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James Duke was born January 28, 1897 in Virginia. He enlisted in the Army at Washington, DC and became a private on August 17, 1917. He attended pilot training and specialized in bombardment. He was a career officer, remaining in the Army through the 1920 and 30s, into WWII.

Orange County (CA) Register, August 17,1975 (Source: Woodling)


There is fairly good Census coverage for Duke and his family at ancestry.com. The 1900 U.S. Census places him at age 3 living with his father, a lumber merchant, in Norfolk, VA. He shares the family home with his mother and one younger brother.

In turn, the 1910 Census cites him living with his mother as head of household at 1732 Corcoran St., NW in Washington, DC. He now has five siblings, all brothers, living with him and his mother, ranging in age from 13 (himself) to ten-months, spaced about two years apart. His mother was probably in deep weeds on a daily basis trying to keep up with her boys! I have no information on the whereabouts of his father at this point.

I could find no 1920 Census information. But we know what he was doing late in the decade. The Army Register for 1942, page 246, summarizes his military rank assignments through that year. He remained a private until June, 1918, then was promoted to 1st lieutenant June 18th. From June to December, 1918 he was a prisoner of war in Germany. This experience was captured in a news article in the Orange County (CA) Register of August 17, 1975, right.

From the same Army Register, he was honorably discharged on September 2, 1919. He must have remained active (in the reserves?) through the 1920s and 30s, because he was promoted to captain in September, 1932, and to major in October, 1939.

Indeed the 1930 Census places him at age 33 at the U.S. Army Post, Selfridge Field, MI. He lived in officers' quarters with his wife Lyla (age 25) and his three-year old son and 1.5 year old daughter, both named after their respective parents. His occupation was listed as lieutenant, U.S. Army.

Shortly, we find him landing solo at Tucson in the Consolidated PT, 28-329. He visited on Thursday, December 3, 1931 at 1:30PM. Based at Shertz, TX Randolph Field, he was eastbound from San Diego, CA back to Randolph. He offered no reasons for his flights.

With the approach of WWII, Duke was promoted to Lt. Colonel in February, 1941. At some later date he was promoted to Colonel and remained so until retirement, October 1, 1947. I have no information regarding his WWII service. If you can help fill in the blanks, please let me KNOW.

Duke flew west on December 18, 1990 at age 93. He was retired at the time in Sun City, AZ.



The Register

I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Duke and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.



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