World War I pilot


Wesleyan University track team, 1916

Lieutenant Alvin Hill Treadwell (1896-1918) was 22-years-old when he was shot down over Germany in Nov. 1918 during World War I.  He was a member of the 213th Aero Squadron that fought on the Western Front.  Alvin had three air victories before his death.

Alvin’s family lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, where his father Aaron Treadwell (my great great uncle) was a professor at Vassar College. Born in Oxford, Ohio, Alvin wrote a high school essay on women’s right to vote.  He was a member of the varsity track team at Wesleyan College, then transferred to Yale as a junior.   At Yale, he won the Willis Brook Cup in track for the two-mile race. He was a private in the Yale Reserve Officers Training Corps.

In May 1917 he enlisted in the Officers Training Camp in Madison Barracks, NY, and, in August 1917, he joined the Aviation Service and took a brief course on the ground at Cornell before being sent to France. With only months of training, Alvin was making flights with the French Army.  He was later made flight commander of the 213th Aero Squadron of the US Army.

After he was shot down, Alvin spent several days injured in a German hospital without his family’s knowledge.  He died on Nov. 16, 1918 in Trier, Germany and was buried there. His body was later retrieved and he was buried in the family plot in Redding, Connecticut. After his death, Yale gave him an honorary degree.

Posthumously he received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star Citation. This is from a The Journal News, 19 May 1923, when his father received notice of Alvin’s award:

Town of Redding Roll Of Honor

Town of Redding World War I Roll of Honor

“Dr. Aaron Louis Treadwcll, professor of biology at Miami university from 1801 to 19.00, now on the faculty of Vassar college, has received official presentation of the Distinguished Service Cross which was posthumously awarded to his son, Lieutenant Alvin H. Treadwell, who was born in Oxford. The presentation was made by General Bullard at Governor’s Island. Lieutenant Treadwell was killed in action while in the air service with the A. E. F. The citation reads: Alvin H. Treadwell, first lieutenant, 213th Aero Squadron, Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of St. Juvin. France, October 10, 1918. While leading a patrol of four machines at an altitude of 3,000 meters, lieutenant Treadwell observed two American observation airplanes hard pressed by nine of the enemy. Disregarding the enemy advantage number and position he immediately attacked, whereupon the enemy immediately retired. “On October 29, 1918, in the region of Bayonville, France, at an altitude of 8,000 meters, Lieutenant Treadwell attacked an enemy biplane, killing the observer and following the machine down to within 50 meters of the ground, well within the enemy’s territory. “The gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Treadwell greatly inspired the members of his squadron.” 

Alvin’s story is included in the book Lost Eagles by Blain Pardoe. I’m still looking for a photo of him.

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