Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Gibbon (Elwyn Herbert) Personal Papers
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (63.68 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Related Materials
  • Scope and Contents

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: San Diego Air and Space Museum Library and Archives
    Title: Elwyn Herbert Gibbon Personal Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: SDASM.SC.10053
    Physical Description: 0.76 Cubic Feet Two boxes (12”x5”x11”)
    Date (inclusive): 1911-1942
    Abstract: Elwyn Herbert Gibbon had a very distinctive career instructing Chinese how to fly. This Collection documents his life in aviation.

    Conditions Governing Access

    The collection is open to researchers by appointment.

    Conditions Governing Use

    Some copyright may be reserved. Consult with the library director for more information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Item], [Filing Unit], [Series Title], [Subgroups], [Record Group Title and Number], [Repository “San Diego Air & Space Museum Library & Archives”]

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    The materials in this Collection were donated to the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

    Biographical / Historical

    Elwyn H. Gibbon (1911-1942), from Seattle, Washington, enlisted in the National guard in 1927 and joined the Regular Army in 1928 before completing high school. By the age of 21 he passed the entrance exams to Randolf Field as a Flying Cadet at age 21. By his graduation, he had clocked 270 hours of flying time on various aircraft, including a Boeing P-12B, Keystone LB-6, A-3 Falcon, and other aircraft. He did well at Randolph and Kelly Field, and would be stationed in Texas then California where he eventually married Toneita (Toni) Lindeen in 1933.
    In 1930, Gibbon’s parents moved to the Philippines to teach and wrote home about the gold rush, so in 1934, Elwyn and Toni moved to Manila where Gibbon had several odd jobs, some of which included flying transport and cargo. On July 1, 1937, what became known as the China Incident marked the Japanese invasion of China and also spurred the Chinese government to hire foreign ex-military airmen as pilots. Gibbon was hired as a member of the Foreign Volunteers of the Chinese Air Force as a bomber pilot and arrived in Hankow late in October 1937.
    He was then hired as an instructor by the Commission for Aeronautical Affairs and worked beneath Claire Chennault. After the fall of Nanking, the capitol was shifted to Hankow, where Gibbon’s wife would eventually arrive just before Christmas and where Gibbons was likely teaching Chinese recruits how to fly Curtiss Hawk H-75H’s, Vultee V11, as well as Russian models like the Polikarpov I-15bis. Gibbon also saw some few combat sorties during this time. However China disbanded the 14th Volunteer Squadron on March 22, 1938.
    Elwyn and Toni left from Hong Kong on April 13 and boarded the Canadian liner the Empress of India, not knowing that stories had been published about Gibbon’s having shot down Japanese planes. The Empress had one stop at Yokohama on the 23rd, where Japanese police detained and eventually jailed Elwyn. Toni wired Elwyn’s brother (a lawyer in Seattle) and eventually American and Candian officials became involved in his case. His release was secured after the Tokyo Court of Appeals on April 26th released him based on his citizen ship with a neutral country, but not before his arrest caused a media firestorm in Washington state.
    Afterwards, Gibbon participated in air shows, ran media circuits about his experiences, and operated as a test pilot for TWA and Lockheed. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Gibbon made arrangements with Hap Arnold to see what service he could provide at age 30. His previous experience as a test pilot qualified him as an instructor and test pilot in Karachi, India. As such, on February 19, 1942, after he was released by Lockheed, he took on a 6-month contract Vultee Aircraft Co., and went to Karachi as a test pilot and to familiarize the Chinese Air Force with the P-66 Vanguard. The circumstantial details are unclear, but the last day of his contract on August 19, 1942, during a demonstration, he was killed when his P-66 caught fire and crashed.

    Related Materials

    A/V 14th Air Force, China-Burma-India Theater, Call #: F-0191 http://youtu.be/EfBOHNlWEes A/V AVG 14th Volunteer Squadron: Chinese Air Force; 1936-38 [video], Call #: VT-0789
    Related Research Institutions:
    Secondary Sources: Cornelius, Wanda and Thayne Short Gretna Ding hao, America's air war in China, 1937-1945, Pelican Pub. Co., 1980.
    Leiser, Edward L., Memoirs of the Pilot Elwyn H. Gibbon, The Mad Irishman, Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society, Spring, 1978, 2-18. (available in the Library & Archives)

    Scope and Contents

    Two boxes (12”x5”x11”) containing correspondence, newspaper articles and clippings, photographs of Karachi (India) and China, printed materials, passports, and numerous miscellaneous items and Chinese language materials.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Vultee P-66 Vanguard
    Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945
    Curtiss Hawk 75
    Curtiss Hawk 2
    World War, 1939-1945
    United States. Army. Air Corps. Advanced Flying School (Kelly Field, Tex.)
    Lockheed Aircraft
    Trans World Airways. TWA
    China National Aviation Corporation
    Gibbon, Elwyn Herbert
    Chennault, Claire Lee