Letter home from Fred Hughes, printed in the Pullman Car Works Standard, December 1917.
You know that I resigned [from the Pullman Company] in March to enter the United States Naval Aeronautical school at Pensacola, Florida. I had not been there more than six weeks, when a call came for would go to France, and two days later we started for New York -forty of us being rated as mechanicians and sixty as student pilots. At Brooklyn navy yards we boarded the
U. S. S. Jupiter, one of the navy's largest colliers, which was loaded with an $11,000,000 cargo of wheat, flour, guns and ammunition, bound for "somewhere in France. "
We sailed May 23 and arrived June 5-not one of the first, but the FIRST U. S. regulars to arrive in France for active service.
A convoy of two torpedo-boat destroyers accompanied us all the way, and another met us two days out; but even the three were not enough to prevent a submarine attack. Not more than twenty miles off the French coast the paralyzing "wakes" of two torpedoes passed so close that many of the men prayed. One shot in front of us, not more than thirty feet away, and a moment later the second passed fifty feet from ourstern. We fired at what appeared to be a periscope, but we never knew positively that it was one. It was enough that the attack was not repealed, and three hours later we were safe in the mouth of the Gironde River.
After ten days' lay-over at Bordeaux, our detachment was split up, the mechanicians going to St. Raphael to a motor school, and we pilots to Tours. There we were given a practical course in flying, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first twelve to finish. My altitude test was 12,600 feet, 4, 000 feet higher than necessary, but I would have gone higher if the recording baragraph had not run off the top of the paper. Flying is very simple when you know how, not nearly as difficult as driving a car through Chicago traffic. and not half as exciting.
Two of our boys were killed at Tours, one by a collision in mid-air, and the other plunging 500 feet to earth with his monitor. The machine caught fire and both men were cremated. We have had many minor accidents, but, fortunately, all the other boys are still with us.
Ensign Hughes was lost while training in his Curtiss H-16 Flying Boat at facilities in Ayers, Scotland, shortly after this letter was received.