WWI Experiences of Two Tennessee Brothers in New TSLA Collection

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the United States' involvement in World War I, the Tennessee State Library and Archives' (TSLA) newest online collection, the Puryear Family Photograph Albums, tells the story of two brothers from Gallatin who served in the Army Air Service during and after World War I. Comprised of three photograph albums and several loose items and pictures, this collection offers a rare and remarkable visual record of the early history and aircraft of the Army Air Service.

On July 26, 1918, as a fighter pilot with the 95th Aero Squadron, George W. Puryear shot down his first and only German plane during World War I. Unfortunately for him, he was also taken prisoner the same day. After being transferred to a number of different prisoner of war camps and making one unsuccessful escape attempt, he took part in a mass escape attempt from a camp in Villingen, Germany, on October 6, 1918. Five days later, he swam across the Rhine River to reach Switzerland, thus becoming the first American officer to successfully escape from a German prisoner of war camp during World War I.

George's older brother, Alfred I. Puryear, was a supply officer and was stationed in Paris, where he was responsible for all of the manifests of supplies that were shipped to all the various Air Service units throughout France.

Both George and Alfred stayed in the Air Service after the war. George was assigned to the 9th Aero Squadron based at Rockwell Field, San Diego, California, but he was killed in an airplane crash on October 20, 1919. In 1921, Alfred completed his flight training and qualified as an airship (dirigible) pilot. He would retire from the Air Service/Air Corps in 1933.

These brothers from Gallatin were on the "ground floor" of aviation as it developed. The photos they preserved give us insight into both the history of the Army Air Service and of the development of aviation itself. Depicting the days before the aircraft industry became dominated by the likes of Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, and Boeing, and in the days before standardization and aerodynamics factored into aircraft design, the albums record the rich assortment of aircraft that were built and used during the early years of aviation.

For more detailed information about the Puryear Family Photograph Albums collection and about the lives of George and Alfred Puryear, see the finding aid for this collection: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/manuscripts/findingaids/D-0011.pdf


Chester Martin Remembers The Clarence T. Jones Observatory

A true example of American   - and Chattanooga - ingenuity, it was Clarence T. Jones's childhood dream to build a telescope of worthy size and importance. As a professional architect he was able to connect with all the necessary local sources to produce the handsome instrument shown here. Working with the new Barnard Astronomical Society, the telescope with all its component ... (click for more)

First Thanksgiving in Chattanooga (Civil War)

By “first Thanksgiving Day”, no, I do not mean the harvest thanksgiving meal which the Separatist colonists of New Plymouth shared uncomfortably with their Wampanoag neighbors.   Nor do I mean any of the thanksgivings proclaimed on a one-time basis by a U.S. President after that.   In this case, the “First Thanksgiving Day” means the inaugural event of those that have ... (click for more)

Lawsuit Says Girl Received Severe Traumatic Brain Injury In Woodmore Bus Wreck

A new lawsuit in the tragic Woodmore Elementary School bus wreck said one girl on the bus suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Attorneys Joseph Fried and Michael Goldberg of Fried Rogers Goldberg LLC filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Circuit Court on behalf of the minor daughter of Shanquatta Byrd. The bus driver, Johnthony Walker, was transporting 37 students from ... (click for more)

Officer Who Was Shot Returned Fire; Is Recovering Well; Shooter Still On Loose

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said Monday morning that the officer who was shot three times on Thursday is recovering well.   Chief Fletcher said the officer was wearing a bullet-proof vest and one bullet hit the vest, which protected him during the shooting.  The officer was able to return fire, although Chief Fletcher would not comment on how many bullets ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Couldn't Manage Public Education

I have been reading the buzz about Signal Mountain and other small municipalities considering a move to form their own school district within their municipal boundaries.  It is quite the comedy hour considering the notion that small cities that for decades could not even manage small sewer systems or 911 districts, are somehow going to do a better job with public education ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: School Board Can’t Wait

It took the Hamilton County School board nine months before the group hired a search firm to find a new superintendent. But you mark my words – the Department of Education will undoubtedly implode if our leaders wait another nine months simply hoping for some type of mystical salvation. In the last week Signal Mountain leaders have all but given notice they will form their own district ... (click for more)