James Armand Meissner

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James Armand Meissner
James Armand Meissner in 1919.jpg
Meissner in 1919
Nickname(s) Jimmy
Born (1896-07-20)July 20, 1896
Londonderry, Nova Scotia
Died January 16, 1936(1936-01-16) (aged 39)
Birmingham, Alabama
Buried (Section 2, Site 4791)
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Air Service, United States Army
Alabama National Guard
Years of service 1917–1922
Rank Major
Unit 94th Aero Squadron
Commands held 147th Aero Squadron
Battles/wars World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War I
Awards Distinguished Service Cross, French Croix de Guerre
Other work Commanding Officer, 135th Observation Squadron, Alabama Air National Guard

Major James Armand Meissner (July 20, 1896 – January 16, 1936) was a World War I flying ace credited with eight aerial victories and awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses.

Early life and service

Meissner grew up in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School there in 1914. He enrolled at Cornell University College of Engineering in Ithaca, New York to study engineering. As a member of the college's corps of cadets, he enlisted in the U.S. Signal Corps as a member of the first class of the School of Military Aeronautics on 17 May 1917.[1][2]

Combat service

Meissner completed his aeronautic combat training in Tours and was commissioned a 1st lieutenant on 20 November 1917, after which he reported to the 94th Pursuit Squadron commanded by Major John Huffer on 8 March 1918. Among his colleagues in the unit were Eddie Rickenbacker and former members of the Lafayette Escadrille.[2]

Piloting a French-made Nieuport 28, Meissner scored his first aerial victory over the Forêt De La Rappe on 2 May 1918; he was fortunate to survive, given the fabric was shredding off his top wing even as he scored.[3] At any rate, the feat earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre. He shot a second plane down near Jaulny on 30 May, colliding with an Albatros fighter in the process.[3] He then racked up two more victories—one of which he shared with Douglas Campbell—before being made commander of the 147th Pursuit Squadron in July. Now flying a SPAD S.XIII fighter, he scored four more victories, one of which was an observation balloon, and another of which was shared with Ralph O'Neill.[4][2]

List of victories

See also Aerial victory standards of World War I

No. Date/time Foe Location Notes
1. 2 May 1918 @ 1203 hours Hannover CL reconnaissance plane Regnaville
2. 30 May 1918 @ 0755 hours Albatros D.V fighter East of Thiaucourt Albatros collided with Meissner
3. 5 June 1918 @ 1030 hours Rumpler reconnaissance plane Louvigny Shared with Lieutenant Donald Campbell
4. 13 June 1918 @ 0800 hours Hannover CL reconnaissance plane Thiaucourt Shared victory with two other American pilots
5. 1 August 1918 @ 1830 hours Fokker D.VII fighter Fere-en-Tardenois Shared with another pilot
6. 10 October 1918 @ 1615 hours Rumpler reconnaissance plane Bantheville Shared with two other pilots
7. 28 October 1918 @ 1556 hours Observation balloon Bantheville
8. 29 October 1918 @ 1225 hours Rumpler reconnaissance plane Buzancy


Postwar life

Meissner was discharged as a major on 25 March 1919 and returned to Cornell to complete his master's in engineering. After receiving his diploma, Meissner moved to Birmingham, Alabama and began working at Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company's rail mill. He married Elva Kessler, daughter of a landscape architect from Augusta, Georgia.[2]

In 1919, he and Henry Badham (father of director John Badham) organized the Birmingham Flying Club, nicknamed the "Birmingham Escadrille" and leased a tract of land near Ensley to set up an airfield (Roberts Field). The club was recognized, with the assistance of Alabama's adjutant general Colonel Hartley A. Moon,[2] as the 135th Observation Squadron on 21 January 1922 under Meissner's command. It was Alabama's first Air National Guard unit and the 7th in the United States. Meissner was its first commanding officer.[3][2]

Meissner died from pneumonia in January 1936. Rickenbacker made the trip to Birmingham to serve as pallbearer during his memorial service, which was capped by a flyover by members of his unit. His ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery on 2 May 1936.[2][6]

See also


  1. ^ Cornell Rewind: A great school faces the Great War By Elaine Engst and Blaine Friedlander for Cornell Chronicle; January 22, 2015; retrieved June 15, 2017
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Scales, Matt. "James Armand Meissner" (PDF). 117th Air Refueling Wing. Air National Guard. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Nieuport Aces of World War 1. p. 73.
  4. ^ "James Meissner". theaerodrome.com. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
  5. ^ OVER THE FRONT: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914-1918, p. 61.
  6. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=meissner&GSfn=james&GSmn=armand&GSbyrel=all&GSdy=1936&GSdyrel=in&GSob=n&GRid=49259068&df=all& Findagrave website


  • Scales, Matthew H. (January 2009) "James Armand Meissner" at the Arlington National Cemetery Website - accessed March 20, 2010
  • "James Meissner" at The Aerodrome website - accessed March 20, 2010
  • Nieuport Aces of World War 1. Franks, Norman. Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-85532-961-1, ISBN 978-1-85532-961-4.
  • OVER THE FRONT: The Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914-1918. Grub Street Publishing, 2008. ISBN 0-94881-754-2 ISBN 978-0-94881-754-0.
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