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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Charles W. Drew Collection

Identifier: 2007-02-17-and-2007-10-06
The Charles W. Drew Collection contains correspondence, photographs, clippings, and other materials relating to the World War I career of 13th Aero Squadron pilot Charles Drew. The majority of the collection is correspondence from Drew to his mother, documenting his training and daily life in both the states and overseas, along with letters from the military and sympathetic friends during the period Drew was missing. Other materials include various military documents such as memos, identification cards, discharge papers, and award and commission certificates, as well as photographs of Drew and fellow servicemen at training and in the field.


  • Majority of material found within 1902-1979 ( dates 1917-1925)
  • Majority of material found within 1917-1925


Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.5 Cubic Feet (1 full width legal size document box and 1 oversize folder)


Charles Wallace Drew (1896-1979) served as a pilot with the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I, and later worked as an airport engineer. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, clippings, and other materials relating to Drew's wartime experience.

Biographical Note: Charles W. Drew

Charles Wallace Drew was born April 30, 1896 in Rochester, New York. He grew up in New Jersey and attended a technical school in Newark after high school. He briefly worked for the Pyrene Manufacturing Co. of New York as an industrial fire protection consultant. As the war continued and American involvement began to look likely, Drew applied to the army for the First Officers' Training Camp.

Drew enlisted on May 11, 1917 at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. He quickly volunteered and was recommended for the Signal Corps Aviation Section and was sent to the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics ground school at Ohio State University in Columbus a month later. After graduating with honors, he received his pilot training at Wilbur Wright Flying Field in Dayton, Ohio, where he trained on Curtiss planes. In addition to being a student, Drew became an instructor in topography and photography within a month and a flying instructor by October 1917. While in Dayton he had the opportunity to meet Orville Wright.

Drew received orders to go overseas in early November, embarking from Garden City, Long Island, New York on the Dutch passenger ship Kroonland and arriving at Liverpool, England on November 21, 1917. From there he traveled to France, where he received additional flight training at the American Flying School in Issoudun and at Cazaux. He was officially commissioned a First Lieutenant of the U.S. Army Signal Officers' Reserve Corps, Aviation Section on January 18, 1918. In June 1918, he became a transfer pilot based out of the American Aviation Acceptance Park #1 in Orly, which had him flying a variety of aircraft for delivery to various flying schools and bases for training, observation, and combat use. Shortly after, he became a pursuit pilot and was assigned to the 13th Aero Squadron at Toul in July 1918. While a pursuit pilot Drew flew primarily SPAD XIII aircraft and also served as mess officer for his squadron. He participated in a number of engagements including the St. Mihiel offensive and most notably a skirmish over Flirey, France on August 15 which earned him his Distinguished Flying Cross citation.

On September 14, 1918, Drew was shot down inside German lines. He suffered injuries to his leg and right arm; the latter was amputated. He was held as a prisoner of war at St. Clemens Hospital in Metz, listed as missing in action, and presumed dead by some accounts. He was released and transferred to the Evacuation Hospital #1 in Toul after the armistice, then traveled to Savenay where he was sent home on the U.S. Transport Finland. He arrived in January 1919 and was transferred to the Walter Reed Hospital at Washington, D.C. for further treatment.

In June 1919, Drew was ordered to the Air Service Flying School at Selfridge Field in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, where he served as a supply and transportation officer and began flying again in Royal Aircraft Factory S.E. 5A aircraft. In August his group was then sent to Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas for similar duties. He received his honorable discharge on October 3, 1919, having attained the rank of captain. In addition to his Distinguished Flying Cross, Drew was also awarded the Purple Heart and a Victory medal for his involvement in the St. Mihiel offensive. Drew went on to attend college, graduating from Yale in 1925.

Both Drew and his son served during World War II; Drew was a civilian senior engineer for the 13th Naval District, assisting in the development of airports on the Pacific coast for the Navy, while his son served in the Philippines as a paratrooper. After the war, Drew became a District Airport Engineer for the predecessor to the F.A.A., performing similar duties to his wartime work. He died in 1979.

Further reading:

Howard M. Waller, History of the Thirteenth Aero Squadron : June 12, 1917 to April, 1919. circa 1919.


No further accruals are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

Separated Materials

The following items have been separated from the archival component of this collection and are kept in Objects storage:

  • Distinguished Service Cross medal and presentation box
  • Purple Heart medal and ribbon
  • World War I Victory medal and ribbon for St. Mihiel and Defensive Sector
Guide to the Charles W. Drew Collection
Completed - Level 4
A. Demeter
Description rules
Language of description
Processing, cataloging and digitization of this collection was made possible by a Council on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR) "Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives" grant.
Edition statement
1st Edition

Revision Statements

  • November 2018: Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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