LT Luke Christopher
Nomination for Coast Guard Aviation Association
Hall of Honor
Mont J. Smith, CAPT USCG (ret), June 30, 2018
Luke Christopher was born in Cookeville, Tennessee on May 31. 1896. On September 17, 1914 he enlisted in the Army’s Coast Artillery but in 1915 he transferred to Signal Corps Air Service, Aviation Company A, at San Diego, California and rose to Corporal. He was discharged at Toronto, Canada on September 17, 1917 to re-enlist as a Private First Class in S.E.R.C. on status of a candidate for commission. He began flying on June 6, 1917 and was sent to Canada on detached service with the Royal Flying Corps for a special course in military aeronautics at the University of Toronto and for advanced instrument flying with the Royal Flying Corps. He was subsequently discharged at Barron Field (Taliaferro Field Number Two), Everman, Texas on February 15, 1918 when called into active service as a 2nd Lieutenant, Signal Corps, Royal Canadian Air Service, per instructions from the War Department A.S.O. dated December 19th, 1917 and telegraphic instructions dated February 13, 1918. After completion of flight training, he acted as instructor and test pilot at various fields. In July 1918 he was sent on coast patrol with the U.S. Navy at Dinner Key, Miami, Florida, where he completed a course in seaplane flying and aerial navigation. He was on coast patrol duty with the Navy until the signing of the Armistice. In November 1918 he was detailed back to the U.S. Army Air Corps at Dorr Field, Arcadia, Florida in charge of machine shop and airplane repair until discharged at his own request on April 27, 1921. He accepted an appointment in the Army Reserve.
From 1919 until 1924, he flew commercial, exhibition and passenger transport flights throughout the United States and Mexico. The Oklahoma City Times of September 26, 1919 contains an advertisement titled
FLY WITH US
Saturday Sunday and all next week at
Westwood Aviation Field
West of City.
2 CURTISS PLANES in charge of Lieut. Luke Christopher, with 2,000 hours in the air.
Safety First Our Motto.
National Air-Route Company
In 1924 he was employed by the Huff-Deland Aircraft Company (later the Keystone Aircraft Corporation) of Bristol, Pennsylvania as a test pilot. He did contract work for the factory with the Army and Navy.
In 1927 he accepted a position as test pilot with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at Langley Field, Hampton Roads, Virginia. He was a pilot in various aeronautical research tests.
Christopher was featured in the 1929 issue of Aero Digest magazine in an article called “The All-Georgia Air Tour” written by Lieut. F. E. Davenport. “The All-Georgia Air Tour, following two preliminary pathfinder tours, was successfully carried out July 23-26, after careful preparation. A squadron of fourteen planes, under the command of Major Luke Christopher, flew from point to point on its designated schedule, without a hitch in the entire program. For four days the planes cruised over the state, stopping at twenty-one cities and towns and circling a dozen others, all on schedule.” This aptly demonstrated Major Christopher’s organization and leadership skills.
In January 1929 he resigned from NACA and accepted a position as secretary of the Contest Committee of the National Aeronautic Association.
In July 1931 Christopher sought a temporary commission as Lieutenant aviator and Instructor Pilot in the United States Coast Guard, after being recommended by such luminaries as RADM W. A. Moffett, USN, Chief – U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics; MGEN J. E. Fechet, USA – Chief, U.S. Army Air Corps; and Senator Hiram Bingham of Connecticut. At the time he had accrued approximately 4,000 hours solo flying in all types of aircraft – landplanes, seaplanes, and flying boats - both multi- and single-engined. He held Department of Commerce Transport license number 175 and Department of Commerce Airplane and Engine Mechanic license number 272. He was released from his commission as a Major, Air Corps Reserve, rating of Airplane Pilot.
On September 9, 1931 a memorandum from the Commandant to Secretary of the Treasury via Assistant Secretary Lowman stated in part:
“The situation with respect to aviation ln the Coast Guard is such as to make the services of Major Christopher a very great advantage to the Government at this the time in connection with the special type of seaplane now building for the Coast Guard and in view of the fact that the Coast Guard has not yet developed an adequate number of trained commissioned officers for the work involved. It is desired to recommend this temporary appointment solely as a temporary measure to meet the present exigency, and Major Christopher will be plainly informed that the Coast Guard does not expect to need his services for a period of more than two years.”
Indeed, the Coast Guard Aviators immediately preceding Christopher were:
Aviator No. 1 CDR (E) Elmer F. Stone (Commanding Officer, Destroyer Cummings as of December 1930 then to General Aviation Manufacturing Company as senior member of trial board for aircraft under construction)
Aviator No. 2 CDR (E) Charles E. Sugden (Chief, Aviation Division, USCG HQ February – March 1921; then sea duty on Bering Sea Patrol; Engineer Officer, USCGC Mojave as of September 30, 1930)
Aviator No. 3 Robert Donohue (transferred to CGAS Morehead City December 10, 1919, then to Naval Academy (duty under instruction) then to USCGC Manning May 2, 1922 and to USCGC Hamilton on June 6, 1923)
Aviator No. 4 Stanley V. Parker (Headquarters October 1919, then USCGC Bear followed by Commanding Officer Destroyer Paulding as of July 7, 1924, followed by command of USCGC Ossipee until March 1st, 1927, then Command of Section Base 5, Boston)
Aviator No. 5 William P. Wishaar (February 16, 1921 relieved Sugden as CO, CGAS Morehead City; then COTP Charleston January 8, 1922, then retirement on July 13, 1926 for neuro-circulatory asthenia)
Aviator No. 6 LCDR Carl C. Von Paulsen (as of December 1930 on duty with New London Destroyer Force; Commanding Officer CGAS Cape May as of July 1932 then CO, CGAS Miami)
Aviator No. 7 CWO Charles T. Thrun (at Base 9 CGAS Cape May as of July 1932)
Aviator No. 8 Eugene A. Coffin (April 1931 to January 1933 Commanding Officer of Destroyer Welborn C. Wood, New London, Connecticut)
Aviator No. 9 CDR (E) Phillip E. Eaton (Supervisory Engineer to Division III, Destroyer Force, Boston Navy Yard as of October 28, 1930)
Aviator No. 10 LT Walter S. Anderson (at Base 7 Gloucester as of July 1932)
Aviator No. 11 LT Leonard M. Melka
Aviator No. 12 LT Norman N. Nelson (at Base 9 CGAS Cape May as of August 1931; CO, Base 7 CGAS Gloucester as of September 1930)
Aviator No. 13 William W. Scott (at Base 7 CGAS Gloucester as Executive Officer September 1930)
Aviator No. 14 Clarence F. Edge (at Base 9 CGAS Cape May as of August 1931)
Aviator No. 15 Richard L. Burke (at Base 7 CGAS Gloucester as of July 1932)
There were four academy graduates undergoing flight training in July 1932: LTJG W.A. Burton, LT W.A. Foley, LTJG G.H. Bowerman, and LTJG C.B. Olson. One can easily see that the nucleus of Coast Guard Aviation was very lean. Except for Stone and Von Paulsen, all the older aviators had returned to sea and staff duty. Commissioned officers were moving through Pensacola at the rate of only 2 or 3 per year. The Coast Guard decided to place a greater reliance on the Naval Aviation Pilot (NAP) program by 1934, and graduated the following enlisteds from flight training (19 in 1935 alone): Allen, Carl H. (1935), Banker, Russell S. (1935), Collins, Harry (1935), Harris, Charles H. (1935), Kleisch, August (n) (1935), Orndorff, James R. (1935), Preston, Edward T. (1935), Riggs, James L. (1935), Smith, Virgil (1935), Schweining, Fred E. (1935), Condrey, Clyde H. (1935), Duell, Robert D. (1935), Durham, William N. (1935), Fendlay, Robert W. (1935), Logan, Harry W. (1935), McGovern, Gerald E. (1935), McWilliams, Theodore (n) (1935), Tolly, Vernon C. (1935), Weber, Joe R. (1935), Blish, Howard J. (1936), Perry, Loren V. (1938), and Radan, John (1938). These were the young Coast Guard Aviators that CDR Hall envisioned Christopher would train.
On September 30, 1931 Christopher was advised by the Commandant that his commission as Lieutenant (Temporary) was received, giving him rank as such from date of oath. He took the Oath of Office as a LT (Temporary) on October 2, 1931. His pay as LT (T) was established as $4,158 per annum, which was a modest increase over his pay at NAA during the Great Depression. He was designated by the Commandant (Assistant Commandant B.M. Chiswell, Acting) as Coast Guard Aviator 16 and received orders “involving actual flying in the aeronautical organization of the Coast Guard.” He was advised that an officer appointed from civil life was not entitled to mileage from his home to his first duty station. In a memorandum by CDR (E) Norman B. Hall to Commissioned Personnel via Engineer-in-Chief on October 3rd, Christopher was assigned temporarily for a period of approximately three weeks to the Office of Engineer-in-Chief, Headquarters, Washington and then was to be assigned to duty at Coast Guard Air Station Cap May, N.J. The assignment at Headquarters was to be for purposes of indoctrination and to obtain uniforms. Also, on October 3rd, Christopher designated his wife, Berthel and son Glenn B. Christopher as beneficiaries to receive six months’ pay in the event of his death as provided in the Act of June 4, 1920.
An article on page 10 in the Coast Guard Magazine, Volume 3,Number 12, dated October 1930, entitled “More Wings Are Needed” stated, “With overwater flying on the increase and aircraft manufacturers reporting heavy sales to air transport lines and private individuals of aircraft of the seaplane type, the necessity for the expansion of the Coast Guard air force became apparent, and already recommendations have been made to Washington for additional equipment and trained personnel…It was pointed out that during the three years the Coast Guard has used aircraft this branch of the service had demonstrated its worth, not only to shipping, but also by blocking smugglers and enforcing the customs law.”
On November 12, 1931 CDR (E) Norman Hall sent a memorandum to Commissioned Personnel via Engineer-in-Chief for travel orders for inspection duty, ferrying aircraft, as follows:
“Through the courtesy of the Air Corps, U.S. Army, The Coast Guard is able to obtain, by transfer of funds, 1 Type 038 Douglas Airplane. The Coast Guard is quite fortunate in being able to obtain this plane, delivery being expedited three or four months over the usual procedure. It is requested that the necessary orders be given Lieutenant (T) L. Christopher to proceed to the plant of Douglas Aircraft Company at Santa Monica, California, in time for him to arrive there on 27 November 1931.
