CIC 466

Past Issues
CIC 465
CIC 464
CIC 463
CIC 462
CIC 461
CIC 460
CIC 459
CIC 458
CIC 457
CIC 456
CIC 455
CIC 454
CIC 453
CIC 452
CIC 451
CIC 450
CIC 449
CIC 448
CIC 447
CIC 446
CIC 445
CIC 444
CIC 443
CIC 442
CIC 441
CIC 440
CIC 439
CIC 438
CIC 437
CIC 436
CIC 435
CIC 434
CIC 433
CIC 432
CIC 431
CIC 430
CIC 429
CIC 428
CIC 427
CIC 426
CIC 425
CIC 424
CIC 423
CIC 422
CIC 421
CIC 420
CIC 419
CIC 418
CIC 417
CIC 416
CIC 415
CIC 414
CIC 413
CIC 412
CIC 411
CIC 410
CIC 409
CIC 408
CIC 407
CIC 406
CIC 405
CIC 404
CIC 403
CIC 402
CIC 401
CIC 400
CIC 399
CIC 398
CIC 397
CIC 396
CIC 395
CIC 394
CIC 393
CIC 392
CIC 391
CIC 390
CIC 389
CIC 388
CIC 387
CIC 386
CIC 385
CIC 384
CIC 383
CIC 382
CIC 381
CIC 380
CIC 379
CIC 378
CIC 377
CIC 375
CIC 374
CIC 373
CIC 372
CIC 371
CIC 370
CIC 369
CIC 368
CIC 367
CIC 366
CIC 365
CIC 364
CIC 363
CIC 362
CIC 361
CIC 360
CIC 359
CIC 358
CIC 357
CIC 356
CIC 355
CIC 354
CIC 353
CIC 352
CIC 351
CIC 350
CIC 349
CIC 348
CIC 347
CIC 346
CIC 345
CIC 344
CIC 343
CIC 342
CIC 341
CIC 340
CIC 339
CIC 338
CIC 337
CIC 336
CIC 335
CIC 334
CIC 333
CIC 332
CIC 331
CIC 330
CIC 329
CIC 328
CIC 327
CIC 326
CIC 325
CIC 324
CIC 323
CIC 322
CIC 321
CIC 320
CIC 319
CIC 318
CIC 317
CIC 316
CIC 315
CIC 314
CIC 313
CIC 312
CIC 311
CIC 310
CIC 309
CIC 308
CIC 307
CIC 306
CIC 305
CIC 304
CIC 303
CIC 302
CIC 301
CIC 300
CIC 299
CIC 298
CIC 297
CIC 296
CIC 295
CIC 294
CIC 293
CIC 292
CIC 291
CIC 290
CIC 289
CIC 288
CIC 287
CIC 286
CIC 285
CIC 284
CIC 283
CIC 282
CIC 281
CIC 280
CIC 279
CIC 278
CIC 277
CIC 276
CIC 275
CIC 274
CIC 273
CIC 272
CIC 271
CIC 270
CIC 269
CIC 268
CIC 267
CIC 266
CIC 265
CIC 264
CIC 263
CIC 262
CIC 261
CIC 260
CIC 259
CIC 258
CIC 257
CIC 256
CIC 255
CIC 254
CIC 253
CIC 252
CIC 251
CIC 250
CIC 249
CIC 248
CIC 247
CIC 246
CIC 245
CIC 244
CIC 243
CIC 242
CIC 241
CIC 240
CIC 239
CIC 238
CIC 237
CIC 236
CIC 235
CIC 234
CIC 233
CIC 232
CIC 231
CIC 230
CIC 229
CIC 228
CIC 227
CIC 226
CIC 225
CIC 224
CIC 223
CIC 222
CIC 221
CIC 220
CIC 219
CIC 218
CIC 217
CIC 216
CIC 215
CIC 214
CIC 213
CIC 212
CIC 211
CIC 210
CIC 209
CIC 208
CIC 207
CIC 206
CIC 205
CIC 204
CIC 203
CIC 202
CIC 201
CIC 200
CIC 199
CIC 198
CIC 197
CIC 196
CIC 195
CIC 194
CIC 193
CIC 192
CIC 191
CIC 190
CIC 189
CIC 188
CIC 187
CIC 186
CIC 185
CIC 184
CIC 183
CIC 182
CIC 181
CIC 180
CIC 179
CIC 178
CIC 177
CIC 176
CIC 175
CIC 174
CIC 173
CIC 172
CIC 171
CIC 170
CIC 169
CIC 168
CIC 167
CIC 166
CIC 165
CIC 164
CIC 163
CIC 162
CIC 161
CIC 160
CIC 159
CIC 158
CIC 157
CIC 156
CIC 155
CIC 154
CIC 153
CIC 152
CIC 151
CIC 150
CIC 149
CIC 148
CIC 147
CIC 146
CIC 145
CIC 144
CIC 143
CIC 142
CIC 141
CIC 140
CIC 139
CIC 138
CIC 137
CIC 136
CIC 135
CIC 134
CIC 133
CIC 132
CIC 131
CIC 130
CIC 129
CIC 128
CIC 127
CIC 126
CIC 125
CIC 124
CIC 123
CIC 122
CIC 121
CIC 120
CIC 119
CIC 118
CIC 117
CIC 116
CIC 115
CIC 114
CIC 113
CIC 112
CIC 111
CIC 110
CIC 109
CIC 108
CIC 107
CIC 106
CIC 105
CIC 104
CIC 103
CIC 102
CIC 101
CIC 100
CIC 99
CIC 98
CIC 97
CIC 96
CIC 95
CIC 94
CIC 93
CIC 92
CIC 91
CIC 90
CIC 89
CIC 88
CIC 87
CIC 86
CIC 85
CIC 84
CIC 83
CIC 82
CIC 81
CIC 80
CIC 79
CIC 78
CIC 77
CIC 76
CIC 75
CIC 74
CIC 73
CIC 72
CIC 71
CIC 70
CIC 69
CIC 68
CIC 67
CIC 66
CIC 65
CIC 64
CIC 63
CIC 62
CIC 61
CIC 60
CIC 59
CIC 58
CIC 57
CIC 56
CIC 55
CIC 54
CIC 53
CIC 52
CIC 51
CIC 50
CIC 49
CIC 48
CIC 47
CIC 46
CIC 45
CIC 44
CIC 43
CIC 42
CIC 41
CIC 40
CIC 39
CIC 38
CIC 37
CIC 36
CIC 35
CIC 34
CIC 33
CIC 32
CIC 31
CIC 30
CIC 29
CIC 28
CIC 27
CIC 26
CIC 25
CIC 24
CIC 23
CIC 22
CIC 21
CIC 20
CIC 19
CIC 18
CIC 17
CIC 16
CIC 15
CIC 14
CIC 13
CIC 12
CIC 11
CIC 10
CIC 9
CIC 8
CIC 7
CIC 6
CIC 5
CIC 4
CIC 3
CIC 2
CIC 1

