|Lt. Edward Ralph Kenneson
Photo from Seely G. Mudd Archives
Edward Ralph Kenneson was born 4 November 1894 in Somerville, Massachussetts. He learned to fly at the School of Aeronautics at Newport News, Va. October 1916 and earned his license there on 2 December 1916. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the regular Army and was assigned to Fort Monroe on 18 Dec 1916.
He was detailed to Princeton as the chief instructor in April 1917. Kenneson oversaw much of the original organization of the Corps at Princeton including the construction of the hangers, and surrounding buildings and the construction of the four newly arrived JN-4B's.
Kenneson gave most of the cadets their first ride. His fiance lived in Hamilton Square, NJ, just a short flying distance from the field. Carl Erdman, who was one of Kenneson's students recalled that Kennson would fly over his fiances home and loop the Jenny. According to Erdman, there were no fatal results except Kennesons "marriage to the occupant".
When Princeton was disbanded in August, he was sent to Kelly field.
On 22 August 1917 he sailed for France as CO 36th Aero Squadron. He continued instructing at the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issodun, France "for over a year" before applying for assignment to a front line squadron. On 12 July 1918, he was assigned to the 91st Aero Squadron, a Corps observation unit. Kenneson did excellant work with the 91st and was transferred to the 9th Aero Squadron on 2 September 1918. By the end of September, Kenneson was appointed Commanding Officer of the 9th and served in that capacity until the end of the war. Known as a tireless pilot, he continued flying missions with the 9th after taking over the unit. According to one pilot in the 9th, Kenneson had more hours than any other pilot in the unit. Kenneson was recommended for a a Captaincy, but before his promotion could come through, he died of pneumonia on 9 January 1919 while with the Army of Occupation. He was buried at Suresnes, France.
This photo and brief biographical sketch have been generously supplied by Mike O'Neal. Mike has been compiling a complete history of the Princeton group since around 1980. Over the last few years, he has interviewed many of the families and writes that he is glad he waited just a bit longer to start writing the "final" product. If you have more information or photos of this pioneer aviator, we would love to hear from you.