The plane will be available on or about the first of December. The arrival of Lieutenant Christopher three or four days prior to delivery will give him an opportunity to familiarize himself with the manufacture and design of this type of plane, and also make any necessary inspection on the coast Guard plane, prior to acceptance.
By taking delivery on the plane at the factory, the Coast Guard will save $1,500, the contract delivery cost.
If orders are to be issued to Lieutenant (T) Christopher, I shall be pleased to submit suitable orders for this project. Lieutenant (T) Christopher has had considerable experience in flying aircraft transcontinental.
Headquarters letter, 10 June 1929, makes provisions for expenses and allowances for personnel in the ferrying of aircraft.”
The Davis-Monthan (Tucson, Airfield log shows that Lieutenant Christopher, military pilot, and Machinist W. R. Kenly remained overnight on December 12th and departed on December 13th for Washington, D.C. with a Douglas O-38A (sic).
On January 7, 1932 Christopher was ordered to proceed to Miami, Florida in Coast Guard plane T-9, with Commander (E) N. B. Hall as co-pilot, on official business of the Coast Guard. Ground was broken on the Coast Guard Air Station at Dinner Key on January 12, 1932. CDR Carl C. Von Paulsen was to be the first commanding officer.
On January 27, 1932 Christopher was directed by Commandant Billard to proceed by Coast Guard Airplane to Cape May, New Jersey, and in company with Lieutenant Commander C. C. Von Paulsen proceed to Langley, Virginia, for the purpose of observing the inspection and operating system in use at Langley Field.
On February 17, 1932 Christopher was directed by Commandant Billard to proceed, in Coast Guard plane CG-9, to Middle River, Md., on 18 February 1932, for the purpose of taking photographs of plane CG-51 (Antares), then undergoing trials.
On February 18, 1932 Christopher was directed by Commandant Billard to proceed, in Coast Guard plane CG-9, to Section Base Nine, Cape May, New Jersey, 19 February 1932, on official business of the Coast Guard. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.
On February 23, 1932 Christopher was instructed by Assistant Commandant Covell to “proceed to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, to obtain landing lights due on contract between the United States Army and Douglas Aircraft Corporation, and have these lights installed, if possible, at Wright Field, without expense to the Coast Guard. Upon completion of this work, investigate the radio shielded spark plug manufactured by the AC Spark Plug Corporation at Flint, Michigan. It is directed that you expedite this trip without assuming undue flight risks due to weather conditions, as the plane is required at Cape May at the earliest practicable date.”
On February 29, 1932 Christopher received orders to “proceed, in Coast Guard plane CG-9, to Section Base Nine, Cape May, New Jersey, on official business of the Coast Guard. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On March 8, 1932, LCDR Elmer F. Stone relieved LCDR Carl C. Von Paulsen as commanding officer, USCG Air Station Cape May, New Jersey.
On March 14, 1932, Commandant Billard issued orders to Christopher to “proceed in Coast Guard Plane CG-9, to Boonton, New Jersey, for the purpose of having radio equipment installed by the Aircraft Radio Corporation. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status. On March 29, 1932, Christopher received orders to “proceed by Coast Guard plane, to Baltimore, Maryland, and thence to Cape May, New Jersey, on official business of the Coast Guard. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On April 6, 1932, Christopher received orders to “proceed, by Coast Guard plane, to Baltimore, Maryland, for the purpose of inspecting seaplanes now being built by the General Aviation Manufacturing Corporation for the Coast Guard, at that place. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On April 9, 1932 Christopher received orders from Commandant Billard to “proceed, by Coast Guard plane, to Gloucester, Massachusetts when weather conditions are satisfactory, on official business of the Coast Guard.” In a memorandum from Christopher to the Assistant Commandant on April 11, 1932 Christopher stated, “It is requested that orders directing me to proceed to Gloucester, Mass., in Coast Guard plane be cancelled inasmuch as weather conditions will not permit making this trip by air and Commander Hall has already proceeded to Gloucester by rail.”
On April 20, 1932 Christopher received orders to “proceed, by Coast Guard plane, to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, on official business of the Coast Guard, making such stops enroute as may be necessary or desirable. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On May 5, 1932 Christopher received orders to “proceed, by Coast Guard Plane CG-9, on the evening of 5 May 1932, to Chicago, Illinois, provided weather conditions are suitable, for the purpose of testing radio beacon equipment of said plane. After sufficient rest period, not to exceed forty-eight hours, return to Washington, D.C., and resume your present status, preferably by a different airway. This duty is in addition to your duties on the Trial Board of the Coast Guard plane Antares.”
On May 11, 1932 Christopher was ordered to “proceed, by plane CG-9 on or about 11 May 1932, weather conditions permitting, to Langley Field, Virginia, on official business of the Coast Guard. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and after a suitable period of rest, and inspection of the plane, proceed to Dundalk, Maryland, for the purpose of transporting Lieutenant Commander E. F. Stone, and Lieutenant Commander C. C. Von Paulsen to Cape May, New Jersey. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On May 25, 1932 Christopher received orders to “proceed, by Coast Guard plane, on the morning of 26 May 1932, weather conditions permitting, to Gloucester, Massachusetts, on official business of the Coast Guard. Return to Washington, D.C., on or about 27 May 1932, weather conditions permitting, and resume present status.”
On June 3, 1932 Christopher received orders to “proceed to Santa Monica, California, by Coast Guard plane CG-28 Sirius, as relief pilot of said plane…and, upon completion of the tests, inspection and experimental flights referred to (in HQ letter CG-71-531 to Von Paulsen), return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On June 10, 1932 Christopher received orders from Acting Commandant Covell via CDR Hall to “proceed to Cape May, New Jersey, via Baltimore, Maryland, on 10 June 1938. Weather conditions permitting, in Coast Guard plane CG-9, and report to the senior member of the Trial Board, for duty in connection with the trials of Coast Guard Plane Antares. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On June 15, 1932 Christopher received orders from Commandant Hamlet to “proceed in Coast Guard plane CG-9, to Chicago, Illinois, on 15 June 1932 on official business of the Coast Guard. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On June 18, 1932 Christopher received orders from Commandant Hamlet to “proceed (with CDR N.B. Hall) to the plant of the General Manufacturing Corporation, Dundalk, Maryland, so as to arrive at that place at 8:00 a.m., 20 June 1932 for duty in connection with the trials of Coast Guard plane Antares. Upon completion of this duty return to Washington, D.C. and resume present status.”
On July 30, 1932 Christopher received travel orders stating, “…you are detached from temporary duty at Headquarters, effective 1 August 1932. Proceed on that date to Cape May, New Jersey, and carry out the provisions of reference (a). In view of the fact that this order constitutes your first assignment for permanent station…you are not entitled to transportation for dependents or household effects.”
On August 1, 1932 Christopher was detached from temporary duty at Headquarters and directed to proceed for duty at CGAS Cape May.
On August 5, 1932 Christopher received orders from the Commandant via Commander New York Division and Commander, Section Base Nine, to “…proceed in plane CG-29 Adhara to Montauk Point, Long Island, New York, Washington, D.C., and to such other points as may be necessary to conduct tests of radio equipment installed in that plane. Upon completion of those tests, Lieutenant Christopher will return with the Adhara and crew to Cape May, New Jersey, and resume present status.”
On August 16, 1932 Christopher received the following order from Assistant Commandant Covell via Base Nine - The following dispatch was sent to you this date: “6016 OUR 6016 1425 AMENDED TO READ ADHARA PROCEEDING CAPE MAY PERIOD DIRECT LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER TO PROCEED CAPE MAY TO BOLLING FIELD WASHINGTON TO ARRIVE NOT LATER THAN SIX FORTY-FIVE AM AUGUST SEVENTEENTH IN CAST GEORGE NINE SOLO WITH NECESSARY EQUIPMENT TO TRANSPORT UNDER SECRETARY BALLANTYNE TO NEW YORK AND RETURN ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS 1643.” Upon completion of the duty prescribed, Lieutenant Christopher will return with the Adhara and crew to Cape May, New Jersey, and resume present status.”
On August 20, 1932 Christopher received the following order from Assistant Commandant Covell via Base Nine – “6020 DIRECT LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER TO PROCEED TO MITCHELL FIELD IN PLANE CAST GEORGE NINE TO ARRIVE NO LATER THAN SIX THIRTY AM AUGUST SECOND (sic) TO BRING UNDER SECRETARY TO WASHINGTON OFFICIAL BUSINESS – TRAVEL AUTHORIZED 1300. Upon completion of the duty prescribed, Lieutenant Christopher will return with the Adhara and crew to Cape May, New Jersey, and resume present status.”
On August 26, 1932 Coast Guard Headquarters’ telegram to Base Nine read, “7026 REFERENCE YOUR 7026-0950 ORDERS ISSUED TODAY LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER COMMA MACHINIST CRUM AND CHIEF RADIOMAN YORK PROCEED WASHINGTON IN ADHARA TO ARRIVE NOT LATER THAN FOURTEEN HUNDRED AUGUST THIRTIETH.”
On August 26, 1932, Commander Coast Guard Base Nine sent orders to the Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Air Station Cape May, N.J. directing “…Lieutenant Christopher to proceed to Washington D.C. in Cast George Nine, arriving not later than fourteen hundred, 27 August 1932, for the purpose of proceeding to Roosevelt Field, New York on official business with (a) representative of the Treasury Department in accordance with Headquarters dispatch 6026-1318.”
On August 29th, 1932, a memorandum from the Commandant replied to a question from Under Secretary of The Treasury Ballantyne concerning Christopher’s status. Commandant W. G. Hamlet stated, “…the period Lieut. Christopher was to serve as a temporary commissioned officer was limited to two years. He was appointed on 2 October 1931 and, therefore…his services should terminate on or about 2 October 1933. The only way Lieutenant Christopher could be inducted into the regular organization would be for him to pass the required professional examination which involves subjects outside the field of aviation. It is doubtful he could pass this examination without having considerable experience at sea aboard ships. His services are so urgently needed as an instructor in aviation that it is not practicable to assign him to sea duty.” The letter goes on to state that an Act of Congress in 1916 authorized the Coast Guard to hire an instructor in Aeronautics at a wage of $4,000 per annum and an assistant instructor at a wage of $3,000 per annum, but the money had not been set aside in the 1934 budget. “Assuming that favorable action were (sic) taken towards the establishment of those two civilian positions…we could carry Lieutenant Christopher as a temporary commissioned officer until such time as funds became available for him to qualify for the position under the Civil Service rules and regulations.”
