Elwyn H. Gibbon Collection

Elwyn H. Gibbon Collection

Elwyn H. Gibbon Collection

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. 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.

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, but then was 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 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. The Empress had one stop at Yokohama on the 23rd, where Japanese police detained and eventually jailed Elwyn. After a wire from his wife reached family in the US, American and Candian officials became involved in his case. His release was secured three days later.

Afterwards, Gibbon participated in air shows, ran media circuits about his experiences, and operated as a test pilot for TWA and Lockheed. After the US declared war following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gibbon was released by Lockheed to take on a 6-month contract Vultee Aircraft Co., and went to Karachi, India, 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. 

 

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