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Can dropouts fit in with Ivy League pilots?

field kindley ivy league

Before becoming a World War 1 pilot, Field Kindley was a high school dropout and movie projectionist. Neither description had as negative career connotations then as now, but when he got into the 148th Aero Squadron, he was surrounded by fellow pilots from a very different class. According to War Bird Ace: The Great War Exploits of Capt. Field E. Kindley, Lt Springs was from Princeton, Lt Oliver was from Yale and the son of a senator, Lt Callahan was from Cornell, and the squadron commander was a Harvard quarterback. Not everyone was Ivy League, but there was almost a "college-type camaraderie." It would have been easy for Kindley to feel defensive about his educational background, and it would have been easy for the Ivy Leaguers to assume he wouldn't be able to uphold the same standards they could.

Eddie Rickenbacker, later the US Ace of Aces, was also a dropout, but being several years older than most of the other pilots (28 by the end of the war, with multiple pre-war careers, mostly in the auto industry) he functioned more as a loner. He didn't get along with Ivy League pilots to begin with, but success in the air leveled all classes, and he was very complimentary after the war to many of his colleagues.

Kindley, on the other hand, let friendliness and his record (he already had combat experience, with one air victory) speak for themselves. His leadership ability was evident, and one colleague said "I don't believe he had a nerve in his body." He was accepted in the squadron and soon commanding a flight, and eventually became a leading American ace.

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