On September 1, 1932 Christopher received orders from Assistant Commandant Covell to “proceed with Coast Guard plane CG-9 to Washington, D.C. so as to arrive prior to 2:30 p.m., 2 September 1932, for the purpose of transporting the Undersecretary to Long Island, New York, on official business. Upon completion of this temporary duty return with CG-9 to Cape May, New Jersey, and resume present status.”
On September 9, 1932 Undersecretary of the Treasury Ballantine wrote to Admiral Hamlet: “I now have opportunity to read your memorandum of August 29th about the status of Lieutenant Luke Christopher, serving as a temporary commissioned officer. From personal observation of the Lieutenant, as well as from what you say, I feel that there is no doubt as to entire confidence for his service as instructor in aeronautics, as well as expert aviator. What you say about having the Lieutenant carried on the temporary status until appropriations are made for the instructors’ positions, contemplated by the earlier Act, seems to cover all that can be done. I agree with you that those positions could not have been provided for in the coming year. It may be that Lieutenant Christopher would think that he could pass the professional examinations so as to obtain permanent status. I think that it might be well if he could be told just what the requirements are. I would assume, however, that he would not attempt the examinations outside of the field in which he is familiar, unless he were very sure that he could pass them.”
On September 16, 1932 Christopher received orders from Commandant Hamlet to “…proceed with Coast Guard plane CG-29 Adhara to the U.S. Naval Air Station, Anacostia, D.C., So as to arrive in the evening of Friday, 16 September 1932, and report to the Commandant, U. S. Coast Guard, for temporary duty in connection with flight by the Adhara to various points on the Great Lakes, namely Cleveland, Ohio; Bay City, Michigan; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; and to such other points on the Great Lakes as the Commandant may direct. The Commander, Section Base Nine has been directed to assign a radioman as a member of the plane crew to accompany you from Cape May, New Jersey and return.”
On September 30, 1932 Christopher received orders from Assistant Commandant Covell via Commander, Section Base Nine Cape May, New Jersey, “Weather permitting, direct Lieutenant Christopher and one radioman to proceed in plane Adhara so as to arrive Anacostia, D.C., at 0800 Monday, 3 October 1932. Upon arrival Anacostia, Adhara will proceed to New York, N.Y. on official business of the Coast Guard, and return. Upon completion of this temporary duty the Adhara and crew will resume present station at Section Base Nine.”
On September 24th, 1932 Lieutenant Christopher requested to take the professional examination for permanent appointment by letter to the Commandant via Air Station Cape May, Section Base 9, and Commander, New York Division.
On October 11, 1932 he requested a transfer to sea duty as follows: “It is requested that I be transferred to sea duty for six months in order to qualify myself for examination for permanent appointment.” The letter was forwarded approved by his commanding officer, CDR E. F. Stone.
On October 17, 1932 Assistant Commandant Covell advised Christopher via letter “reference (a), your letter of 11 October 1932 (71), has been received and placed on file. Your request will be given consideration at a later date.”
On November 16, 1932 Lieutenant Christopher received orders from Assistant Commandant Covell via Commander, New York Division and Commander, Section Base Nine Cape May, New Jersey, to “proceed by Coast Guard plane, weather permitting, to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, via Washington, D.C. arriving Washington 18 November 1932, on official business of the Coast Guard. Upon completion of this duty return with plane to Cape May, New Jersey and resume regular status, stopping en route at Washington, D.C. for temporary duty in conjunction with flight strength measurements of aircraft antenna.”
On December 7, 1932 Christopher received orders from Commandant Hamlet via Commander New York Division and Commander Section Base Cape May as follows: “Upon the reporting of Lieutenant W.A. Burton, on or about 15 January 1933, proceed to Stapleton, Staten Island, New York and report to the commanding officer, Sebago, for temporary duty for a period of six months. At the expiration of that period, return to Cape May, N.J. and resume present status. This assignment is to enable you to obtain experience and receive instruction in the duties of a commissioned officer of the Coast Guard on board a sea-going vessel.”
In January 1933, Christopher was assigned to temporary duty aboard USCGC Sebago at Stapleton, New York. He requested to fly aircraft from local Naval and Army Reserve bases while Sebago was in port in order to maintain his proficiency.
On January 20, 1933 Commander Base Nine requested from Commandant via Commander New York Division “authority to delay departure of transfer to Sebago of LT Christopher for one or two days until return of some other commissioned officer to air base as LT Christopher and Chief Gunner Thrun are only commissioned officers present. Division commander approves.”
Christopher reported aboard Tampa at 1745, 21 January 1933, awaiting return of Sebago. He then reported aboard Sebago at 1300, 29 January 1933. His indoctrination went well until receipt of a letter from Commander, Eastern Patrol.
On March 21, 1933 Christopher received orders from Commander, Eastern Patrol “…you are temporarily detached from duty on the Sebago. You are transferred to plane Sirius which will make contact with Sebago at about fourteen hundred this date at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The Sirius is en route to Buffalo, New York, for flood relief.”
On March 31, 1933 Commandant Hamlet addressed the use of planes Sirius and Adhara as follows: “Confirming verbal orders of 21 March 1933, direct Coast Guard planes Sirius and Adhara to proceed from Cape May, New Jersey, and Gloucester, Massachusetts, respectively, to Buffalo, New York, and to such other places as may be necessary for temporary duty in connection with relief work in the Ohio River area. En route under those orders, the Sirius will be directed to contact the Sebago off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and take on board Lieutenant (T) Luke Christopher as pilot. Upon completion of this temporary duty, the planes will return to their regular stations.”
On Apri1 14, 1933 Christopher received orders from Commandant Hamlet to “report, on 1 May 1933, to the Commander, New York Division, for assignment to temporary duty on board one of the destroyers of the New York Division.”
On May 1, 1933 Christopher sent a letter to the Commandant via commanding officer, USS Hunt and Commander, New York Division, as follows: “After having reported to Commander, New York Division for assignment to temporary duty on a destroyer at 1125, 1 May 1933, I proceeded to Pier 17, Stapleton, Staten Island, N.Y., and reported to the commanding officer, Hunt, at 1300, this date, for duty.”
On July 21, 1933 Christopher received a letter from Commandant Hamlet informing him “You are detached from further temporary duty on board the Hunt, effective 1 September 1933. Proceed on that date to Cape May, New Jersey and report to Commander, Base Nine, for resumption of your regular duties at the Air Station at that time.”
On September 5, 1933, Christopher advised Commandant that “I was detached from temporary duty aboard the USCG destroyer Hunt, departing that vessel at 1340 on 1 September 1933, arriving at Base 9, Cape May, New Jersey at 1445, 2 September 1933.”
On September 23, 1933 Christopher received orders from Commander, Section Base Nine, pursuant to messages from Headquarters and New York Division “Weather permitting proceed in CG-27 Procyon, with Frank L. Evers (204-082) RM 2/c as member of crew. To Washington, D.C., timing your departure so as to arrive there at prior to 1000 (E.S.T.) this date. Upon completion of this temporary duty, you will return to Cape May, New Jersey, for resumption of regular duty.”
On October 25, 1933 Christopher received orders for new assignment from Commandant Hamlet. “You are detached from further duty at Base Nine, effective 1 December 1933. Proceed to Gloucester, Massachusetts, and report to the Commander, Base Seven, for aviation duty at that base. This order constitutes a permanent change of station from Cape May, New Jersey, to Gloucester, Massachusetts.”
On December 7, 1933 Christopher replied to the Commandant via Commander, Base Seven and Commander Boston Division “In accordance with the requirements of above reference (b), Headquarters is advised that I reported for duty at Air Station, Gloucester, Mass., (Base Seven) at 0950, 7 December 1933.”
On April 13, 1934, Christopher reported to the Commandant via Commanding Officer, Air Station Gloucester, Commander, Base Seven and Commander, Boston Division after delivery of Coast Guard plane Adhara to Base Nine.
On April 13, 1934 Commandant Hamlet issued new assignment orders to Christopher. “You are detached from further duty at Base Seven. Proceed to Washington, D.C. and report to Headquarters for a conference relative to the aviation activities of the Coast Guard. Upon the completion of this duty, you will proceed to San Diego, and assume charge of Coast Guard air activities at that place, with particular reference to the Customs planes recently transferred to the Coast Guard. At San Francisco, you will confer with the Commander, San Francisco Division, relative to Coast Guard aviation in his division, and at Santa Monica confer with Lieutenant Commander E. F. Stone relative to air activities and inspection of Customs planes made by that officer. This order constitutes a permanent change of station from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to San Diego, California.”
On April 16, 1934 Christopher sent a Memorandum from Air Station, Base Seven to Commander L. T. Chalker at Headquarters as follows: “Dear Commander Chalker: On my last trip to Washington I was advised by Commander Waesche that I would be re-examined in the subjects I failed when taking my examination for Permanent in October 1933, and that you would write a letter stating the subjects in which I would be examined and the date of the examination. To date I have received no official communication concerning my re-examination, and would appreciate you advising me of the status of this matter so I may prepare myself to pass a good mark and get my case cleared up, as my present status in the service causes me considerable concern.”
On April 23,1934, Lieutenant Commander Stone was assigned as Inspector of Naval Aircraft for the Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California.
On May 5, 1934 Christopher advised Headquarters that he had arrived in San Diego at 1130 on 4 May 1934.
On May 19, 1934 Commander, San Francisco Division advised LT Christopher (c/o Collector of Customs, Customs Border Patrol, San Diego, California) “During the remainder of the current fiscal year you are authorized to proceed to any point within the limits of the San Francisco Division on official business connected with the Coast Guard.”
On May 30, 1934 Christopher received telegraphic orders from Headquarters via Commander Western Area and Commander Southern Area while on board USCGC Calypso: “Direct him proceed immediately to El Paso and report by dispatch to Commander Southern Area for temporary duty on Trouble Board and Board of Investigation.”
On July 11, 1934 Assistant Commandant Covell issued orders for Christopher to “proceed to the Coast Guard Air Station, Miami, Florida, for the purpose of ferrying one O2U2 plane from Miami, Florida to San Diego, California, for service in connection with the anti-smuggling activities of the Coast Guard.”
