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First Name: George

Last Name: Kelly

Birthplace: GBR

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Edward Maurice

Date of Birth: 11 December 1878

Date of Death: 10 May 1911

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Years Served:
George Edward Maurice Kelly


George Edward Maurice Kelly
Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army

George E.M. Kelly was born on 11 December 1878 in England. He emigrated, gained U.S. citizenship, and joined the U.S. Army in 1904.

On 16 January 1911, Second Lieutenant Kelly was a troop officer in the 30th Infantry when he participated in an exhibition reconnaissance flight with Wright Company pilot Walter Brookins. Kelly volunteered for flying training and was detailed to the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps and sent to the Curtiss Aviation School in San Diego, CA. Before his training was completed, he and two other pilots (including First Lieutenant Paul W. Beck) were sent to Fort Sam Houston, TX, where the Maneuver Division had been activated in March. First Lieutenant Benjamin Foulois, the Army's sole aviator, was also stationed at "Fort Sam" with its sole operational aircraft, a leased Wright Model B. There the Army accepted delivery of two new aircraft, a Curtiss Model D, serial number S.C. No. 2, and a Wright Model B, S.C. No. 3, on 27 April 1911, and resumed training for the three prospective pilots.

On 10 May 1911, Kelly took S.C. No. 2 up alone for his primary pilot qualification flight. After five minutes in the air, he came down for a landing at what appeared to be full speed and failed to level off in time. The front wheel of the airplane struck the ground, breaking the fork of the steering wheel. Kelly managed to pull up and turn to make another landing attempt. This time the airplane went out of control and crashed, pitching Kelly 100 feet out of the aircraft.

The investigating board ruled that the crash occurred because the first landing had damaged the control system, and that Kelly sacrificed himself to avoid plowing into an Infantry encampment. He died from a skull fracture at Fort Sam Houston Hospital an hour after the accident.

Foulois felt that the accident was the fault of Beck, who had since been promoted to Captain and now commanded the small unit, for the use of faulty materials to rebuild the plane after Beck wrecked it the preceding week. The plane's Curtiss mechanic, however, blamed Kelly's poor flying technique, stating that when he banked the plane to turn away from the Infantry camp, the wing struck the ground. Due to this crash, the commanding officer of the Maneuver Division, Major General William H. Carter, banned further training flights at the Fort. The flying section, now led by Captain Beck and including the repaired S.C. No. 2, was shipped to College Park, MD, in June-July 1911 where the Army opened its own Flying School in June.


The Aviation Camp (aka Remount Station) in San Antonio was renamed Camp Kelly on 11 June 1917, then Kelly Field on 30 July 1917, and finally Kelly Air Force Base on 29 January 1948.

Death and Burial

Second Lieutenant George E.M. Kelly died in an airplane crash on 10 May 1911 at Fort Sam Houston, TX. He is buried at the San Antonio National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX.

Honoree ID: 2698   Created by: MHOH




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