Courtesy of Marin History MuseumNovato’s Hamilton Airfield owes its name to one of the United States’ early World War I flying aces: Lloyd Andrews Hamilton.
By Scott Fletcher | Marin History Museum
September 17, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Hamilton Airfield in Novato, now known as the Hamilton Field neighborhood, owes its name to one of the United States’ early World War I flying aces: Lloyd Andrews Hamilton. First Lt. Hamilton, a native of Troy, New York, was not only an ace for the United States Air Service, a precursor to the United States Air Force, but also was credited with the ace status flying for England’s Royal Air Force.
Hamilton shipped out to England in late 1917, a few months after President Woodrow Wilson had requested a declaration of war against Germany. He trained in England with the 3rd squadron of the Royal Flying Corps flying a Sopwith Camel biplane. In April 1918 he recorded his first aerial “kill” and within a few weeks he had downed five German planes, earning the status of a flying ace. Soon after he was transferred to the U.S. Air Service’s 17th Aero Squadron to help train new American pilots.
In August 1918 he shot down three enemy aircraft and two observation balloons earning his second ace status. On Aug. 13, Hamilton led a daring raid on a German Aerodrome near Varssenaere, Belgium, in which he dropped four bombs from his plane, destroying two hangars. He made repeated passes along the airfield, flying as low as 20 feet, destroying two aircraft on the ground and shooting up the officers quarters of the German flyers. For this “extraordinary heroism,” Hamilton was awarded both the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. On a mission two weeks later, Hamilton was shot down and killed by ground fire while attacking transports and troops in the area and destroying another observation balloon.
After the old Marin County/Marin Meadows Airfield was deeded to the United States Army in 1932, construction began on a large, modern airbase. It was envisioned by its engineer, Capt. Howard Nurse, as a planned community that would not only provide an airfield, hangars and maintenance buildings for the aircraft, but also housing, community centers, movie theaters and shopping centers for the families of airmen stationed at the base. Hamilton Army Airfield was officially dedicated on May 12, 1935, in memory of Hamilton.
History Watch is written by Scott Fletcher, a volunteer at the Marin History Museum, marinhistory.org. Images included in History Watch are available for purchase by calling 415-382-1182 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.