On September 7, 1934 Commander, San Francisco Division directed Christopher to “proceed to San Francisco, California for a conference with the Commander, San Francisco Division. Plan to arrive at 10:30 a.m., 11 September, or as soon thereafter as possible. Upon completion of this temporary duty, return to San Diego, California and resume your present status. If the travel is made by plane, you are authorized to have the Chief Customs Border Patrol Inspector (Mr. Stanley) accompany you to San Francisco. The presence of Mr. Stanley at the conference is particularly desired.”
On October 18, 1934 California Congressman George Burnham wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau as follows: Dear Mr. Secretary: Friends of mine and Lieutenant (T) Luke Christopher have called my attention to the present status of this Coast Christopher Guard officer, and I agree that Lieutenant Christopher’s outstanding record in Aviation during the past seventeen years would warrant special consideration of his case. I have personally met Lieutenant Christopher and find him to be an unusually fine type of man. He is highly respected by his friends and fellow officers. I am informed that Lieutenant Christopher took an examination on September 6, 1934 for regular appointment as a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard, rather than the temporary status which he now holds. His grade was 69.8, while the required rating for the appointment was 70. We feel that the .2 of a point which Lieutenant Christopher lacked on his examination is more than overshadowed by his record as a flyer since the World War. He graduated in 1914 from No. 4 School of Military Aeronautics at Toronto, Canada and was on duty with the Royal Flying Corps from November 1917 to April 1918. He was then on detached service on the Coast Patrol in Miami, Florida, and while there he graduated in seaplanes and flying-boats and in their course on aerial navigation. He resigned from the Army in 1919. From that time until 1925 he was doing commercial exhibition flying; from 1926 to 1927 he was test pilot for the Keystone Aircraft Factory at Bristol, Pennsylvania; from 1927 to 1928 he was test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at Langley Field, Virginia; from 1929 to 1930 he was secretary of the contest Committee of the National Aeronautical Association, Washington, D.C.; he entered the Coast Guard as a Lieutenant (T) October 1, 1931, which is his present status.
On October 24, 1934 the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury replied to Congressman Burnham as follows: “My Dear Mr. Burnham: Reference is made to your letter of October 18, 1934, relative to the status of Lieutenant (T) Luke Christopher, U. S. Coast Guard. The records indicate that Mr. Christopher’s commission as a temporary lieutenant in the Coast Guard, on October 1, 1931 was predicated on his qualifications and experience as an aviator and upon the need for an officer of his qualifications in the Coast Guard at that time. Under existing laws and regulations, a permanent officer of the Coast Guard must be qualified to perform any duty, commensurate with his rank, which he might be called upon to perform. With this in mind, Lieutenant Christopher was assigned to duty about float for a period of about seven months for the purpose of gaining experience and receiving instruction in the duties of an officer of the regular Coast Guard. Following this, he was given a written examination in September 1933, to determine his qualifications for induction into the regular Coast Guard, which he failed to pass. This examination was based upon the standards required of an officer for promotion to the rank of lieutenant, a mark of seventy being required. The following are the marks attained by him in this examination:
Ordnance, Gunnery and Drill
Navigation and Customs Laws……………………. 63
Electricity and Radio………………………….……….. 55
Coast Guard Regulations……………………………. 88
Military Law……………………………………………….. 73
Marine Engineering…………………………..……….. 80
General Average…………………………….. 62.3
Mr. Christopher has recently been reexamined in those subjects in which he failed to attain a passing mark, and again failed to meet the requirements in the subjects of Navigation and Ordnance. The board of officers which considered his case, however, recommended that Mr. Christopher be retained in his temporary status until such time as legislation might be approved which would permit the assignment of officers to aviation duty only. When and if such legislation is enacted, there is no doubt that Lieutenant Christopher will receive his permanent commission. While the department appreciates your interest in this case, it regrets that, due to existing circumstances, no further action appears possible at this time.”
On October 31, 1934 Christopher wrote the Commandant via Commander, San Francisco Division as follows: “It is noted that the list of subjects from which the final average was obtained in reference (b), does not include the subjects which I previously passed as set forth in reference (a). These subjects and marks obtained are as follows:
Coast Guard Regulations 88
Military Law 73
Marine Engineering 80
It would appear that had the examining board included these latter marks in obtaining the general average, such average would have been 73.3, thus giving me a passing mark. In view of the above, it is requested that the final examining board reconsider their findings and that I be given a passing general average. I wish to state at this time that I would welcome an opportunity of being re-examined in the subjects I last failed, namely navigation and ordnance. Regular status is of vital importance in view of the somewhat hazardous nature of the work I am performing, for the reason that temporary status carries no provisions for compensation in case of disability or death incurred in line of duty.”
Coast Guard Headquarters Memorandum for Captain Alger from Joseph Greenspun dated November 7, 1934: Lieutenant Christopher was reexamined in the subjects in which he failed on his original examination. The board recommended that he remain a Lieutenant (Temporary) until such time as legislation could be passed making him a Lieutenant for aviation duty only. I do not see how Christopher’s request for another reexamination can be granted in view of the board’s recommendation. So far as Christopher’s contention that his general average should be 73.3, the fact remains that he failed in the major subjects of Navigation and Ordnance and these failures are sufficient to disqualify him for promotion regardless of his general average.”
On November 13, 1934 Commandant Hamlet responded to Christopher “replying to reference (a) you are advised that your request for re-examination in the subjects in which you failed in your last examination, namely Navigation and Ordnance, is not approved at this time. Your attention is invited to the fact that the Act approved 2 July 1930 made the general pension laws of the United States applicable to officers and enlisted men of the Coast Guard and their widows, children and other dependents, under the same regulations and restrictions as are or may be provided by law with respect to officers and enlisted men of the Army and Navy. Headquarters took the necessary steps to have the general pension laws made applicable to the Coast Guard in order that officers and enlisted men serving in a temporary status might be protected against death and injury in line of duty. It is readily to be seen, therefore, that the necessary provisions have been made for compensation in the event of disability or death incurred in the line of duty.”
On December 6, 1934 Christopher (as Commanding Officer, Air Patrol Detachment) issued orders to himself as follows: “As requested, you are directed to proceed to Los Angeles, California on the 6th of November 1934, for a conference with the Collector of Customs, timing your departure so as to arrive at the office of the Collector of Customs, Federal Building, Los Angeles, California, not later than 10:30 a.m.”
On January 29, 1935 Coast Guard Headquarters’ Official Dispatch to Commander, San Francisco division stated, “7029 DIRECT LIEUT CHRISTOPHER TO PROCEED SANTA MONICA CALIFORNIA TO ARRIVE NOT LATER THAN FIVE FEBRUARY AND REPORT TO COAST GUARD INSPECTOR OF AIRCRAFT AT DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT COMPANY FOR PURPOSE OF FERRYING ONE RD FOUR PLANE TO CAPE MAY NEW JERSEY FOR PERMANENT STATION PERIOD WHEN PLANE HAS BEEN ACCEPTED BY NAVY AND COAST GUARD INSPECTOR OF AIRCRAFT LIEUT CHRISTOPHER WILL PERSONALLY TEST AND THOROUGHLY FAMILIARIZE HIMSELF WITH CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PLANE BEFORE STARTING FLIGHT TO CAPE MAY PERIOD. ONE EACH RD FOUR PLANES FOR SALEM AIR STATION AND BILOXI AIR STATION WILL PROCEED IN COMPANY WITH PLANE FOR CAPE MAY AIR STATION INSOFAR AS THEIR ROUTES LIE TOGETHER PERIOD DIRECT LIEUT CHRISTOPHER STOP AT HEADQUARTERS EN ROUTE TO CAPE MAY AND UPON DELIVERY OF PLANE TO RETURN SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA AND RESUME PRESENT STATUS PERIOD TRAVEL AUTHORIZED CHARGEABLE TRAVEL ALOTTMENT SEVENTY TWO 1655.”
On February 5, 1935 Commander, San Francisco Division Dispatch to Coast Guard Headquarters and for information of Coast Guard Inspector at Santa Monica, California stated, “6005 IMPOSSIBLE FOR LIEUTENANT CHRSTOPHER TO COMPLY WITH HEADQUARTS 6001 1624 AND 6001 1645 TO AIR PATROL DETACHMENT SAN DIEGO BEFORE CARRYING OUT THAT PART OF HEADQUARTERS 7029 1655 JANUARY RELATIVE REPORTING SANTA MONICA NOT LATER THAN FIVE FEBRUARY PERIOD. STONE STATES THAT HE DOES NOT DESIRE CHRISTOPHER SANTA MONICA UNTIL BLIND FLYING SYLLABUS COMPLETED PERIOD HAVE DIRECTED CHRISTOPHER REMAIN SAN DIEGO UNTIL COURSE IS COMPLETED 1005 REF: -6001 MAKE SHIPS AVAILABLE FOR STONE TO ARRANE ALL PILOTS TO COMPLETE BLIND FLYING SYLLABUS BEFORE FERRYING SHIPS EAST 1624 REF:-6001 REFERENCE 6001 1624 AIR PATROL DETACMENT URGENT BLING FLYING SYLLABUS FOLLOWING PILOTS STONE COMMA CHRISTOPHER COMMA BOWMAN COMMA FOLEY BE COMPLETED BEFORE SHIPS FERRIED PERIOD ADVISE HEADQUARTERS BY DISPATCH WHEN COMPLETE 1645”
On February 16, 1935 Air Patrol Detachment San Diego advised Coast Guard Headquarters information to Senior Coast Guard Aviator Santa Monica, California and Commander, San Francisco Division by Dispatch “6016 LIEUT CHRISTOPHER COMPLETED BLIND FLYING SYLLABUS THIS DATE 1536”
On February 25, 1935 Christopher received orders from Commandant Hamlet amending his previous travel orders in that, “upon completion of the mechanical work on plane CG-131, now being performed at Anacostia, D.C., and when the plane has been flight tested, proceed with the CG-131 to Salem, Massachusetts and deliver same to the Commanding Officer, Salem Air Station. Upon delivery of the plane, return to Washington, D.C. via Cape May, New Jersey, and report to the Commandant for temporary duty. If practicable, you will return by air to Cape May, New Jersey, where the mechanic and radioman will report to the Commanding Officer, Cape May Air Station.” In a memorandum for Personnel on the same date, C.C. Von Paulsen is Acting Chief, Aviation Division.
On April 1, 1935 Commandant Hamlet informed Christopher by letter, “It is the intention of Headquarters to give you a reexamination in the subjects in which you failed on your last examination, with a view to inducting you into the permanent Service. It is requested that you advise Headquarters how much time you will require to prepare yourself for this examination. The exigencies of the service are such that it will be necessary for you to prepare yourself for this examination while carrying on your regular duties.”
