Monday, May 25, 2009

Lieutenant Jacob Egbert McKean

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

.
Today's photo shows Jacob Egbert McKean, 1st Lieutenant R.M.A., Flight Instructor, Army Air Corps, during World War I. I ran across this glass negative several years ago and wanted to know more about the flier, who was only identified as "Egbert McKean." Here's what I found...
.
Jacob Egbert McKean was born Oct. 7, 1888 in Crestline, Ohio. In 1892, he, his siblings, and his parents, Jacob M. & Marlie E. McKean, came to Santa Ana. He had three older siblings, John Ross, Marlie F. and Rae; and two younger siblings, Helen and Robert. Their father sold real estate and the McKeans soon became a well known family in the community.
.
Egbert played baseball and football at Santa Ana High School, from which he graduated in 1908. The Aerial yearbook described him as “the hardest player on the team, when in shape.”
.
Upon graduating, he briefly worked as a meter reader for the electric company before following his brother Ross into the U.S. Navy. Seaman Egbert McKean was a musician and eventually earned the rank of Bandmaster. When his four-year hitch was up, he became an insurance adjuster for Aetna Life Insurance in San Francisco.
.
But when his country called, Egbert enlisted again – This time in the Army Air Corps. He enlisted in May 1917 and was called into service in late June. His service card shows that he had blue eyes and brown hair, was of average height, and had a stout build.
.
He completed his preliminary course in aviation at Berkeley Ground School, at the University of California, in Aug. 1917. From there, he was sent to Rockwell Field Flying School in San Diego. He graduated with honors in November and was made flight instructor.
.
Airplanes were still relatively new technology and were largely made of cloth and wire. Just going up in one was an act of courage. Going up with new pilots and teaching them the manuevers they'd need in combat was brave in the extreme.
.
In January 1918, McKean was assigned to Gerstner Field, (seen in a 1918 photo below,) near Holmwood, Louisiana.
Less than a month later, on Feb. 11, 1918, (during Gerstner’s last days of operation), Lieut. McKean was flying with Lieut. Charles E. Cummings when their engine experienced a problem. They attempted to land in Jennings, Louisiana, but the plane suddenly dropped head first. Cummings, it seems, survived the crash, but McKean was killed.
.
The L.A. Times said his death, “brought to Santa Ana a distinct shock, for his is the first violent death among Santa Ana’s many sons who are in the war service.”
.
Although he never went to Europe or saw combat, McKean served his country bravely, trained military pilots in both California and Louisiana, and paid the ultimate price in the name of defending democracy.

4 comments:

Linda said...

Hi Chris,

That is an interesting story and I am wondering how you are able to find out so much information from so long ago.

I am curious because I have been trying to track down an old girlfriend that lived in California. and through someone on the city-data forum, was able to find out that she is now deceased. But I have been trying to track down her children or husband. If you have any suggestions, I would really appreciate them.

Thanks, Linda

Chris Jepsen said...

My sources included military records (via Ancestry.com and the Orange County Archives); Proquest's "Historical Los Angeles Times" database (via Newport Beach Public Library), The Great Register of Voters (O.C. Archives), Federal census data (Ancestry.com), and the Santa Ana High School Aerial (available at the Santa Ana Public Library's History Room). Some additional information about the military bases was found on various websites.

Colleen Greene said...

Hi Chris,

I'd like to use this photo in my OC Fallen Heroes project -- am I able to, if citing the OC Archives?

If so, can you upload it to the OC Archives Flickr channel so that I can download the image file? The Picassa settings on your blog allowe me to view, but not download.

Or you can, within your Picassa settings, choose to share that file directly with me at colleen.e.greene at gmail dot com.

Thanks,

Colleen

Chris Jepsen said...

Absolutely, all the Archives asks is a credit line for each image: "Photo courtesy Orange County Archives." A whole series of the Smart Studio military portraits are now posted to the Archives' Flickr stream, including McKean: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ocarchives/