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Archives at The Museum of Flight

William Frederick Barns Papers

Identifier: 2012-04-13
The William Frederick Barns Papers contains textual materials, photographs, and digital images associated with the military and professional career of Colonel Barns.

Series I, Textual materials, includes military awards and citation paperwork, military correspondence from the 1940s-1960s that relates to Barns' work as an Air Force representative in the aviation industry, and documents about Barns' speed record. These materials include notes on Barns' several attempts to break the world speed record, an undated North American Aviation fact sheet on his speed run, an undated North American Aviation press release about the F-86D jet, and 2 copies of a promotional booklet about world speed records, published by North American Aviation, Inc.

Additional materials in this series include the Summer 1957 (Volume 15, Number 2) issue of Skyline magazine that has a feature article on Barns, a North American Aviation booklet on the timing system for the 3 km speed course; 4 large navigation charts for the Western United States, and 2 award certificates. There is also a flight planning manual used by Barns, containing his notes and annotations. Additionally, there is a draft copy of a chapter about Barns from a book The fastest men of the World[sic]. It does not appear the book was ever published.

Series II, Photographs and Audiovisual materials, contains one hundred four (104) loose photographs primarily from the period 1950-1980. Many of the photographs include USAF stamps on the reverse. The photographs are mostly black-and-white, with some color images and range in size from 4x5" to 8x10". The photographs mainly depict military activities, including some taken during the time when the Barns family was stationed in Japan. The photographs also include portraits of Colonel Barns, photographs of the day he set his speed record, and other assorted photographs of Barns' Air Force activities. Some of the images show aircraft and engines related to Barns' work as an Air Force representative in the aviation industry. There are three (3) photographs from 316th Fighter Squadron Reunion on October 16-18, 1987. Two (2) are group portraits of the veterans who attended, and the third shows a poster listing the squadron's campaigns and decorations.

There are also two (2) CDs with images scanned from Barns' scrapbook. Please note that the Museum's collection does not include the physical scrapbook. Additionally, there is a DVD of his speed record setting flight on July 16, 1953.

Series III, General Flight Information, includes assorted flight-related materials used by Barns during his career, including forms, charts, maps, and two booklets; Private Pilot (Airplane) Flight Training Guide and Plane Sense: General Aviation Information, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration in 1964 and 1981 respectively.


  • 1941 to 1990s


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.


1.6 Cubic Feet (1 full-width legal size document box, 1 full-width letter size document box, 1 half-width letter size document box, 1 oversize folder, and 1 flat file)


William Frederick "Bill" Barns (1920-1995) joined the United States Air Force in 1942 and flew in the European Theater during World War II. After the war, Barns served in the USAF in several capacities until his retirement in 1966 when he went to work in the private sector, including for Garrett Corporation. The collection contains a broad array of textual materials as well as photographs and digital images related to his military and professional careers.

Biographical Note: William Frederick Barns

William Frederick "Bill" Barns was born August 30, 1920 in Baltimore, Maryland. His family soon moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, and he graduated from Roosevelt High School (Honolulu, Hawaii) in 1938. After graduation he joined the Bishop National Bank. In 1941 he attended the Civilian Pilot Training program at the University of Hawaii. His final flight test was scheduled for December 7, 1941, but never took off due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He applied for military pilot training in the wake of the attacks, and was accepted as an aviation cadet at Hickam Field (Hawaii) in early 1942. Barns flew in the European Theater, completing 210 missions in Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. Barns received the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal for his efforts in the war.

After the war, Barns was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Ohio), where he worked as a jet maintenance engineering project officer and then as an Air Force Plant Representative at North American Aviation (Los Angeles, California). As part of his duties representing the Air Force with North American, Barns would conduct test flights of various aircraft. It was during one of these test flights that he established his World Speed Record. On July 15, 1953, he flew a North American F-86D Sabre over the 3 kilometer course at Salton Sea, California. He averaged 713.6 miles per hour on his first record-setting go around, flying only 125 feet above the ground. He came back a half hour later and beat his own time, setting the record at 715.745 miles per hour. The post-war period was a time of fierce competition in aircraft innovation, however, so Barns' record was broken only a few months later when famed British airman Neville Duke set the record at 727.6 miles per hour on September 7, 1953.

In 1954, Barns transitioned into a different role with the Air Force and attended the Air Command and Staff School and the Air Force Jet Instrument School. Upon completion, he was assigned to the Directorate of Maintenance Engineering at McClellan Air Force Base (California). Then in March of 1956, Colonel Barns moved with his wife Marylouise and children Terrie Jo and Chip to Nagoya, Japan, where he was assigned to the Headquarters of the 5th Air Force to work on the F-100 Conversion Project. Later in 1956 the Barns moved to Itasuke Air Base (Japan), where Barns was made Commander of the 8th Fighter Bomber Group.

He continued to serve in the Air Force until 1966, when he retired and began working in the private sector. He worked for several companies, including Garrett Corporation and Learjet.

Colonel William Frederick Barns died on April 17, 1995.


Biography derived from donor information and collection materials.

Immediate Source of Acquistion

This collection was donated by Colonel Barns' daughter and son, Terrie Barns-Canfield and William Charles Barns.


Further accruals are expected.

Related Archival Materials at The Museum of Flight

William Barns Biographical Files. Contains clippings related to Barns and his speed record.

Processing Information

This collection's materials were originally kept in approximately the same order that the family donated them in in 2012. However, there was a note that the family found most of the items in his foot locker or jackets, so the original order may not reflect any set structure intended by Colonel Barns.

During the 2018 revision of the finding aid, the materials were slightly reordered to better present subjects of interest to researchers. Please also note that the two certificates in Box Two, Folder 8 were removed from frames for preservation reasons.
Guide to the William Frederick Barns Papers
Completed - Level 3
L. Zaborowski, J. Parent
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
2nd Edition

Revision Statements

  • 2018: This finding aid has been revised to reflect updated DACS and Museum of Flight standards.
  • November 2018: Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.
  • May 2020: Updated related agents and made slight revision to title of collection.

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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