Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Benjamin Scovill "Ben" Kelsey 1906 –1981

Benjamin S. Kelsey was born in Waterbury, Conn., in 1906, and attended public schools there. At the age of 15 he completed a flying course with the Curtiss Flying Service at Garden City, N.Y. He graduated from Msachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in June 1928, and then conducted research work and instructed in the aeronautics department there.

Prior to being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps on May 2, 1929, General Kelsey had participated in extensive private and commercial flying and had obtained his transport pilot license. First assigned at Mitchel Field, N.Y., he was associated with the Guggenheim Fog Flying Laboratory. The following year he graduated from Primary and Advanced Flying Schools, and in 1931 he obtained his master of science degree in aeronautical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Assigned with the 20th Pursuit Group at Mather Field, Calif., and later at Barksdale Field, La., he served in various tactical unit duties.

Transferred to the Materiel Command at Wright Field, Ohio, in 1934, General Kelsey was fighter project officer in the Engineering Section, and in addition participated in various phases of blind landing and instrument flying development.
He was first to fly the Bell twin-Allison XFM-1 Airacuda prototype on September 1, 1937, the P-39 Airacobra and the Lockheed XP-38.

From May to July 1940 he served as assistant military attache for air at London, England, and then returned to Wright Field as chief of the Pursuit Branch in the Production Engineering Section. In the spring of 1942 he was attached to the Eighth Fighter Command at Dow Field, Maine, to assist in preparing for Trans-Atlantic ferry flights, and the following July he flew in the first ferry flight of fighters across the North Atlantic to England. Returning to the States in September 1942, he resumed his former position as chief of the Pursuit Branch, and the following July he was named chief of the Flight Research Branch, Flight Test Division.

Going to England in November 1943, General Kelsey was deputy chief of staff of the Ninth Fighter Command, and the following February he was appointed chief of the Operation Engineering Section of the Eighth Air Force Headquarters there. In February 1945 he was assigned to the Materiel Division at Air Corps Headquarters.

Reassigned to the Materiel Command at Wright Field that July, General Kelsey was chief of the All-Weather Operations Section. From December 1946 to January 1948 he served successively as assistant deputy commanding general for personnel; deputy commanding general for personnel, and chief of personnel and administration there.

Returning to Air Force Headquarters in February 1948, General Kelsey was chief of the Control Group in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel. Entering the National War College in August 1948, he graduated the following June and remained there as an instructor. In June 1952 he was appointed Deputy Director of Research and Development in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Development at Air Force Headquarters.

General Kelsey reverted to his permanent rank of colonel Dec. 30, 1955 and retired from active duty the following day.

His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters; French Croix de Guerre; and Belgian Croix de Guerre. He is rated a command pilot. In 1944 he received the Octave Chanute Award from the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences for contributions to high speed flight testing.