Photo Source: JACKRABBITS TO JETS
The History of North Island, San Diego, California
via email from Cathleen Noland, 6-10-06
I'm one of Victor Herbster's grandchildren. I can give you a little information, but not too many specifics. He was born on July 20, 1885. I am not sure of his whereabouts from 1914 to 1918. However, according to historical records, "Lieutenant Commander Victor Herbster arrived in Wexford, Ireland on March 28, 1918 and took command". He helped build an air station there, but left in Nov. 1918 after the war was over.
He met and married my grandmother, Cathleen Nolan from Dublin during this time. He was at a naval base or air station in Panama some time after that. He served on the small island naval base in Hawaii, in the middle 20's I believe.
He was in San Francisco during an earthquake (not sure when) and relocated some of the people to his ship during the chaos that followed. He was the Naval Attache in Berlin. He was one of the top officers at Pensacola around 1932 ish. I'm not sure when he retired, but believe they called him up again when WW2 broke out.
I have some of the medals he was awarded; the Legion of Merit is one, I think another one is even more prestigious, but cannot tell you what it is. I was too young to remember, but I thought he died in a hospital in Washington, DC.
I'm not sure whether you need or want any of this information, but hope it will be helpful.
On February 28, 1912, Ensign Herbster in the B-1 qualified for his pilot's license, thus becoming Naval Aviator No. 4 and the first navy flyer to officially qualify at North Island. Ensign McLain was a flight student during the period, too. Cal Rodgers flew in the B-1 as both pilot and passenger. Numerous other people, Navy and civilian, were passengers in the A-1 and B-1, although the record doesn't show whether they were being instructed or were just taking rides.
Salvaging B-1 after Herbster crash, March 1, 1912. Ensign Herbster in center boat, black sweater and hatless. Waldo Waterman
standing in bow of boat to right alongside Chief Machinist's Mate C. A. Jeffries, J/ P/ Eck in stern. Others unidentified. Glenn Curtiss in
hydroaeroplane in background.
The History of North Island, San Diego, California
One passenger who flew twice in the B-1 was Waldo D. Waterman, a young San Diego man who
worked part time for Glenn Curtiss. His second flight was on March 1 with Ensign Herbster at the controls. The B-1 had been modified
to a hydroaeroplane by installation of two Navy-built boats or pontoons. When the machine was at an elevation of 100 feet a gust
struck it on the right wing, causing it to nose downward. The controls jammed and the airplane crashed in the bay, turning completely
over. Probable cause, according to the log entry, was "water in the boats, more in left than right. Damage: 48 ribs broken, 1 spar,
2 front drags, 2 pontoons buckled; 1 tail, 1 perpendicular, 1 foot rest."
The B-1 remained afloat. A Curtiss student, W. B. Atwater, dashed to the rescue in his motorboat.
Both Herbster and Waterman refused to be rescued until Navy help arrived because they suspected Curtiss might use the incident as a
publicity gimmick to downgrade the B-1, a Wright airplane.
Editor's Note: The two photographs and the text were taken from the book JACKRABBITS TO JETS. I am told that is it out of print. If you can find a copy, I heartily recommend it to you for the complete story of the development of the Naval Air Station, North Island.
Camp personnel, circa January-March 1913, during Naval aviation's first fleet "deployment". Officers present are (left-to-right):
Lieutenant(Junior Grade) Patrick N.L. Bellinger, USN;
First Lieutenant Bernard L. Smith, USMC;
First Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham, USMC;
Lieutenant John H. Towers, USN;
Ensign Victor D. Herbster, USN;
Ensign William D. Billingsley, USN;
Ensign Godfrey deC. Chevalier, USN.
Note goat and dog mascots and canvas hangar with a Curtiss "A" type airplane inside.
Collection of CommanderTheodore G. Ellyson.
U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
By March of 1914 the U.S. Navy had established a flying school at Pensacola, Florida. Among the commissioned officers taking the
course that year were the above (left to right); Lieutenant V. D. Herbster,
Lieutenant W. M. McIlvain, Lieutenant P. N. L. Bellinger,
Lieutenant R. C. Saufley, Lieutenant J. H. Towers,
Lieutenant Commander H. C. Mustin, Lieutenant (Army) B. L. Smith,
Ensign de Chevalier, and Ensign M. L. Stolz.
from The Early Birds
by Arch Whitehouse
via email from Wade Utley Fowler, 3-29-11
V.D. Herbster apparently was stationed at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla in 1935-36.He signed my great uncle Jacob W. Utley's certificate of continuous service on June 30, 1935; Sept. 30, 1935;, October 22, 1935; Dec. 31, 1935; Jan. 16, 1936; and March 31, 1936. Looks like he was replaced by G.D. Murray as commanding officer by June 30, 1936.
Wade Utley Fowler
Editor's Note:I thank Wade for this little bit of information. Every little bit helps to tell the story.
See attached scan of orders signed by Herbster on Sept. 16, 1925, indicating that he was at that time Commander Aircraft Squadron, Scouting Fleet on the U.S.S. Wright, Flagship.
Dunn Loring, VA
From Naval Aviation Chronology 1946-1949
Courtesy of Christopher J. Pohlhaus
If you have any information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper