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Thomas George Lanphier, Sr.
File:File:Thomas Lanphier.jpg
Col. Thomas George Lanphier, Sr.
Born (1890-04-16)April 16, 1890
Died October 9, 1972(1972-10-09) (aged 82)
Place of birth Lohrville, Calhoun Co., Iowa
Place of death San Diego, California
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army Air Corps
Years of service 1914–c.1929
Rank Colonel
Service number O3727
Commands held 1st Pursuit Group
Selfridge Field, Michigan
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Spouse(s) Janet Cobb, (m. 1915-div. 1936)
Elsa ( -1972 his death)
Relations Thomas George Lanphier, Jr. (1915–1987)
Charles Cobb Lanphier (1918–1944)
James Francis Lanphier (1920–1969)
Other work Veterans Administration to 1954.

Thomas George Lanphier, Sr. (April 16, 1890 – October 9, 1972) was a retired Colonel in the United States Army Air Corps, and was Commanding Officer of Selfridge Field in Michigan from late 1924 to early 1926 and was an American Aviation pioneer.[1][2] He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Early Years

Thomas George Lanphier was born April 16, 1890, in Lohrville, Calhoun, Iowa to John Joseph "Jack" Lanphier and Catherine Ann "Kate" Carey. His father, John Joseph "Jack" Lanphier, was born on September 27, 1854, in Biddulph, Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada. His grandparents on both sides were from Ireland. His parents were married February 15, 1882 in Biddulph. They moved to Lohrville, Iowa, where they had six children: Bernard Anthony; Cyril Crawford; Cecilia Margaret; Thomas George Sr.; Basil 'Charles'; and Catherine Loretto.[1][3][4][5]

When Lanphier was twelve years old his family moved to Omaha, Nebraska. He attended Creighton Preparatory School and Creighton University followed by the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. While at West Point, he met his future wife Janet Cobb, who was attending Vassar College. They married February 1, 1915 in New York. Lanphier graduated from West Point in 1914 and was a classmate and friend of Dwight D. Eisenhower.[1]

World War I and interwar period

After West Point, Lanphier was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. His unit was transferred to France in March 1918 after the US entered World War I. He served in combat in a machine gun unit and was later transferred to the air corps.[2] He received pilot training at Issoudun Aerodrome, France. He returned to the United States June 1, 1919.[1]

After World War I, Lanphier was stationed at Mitchel Field, New York in February 1921.[6] He was stationed at Post Field, Fort Sill later that year until September 1924.[7] He was transferred to Selfridge Field in Michigan by November 1924.[8]

Later, Lanphier became the commandant of the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field in Michigan.[1][2] Lanphier was Commanding Officer of Selfridge Field in Michigan[1] from late 1924 to early 1926.

Major Lanphier was an unofficial observer during the Wilkins Detroit Arctic Expedition, 1926.

Major Lanphier was an unofficial observer during a 1926 arctic flying expedition led by Hubert Wilkins.[9][10][11]

Lanphier testified in support of General Billy Mitchell during Mitchell's 1925 court-martial.[1]

Lanphier was a friend and business partner of Colonel Charles Lindbergh and was one of Lindbergh's flying instructors. On July 1, 1927, Lanphier flew the Spirit of St. Louis on a single flight in the vicinity of Selfridge Field.[12] Lanphier was the head of the Transcontinental Air Transport Company (Sept 1928)[1] and in 1931 was the president of Bird Aircraft Corporation, the manufacturer of the Brunner-Winkle Bird.[13] He also gave a statement in the aftermath of the Lindbergh kidnapping[1] and piloted an airplane during the search for Lindbergh's son.[14]

In 1933, after retiring from the military, he bought Manhattan's Phoenix Cereal Beverage Company and applied for a license to manufacture 3.2 beer under the brewery's old name of Flanagan-Nay Brewery Corp.[15] The brewery had been operated by mobsters Owney Madden and Bill Dwyer, since 1925 during Prohibition. Madden also ordered an airplane and took flight instruction from Lanphier.[16]

In 1936, Lanphier headed The Association for Legalizing American Lotteries, a thinly disguised illegal lottery.[17]

Lanphier was divorced from Janet Cobb-Lanphier on March 19, 1936, in Wayne County, Michigan.[18] Lanphier married Mary E. Werner in Summit County, Ohio, 10 March 1938.[19]

World War II and later

In World War II, Lanphier Sr. returned to the Army as a Lieutenant colonel and was made the air intelligence officer for Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall.[1]

He voluntarily entered inactive duty in 1943 and was appointed to the Veterans Administration by General Omar Bradley. He was a deputy administrator for the Dallas District Office in 1947.[20] He was the Manager of the Dallas District Office in 1950.[21] He retired from the VA in 1954.[2]

Lanphier died October 9, 1972, in San Diego, California.[1] He was interred October 17, 1972 in section 11, grave 826-B at Arlington National Cemetery.[22] He was survived by his wife Elsa, his son Thomas Jr., 5 grand children and 2 great-grandchildren.[2]


His oldest son Thomas George Lanphier, Jr. was born while Lanphier, Sr. was in Panama. Lanphier, Jr. was a colonel and ace fighter pilot during World War II. He was involved in Operation Vengeance, the mission to shoot down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto, the commander in chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, April 18, 1943.[1][23] He was also buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[22]

Another son, Charles Cobb Lanphier, was also a pilot. He was a captain in the United States Marine Corps attached to VMF-214 when his F4U Corsair crashed during a mission at Bougainville Island on August 28, 1943. He was captured and on May 15, 1944, he died of neglect while in captivity at a prison camp in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.[1] His remains were recovered and 1st Lt. Charles C. Lanphier, USMC was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, April 5, 1949.[22][24][25][26]

Lanphier had a third son who was an actor, James Francis Lanphier[26] born in New York in 1920 and died in California, 1969.[27] He was perhaps best known for his role in The Pink Panther (1963 film).[28]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Longden, Tom (26 January 2009). "War flights by two Lanphiers made history". Des Moines, Iowa. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Thomas Lanphier, Aviation Pioneer; Colonel Who Helped Chart First Passenger Route Dies". October 10, 1972. (subscription required)
  3. "Census 1852 / Canada West / Huron (county) / 136 Biddulph township / p. 29d, 30a, (59)". Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  4. "Census 1852 / Canada West / Huron (county) / 136 Biddulph township / p. 30d, 31a, (61)". Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  5. "1901 Canada Census, MIDDLESEX (North/Nord) (#88), Biddulph B-4, Page 4". Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  6. "Officers of the Army – February 1921". 1921. p. 185. 
  7. "Officers of the Army – March 1923". 1923. p. 194. 
  8. "Officers of the Army – November 1924". 1924. pp. 215, 253. 
  9. "Lanphier says Point Barrow will be first critical test for Wilkins, polar flier". St. Petersburg, Florida. March 10, 1926.,4362106&hl=en. 
  10. "Newspaperman". March 22, 1926.,9171,721792-2,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-06. , 1926 Detroit Arctic expedition with Hubert Wilkins.
  11. "Science: Polar Pilgrims: Apr. 19, 1926". April 19, 1926.,9171,729162,00.html. , 1926 Detroit Arctic expedition with Hubert Wilkins.
  12. "The Log of the Spirit of St. Louis—Charles A. Lindbergh, Pilot". Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  13. "Taking A Trip Back To Glendale’s Aviation Past". Ridgewood, New York. October 16, 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  14. "Sleepless Father Persists In Search". March 3, 1932. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  15. "Names make news". Time magazine. June 26, 1933.,9171,882171,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  16. Funderburg, J. Anne (2014). Bootleggers and Beer Barons of the Prohibition Era. McFarland. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-4766-1619-3. 
  17. "THE CABINET: Stakes & Sweeps". April 20, 1936.,9171,848481,00.html. 
  18. Wayne County, Michigan Divorce Record 60,179. Wayne Certificates 59,534 – 63,829. Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897–1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
  19. Thomas George Lanphier married Mary E. (Hayes-Werner) 10 March 1938. Vol 75, 1938. Summit County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1840-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
  20. "VA Official Is Chief Convention Speaker". Amarillo, Texas. June 5, 1947. p. 23. 
  21. "Veterans Administration – Texas". 1950. p. 701. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "Lanphier, Thomas G. Sr". Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  23. McFadden, Robert D. (November 28, 1987). "Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., 71, Dies. U.S. Ace Shot Down Yamamoto.". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  24. Gamble, Bruce (2013). Target: Rabaul, The Allied Siege of Japan's Most Infamous Stronghold. Zenith Press. pp. 125, 364. ISBN 978-0-7603-4407-1. 
  25. "F4U-1 Corsair Bureau Number 02577". Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Marine Pilot's reburial held". April 6, 1949. 
  27. Death record for James F. Lanphier. Date of death, 11 Feb 1969. Mother's maiden name, Cobb. California, Death Index, 1940–1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000.
  28. "James Lanphier". Retrieved April 12, 2015. 

Further reading

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