On April 12, 1935 Christopher received the following dispatch from Coast Guard Headquarters: “7012 HEADQUARTERS 7012 1104 1015 REF; 7012 DIRECT LIEUT TEMPORARY LUKE CHRISTOPHER COMMA ONE MECHANIC AND ONE RADIOMAN FROM AIR PATROL DETACHMENT SAN DIEGO PROCEED SANTA MONICA CALIF AND REPORT TO COAST GUARD INSPECTOR OF AIRCRAFT AT DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT CORPORATION FOR PURPOSE FERRYING AMPHIBIAN ONE THIRTY EIGHT TO CAPE MAY NEW JERSEY FOR PERMANENT STATION PERIOD UPON DELIVERY OF PLANE PILOT AND CREW WILL RETURN SAN DIEGO CALIF AND RESUME PRESENT STATUS PERIOD TRAVEL AND PERDIEM ALLOWANCE SIX DOLLARS FOR PILOT AND CREW DURING TRAVEL BY PLANE AUTHORIZED 1104”
On April 13, 1935 Commanding Officer, Air Patrol Detachment San Diego ordered LT Christopher to “proceed to Santa Monica California and report to the Coast Guard Inspector of Aircraft for purpose of accepting and delivering one RD-4 amphibian airplane #138 to the Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Air Station, Cape May, New Jersey for permanent station taking as crew PINKSTON, Albert H. (108-414) A.M.M.1c, and GILL, John C. (115-720) R.M. 1c.”
On April 13, 1935 in a dispatch from Commander, San Francisco Division to Coast Guard Headquarters “7013 FOLLOWING RECEIVED FROM COMMANDING OFFICER AIR PATROL DETACHMENT SAN DIEGO QUOTE 7013 HEADQUARTERS 7012 1104 LT BOWMAN NOW HERE WITH AMPHIBIAN ONE THREE EIGHT PERIOD REQUEST AUTHORITY RETURN SANTA MONICA WITH LT BOWMAN IN AMPHIBIAN ONE THREE EIGHT ACCEPT DELIVERY OF PLANE RETURN TO SAN DIEGO AND PROCEED TO EAST COAST WHEN WEATHER PERMITS 1137 UNQUOTE 1420.”
On April 16, 1935 in a Memorandum to Personnel, C. C. Von Paulsen, Acting Chief, Aviation Division, stated, “The Commandant wishes Lieutenant Christopher to report to him in Washington before returning to the West Coast.”
On April 16, 1935 On April 22, 1935 Commandant Hamlet amended Christopher’s orders to read “…you will proceed via Wichita, Kansas en route to your regular station, stopping at that place for the purpose of visiting the plant of the Beech Aircraft Company, and flight test, if practicable, any of their planes which might be suitable for Coast Guard work. You will submit a full report to the Commandant as to the suitability of this type of plane for work of the border patrol, and comment on this type of plane in comparison with other types which are familiar to you.”
On April 20, 1935 Walter H. Beech of Beech Aircraft Company, sent a telegram to Coast Guard HDVISE DEFINITE DATE OF ARRIVAL. REF. WOULD IT BE AGREEABLE TO YOU TO HAVE LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER OF COAST GUARD STOP AT WICHITA AND VISIT YOUR PLANT ABOUT TWENTY FOUR OR TWENTY FIVE APRIL QUESTION.”
On April 20, 1935, L.C. Covell, Assistant Commandant, advised Christopher “It is the present intention of Headquarters to reexamine you on or about 20 July 1935, in the subjects of Navigation and Ordnance which you failed to pass on your previous examination.”
On April 28, 1935 Commander, Western Area issued orders to Christopher to “proceed to San Francisco, California, with Douglas Amphibian 136 and such personnel of the Air Patrol Detachment as you may select as crew of the plane, for the purpose of a flight to Seattle and Port Angeles, Washington. The tentative itinerary of the flight will be San Diego to San Francisco, To Eureka, to Coos Bay, to Astoria, to Seattle, to Port Angles, returning to Seattle and thence to San Francisco and to San Diego. The purpose of the flight is to afford the Area Commander an opportunity to inspect the northern section of the Area and to transact official business connected with Area matters with the Commander, Seattle Division. Also for the purpose of familiarizing yourself and the crew of the plane with that portion of the Area covered by the proposed flight. Conclude all necessary arrangements practicable. Leave San Diego not later than 29 April and upon arrival in San Francisco, report in person to the Area Commander. It is expected that the flight will require an absence from your station of possibly five days.”
During May 1935 the Commandant received personal letters from the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and Collector of Customs W. B. George of San Diego on behalf of Christopher.
On May 15, 1935 Commandant Hamlet sent orders for Christopher to proceed to Cape May, New Jersey. “1. Orders are about to be issued for Lieutenant Luke Christopher to proceed to Cape May, New Jersey, for duty at the Coast Guard Air Station at that place, for the following reasons: 2. The work of Commander Stone at the Douglas Aircraft Factory (Santa Monica, California) is completed. Under the present plan he should proceed to Port Angeles, Washington, to take command of the new Air Station there. The expense of fully manning that station, where, because of the delay in building barracks, each member of the enlisted organization must receive allowances for subsistence and quarters, requiring an estimated expenditure in the vicinity of $21,000 in the fiscal year 1936, in excess of the cost were barracks completed, precludes a full complement. 3. We are reducing equipment to cut down this cost. The necessarily reduced equipment will, of course, reduce somewhat the importance of the station. Commander Stone is our senior qualified aviator actually flying. If a new plane construction program is to be undertaken, which seems likely under the Emergency Relief appropriation we will, in al probability, need Commander Stone in the vicinity of Santa Monica to superintend the work that may be undertaken there (Douglas Aircraft Factory). 4. San Diego is an important aviation center. We have a new station being built there with a considerable (amount of) equipment already on the ground and in operation. 5. At Cape May we have but one highly qualified pilot – Lieutenant Burke. There should be another, so that in the absence or illness of Lieutenant Burke, there would be a relief pilot qualified to fly Secretary Morgenthau. The best available officer is Lieutenant Christopher, who is probably our best land plane pilot. He is junior to Lieutenant Burke, but the two work together very amicably. 6. With all these factors in mind, the best interests require that Commander Stone be assigned to command the Coast Guard Air Detachment at San Diego, and that Lieutenant Christopher be assigned to duty at the Coast Guard Air Station, Cape May, for the purpose stated above, and also as an instructor for young aviators in landplane airways flying. 7. This rather lengthy explanation is made to apprise you in advance for the reasons of these changes, and to forestall the objections that are always raised whenever we make a change of this kind.”
On May 22, 1935 Christopher advised the Commandant (via Commander, San Francisco Division) “…I was relieved of Command of the Air Patrol Detachment by Lieutenant Commander E.F. Stone at 1530 this date.”
On June 6, 1935 Christopher reported to the Commandant (via Commanding Officer Air Station and Commander New York Division) “…I reported at Air Station, Cape May, New Jersey at 8:30 a.m. this date for assignment to duty.”
On June 20, 1935 Christopher was advised by Coast Guard Headquarters Dispatch “7020 UPON COMPLETION SURVEY OF PITCAIRN BIPLANE PROCEED CAPE MAY NEW JERSEY WITH MECHANIC AND RESUME REGULAR STATUS PERIOD TRAVEL BY COMMERCIAL CARRIER AUTHORIZED 1310.”
On July 17, 1935 Commandant Hamlet issued orders to Christopher to “proceed to Washington, D.C. and report to Lieutenant Melka at Headquarters at 9:00 a.m., Tuesday, 23 July 1935, for reexamination for induction into the regular Coast Guard. You will further report to Passed Assistant Surgeon H. D. Lyman at 2:00 p.m., Wednesday, 24 July 1935, for physical examination. Upon completion of your examination, return to Cape May, New Jersey and resume present status.
On July 31, 1935 in a Memorandum from Chief, Aviation Section C. C. Von Paulsen, to Chief Clerk, “There is now in the office of this section a trophy won by Lieutenant (T) Christopher at the Springfield Air Races. It is desired that this trophy be shipped to that officer. It is therefore requested that requisition be made of the Treasury carpenter to remove the trophy from this section and suitably box it for shipment. Extreme care must be taken as the trophy is fragile. When boxed it should be returned to this office for shipment.”
On August 7, 1935 Commandant Hamlet authorized temporary duty for Christopher as follows: “Confirming reference (a), direct Lieutenant (T) Luke Christopher to proceed to New London, Connecticut and report to the Superintendent, Academy, for temporary duty, relieving Lieutenant C. F. Edge. Upon completion of this duty and when released by the Superintendent, Academy, Lieutenant Christopher will return to Cape May, New Jersey, and resume his regular duties.”
On August 31, 1935 Commander, New York Division passed on to Christopher a Dispatch from Coast Guard Headquarters which read “REF: 6031 DIRECT LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER AND NECESSARY CREW PROCEED WITH PLANE CAST GEORGE ONE THREE EIGHT FROM CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY TO SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA AND DELIVER PLANE TO COMMANDING OFFICER AIR PATROL DETACHMENT PERIOD UPON ARRIVAL SAN DIEGO REPORT HEADQUARTERS BY DISPATCH AND AWAIT INSTRUCTIONS PERIOD…”
On September 10, 1935 CAPT L.T. Chalker, Chief Aviation Section, issued a memorandum to Personnel stating, “It is requested that the Air Patrol Detachment be directed to accept the amphibian CG-138 from Lieutenant Christopher and hold, pending advice as to repair, and direct Lieutenant Christopher to return immediately to Cape May by commercial carrier and resume present status there. Crew to remain at San Diego on temporary duty. Orders to be issued by Dispatch.”
On September 14, 1935 the Chief, Aviation Division (CAPT L. T. Chalker) sent a letter to the Chief, Personnel Division at Headquarters as follows: “It is requested that a board of not less than three commissioned officers, all Coast Guard Aviators, be convened at once at Cape May. The board should be required to carefully review the records, capabilities and experience of the men at Cape May now in training for aviation ratings and make the following recommendations:
The names of men who are considered good or better for further training
The names of men who are considered fair only for further training
The names of men who are not suitable for further training and should be returned to general service
On September 23, 1935 Commander, New York Division convened a board to review the records of enlisted personnel under aviation training, addressing Christopher as follows: “A board consisting of yourself as Senior Member, and of Lieutenant (junior grade) William Schissler and Lieutenant (junior grade) William R. Sinton, U.S. Coast Guard, is hereby ordered to convene at Cape May, New Jersey, as soon as practicable, to carefully review the records, qualifications and experience of the enlisted men now at Cape May undergoing training. The board will, after a thorough study of the records, classify such personnel as indicated in enclosure (2), and make a recommendation in each case. Upon completion of this investigation, you will forward the proceedings and recommendations to the Commander, New York Division.”
