Herbert Arthur Dargue was born November 17, 1886, in Brooklyn, New York. He entered the U.S. Military Academy in June 15, 1907, and graduated on June 12, 1911, as a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery Corps. In September 1911, General Dargue was assigned initially as company commander of the 41st Company, Coast Artillery Corps, at Fort Monroe, Virginia. In May 1912, he transferred to the 138th Company, Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Mills, Philippines. In March 1913, General Dargue volunteered for pilot training at Fort McKinley, Philippines under the instruction of First Lieutenant Frank P. Lahm, soloing on April 13, 1913, and receiving FAI pilot certificate No. 242. He received the coveted Military Aviator rating on July 19, 1913, making him one of the 24 original Military Aviators in the U.S. Army. Four months later he transferred to Fort Mills, Philippines. On December 16, 1914, Dargue (pilot) and First Lieutenant Joseph O. Mauborgne (wireless operator) made aviation history when they became the first Army airmen to transmit and receive radio messages while in flight.
Upon returning from the Philippines in May 1915, General Dargue became an instructor at the Signal Corps Aviation School in San Diego, California. Seven months later, he was assigned as a pilot to the 1st Aero Squadron at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The squadron transferred to Columbus, New Mexico on March 15, 1916, and was in the field during the Mexican Punitive Expedition. In the first tactical employment of U.S. airpower in history, the 1st Aero Squadron, commanded by Captain Benjamin D. Foulois, flew reconnaissance and liaison missions in support of Brigadier General John J. Pershing’s cavalry columns as they pursued the irregular forces of Francisco “Pancho” Villa deep into Mexico.
Following completion of his historic assignment to the 1st Aero Squadron in July 1916, General Dargue resumed his instructor duties at the Signal Corps Aviation School in San Diego. Briefly leaving the Air Service, Dargue commanded Battery F and the Supply Company of the 16th Field Artillery Regiment at Camp Robinson, Wisconsin from August to September 1917. Restored to aeronautical duties in October 1917, he next served as director of the School for Aerial Observers and commanding officer of the 4th Aero Squadron and commanding officer of Post Field, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. General Dargue then travelled overseas to serve as an observer with the American Expeditionary Forces in England and France from August to October 1918.
Returning to the United States in November 1918, General Dargue was appointed Assistant Chief of Training in the Office of the Director of Military Aeronautics, Washington, D.C. In July 1919, he assumed duties as Deputy Air Service Officer at Charleston, South Carolina, before attending the Air Service Engineering School at McCook Field, Ohio from January to September 1920. The following month he returned to Washington, D. C., where he served for over two and a half years as a member of the Advisory Board, Chief of the War Plans Section, Assistant Chief of the Training and War Plans Division, and Chief of the War Plans Section in the Training and War Plans Division of the Office of the Chief of the Air Service.
In September 1923, he entered the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, completing the course as a distinguished graduate on June 6, 1924. Following a brief assignment as commanding officer of the Boston Air Port, Massachusetts, he returned to Washington, D.C. in October 1924, where he was appointed the officer-in-charge of the War Plans Section, Training and Operations Division, Office of Chief of the Air Service (later, Air Corps).
From December 21, 1926 to May 2, 1927, General Dargue made aviation history as commanding officer of the Pan American Flight. Dargue’s command, five U.S. Army Loening OA-1A amphibious observation planes each named after an American city (Dargue’s aircraft was the New York) and crewed by two men each, departed San Antonio, Texas and flew across Central America, around South America and over the Caribbean Sea to land at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C. The trip covered 22,065 miles representing 263 hours and 15 minutes of actual flight time. In recognition of the achievement, Dargue and his fellow flyers became the first recipients of the newly instituted Distinguished Flying Cross. The Pan American flyers also received the 1926 Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. Notable members of the Pan American Goodwill Flight included Muir S. Fairchild, Ennis C. Whitehead (Dargue’s relief pilot), Ira C. Eaker, and Arthur B. McDaniel. Dargue later wrote a lengthy article titled “How Latin America Looks From The Air – U.S. Army Airplanes Handle the High Andes, Brave Brazil Jungles, and Follow Smoking Volcanoes to Map New Sky Paths Around South America,” which was published in National Geographic, Vol. LII, No. 4, October 1927.