Profile - James Lincoln Holt Peck, Spanish Civil War Ace, or Hustler

A controversial figure in aviation and military history, James Peck (1912-1996) claimed to have been the first African American to shoot down five aircraft in aerial combat, during the Spanish Civil War, at a time when the United States armed forces did not allow black Americans to fly, let alone participate in air combat.

Born in Pennsylvania, Peck came from a prominent local African American family from Stoops Ferry, northwest of Pittsburgh.  As a child he would go and watch the aircraft flying out of Leetsdale airfield near his house.  He later stated that the days he spent watching the aircraft flying from the field would be “where the flying bug bit me” at the age of nine.  The family subsequently moved to Pittsburgh where Peck was a better than average student at Westinghouse and Peabody high schools. His marks enabled him to attend the University of Pittsburgh, but the “bug” got the better of him and he left after his sophomore year to enroll at the Curtiss-Wright flight school at Bettis Field, West Mifflin.

At the Curtiss-Wright school, Peck established a reputation as an excellent flyer but was warned by the school’s chief that despite his abilities he would not pass his flying test, as the federal flight examiner at the field did not believe that blacks should be allowed to fly.  The school’s director advised Peck to transfer to the Cleveland Institute of Aeronautics, where he thought Peck would be assessed fairly on his ability. Peck agreed and secured his pilot’s license in Cleveland in 1930.  Keen to explore his new career, Peck then applied to the U.S. Army Air Corps and the United States Navy, but was turned down due to his color.  He spent the years 1931-1935 touring the country as a drummer with Alphonso Trent’s Victor Recording Orchestra, but returned to his passion for aviation in 1936, working as an elevator operator in New York to support his research on the subject.  He also may have joined the Communist Party at this time.

Peck established a career as a fledgling aviation journalist, withhis first article published in Aero Digest in 1937.  In August of that year he left for Spain to fly for the Republican forces against Franco’s Nationalists in the civil war of 1936-1939.  It is during this period that the controversy over Peck’s career and actions arose.  Peck, who was commissioned a lieutenant in the Republican Air Force, claimed that between August and December of 1937, he took part in seven air combats, forty convoy missions, five strafing attacks, and multiple attacks on shipping supplying the Nationalists whilst flying Russian I-15 Chato and I-16 Mosca fighters.  As a result of these actions he would claim five kills over the Aragon front, two German-built He-51’s and three Italian CR-32’s and stated he was credited an additional half kill.  If true, then his record would make Peck the first African American air combat ace.  But there has been a great deal of criticism of Peck’s claim.  Aviation historian Alan Herr states that sources concerning Peck’s record are unsubstantiated and contain numerous errors.  Herr also repeated a comment by Republican pilot Jose “Chang” Seles Ogino that “James Peck’s service as a fighter pilot in Spain was utterly impossible.”  In addition, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive records that Peck never flew in Spain and the American Fighter Aces Association does not recognize his claims.  Spanish sources, such as Jesus Salas Larrazabal’s comprehensive Air War Over Spain also make no mention of Peck’s combats.  Faced by questions over these discrepancies later in his life Peck “calmly reasserted his claim” and stated that flying combat was a minor episode in his life outweighed by his later accomplishments.

Returning from Spain in early 1938, Peck would go on to reinforce his reputation as an aviation journalist and an expert in the field, writing initially about his experiences in Spain for Sportsman Pilot and the New York Times Magazine, and features on aeronautical issues for Harpers, Science Digest, and Scientific American.  He also wrote a number of articles calling for the inclusion of black pilots in the U.S. military and published his first book, Armies with Wings in 1940.

With America’s entry into the Second World War, Peck served in the Merchant Marine as an lieutenant and after his discharge in 1945 he became aviation correspondent for Popular Science magazine.  He remained a journalist until 1959 when he went to work for Space Technology Laboratories (STL) – now part of TRW -  at Cape Canaveral, making him “the first --and for three years the only -- black to serve at Cape Canaveral in any engineering capacity.” Peck would subsequently work on the Mercury and Gemini space missions and on classified satellite projects, a surprising career considering his links with the communist party earlier in his life and the persecurion that many other American veterans of the Spanish Civil War faced for their participation with the Republicans.  In 1972 Peck went to work for North American on the B-1 bomber project.  He retired from the aerospace industry in 1981.

So, did Peck lie about his aerial accomplishments in Spain?  That’s hard to tell.  The only evidence in his favor are his own statements on the matter.  The stance of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade that he never flew in Spain would seem to reject this.  Certainly if he had done so, they would have touted his accomplishments to the skies as part of their well-orchestrated campaign to glorify themselves.  So that would seem to confirm that Peck never flew in Spain.  But there were volunteers for the Spanish Republic who did not belong to the so-called Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and so the VALB might not necessarily have been aware of his service.  Or he may have served with the “Lincolns” in the International Brigades, and run afoul of the organization’s Stalinist leadership.  An unknown number of volunteers were never heard from again after having crossed the leadership, and Peck may have been lucky enough just to get out alive.

James Lincoln Holt Peck died in California in 1996. Though his claims as a fighter pilot will most likely be forever disputed he was, without doubt, a remarkable man who achieved a great deal despite the obstacles he faced from the inherent racism in American society at that time.

--Daniel Shingleton

Dan Shingleton has worked in a range of fields including as a journalist for The Handy Shipping Guide.  He graduated from the University of Salford, England with a BA (Honours) in Contemporary Military and International History in 2008 and has travelled extensively throughout Asia, Southern Africa and Egypt.  Shingleton lives in Southend, England, and is currently working on a book, American Adventurers and Soldiers-of-Fortune, 1824-1995.

 


© 1998 - 2018 StrategyWorld.com. All rights Reserved.
StrategyWorld.com, StrategyPage.com, FYEO, For Your Eyes Only and Al Nofi's CIC are all trademarks of StrategyWorld.com
Privacy Policy