On October 7, 1935 Commander, New York Division assigned Christopher to a Board to Review the Records of Enlisted Personnel Under Aviation Training. “1. The record of the board of which you are president, to review the records of enlisted personnel under aviation training, is herewith returned to the board. 2. The convening authority notes that a certified copy of the convening order is attached to the record, whereas, the original should be prefixed thereto, and that though there were twelve (12) enlisted men interviewed by the board, findings and recommendations were submitted on only eleven (11), no mention having been made as to Wilfred S. Gray (204-338), Seaman, first class, U.S. Coast Guard. 3. The board will reconvene for the purpose of correcting the errors referred to in paragraph 2. Above, and at the conclusion of the proceedings in revision, the records will be returned to the convening authority.”
On October 28, 1935 in a Memorandum for the Secretary of the Treasury reprising Christopher’s aviation career, Captain L.T. Chalker, Chief of the Aviation Division stated, “In a reexamination in Navigation, for permanent appointment to the Coast Guard, recently taken, he received a mark of 83%. He holds Department of Commerce Transport License #175.”
On January 3, 1936 Acting Commandant L.C. Covell advised Christopher, ”Receipt of reference (a) is acknowledged, and the request contained therein does not meet with the favorable consideration of Headquarters. The matter of your relative place on the list and the date of your commission was gone into very thoroughly by the legal authorities, and as a result of their study you were given an appointment as Lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard with rank as such from 23 September 1935. In view of the fact that your status was determined in accordance with existing law, no further action will be taken.”
On June 30, 1936 LT R. L. Burke, Commanding Officer of USCG Air Station Cape May, issued orders to Christopher as follows: “Upon receipt hereof, you will relieve Lieutenant William Schissler as pilot of plane CG-129. You will perform extended temporary duty in the vicinity of New York basing your plane at Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y. Upon your arrival at Floyd Bennett Field, N.Y. you will report to the Commander, New York Division for such temporary duty as outlined. Upon completion of this temporary duty, you will with plane and crew return to Cape May Air Station, Cape May, N.J. and resume your regular status.”
On October 10, 1936 at Cape May, New Jersey, Christopher executed a corrected copy of Designation of Beneficiaries for Death Gratuity, listing his wife Berthel Christopher, of 1016 Stockton, Avenue, Cape May, N.J. and son Glenn B. Christopher of Everman, Texas as his beneficiaries. The document was witnessed by R. L. Burke, Lieutenant.
On December 1, 1936, Christopher made application for UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT LIFE INSURANCE in the amount of $10,000. His beneficiary was listed as Berthel Christopher, wife, living at 1018 Stockton Avenue, Cape May, New Jersey. The effective date of the policy was January 1, 1937. The application was witnessed by Jacob Levin, Pay Clerk, U.S.C.G.
On December 1, 1936 Christopher made a monthly allotment of $20.90 to the Veteran’s Administration for payment of insurance premiums. The allotment was approved by Lieutenant R. L. Burke.
On December 5, 1936 Lieutenant Christopher was killed in a tragic accident off Assateague, Virginia. As described by Ken Freeze in his essay Lethal Rescue Mission, the SS Charles G. Black, a combined oil/ore carrier was plying the waters off the East Coast when one of its crew, Seaman John Barrinna, took ill with appendicitis. With no other options available, the captain had little choice but to put in a radio call for help to the Coast Guard. As the ship headed for the sheltered waters at the southern end of Assateague Island, a boat crew from the Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station got underway to meet the tanker. The crew would remove the seamen to their surfboat for transfer to a Coast Guard amphibious plane which was being dispatched. Soon, the Spica (V-125), a Douglas RD-4 Dolphin from the Coast Guard Air Station at Floyd Bennett Field, outside New York, was overhead. Piloted by Lieutenant Loren H. Seeger the craft circled before making its landing for a rendezvous with the small boat, which was now carrying Barrina.
As the Spica touched the water, one of its pontoons was damaged. Although disaster was averted, and the crew was unhurt, the Spica was damaged severely enough to prevent it from taking off again. Unable to now transport the seaman to needed care, Lieutenant Seeger radioed for another plane to be sent. Soon, the Adhara (V-111), a Douglas RD-2 Dolphin was airborne from Cape May en route to pick up the seaman.
Onboard the craft were its pilot Lieutenant Luke Christopher, Chief Radioman Gay A. York, and Aviation Machinist's Mate Ralph A. Green. After landing on the harbor’s waters, the surfboat went alongside the Adhara and the transfer of Barrinna was made. As Christopher powered up the engines for takeoff, the surfboat headed back to the ship. With engines roaring, Adhara started its takeoff run. In the darkness, the surfboat crew hadn’t seen Adhara fly away, but as far as they knew, everything had been alright with the plane and its takeoff. However, unseen to them, the plane had crashed during takeoff.
Now onboard Ahara, the crew was in a life or death struggle to survive. The aircraft had not only been badly damaged in the crash, but it had overturned and was beginning to sink. York had been seriously injured and besides fighting through the darkness, he was further impaired by blood running into his eyes from a cut. A large hole had been made in the hull of the craft by radio equipment being thrown around about in the crash. York entered the hole and found Barrinna, who had sustained only minor injuries in the crash. He got Barrinna to the relative safety of a wing that was extending out of the water, then turned and reentered Adhara. Just then York encountered one of the other crewmembers trying to get out, yet still strapped into his seat. He released the safety harness and guided the crewman out through the hole. It wasn’t until he had helped the man to the wing that he realized it was Green. York headed back through the hole one more time, this time in search of Christopher. Feeling around in the water and the darkness, he was able to find Christopher partially submerged in the wrecked pilot’s seat. He was able to release his harness and pull him out of the hole in Adhara. Then, with the assistance of Green, York pushed Christopher up onto the wing. Then he crawled up onto the wing himself.
In the darkness of night, York and Green called out for help, but they heard no answer to their calls. York decided that if help was not forthcoming, he’d try to make it to shore to get help. York dropped off the wing and into the water to see if he could touch bottom. If he could, his plan then would be to wade to shore. However, the waters were too deep. He could not touch bottom and his plan was forfeited. As the surfboat neared the ship they heard shouts coming from the waters behind them. The surfboat turned around and began searching in the darkness for the source of the calls for help. In an interview with retired Captain Loren Seeger, what the crew of the surfboat didn’t realize at this time was that in the darkness Adhara had crashed. “One of the floats of Adhara had caught on a fishing net in the harbor,” said Seeger. “The net pulled the wing down into the water, causing the plane o flip over.” As York was headed back to his place on the wing, a light from the Assateague Station’s surfboat shone on the wreckage and the boat proceeded alongside. The surfboat took the four aboard and hurried them to the station. According to newspaper accounts of the time, once at the station the four were given first aid and then placed into a waiting auto to be rushed to the Ocean City Coast Guard Station and then on to the Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury. On the way to Ocean City, Christopher succumbed to his injuries. Once at the hospital, York and Green were treated for shock, concussions, cuts and bruises. Barrinna, uninjured from the crash, was operated on for appendicitis and eventually recovered completely. The Adhara was a total loss and sank to the bottom of Assateague Harbor.”
On December 5, 1936 an official dispatch from Coast Guard Headquarters to Air Station Cape May read “6005 PLEASE EXTEND MY SYMPATHY TO FAMILY OF THE MEN INJURED IN THE CRASH OF PLANE VICTOR III PERIOD I SINCERELY HOPE THEIR INJURIES ARE NOT SERIOUS AND THAT THEY MAY SOON RECOVER FROM THEM CAPTAIN L T CHALKER 2500”
On December 6, 1936 a Telegram was sent from Coast Guard Headquarters to Mrs. Berthel Christopher, 1018 Stockton Avenue, Cape May, New Jersey which read: “I AM VERY SHOCKED AND GRIEVED AT LUKES DEATH PERIOD MRS CHALKER JOINS ME IN DEEPEST SYMPATHY TO YOU SIGNED CAPTAIN L T CHALKER”
Also, on December 6, 1936 a Telegram was sent from Coast Guard Headquarters to Mrs. Berthel Christopher, 1018 Stockton Avenue, Cape May, New Jersey which read: “THE COMMANDANT ON BEHALF OF THE ENTIRE COAST GUARD EXTENDS DEEPEST SYMPATHY IN YOUR BEREAVEMENT LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHERS CAREER SO UNTIMELY ENDED WAS ONE OF HONOR AND CREDIT TO HIS CORPS SIGNED R. R. WAESCHE”
On December 7, 1936 Coast Guard Headquarters dispatch advised Air Station Cape May “7007 YOUR 7007 1545 LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHERS SON WILL BE MET AS REQUESTED 1747 Reference: 7007 Mrs. Christopher requests an officer from Headquarters meet Mr. Christopher’s son at Hoover Airport at 0750 Tuesday morning and if weather is favorable that he be flown to Cape May and if not that he be cared for in Washington 1545.”
On December 7, 1936 Air Patrol Detachment San Diego sent a dispatch to Coast Guard Headquarters stating, “REFERENCE ALCOAST 70 REQUEST ADVISE DETAILS FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS SEVERAL CIVILIAN ORGANIZATIONS DESIRE SEND FLOWERS 0935.”
On December 7, 1936 Coast Guard Headquarters replied by dispatch to Air Patrol Detachment San Diego “7007 YOUR 7007 0935 FUNERAL LIEUTENANT CHRISTOPHER FROM FORT MYER GATE ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY 1100 WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER 1751.”
On December 7, 1936 Air Station Cape May dispatch to Coast Guard Headquarters for information to Air Station Miami and Commander, New York Division, “6007 MRS CHRISTOPHER REQUESTS THE FOLLOWING BE REQUESTED BY HEADQUARTERS TO ACT AS PALL BEARERS IN THE FUNERAL AT WASHINGTON COLON CAPTAIN CHALKER COMMA COMMANDER NORMAN HALL COMMA COMMANDER VON PAULSEN COMMA LIEUTENANTS BOWERMAN AND OLSEN COMMA GENERAL REISINGER USMC COMMA JUDGE BOOTH OF COURT OF CLAIMS AND IF PERMISSIBLE CHIEF MACHINISTS MATE KENLEY 1308.”
