View products that support dmairfield.org


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


Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
CulturalMotion PicturesFriendsNon Profit statusProducts and services
ReferencesPublicationsCollectionsGuest EditorsPress Coverage


Floyd Bennett Field Pilot
Mason City Globe (IA), June 24, 1929 (Source: newspapers.com)
Mason City Globe (IA), June 24, 1929 (Source: newspapers.com)


Oren Harwood was born March 30, 1897 at Quincy, IL. He has a good representation at ancestry.com and in online newpaper archives; not so much google information, however.

The 1900 U.S. Census, his first, placed him at age 3 iving with his father, Edward (30; 1869-1932), mother, Anna (24; 1877-1918) and older brother Darrell (6; 1893-1967). They lived in Lee Township, IL. His father's occupation was railroad conductor.

In 1910, the Census placed him attending school and living with his family in Galesburg, IL. His father was now a "Brakeman" for the "Railroad." Brother Darrell was no longer in school and working as a "Package carrier" for a "Dry Goods" company.

According to this REFERENCE, page 51, Harwood was in the 9th Squadron of the U.S. Air Service from April, 1917 to July, 1919 and was a member of the American Expeditionary Force in Europe. He worked for Colwell Brothers Aerial Company from 1920-21; DuJardin's Flying Circus, 1921-23 and Midwest Airways Corporation, 1923-ca. 1928, based in Monmouth, IL (see Harwood's involvement in the 1928 Illinois Air Tour).

Iowa City Press-Citizen (IA), March 12, 1921 (Source: newspapers.com)
Iowa City Press-Citizen (IA), March 12, 1921 (Source: newspapers.com)


In 1920, the Census placed Harwood living with his widowed father and his brother, Darrell, in Galesburg. Harwood was employed as a "Machinist" for a "Machine Works." He was married about a year later, on March 8, 1921 in Clinton, IL to Irma Hodge. They had an aerial honeymoon as reported at right. I do not know how long that marriage lasted or if they had children. It did end by 1928 (see below).

Rock Island Argus (IL), September 30, 1920 (Source: Web)
Rock Island Argus (IL), September 20, 1930 (Source: Web)









Harwood was an early adopter of aviation, barnstorming, joining air tours, racing and making a living with air transport employment and government work employed by the Department of Commerce (DOC).

About a decade before he joined the DOC, he performed as a barnstormer at what appeared to be an Keithsburg, IL farm bureau meeting and dinner in preparation for the Mercer County Fair. The circumstances were reported in the Rock Island Argus (IL), September 30, 1920, right. Harwood and another pilot ,"...landed in the fields at the race track...but owing to the perversity of the wind, they declined to take passengers on flights."

I left a nearby article intact at right as an example of cultural differences then and now. That a "colored" parachutist was included in the performance agenda is significant, not only because of widespread prejudice, but also because of the rarity of black aviators at the time.

Another example, above, is his participation in the Iowa Air Tour during the summer of 1929. Harwood was entry number 16 on the list. He flew a Waco. Other Register pilots joined Harwood during this Tour, including Wilfred Gerbracht (7) and John Livingston (15). The event was documented in the Mason City Globe (IA), June 24, 1929.


O.P. Harwood, Ca. 1937 (Source: Web)


Livingston would go on to win the National Air Tour, which was held three months later from October 5-12, 1929.

Harwood worked with John Livingston in his commuter airline. Below, in 1928, Harwood was photographed standing by one of John Livingston's 5-place Ryan aircraft, which Livingston used during the short, 11-month life of his Waterloo to Des Moines commuter airline. Please direct your browser to the Livingston link, above, for photo credit and other information.


1928, O.P. Harwood with Ryan Aircraft (source: McDonald)
1928, O.P. Harwood with Ryan Aircraft (source: McDonald)


Decatur Herald (IL), June 22, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)







A digression here is useful. Like the Iowa Air Tour in 1929 cited above, in June, 1928 Harwood participated in the Illinois Air Tour as reported in the Decatur Herald (IL), left. Articles like this appeared in many newspapers across the country during the summer months in the late 1920s-30s. Air tours and meets and shows served to introduce citizens to aviation, and when it came time for the spread of air transport, potential customers would have at least seen an airplane.

Note in the second bulleted paragraph that the Decatur airfield was a work-in-progress at the time of the Air Tour visit. Preparations including removing a tree and a hedge, and mowing the hay off the runways.

The third paragraph described the welcome, attended by officials including Merrill C. Meigs, whose name was associated twenty years later with the great Chicago lakefront airport, Meigs Field. Meigs Field became no more when, on March 30, 2003, then Mayor Richard Daley, Jr. secretly ordered city crews to destroy the runway by bulldozing X-shaped gouges into the runway surface in the middle of the night. Pilots around the country were appalled, and another historic, scenic and useful airport was destroyed, for what, a park.

