England on a bicycling trip and had been caught by the war. The
fever seized him. He enlisted at once n the 9th Royal Fusiliers,
British infantry. The next spring he was in the thick of it, at
Loos and at other crucial spots along the western front, in
trenches with the Tommies from London streets. A large shell
killed seven men in his
squad in September, 1915. He happened to have stepped into a
dugout a minute previously.
He became a lance corporal and several months later was starting
for an officers training school when there was handed him a
discharge. It was the first he had heard of it. Friends had
secured his release through the state department, because Hall's
father in Colfax, Iowa, was seriously ill and his mother had
begged them to get the youngster home. He came home, visited
Iowa, started back to England, saying he was going to write
"Kitchener's Mob". He tried to write but the next heard of him he
was in the Lafayette
Escadrille, flying for France.
Then medals and escapes came thick and fast. He met eight Germans
12,000 feet in the air and was shot through the lungs. Reports of
his death were sent to America, June 25, 1917. Later his friends
heard that he was recovering from his wounds, and they thought he
would soon be home. But the next day they heard he was back in it
and when the Lafayette Escadrille was split up he was made flight
commander in the American air forces.
When he was taken prisoner it was again reported that he was
dead. Lengthy stories were sent out from France on the "death
mourned by every airman in France" But the next day a German
airman flew over
the allied lines and dropped a note saying that hall was safe.
"We were a patrol of three and attacked a German formation at
some distance behind their lines. I was diving vertically on an
Albatross when my upper right plane gave way under the strain.
Fortunately the structure of the wing did not break. It was only
the fabric covering it, which ripped off in great strips." "I
immediately turned toward the lines and would have reached them,
I believe, even in my crippled condition, but by that time i was
very low and under a heavy fire from the ground. German
battery made a direct hit on my motor." "It was a terrifying
smash and almost knocked the motor out of the frame. My machine
went down in a spin and I had another of those moments of intense
to the experience of aviators. Well, by Jove, I hardly know 'how'
I managed it, but I kept from crashing nose down." "I struck the
ground at an angle of about thirty degrees, the motor, which was
just hanging on, spilled out, and I went skidding along with the
fuselage of the machine, the landing chassis having been snapped
off as though the braces were so many toothpicks." "One of my
ankles was broken and the other one sprained, and my poor old
nose received and withstood a severe contact with my windshield."
Now Hall wonders where the adventuring will be good. He talks of
sojourning in the South Sea Isles as soon as he has finished
writing the official history of the Lafayette Flying Corps. "It
is likely to be the most pleasant part of the world for the next
few years, I fear," he smiled. "Europe is in an unrestful
Bolshevism is feared in every country over there."
Twice Hall was awarded the Medaille Militaire. He has a Croix de
Guerre with five palms. He and Lieut. Paul Blair were the two
first American aviators to receive the American distinguished
service cross. The official citation states that Captain Hall
attacked a group of five enemy single-seat machines and three
enemy two-seaters while he was leading an aerial patrol of three
machines. Officially, Hall is credited with three Hun machines.
He got three others, he says, but is glad he is not credited with
there was too much crediting, and the more they kept it down the
more satisfaction it was to get credited."
~ source: news item, Iowa City Citizen, Iowa
City, Johnson co., Iowa, December 13, 1919
~ transcribed for Iowa In The Great War by Sharyl