During his lifetime, William Caldwell McChord witnessed and took part in the birth of military aviation. Colonel McChord was born 29 December 1881, in Lebanon, Kentucky. He attended the United States Military Academy, where he earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the cavalry, on 14 June 1907. He received his flying training at Rockwell Field, California, and was rated a Junior Military Aviator on 31 May 1918. After completing a course in Bombardment Aviation at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, and commanding for brief periods of time at Park Field, Tennessee, and Gerstner Field, Louisiana, he was transferred in March, 1919, to the Office of the Director of Air Service, Washington, D.C. There he served in various capacities; duty in the Finance Section of the Supply Group, a member of the Air Service Claims Board, assistant to the Chief of the Materials Disposal and Salvage Division of the Supply Group, and Assistant to the Chief of the Property Division of the Supply Group.
In July, 1920, Colonel McChord served as Air Officer of the Central Department (later the 6th Corps Area), for two years. He then completed the Air Corps Tactical, and Command and General Staff School courses of instruction. He went on to command Chanute Field, Illinois, and was Commandant of the Air Corps Technical School at the field until early in 1928 when he was transferred to the Advanced Flying School, Kelly Field, Texas. There, he completed the Special Observers course, and received the rating of “Airplane Observer” as of 25 June 1928. Following his graduation from the Army War College, Washington, D.C., Colonel McChord served as instructor at the Command and General Staff School for four years. He was then transferred to the Panama Canal Department for duty as Commanding Officer of the 19th Composite Wing. In October 1935, upon completion of his foreign service tour, he was assigned to duty in the Plans Division, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, Washington, D.C. Later, he was assigned duty as Chief of the Training and Operations Division.
Two years later, while piloting a Northrop A-17 single engine attack bomber from Bolling Field, District of Columbia, to Randolph Field, Texas, Colonel McChord crashed near Maldens, Virginia, on 18 August 1937. Apparently, he was trying to land his malfunctioning aircraft. Colonel McChord died in the crash. His name was proposed for memorialization, and on 5 May 1938, Tacoma Field was officially designated McChord Field in his honor.
We honor you, William McChord.