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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 camp into
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 adventures.

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 6, 1918.

"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 anti-aircraft
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 fear common
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 condition.
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 them, "because
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 Ferrall http://iowaoldpress.com