Sep 24

The Navy’s First Ace: Lieutenant Junior Grade David S. Ingalls

Friday, September 24, 2010 12:01 AM


While on a test flight in a British Sopwith Camel on 24 September 1918, Lieutenant Junior Grade David S. Ingalls sighted a German two-seat Rumpler over Nieuport, Belgium. In company with another Camel he aggressively dove in and scored his fifth aerial victory in six weeks to become the Navy’s first ace.

Born to a life of privilege in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1899, Ingalls had matriculated at Yale University when WWI erupted. As a young man he enjoyed tinkering with aircraft, and enlisted as a machinist mate second class as a member of the First Yale Unit, a group of aviation pioneers, just before the United States entered the war.

Ingalls qualified as a Naval Aviator, commissioned, and exchanged with the Marines and the British to fight the Germans along the Western Front, where he shot down four German planes and at least one balloon to become the Navy’s first ace. Ingalls received the Distinguished Service Medal, the British Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Legion of Honor.

“He is one of the finest men” the British subsequently evaluated his service, “[No. 213] Squadron ever had.” They further noted that he was an “Excellent officer…exceptionally good pilot…bold and aggressive…made enviable record…” After WWI Ingalls completed his education at Yale and Harvard and practiced law. He served during WWII, returned to law and became involved in politics following that conflict. The intrepid pilot retired to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, with his wife Louise, where he died in 1985.

  • Barrett Tillman

    Ingalls was well regarded by those who knew him but he would not have been an ace in WW II. His six victories included one solo and five shared, which was typical in the British victory credit system. His decimal score was 2.91 e/a destroyed.