Falcons and Crows
A lot of people hate colorized monochrome images. I happen to like them, however, what you see here are historical Autochrome images, an early color process (sourced from here).
The images are a stunning time capsule.
Here we see a 1927 shot by Edwin L. Wisherd of three men standing in front of a plane on the Crow Reservation in Montana.
The visiting biplane was evidently part of a U.S. Army commemoration at Little Big Horn, which saw its 50th anniversary the previous summer.
The plane pictured was cutting edge at the time– what seems to be a very early variant of the Curtiss Model 37 Falcon.
On 2 July 1926, legislation backed in large part by the Morrow panel–the Air Corps Act (44 Stat. 780) came into law under the not too impressed administration of President Calvin Coolidge. It established the Corps, stopped the bleeding that had gone on since 1919, and began a five-year plan to revamp the service. This meant replacing legacy WWI Spads, Jennys, JH-6s and P-1s with more modern aircraft, up to 1,800 of them in fact, nearly doubling the number of squadrons in the country.
One of these new types was the Curtiss factory’s Falcon, powered by a beefy 435hp Curtiss V-1150 (D-12) engine. Built in two main variants, an A3 attack model mounting as many as 6 machine guns and capable of carrying 200lbs of bombs, and the O1/O11 two-seat observation plane with twin Lewis guns in the backseater spot, deliveries started IOC in 1927– meaning the O1 shown above was brand spanking new and, in the vernacular of the time, the Bee’s Knees.
The Army wound up with 338 total variants which they used through 1937, some of which were gifted to the Philippine Army Air Corps, operating out of Zablan Airfield, and subsequently lost in the opening stages of WWII.
The Navy and Marines picked up another 150 in A3/A4 Helldiver, F8C Falcon (a greatly modified design with a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine that was the the first purpose-built dive bomber to be produced for the US Navy) and O2C Helldiver variants for observation, attack and light bombing. They could carry two 116lb bombs under the wings or one 500lb bomb under the fuselage. Although some made up “Bombing Two” on Saratoga, they largely passed to the Navy Reserve in the 1930s.
Notably, they appeared in a couple of Hollywood “Wings” follow-ons, Flight (1929) and Hell Divers (1932), the latter a talkie with Clark Gable (without his iconic mustache)– who went on to serve in the USAAF in WWII, rising to the rank of Major.