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Highlighting the World Wars I & II Memorabilia Collection of Dave Sleeper

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Thornton, Ernest G.


Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Military Branch: US Air Service Kelly Field
Origin: Texas
Date of Death: 1989-7-28
Restland Cemetery, Olney, Texas
Featured: No

Ernest Grady Thornton was born in Beeville, Texas to his parents Julian and Agnes Thornton on June 21, 1891, and died in Olney, Texas July 28, 1989.

As a young student, he was studied at the Eddy Literary and Scientific Institute in 1912. He also went to Bedichek Academy in Eddy, Texas, and then to the University of Texas in Austin, and was ultimately rewarded with a law degree.

Ernest Thornton began his military career in the Texas National Guard and was active between March 10, 1915 to March 20, 1917. For ten months of that time, the unit, Co. F, 2nd Texas National Guard, was in the Mexican Border Campaign. Thornton's discharge, dated March 28, 1917, shows him at a rank of Corporal.

Thornton enlisted in the Army in July, 1917 at the University of Texas, School of Military Aeronautics with the aim of being commissioned as a non-flyer, thence to go on to flying status. He received orders on October 16, 1917 to report to Kelly Field on or before October 20, 1917. He graduated December 22, 1917 from Ground Officer's Training School, Kelly Field. He was then appointed 2nd Lieutenant. According to a letter in his file, he was on duty in the 2nd R.S. first as Adjutant of the 8th Battalion and then as Assistant Adjutant at Brigade headquarters.

On July 7, 1918, Thornton was transferred from the Construction Department to the Flying Depatment. On August 1, 1918 he was appointed Assistant Adjutant of the Flying Department. On August 10, 1918 Thornton was promoted to First Lieutenant, Air Service, (Aeronautics). This promotion document accompanies this group. By October 12, 1918, he had attained 25 hours of flight time per an accompanying memo. He completed Gunnery School on December 15, 1918, and became rated Reserve Military Aviator on January 2, 1919. His paperwork shows that he was discharged March 19, 1919, and was appointed Aviation Section Signal Officers Reserve Corps on April, 22, 1919.

The census data for 1920, 1930, and 1940, on Ancestry, shows that Ernest Thornton was an attorney. He was living in Olney, Texas with his wife Ann, and 4 children. It was his son Robert who inherited all of Thornton's military material, and it is from that estate this material came directly. Link to his Findagrave obit: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=thornton&GSfn=ernest&GSmn=g&GSby=1891&GSbyrel=in&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=64213994&df=all&

Lt. Thornton's group is massive. It starts with his original named trunk absolutley packed full. In no particular order, here it is: WW1 tunic by Hart Shaffner & Marx with brass and 3" sterling silver wing with gold clad U.S. on the shield (not hallmarked), tunic has Mexican Border service ribbon and 3 silver service stripes for stateside service; matching trousers, short wool overcoat with wool belt and officer's braid and service stripes on the cuff; early cotton service tunic with 2 pair cotton pants; officers shoes with laces; officers leather puttees, pair of wool puttees, officers size 7 1/8 visor cap with date stamp inside of December 23, 1917, and with initials EGT stenciled in the sweatband; officer's campaign hat with braid, marked inside "John B Stetson Quality, Formy-Jones Co. 517 E. Houston St. San Antonio, Tex.", with initials EGT stenciled in the sweatband; 7 white collar bands, original named leather flight helmet with label inside " The Armstrong Uniforms Chicago"; hand knit wool scarf; WW1 longjohns with makers stamp "Girard 32-33"; early yellow and white campaign hat cord; WW1 Victory medal with no bars; spare lieutenants bars, brass whistle and chain; crossed rifle collar brass, and spare aviation and signal corps collar brass; straight razor and comb; a soldier's friend sowing kit; and last but not least, one dogtag from his service at Kelly Field that has stamped "ERNEST G. THORNTON /2ND. LT. /S.R.C.A.S./ U.S.A." Almost all of the cloth items have Thornton's stamped initials on the inside.

Lt Thornton's paper group that accompaniethe above contains about an inch thick file of all the orders and memos he saved. It includes original discharge and promotion certificates; an Aviation Club Kelly Field membership card; 2 large photos of Thornton, an original photo showing Thornton's group of 13 officers marked Cadet Wing Staff, all identified on the back; a Kelly Field pocket pass with his photo; a Thanksgiving menu dated November 29, 1917 for the Ground Officers at Kelly Field No. 2; an original copy of  the "Kelly Field Eagle" with an article about Quenton Roosevelt being killed in action; a copy of the book Kelly Field in the Great World War"; plus a few other trinkets including some 10 peso notes from his Mexican Border days. Page 124 of the Kelly book contains a reproduction of the Cadet Wing Staff picture mentioned above in the Chapter entitled "The Cadet Wing of Embryo Flyers". The last paragraph of that chapter states that Lt. Thornton was named Adjutant on November 11, 1918. Some copies of internet research are included.

As of June, 2013, this group has transferred to the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker so that it can be on permanent display.