On December 7, 1936 Air Station Cape May dispatch to Coast Guard Headquarters stated, “7007 MRS CHRISTOPHER REQUESTS THAT LT BURKE ALSO BE DETAILED AS PALL BEARER 1408.”
On December 7, 1936 Coast Guard Headquarters sent a dispatch to Air Station Cape May as follows: “7007 YOUR 6007 1308 7007 1408 ADVISE MRS CHRISTOPHER HEAQUARTERS REGRETS THAT HER REQUEST FOR PALL BEARERS NAMED BY HER EXCEPT LIEUTENANT BOWERMAN CANNOT BE GRANTED AS REGULATIONS PRESCRIBE RANK OF OFFICERS DETAILED FOR SUCH DUTY PERIOD THE OTHER OFFICERS WILL BE REQUESTED TO ATTEND FUNERAL PERIOD LIEUTENANT BURKE MAY ACT AS PALLBEARER PERIOD UNIFORM SERVICE DRESS BLUE AND OVERCOAT SWORD AND MOURNING BADGE 1638.”
On December 7, 1936 Rear Admiral R. R. Waesche, Commandant of the Coast Guard, wrote Mrs. Christopher as follows: Dear Mrs. Christopher, the death of Lieutenant Christopher came as a shock to Mrs. Waesche and myself. The Service has lost an officer who had much to do with the present-day development and prestige of Coast Guard aviation. I know of his intense interest in the Coast Guard, of his love for the Service, and how well and faithfully he discharged his duties, and fate decreed that he should die “with his boots on, in the highest calling, that of endeavoring to save the life of his fellow man. Both Mrs. Waesche and myself sympathize with you in this hour, and trust that your faith will sustain you and lighten your burden.”
On December 7, 1936 Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Gibbons wrote to Mrs. Christopher as follows: “Dear Mrs. Christopher, I was very much grieved to learn of the death of Lieutenant Christopher whom it was my pleasure to know personally. During his career in the Coast Guard, so untimely ended, he established a most credible record as an officer and an aviator and was held in the highest esteem. His loss will be keenly felt throughout the Service to which he was devoting his life’s worth. I want you to be assured of my deep sympathy.”
Finally, On December 7, 1936 an Allotment Stoppage for Christopher was approved by Lieutenant R. L. Burke. The reason for stoppage was “due to death of Alotter.”
On December 8, 1936 Air Station Cape May sent a dispatch to Coast Guard Headquarters as follows: “6008 MRS CHRISTOPHER REQUESTS THAT LT BURKE BE ALLOWED TO SLOWLY CIRCLE AND FY OVER THE FUNERAL OF THE LATE LT CHRISTOPHER TOMORROW MORNING AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY PERIOD LT BURKE HAS REMAINED AT CAPE MAY AIR STATION INSTEAD OF PROCEEDING TO WASHINGTON TO ACT AS PALL BEARER LT BURKE AND OTHERS IN AIR SERVICE REQUEST PERMISSION TO PAY THIS FINAL AVIATOR SALUTE TO A HEROIC BROTHER OFFICER WHO DIED IN LINE OF DUTY CARYING OUT THE BEST TOAST GUARD AND ITS AIR SERVICE 1925”
On December 18, 1936 the Director of Insurance for the Veterans Administration wrote the Commandant of the Coast Guard as follows: “Dear Sir: Reference is made to your telephonic request for information regarding insurance in the case of the above-named veteran (Christopher, Luke XC 979 064). While in the military service the veteran was granted yearly renewable term insurance in the amount of $10,000 on which premiums were paid to include the month of October 1919. Under date of December 1, 1936 he made application for a $10,000 ordinary life policy requesting that it be made effective January 1, 1937. As the veteran did prior to the date on which the insurance was to become effective, he had no insurance in force at the time of his death. The claim of Mrs. Berthel Christopher, the veteran’s widow, for pension has been received. Appropriate attention is being given to this claim.”
On January 8, 1937 in a letter from Senator Morris Sheppard, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Military affairs to Commandant RADM R. R. Waesche the following was stated: “Dear Admiral, I understand that a Board has been convened or will soon be convened, to examine into the circumstances surrounding the death of Lieutenant Luke Christopher of the Coast Guard while rescuing a sailor from a Standard Oil tank (sic). I would like very much to have the report which the Board will make regarding this matter when it is issued. I am looking into the matter with a view to seeing what can be done for Mr., Christopher through some kind of a special bill in Congress.”
On January 19, 1936 Commandant Waesche responded to Senator Sheppard as follows: “My dear Senator, reference is made to your letter of 8 January 1937 requesting the report of the board of investigation convened to inquire into the facts and circumstances connected with the death of Lieutenant Luke Christopher, U. S. Coast Guard, on 5 December 1936. IN accordance with your request a copy of the finding of facts and opinion of the board in the premises is herewith attached.”
On February 13, 1937 a letter from Mr. H. McReynolds, Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Acknowledgement is made of the receipt of your letter of February 11, 1937, inclosing copy of bill S. 1459, 75th Congress, 1st Session, “For the relief of Berthel Christopher,” and requesting to be furnished a report thereon. This bill is receiving consideration, and a report will be transmitted to your committee as early as practicable.”
As of March 29, 1937, Mrs. Christopher had moved to 1736 P Street NW, Apartment 4938, Washington, D.C.
On September 13, 1937, the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury wrote to Mrs. Luke Christopher at 1272 New Hampshire Avenue, Washington, D.C. as follows: “Dear Mrs. Christopher: There is transmitted to you today, under separate cover, a gold lifesaving medal awarded by this department to your husband, the late Lieutenant Luke Christopher, United States Coast Guard, under Acts of Congress in recognition of his heroic daring in endeavoring to save a man from the perils of the sea on December 5, 1936. It affords the Department great pleasure to have this opportunity of commending the service rendered by your husband on the occasion mentioned, and the Department also wishes to express the deepest regret that he is not alive to receive the medal himself.”
On July 24, 1939, Commandant Waesche wrote to the Honorable William H. Sutphin, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. as follows: “My dear Mr. Sutphin: Complying with a telephonic request from your office, there is inclosed herewith a photostatic copy of the application for $10,000 Government Life Insurance, in the case of the late Lieutenant Luke Christopher, U. S. Coast Guard, who lost his life in a plane crash on 5 December 1936. There is also inclosed a photostatic copy of the allotment application executed by Lieutenant Christopher to cover payment of monthly insurance premiums of $20.90, together with a signed statement by the clerk who handles insurance matters at Coast Guard Headquarters.”
On July 31, 1939 Congressman Sutphin replied to Commandant Waesche as follows: “Dear Admiral Waesche: I believe it would be helpful in the preparation of evidence for the War Claims Committee in support of my H.R. 4216, for the relief of Berthel Christopher, if I could have a transcript of the Board of Investigation which inquired into the causes of Lieutenant Luke Christopher’s fatal mishap, and, in addition, a transcript of the Station Log at Cape May Station to the extent that it would show Lieutenant Christopher’s hours of duty for the three days preceding and including December 5, 1936, the date of his mishap. It is my understanding that emergency conditions existed at that time and that Lieutenant Christopher had been working for long hours when his accident occurred.”
On September 7, 1939 Commandant Waesche replied to Congressman Sutphin as follows: My dear Mr. Sutphin: In reply to your letter of recent date, requesting that a transcript of the Board of Investigation which inquired into the causes of death of Lieutenant Luke Christopher, and a transcript of the Station Log of the Air Station, Cape May, for the days just preceding Lieutenant Christopher’s death, you are advised that an effort has been made to obtain copies of the Board of Investigation and the Station Log. However, there is only one copy of the Board of Investigation at Headquarters and this cannot be released. If you will send an accredited person to Headquarters the Board of Investigation will be made available for obtaining such information as is pertinent toward building up the evidence for the War Claims Committee in support of your H. R. 4216 for the relief of Berthel Christopher. A copy of the Station Log is inclosed herewith.”
On October 18, 1939 the Chief, Audit and Payroll Section, Division of Finance, Coast Guard Headquarters, wrote to Mr. G. A. Ninas, Assistant General Counsel, Office of Comptroller of the United States, Washington, D.C. as follows: “My dear Mr. Ninas: In accordance with your telephonic request, there are forwarded herewith photostatic copies of official papers as follows:
Form 2528, “Application for Allotment,” Lieutenant Luke Christopher, approved and granted, 1 December 1936, by his commanding officer, Lieutenant R. L. Burke, Commanding Cape May Air Station, Coast Guard, and witnessed and registered 1 December 1936, payable to Cashier, Veterans’ Administration, Washington, D.C., for insurance premiums, first payment for the month of December 1936, $20.90.
Form 2528-A “Allotment Stoppage,” Lieutenant Luke Christopher, submitted 7 December 1936, by Lieutenant R. L. Burke, commanding Cape May Air Station, Coast Guard, and registered 7 December 1936, stopping allotment to Cashier, Veterans’ Administration, for payment of insurance premiums, $20.90, without any payment of said allotment, due to death of alloter.
By direction of the Commandant.”
On February 28, 1941 Senator Morris Sheppard sent the following letter to Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau: “Dear Mr. Secretary: Under the regulations of the Treasury Department, I shall appreciate an answer to this question:
“An employee of the Treasury Department, a Commissioned Officer in the Coast Guard, signs a deduction order on December 1 for a deduction from his December pay. Is such a deduction order considered final and irrevocable?”
On March 25, 1941, nearly five and one-half years after Christopher’s death, the Administrative Assistant to Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau replied to Senator Sheppard’s letter as follows:
“My dear Senator: Further reference is made to your letter dated February 28, 1941, addressed to Secretary Morgenthau, in which you make inquiry as to whether an order signed by a commissioned officer of the U.S. Coast Guard, covering deductions from his pay, is final and irrevocable. Personnel of the Coast Guard are permitted to make allotments from their pay, under such regulations as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe, for the support of their families or relatives, for their own savings, or for other purposes. Such allotments may be discontinued upon the request of the person from whose pay the amounts are being deducted, or they may be stopped by his Commanding Officer in case of discharge, desertion, or death. It is understood that your inquiry was made in connection with the case of Lieutenant Luke Christopher, deceased. On December 1, 1936, Lieutenant Christopher executed an application for a life insurance policy, such policy to be made effective January 1, 1937. Payments for the premiums of this insurance were to be made by allotments from his pay, beginning with the pay for the month of December 1936, in accordance with an allotment authorization he executed on December 1, 1936. Lieutenant Christopher died on December 5, 1936, and the Commanding Officer made request for the stoppage of allotments from the decedent’s pay. On December 18, 1936, the Director of Insurance, Veterans’ Administration, informed the Coast Guard that Lieutenant Christopher had no insurance in force at the time of his death, as he died prior to the date on which the insurance was to become effective. I trust that this information will fully answer your inquiry, and if we can be of further assistance in this matter please let me know.”
