LTjg. JOSEPH FAIRCHILD KNAPP , USN
One of the real gems that I found on my recent Washington trip was the item you see above. It turned up in the National Air & Space Library with the able assist of Smithsonian Librarian Philip Edwards. Phil brought forth some diamonds for me to look at from deep within their archives. WWI military records in general are very hard to come by as many were lost. Other than being off by two days on his birth (Feb 3,) I am assuming the rest of the info in Joseph F. Knapp's military record is fairly accuate. I found it in a book titled "Contact" The First Naval Aviators Register by Reginald Wright Arthur.
Dodi enlisted in May of 1917 as a Quartermaster, took further aviation training in Heavier Than Air as an Ensign at Pensacola, Fla in 1918 and left the Navy in 1919 as a Lieutenant J. G. The Navy Department lost contact with him in our little town of Mastic Beach around 1936. Wonder if they had stop loss back then? The missing right wing means the author did not know if he was dead or alive at the time of publication in 1967.
Although brief, it proves to be very revealing in several aspects. Of the original twelve members of the "phantom" Unit 3 Aero Station, I discovered only a handful ever completed their training and went on to be full fledged Naval Aviators.... and one of them was none other than the host of the Mastic airbase itself Dodi Knapp. It also reveals where Knapp went to prep (high) school . Historic St. Paul's School in Garden City, Long Island. I would surmise he was there somewhere between 1903-1909. The 500 room school closed in the 1990's and it's future as a building is in limbo.
The next item was in "The Textbook For Naval Aeronautics" written by Henry Woodhouse in 1917. Henry was a aero magazine publisher and executive in the Aero Club of America. He was also one of the committe members who toured the Knapp Estate in April of 1917 when it was offered by Dodi's father J. P. Knapp as a base of operations. This is the first time I have seen Aerial Coast Patrol Unit # 3 called The Knapp Seaplane Station.
By late summer of 1917 there were reportedly up to 36 members stationed at Knapp's estate. It was most likely around this time that they moved into the Hedges Hotel at Smith Point and built more hangers over there . It is also around this time that the Navy seemed to have lost track of these guys. Their chief instructor E. K. Jaquith was quite a character to say the least and was probably AWOL in Atlantic City a lot. I don't know if you can technicaly go AWOL from a civilian air patrol unit that is paying their own way and using their own planes though. Jaquith seemed to have been replaced by Dodi's pal Leonard Bonney as the main flight instructor. Bonney (the man who would later build his Bonney Gull on Knapp's estate in the 1920's) was one of the first aviators to hunt German Submarines off of Long Island in March of 1917. He tracked them from Mineola to Southold. The Navy Historians Office official explanation of whatever happened to Unit 3 was "They never finished their training as a unit and were absorbed into Bayshore Unit 2".... I know I read accounts where the Navy thought E. K. Jaquith was killed in action overseas wherein the fact was by January of 1918 he was still "awaiting his orders and commision" ....both never came.
This item from Air Service Journal an aviation magazine sheds a little light on the confusion. Eugene Untermyer is most likely a son or nephew of J. P. Knapp's Colombia classmate and personal counsel Samuel Untermyer who was one of the most notable attorneys of his day.
I also have the Military Records of Dodi's Stepbrother Archie "Chip" McIlwaine and unit 3 member Harold Pumpelly/ I am in the process of getting ahold of copies of these books for more detailed study. The one thing I never seem to have enough of on these research trips is time. But if you have the time there is a whole lot more here about the Knapp Aviators .....