Wednesday, June 30, 2010

J.C. Benko, 631 Aero Squadron (WWI)

The inscription I'm posting today was found in a copy of Drill Regulations for Signal Troops 1917, Military Publishing Company, NY. War Department, Document no. 606, Office of the Adjutant General (H.P. McCain).

Of Course, the Adjutant General's name caught my attention and I had to research H.P. McCain. Turns out Henry Pinckney McCain was a distant uncle of John McCain (U. S. Senator, Arizona). H.P. McCain set up the World War I draft and became known as the father of Selective Service.

Inside the front cover is the brief inscription: J.C. Benko, 631 Aero Sqdn.

Of Mr. Benko, I can find nothing. I could almost say the same for his phantom-like 631st Aero Squadron. A Wikipedia page produced a clue about the squadron's origins:
(Note war declared 6-April-1917)
In January 1918 a new numbering scheme for aero squadrons was set up. Numbers 1-399 would be for Aero Service Squadrons (AS). 400-599 Aero Construction Squadrons (ACS), 600-799 Aero Supply Squadrons and 800-1099 Aero Repair Squadrons.
So the 631st was an Aero Supply Squadron. And Mr. Benko must have gotten hold of this book in 1918 after the numbering scheme went into effect.

A note to World War I historians who might be searching for the 631st: I found the following information about this squadron on a genealogy forum:
The 631st was redesignated from the 46th Aero Squadron in Feb 1918. It served at Garden City NY until demobilization in 1919. There was another 46th Aero Squadron that maintained that designation in Texas. The 631st was an Aero Supply squadron. There was a lot of reorganization and redesignation of units as the aero corps expanded which is why there are two units designated the 46th.
A follow-up post on this forum adds anecdotal information about a relative having served in the 631st and where they served in France when deployed there during the war.


  1. i just found out my greatgrandfather served in the 631st aero squardron in ww1 in france. he was from brooklyn ny but i cant find any info on his outfit, i do have discharge paper work said he was in 631 in france. if any one has info on squardron id love to hear about it,thanks ... my email my name is bill kelly

  2. Jeanette Wells SchmalzbauerOctober 20, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    This is my father's uncle. My father still living. His uncle Roy had been living in North Dakota prior to his service. Oral family history said he flew in France behind German lines but I don't have verification of that claim.

    Roster of the Men and Women Who Served in the Army or Naval Service (Including the Marine Corps) of the United States or its Allies from the State of North Dakota in the World War, 1917-1918 Volume 4 Rich to Zygmond

    Name: Roy Miles Wells
    Army #: 22,664
    Registrant: yes, Cavalier county
    Birth Place: Grinnell, Iowa
    Birth Date: 15 Oct 1888
    Parent's Origin: of American parents
    Occupation: mechanic
    Comment: enlisted at Minneapolis, Minn., on Aug. 6, 1917; sent to Jefferson Barracks, Mo.; served in 92nd Aero Squadron, to Dec. 22, 1918; 631st Aero Squadron, to discharge. Grades: Corporal, March 1, 1918; Sergeant, Nov. 1, 1918; overseas from Oct. 13, 1917, to Dec. 4, 1918. Discharged at Garden City, N. Y., on Jan. 8, 1919, as a Sergeant.

    History note I have found on the 92nd:
    92d Aero Squadron 21 August 1917 AEF: 29 October 1917 - 4 December 1918
    Trained for night bombardment, never saw combat
    Demobilized 21 December 1918

    And then from this book which are biographies many cities across the country have and are good "clues" for genealogists but are based on information provided by the group conducting the biography project at that time. In part, it reads:

    Langdon ND 1888 - 1988 Centennial Book
    Roy Miles Wells Biography - pg 471

    Roy Miles Wells was born in Grinnell, Iowa October 15, 1888 and came to North Dakota smuggled in a boxcar with his family in 1903, settling on a farm near Hannah. Roy took a short course in steam and gas tractor mechanics at NDAC in 1905 and traveled around to farms working as engineer for steam tractors. In 1913 he moved to Langdon and worked in the Sparling Garage. Roy enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1917 and served in England in WWI servicing airplanes. Discharged in 1919, he came back to work in Arthur Sparling's garage. January 1, 1920 Roy married Hester Sparling (the Boss' daughter). That spring Roy and Stanley Schneider bought the business, calling it "Automotive Service," selling and servicing Overland Cars ($595, FOB Standard Sedan) and other makes. In 1931 the carbon monixide fumes became too much for Roy's lungs and he sold the business to G. McDivitt. In 1936 Roy again bought his father-in-law's business, The Sparling Mill, renaming it Wells Supply Co. Roy in !
    turn sold the mill to his son Bob in 1949. He worked as a partsman for Ray Lebrun, the I.H. dealer.
    Roy and Claude Skinner, who started the Langdon Airport, bought a plane, gave lessons and made passenger trips. After Claude was killed propping an airplane, Roy's enthusiasm for flying slowed. When Bob came back from his stint as a Navy aviator in 1946, he and Bob owned several planes together and he did quite a lot of flying. On his 72nd birthday he decided thatit was time to give up flying. Roy was on the City Commission, Captain in the CAP, Legion Commander, and active in the Masonic Bodies.