Remember, the fourth paragraph was written in the context of Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic crossing and national celebratory tour just the year before. Aviation was "hot" in the country. Decatur was all about encouraging aviation in central Illinois. Thrilling senior citizens with their first airplane rides and painting directional signs on rooftops were parts of that encouragement for the "New Era."

The fifth bulleted paragraph has special import for us who are interested in old airfield Registers. June, 1928 marked the month that the official Register was opened for Decatur's airfield. The list of signatures in the new Register that day probably read like a Who's Who of our Register pilots. Harwood was among them, halfway down the second column. If anyone has a clue to the existence and/or location of the original Decatur Register, please let me KNOW.

The next stop was the state capitol, Springfield, IL. The Tour departed Decatur that afternoon for Springfield. The itinerary after that included East St. Louis, IL, the location of Parks Airport. At the link you'll discover that the surviving pages of the Parks Airport Register start on May 24, 1929, a year too late for this Tour to be signed in at East St. Louis.

Finally, the list of pilots and aircraft is extensive and typical of the era. Some were signers of other Registers, besides Harwood, like George Brew and John Livingston. This Tour was a big deal for Decatur.

End digression.


























A couple of weeks after the Illinois Tour, Harwood married for a second time to Leona Fern Ray (3/8/1909-8/1/1976) on July 6, 1928. Their marriage certificate is below, courtesy of ancestry.com.

Ray/Harwood Marriage Certificate, July 6, 1928 (Source: ancestry.com)
Ray/Harwood Marriage Certificate, July 6, 1928 (Source: ancestry.com)


The New York Times, September 21, 1930 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, September 21, 1930 (Source: NYT)
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 31, 1931 (Source: newspapers.com)
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 31, 1931 (Source: newspapers.com)


He joined the DOC as an inspector in 1929. Compare his role with that of fellow inspector and Floyd Bennett Field Register signer Sanford Leland Willits. In his DOC role, Harwood enjoyed wide coverage in national newspapers. One example, left, shows Harwood on the right after giving Register pilot Clarence Chamberlin a punitive "refresher course" on DOC rules and regulations, and a flight test. Please direct your browser to Willits' link, above for details around the need for Chamberlin's "punishment."

Another article, above right, from The New York Times, September 21, 1930 reported that Harwood conferred a private pilot certificate to a local dancer. Mentioned in the article were Register pilots Laura Ingalls and Marty Bowman, both local women.

More broadly, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (NY), April 1, 1931, a regular column reported on the daily aviation record at local airfields, below.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 1, 1931 (Source: newspapers.com)
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 1, 1931 (Source: newspapers.com)

The column included a weather summary (visibility, barometer, humidity, ceiling, wind, temperature), and arrivals and departures from area ports. Among the cited arrivals and departures it was not unusual to find Register pilots. The fact that these "minor" arrivals and departures made the newspaper was an indicator of how important and of public interest aviation was at the time. Harwood conferred a Private pilot certificate on Mary Gawthrop.

Matoon Journal-Gazette, April 8, 1931 (Source: newspapers.com)
Matoon Journal-Gazette, April 8, 1931 (Source: newspapers.com)



On March 28, 1931 he conferred a Transport pilot certificate upon a Roman Catholic priest, the first such certification ever earned by a priest. This story was celebrated in numerous newspapers around the country. One example of the story appeared in the Matoon Journal-Gazette, April 8, 1931, right. Harwood was pictured on the right.

We find Harwood on April 1, 1933 at Floyd Bennett Field. He arrived from Roosevelt Field, just a short distance away, at 1:15PM in the Monocoupe 110 NS42. Harwood was signed in no other Register. The "NS" registration of his airplane suggests he was on official DOC business.

In 1933 he was involved in the preparations of the round-the-world flight by fellow Register pilot Jimmy Mattern (signed the Floyd Bennett Field Register April 22, 1933). The fact that the article below from the Santa Cruz Evening News (CA) was published March 2, 1933 and Mattern appeared in the Register on April 22 is probably more than coincidence. The airplane in the photograph was the Lockheed Vega NC869E. Please direct your browser to Mattern's and the airplane's links for further information and photographs.




Santa Cruz Evening News (CA), March 2, 1933 (Source: newspapers.com)
Santa Cruz Evening News (CA), March 2, 1933 (Source: newspapers.com)


Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 21, 1936 (Source: newspapers.com)
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 21, 1936 (Source: newspapers.com)


Oakland Tribune, April 19, 1938 (Source: newspapers.com)


In August, 1936, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, left, reported an incident that could have proven much worse for both student pilot and instructor Harwood.