Following completion of his assignment in the Office of Chief of the Air Corps in July 1928, General Dargue next attended the Army War College, Fort Humphreys, Washington, D.C. Upon graduation, he attended the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, from July 1929 to June 1930. After two years of attendance at service schools, General Dargue returned to the field in September 1930, when he was appointed commanding officer of the 2d Bombardment Group and post operations officer, Langley Field, Virginia. In December 1933, he was elevated to commanding officer of the 2d Bombardment Wing at Langley Field.
In November 1934, General Dargue was appointed assistant commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School, Maxwell Field, Alabama. While there, he also doubled as chief of the Naval Operations Section during the 1935-1936, 1936-1937 and 1937-1938 academic years. General Dargue was transferred to Albrook Field, Panama Canal Zone in November 1938, where he was named commanding general of the 19th Wing. Upon returning to the United States in October 1940, General Dargue served as Assistant Chief of the Air Corps and Chief of the Inspection Division, Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, Washington, D.C.
On June 24, 1941, General Dargue was appointed commanding general of the First Air Force, Mitchel Field, New York. From August to October 1941, he served on temporary duty as commanding general of the 3rd Air Task Force for the Louisiana Army GHQ Maneuvers. Shortly after the United States entered World War II, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson ordered General Dargue to proceed to Hawaii to head up an investigation of the lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor and to take command of the Hawaiian Department from Lieutenant General Walter C. Short. On December 12, 1941, while en route to Hawaii, the B-18 aircraft General Dargue was travelling aboard crashed in the high Sierras near Bishop, California. General Dargue, Colonel Charles W. Bundy, his staff assistant, and the six other crewmen and passengers died in the accident. The aircraft crash site was not found until May 1942. General Dargue was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his contribution to the development and expansion of the Army Air Forces.
In 1944, the Liberty Ship Rebecca Lukens (1551) was converted into an “Ivory Soap” aircraft repair ship and renamed the Major General Herbert A. Dargue. The ship was outfitted as a mobile aircraft repair and maintenance depot and carried two Sikorsky R 4B “Hoverfly” helicopters for observation, spotting downed aircraft and rescue and ferry work. The ship served as home for the 2nd Aircraft Repair Unit (Floating).
On July 19, 1997, General Dargue was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, Dayton, Ohio.
Cadet, U.S. Military Academy, June 15, 1907; Second Lieutenant, Coast Artillery Corps, Regular Army, June 13, 1911; promoted to First Lieutenant, Aviation Section Signal Corps, Regular Army, July 23, 1914; to First Lieutenant, Coast Artillery Corps, Regular Army, July 1, 1916 (transferred to the Field Artillery, Regular Army, on July 13, 1917 with rank from July 1, 1916); to Major, Signal Corps, N.A., August 5, 1917; to Captain, Field Artillery, Regular Army, August 30, 1917 with rank from May 15, 1917; to Lieutenant Colonel, Air Service, U.S.A., August 20, 1918 (honorably discharged February 20, 1920); reverted to Captain, Regular Army, February 20, 1920; to Major, Regular Army, July 1, 1920 (transferred to the Air Service effective this date); to Lieutenant Colonel (temporary), Regular Army, March 4, 1935 to July 31, 1935; to Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army, August 1, 1935; to Colonel (temporary), Regular Army, August 26, 1936; to Brigadier General (temporary), Regular Army, October 13, 1938 (vacated October 2, 1940); to Colonel, Regular Army, April 1, 1940; to Brigadier General, Regular Army, October 2, 1940; to Major General, A.U.S., July 16, 1941, with rank from July 10, 1941.
General Dargue’s decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal (posthumous), Distinguished Flying Cross, Mexican Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal with Service Clasp for France, American Defense Service Medal with Foreign Service Clasp, World War II Victory Medal, Commander of the Order of the Liberator of Venezuela, Order of the Sun of Peru (Officer), Peruvian Aviation Cross 1st Class, Chilean Order of Merit (Officer) and Bolivian Order of the Condor of the Andes (Officer).
General Dargue’s aviation ratings included Military Aviator, 1913; Junior Military Aviator, 1914; Military Aviator, 1917; Airplane Pilot, 1920; Airplane Observer, 1930; Military Airplane Pilot, 1937; Command Pilot and Combat Observer, 1939; Aircraft Observer, 1941.