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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Royce, CR-715000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC.


Your copy of the "Davis-Monthan Airfield Register" with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


"Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936" is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-2-5.


Newark Star-Eagle. March 9, 1931. "Leader of Arctic patrol Wins Mackay Flight Award".

Washington Post. September 18, 1931. "Royce Presented Mackay Air Medal".

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Major Ralph Royce, August 1929 (Source: NASM)
Major Ralph Royce, August 1929

Among military aviators, Major Ralph Royce was a frequent visitor to Tucson. He landed and signed the Register six times between 1927 and 1932. He was based variously at Langley, Selfridge and Bolling Fields during this time. He twice commanded the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, from 1928-1930 and from 1934-1937.

Image, left, from the NASM shows Major Royce in front of a Curtiss airplane in August 1929 at the National Air Races in Cleveland. Note the well-used A-1 jacket.

Royce was supremely prepared for a career in military aviation. He was born June 28, 1890 at Marquette, MI. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY from 1910-1914 and received his B.A. and commission as second lieutenant of infantry upon graduation.

He learned to fly in 1915 at North Island, San Diego, CA. He was promoted to 1st Lt. and Captain in 1916 and flew with the 1st Aero Squadron in Mexico and in France, 1916-1919. He was promoted to Major in 1917. For his service in France, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre with the citation: "Commanding the 1st American Observation Escadrille, he insisted on making the first reconnaissance above the enemy lines himself. Gives to his pilots generally an example of admirable dash and intrepidity."

Ralph Royce, Ca. 1921 (Source: Royce)
Ralph Royce, Ca. 1921 (Source: Royce)


From 1920-26 he was commanding officer of the primary flying school at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL. Photo, left, shared by his son, was taken at Brooks Field, San Antonio in 1921.

In 1926 he was transferred to Langley for duty as a student at the Air Corps Tactical School. We find him at Tucson on July 8, 1927 with his home base identified as Langley. After graduation a year later he went to Ft. Leavenworth, KS as a student in the General Service School.

Major Royce then took on the responsibility of the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field until 1930. We see him in command while he was based at Selfridge during his next two visits to Tucson on September 7 & 18, 1928. He was part of a flight of at least 16 aircraft of the 1st Pursuit Group (see below). Flying Curtiss P-1 aircraft, they were all on what appears to be a round-robin, mass formation from Selfridge Field, Detroit, MI to Rockwell Field, San Diego, CA. Image, below, of the 1st Pursuit Group at Cleveland, OH during the 1929 National Air Races. Royce can be identified, bare-headed, standing under the root of the left-hand propeller blade.



The 1st Pursuit Group, 1929 (Source: NASM)
The 1st Pursuit Group, 1929


Ralph Royce (L) & Victor Strahm (Source: NASM)
Ralph Royce (L) & Victor Strahm (Source: NASM)

Another photo, right, was taken about the same time as the one above. Royce stands at left next to fellow Register signer Victor Strahm.

Royce was not a stranger to long cross-country flights. During January 1930 he commanded the 1st Pursuit Group again in a flight across the northern U.S. from Selfridge Field to Spokane, WA and return. According to the Newark Star Eagle of March 9, 1931 and the Washington Post of September 18, 1931 (I have no idea why these news items appeared six-months apart), he won the Mackay Trophy for the effort, the paper reporting, "The flight developed valuable information concerning the use of planes under severe winter conditions." Fellow Register pilot Harry A. Johnson was one of his team of aviators.

During July-August 1934, he was one of the participating pilots in the Air Corps expedition of ten Martin B-10 bombers from Washington, DC to Fairbanks, AK, and return. Register pilot Hap Arnold led that flight. As well, in February 1935 he led the 1st Pursuit Group on a cold weather flight. The entire month was spent in the northern states where snow and ice prevail during the entire winter season. A total of 21 officers and 25 enlisted men participated in this flight. During their flying operations, the airmen were overtaken by blizzards, and at times the temperature hovered between 20 and 28 degrees below zero.

In and among his aviation exploits, Royce attended the Army War College 1933-34. In 1935 he was promoted to Lt. Colonel, and to full Colonel in 1938. At the time of his 1938 promotion he was stationed in the Philippines as Philippine Department Air Officer. He then became Commanding Officer of the 7th Bomb Group from 1939-1941.

He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1941 and became Commanding General of the 20th Wing in 1941. During WWII Royce was stationed all over the world from Cairo to the Pacific, winning the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a raid from Australia on the Japanese in the Philippines. He served as Chief of Staff to Register pilot Lt. General George H. Brett, then commanding Allied air forces in the Southwest Pacific.

Below, Royce with his son. He was a Brigadier General then, so this photograph was taken sometime after 1941.

Ralph Royce (Seated) and His Son, Ca. Early 1940s (Source: Royce)
Ralph Royce (Seated) and His Son, Ca. Early 1940s (Source: Royce)

Soon after he transferred to the United States (April 1943) taking command of the 1st Air Force at Mitchel Field, LI, NY. He was described by the NY Herald Tribune as a, "...big-nosed battler from Marquette...and is almost bald." His final promotion was to Major General.

Image, below, is from Dick & Patterson (REFERENCES), page 179. Elwood Quesada is also a signer of the Davis-Monthan Register. You may see another image of Royce at the Klein Archive on this site.

Ralph Royce (L) & Elwood Queseda

Major General Ralph Royce received a disability retirement from the military in July 1946. He died on August 7, 1965 at 11:30PM of leukemia at the Homestead (FL) Air Force Base Hospital.


Dossier 2.2.155

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 10/26/07 REVISED: 11/18/09, 06/20/11

The Register
I'm looking for information about and photographs of his airplanes, Douglas 27-208, 31-116, 31-193 and 31-418 to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.
Thanks to pilot Royce's son for additional information on this page. Among the interesting facts is Royce had no middle name and was carried on the military rolls as Ralph (nmi) Royce.
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