The year 1938 was busy for Harwood. In April, he was appointed to lead the inquiry into the disappearance of Andrew Carnegie Whitfield, 28, the nephew of the Pittsburgh steel magnate. The disappearance and search were documented nationally. The Oakland Tribune of April 19, 1938, right reported that Whitfield was 28 years old, newly married (June 1937) and a Princeton University graduate. Other articles identified his employer as International Business Machines.

Curiously, Whitfield's family discontinued their active search by April 23rd, believing that he had simply gone into hiding. The New York Times of that day quoted a family member as saying, "He could have come back to New York and hidden his plane somewhere. He could be in Canada, or Mexico, or he may have wanted to go and fly for the Chinese, since he liked flying. Your guess is just as good as mine."

However, both the police investigation and news coverage continued. World War II intervened and he was never found. In response to a formal request by his widow in July, Whitfield was declared legally dead on December 4, 1945. His estate went to a receiver for administration.

After subtracting outlays over the years, his widow received $57,402. Whitfield's loss was made worse through the war years by rumors that he and his wife had had a falling out, and by cranks who claimed to have seen him riding the rails in Iowa, in various public places, and in a local psychiatric hospital. His wife moved on and was remarried in February, 1946.

In a lighter duty, in August, 1938, Harwood headed the official inspection of Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan's Curtiss Robin, in which he crossed the Atlantic Ocean a month earlier. The aircraft was transported back to the U.S. by ship and would be inspected by Harwood and others before it could fly in the U.S. again. An article in the Daily Eagle on August 12th described the successful inspection, and quoted Corrigan stating (with a smile), "The compass seems to be all right." For those not familiar with Corrigan's "wrong way" flight, an article about the flight is linked from the Floyd Bennett Field page.

According to this 1940 REFERENCE, page 188, Harwood learned to fly at Monmouth, IL in 1924. Note the discrepancy between the earlier REFERENCE, above, which documented that he was flying in the military and as a civilian long before 1924. The reference also states that he was a flight instructor from 1924-1929. By 1940 he had accumulated 3,000 flight hours.

DeKalb Daily Chronicle (IL), August 29, 1945
(Source: newspapers.com)
DeKalb Daily Chronicle (IL), August 29, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)
Ellwood Call-Leader (IN), August 30, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)
Ellwood Call-Leader (IN), August 30, 1945 (Source: newspapers.com)


The 1940 Census placed him at age 43 living with Leona (31) in Garden City, NY. They rented their home for $70 per month. According to the Census form, they had lived in the same place since at least 1935. He was employed as an "Airplane Inspector" with the "Aviation Authority." They did not appear to have children.

The Department of Commerce was reorganized into the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) during 1940. Harwood continued his role as inspector in the new organization. As such, he probably wore a badge similar to the one below.

CAA Inspector's Badge, Ca. 1940 (Source: Web)
CAA Inspector's Badge, Ca. 1940 (Source: Web)


Unfortunately, Harwood got into some trouble in 1945. He was among a group of seven CAA inspectors who were forced to resign from the agency because of "malfeasance." The DeKalb Daily Chronical (IL), August 29, 1945 reported the incident, left. Likewise, the Ellwood Call-Leader (IN), August 30, 1945 reported similarly, above, right. Note the line with the "V" in the middle at the end of the article. Some newspapers adopted that "V for Victory" notion in celebration of the end of WWII that month. The New York Times of August 28th reported the same story using almost the same words.

I could find no records of military service, if any, by Harwood during WWII. According to one newspaper source (Columbus Republic (IN), August 29, 1945), he did continue his duties with the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) through the war, becoming the superintendent of safety regulations in 1941 and acting regional administrator June 1, 1943. I found no information about his life after his resignation from the CAA in 1945.

Harwood flew West on November 11, 1984 at Francetown, NH. He carried Transport pilot’s certificate T1498.The number referred to in his Register entry, "283," referred to his Commercial pilot certificate number. He earned both. His and Leona's lichen-covered grave marker is below.

O.P. & Leona Harwood, Grave Marker, 1984 (Source: findagrave.com)
O.P. & Leona Harwood, Grave Marker, 1984 (Source: findagrave.com)

Harwood's in-ground military grave marker is below, nestled in wild strawberry vines.

O.P. Harwood, Grave Marker, 1984 (Source: findagrave.com)

Harwood was a member of the Quiet Birdmen and the Veteran Pilot's Association.


THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/27/16 REVISED: 06/06/17

The Register

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


Contact Us | Credits | Copyright © 2008 Delta Mike Airfield, Inc.
This website is best enjoyed in a 1024 x 768 screen resolution.
Web design by The Web Professional, Inc