After moving to North Carolina, Mrs. Berthel Christopher died a pauper 12 years later. His son, Glenn B. Christopher resides in Fort Worth, Texa
I am extremely proud to nominate Luke Christopher for inclusion in the Coast Guard Aviation Association Hall of Honor. As the foregoing biography demonstrates, he appeared on the scene at a dramatic time in the history of a nascent Coast Guard Aviation. CDR Norman B. Hall, as Head, Aviation Division at Coast Guard Headquarters, must have been introduced to Christopher at some aviation event in Washington. It was a chance meeting that proved very beneficial to the Coast Guard. Christopher brought with him a vast amount of aviation experience, including four thousand hours flying nearly every type of commercial and military land and seaplane. He was a gifted test pilot and instructor, and a Major in the Army Reserve. These attributes were much in need at a time when the Coast Guard was obtaining one-of-a-kind aircraft from other services, and contracting with major companies like Fokker, General Aviation Manufacturing, and Douglas to build specialized “flying lifeboats” envisioned by Coast Guard aviation pioneer Captain Ben Chiswell. After commissioning as a Lieutenant (Temporary), Christopher piloted an open cockpit biplane to fly the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury on Coast Guard business and used it to investigate the reliability of radio beacons for airways navigation and detecting smugglers. He inspected, along with Elmer Stone, the construction, test and delivery of Antares (CG-51), the first huge amphibian procured by the Coast Guard. Coast Guard Headquarters routinely tasked Christopher with ferrying aircraft from coast to coast in an age with sparse weather forecasting and navigational aids, and on one occasion he was directed to fly the Commandant on a tour of the Great Lakes. As Christopher grew increasingly exhilarated with his new career, he aggressively sought to qualify as a regular officer, spending six months of sea duty on Coast Guard cutters and destroyers in order to pass a required examination. He was briefly reassigned from Base Nine, Cape May, New Jersey to Base Seven, Gloucester, Massachusetts. Soon after, as commanding officer of the Air Patrol Detachment at Lindbergh Field, San Diego, he apprised his superiors regarding the poor condition of airplanes seized by U.S. Customs and given to the Coast Guard. He ferried an O2U2 plane from Coast Guard Air Station Miami to San Diego, and at Stone’s insistence qualified in “blind flying” on instruments prior to ferrying newly-constructed Douglas RD-4 aircraft from Santa Monica to the East Coast. As a qualified Aircraft and Powerplant mechanic, he assisted a Board of Investigation at El Paso which determined the cause of an accident which killed a Customs Inspector and was nearly fatal to Lieutenant C. F. Edge, USCG. In support of Commander, San Francisco Division and Commander, Seattle Division, he flew an extensive orientation flight over the Pacific Northwest, which ultimately resulted in the siting of air stations at Port Angeles and Astoria. Reassigned to Coast Guard Air Station Cape May. In the course of his short career in the Coast Guard, he evaluated and reported on the technical suitability of a Pitcairn biplane, Beech airplanes, and Douglas “RD” type seaplanes. Sadly, Christopher was killed on December 5, 1936 at Assateague Harbor, Virginia during the medical evacuation of a tanker’s seaman with appendicitis. His RD-4 Adhara (V-111) was gaining takeoff speed when a pontoon snagged on a partially submerged fishing net and spun the plane around violently. He received the Gold Lifesaving Medal for “heroic daring in endeavoring to save a man from the perils of the sea.” In the words of Commandant Waesche following Christopher’s untimely death, “The Service has lost an officer who had much to do with the present-day development and prestige of Coast Guard aviation. I know of his intense interest in the Coast Guard, of his love for the Service, and how well and faithfully he discharged his duties, and fate decreed that he should die “with his boots on, in the highest calling, that of endeavoring to save the life of his fellow man.” Luke Christopher was the first Direct Commissioned Aviator in the United States Coast Guard.
Authored by: Mont J. Smith, CAPT USCG (ret), June 30, 2018
Proposed Citation for Bronze Plaque Honoring Lieutenant Luke Christopher
Lieutenant Luke Christopher is recognized for his superlative contributions to early Coast Guard Aviation as a highly experienced instructor and test pilot at a time when there were few airplanes and even fewer qualified aviators to fly them. He had roughly 4,000 flight hours in military and civil aircraft of every type and served as a test pilot for the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics and as secretary of the Contest Committee of the National Aeronautic Association. Commissioned as a Lieutenant (Temporary) on October 2, 1931, he was directed by the Chief, Aviation Division to inspect, test and ferry many aircraft obtained from a variety of sources during a period of rapid expansion. He served with distinction at air stations Cape May and Gloucester and was assigned as commanding officer of the Air Patrol Detachment at San Diego. Among many exploratory expeditions, he flew the Commandant over the Great Lakes and Western Division Commanders over the Pacific Northwest, at a time when weather forecasting and navigational aids were primitive. Christopher was killed on December 5, 1936 at Assateague Harbor, Virginia during the medical evacuation of a tanker seaman with appendicitis. His RD-4 Adhara (V-111) was gaining takeoff speed when a pontoon snagged on a partially submerged fishing net and spun the plane around violently. He received the Gold Lifesaving Medal for “heroic daring in endeavoring to save a man from the perils of the sea.” He was the Coast Guard’s first Direct Commissioned Aviator.
 Author’s note: All material, except that which is footnoted, was taken verbatim from LT Christopher’s Service Record. Sentences underlined by the author capture signal operational accomplishments of LT Christopher. Italics highlight administrative remarks.
 After the United States' entry into World War I in April 1917, General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing invited the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to establish training fields in the southern United States where the warmer weather would be more conducive for flying year-round. In June, the War Department inspected six sites around Fort Worth which had been offered by the Chamber of Commerce and by July, RFC representatives from Canada inspected five potential sites in Texas and Louisiana for use during the winter. After looking at sites in Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, Wichita Falls, and Midland, in August the War Department signed leases with the RFC on three sites around Fort Worth. Known as the Flying Triangle, these sites were Hicks Field (#1), Barron Field (#2), and Benbrook Field (#3) based on their locations; and construction began in late August and early September. The Canadians named the training complex Camp Taliaferro after 1st Lieutenant Walter R. Taliaferro, a U.S. Army aviator. Taliaferro was killed in an accident at [San Diego], California, on 11 October 1915.
 The purpose of this tour by Army aircraft was to encourage the construction or improvement of adequate landing facilities and the air-mindedness of Georgia as a whole
 Commandant Memorandum of 9 September 1931 signed by F.C. Billard
 No longer qualified for aviation duty resulting from injuries sustained in a takeoff crash in Loening amphibian 0L-3 no. 1 in 1929
The aircraft in question was officially known as the "DOUGLAS OBSERVATION" and was identified as an O-38C by the USAAC. It was officially turned over to the USCG crew on December 11, 1931 according to Douglas records. It was originally assigned USAAC number 32-394 and carried a Douglas msn of 1120. It had been modified at the factory per USCG specs and this mod made it an O-38C. Otherwise, it was an original USAAC O-38B and received an upgraded engine. Hence the O-38C designation.
 Aircraft T-9 was the O-38C recently ferried from Santa Monica to Washington, DC (likely Bolling Field); CDR Hall was not a designated Coast Guard Aviator, although he later qualified, like RADM Moffett, as a USN aerial observer
 Christopher was accompanied by CDR N.B. Hall on this mission. It is quite possible that they visited CDR Stone at CGAS Cape May, who as Senior Member of the Trial Board would evaluate and test the new flying boats being constructed at the General Aviation Manufacturing Corporation.
 Cape Lookout is near Beaufort and Morehead City, NC; it is possible Christopher was scouting for a suitable site for an air station equipped with seaplanes and landplanes.
 Antares was CG-51, a General Aviation Manufacturing Corp. Flying Life Boat (FLB) designed by American Fokker Company and delivered in June 1932; General Aviation later became North American Aviation and the designation “PJ-1” was applied to Altair, Acrux, Acamar and Arcturus. Antares was later re-equipped with tractor engines and was designated a ”PJ-2.”
 Sirius was a Douglas RD-1 “Dolphin” type amphibian construction number 1003 later reserialled as V128
 Adhara was a Douglas RD-2 “Dolphin” type amphibian construction number 1122 later reserialled as V129
 “7026 from Commander Section Base Nine to Coast Guard Headquarters “ADVISE BASE NINE NUMBER OF PERSONNEL REQUIRED IN TRIP TO WEST COAST IN ADHARA 0950.”
 The Commander of Section Base Nine was Elmer Stone’s academy classmate, LCDR G.W. MacLane
 Procyon CG-27 was a Douglas RD Sinbad-type amphibian Construction number 703 later reserialled as V227
 On May 29th LT Clarence F. Edge (USCG Aviator 14), commander of the Air Patrol Detachment at Dodd Field, had taken off in a former Customs airplane from Fort Bliss, El Paso. Shortly afterwards, the engine developed problems and LT Edge elected to return to the field. While landing the plane, it hit a rough spot on the field and nosed over into a sand hill. Gasoline from the wing tank began to leak and soon thereafter the plane was engulfed in flames. LT Edge jumped from the rear cockpit and tried to pull the unconscious Sexton from the plane. LT Edge was severely burned on his face and arms from the gasoline feed fire before two others were able to pull him away from the burning plane. LT Edge spent several weeks in the Fort Bliss Army Hospital recovering from his injuries. (Courtesy of Check Six http://www.check-six.com/lib/Coast_Guard_Aviation_Casualties.htm)
 138, later in 1936 reserialled as V133 (Bellatrix), was the ninth Douglas RD-4 purchased by the Coast Guard
 U.S. Law required that when a temporary officer was inducted into the regular Coast Guard, his date of rank would change to the date of induction, making Christopher junior to many of the officers he had previously outranked.
 The inscription on the medal reads “To Luke Christopher for heroic daring in endeavoring to save a man from the perils of the sea. December 5, 1936”