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Talking Spirits Cemetery Tour XVII Recap

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum would like to share the thank you cards from Ms. Alt’s 5th Grade class at Huegel Elementary (Madison) for the Talking Spirits Cemetery Tour XVII at Forest Hill Cemetery. We look forward to seeing more classes this October 4th-7th for Talking Spirits Cemetery Tour XVIII!

Thank you to all who attended, volunteered and participated!

On Sunday, October 11, 2015 the Wisconsin Veterans Museum hosted the Seventeenth Annual Talking Spirits Cemtery Tour at Forest Hill Cemetery (1 Speedway Road, Madison) from 12-4:00 PM. Cemetery Tour 2015 featured the stories of Sally Blair Fairchild and Francis Bull Fairchild, August Bartsch, Albert Lamson, and Alice Whiting Waterman. This year’s tour was the most successful yet. Roughly, 2,500 students from grades four through ten attended the event over a four day span, and 500 visitors attended our public day tours. The weather was beautiful and once again the Wisconsin Veterans Museum was able to share the stories of our Wisconsin Civil War heroes. The tour was made possible by support from the Wisconsin Humanities Council and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Foundation.

Sally Blair Fairchild & Francis Bull Fairchild

Sally Blair Fairchild & Francis Bull Fairchild



Sally Blair Fairchild, the wife of Jarius Fairchild, the first Mayor of Madison, was the mother of Civil War soldiers Cassius and Lucius and sailor Charles Fairchild. Cassius Fairchild joined the 16th Wisconsin immediately after war broke out and quickly became Lieutenant Colonel. Lucius Fairchild, Wisconsin’s first three-term Governor, saw action at Falling Waters, Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville among others. Francis Bull married Lucius Fairchild in 1864 after spending the war years volunteering in military hospitals around Washington D.C.






August Bartsch

August Bartsch



One of the first Madisonians to enlist when the Civil War broke out, Bartsch fought with the 26th Wisconsin at Gettysburg, Missionary Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta and Chancellorsville. Bartsch was just one of thousands of German immigrants who enlisted to fight during the war alongside other European immigrants.





Albert Lamson

Lamson was a soldier in the 104th New York Infantry when she was captured after the battle of Gettysburg and held prisoner at Libby Prison. After being transferred to camp Sorghum near Columbia, Lamson and a fellow soldier, E.E. Sill, made a daring escape in broad daylight and fled to the nearby woods. Lamson lived on turnips and bark as he traveled toward Union lines. After the war, Lamson and his wife lived on a farm south of present-day Nakoma and were pioneer strawberry growers.





Alice Whiting Waterman

Alice Whiting Waterman



A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Waterman moved to Madison in 1868, She took a very loving interest in the Confederate soldiers buried at Forest Hill Cemetery, beautifying this spot by planting shade trees and replacing wooden grave markers with stone. The soldiers buried at Confederate Rest were captured at the Battle of Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River and were brought to Madison to be held at Camp Randall. Waterman is buried in Confederate Rest among ‘her boys’, as she fondly call them.





We look forward to seeing the public on Saturday, October 8th from 5:30 to 7:30 for our first ever CANDLELIT TOURS, and on Sunday, October 9th from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM for our Public Day tours!

Click on the images below to read some of the letters we received!


The Army Olympian: Carleton L. Brosius

By Russ Horton, Reference Archivist

Carleton L. Brosius (WVM Mss 17)

Carleton L. Brosius (WVM Mss 17)

Wisconsin has a long and proud Olympic tradition—one that is often associated with the Winter Games. Athletes from the Badger State like Bonnie Blair, Eric Heiden, Dan Jansen, Mark Johnson, and others gained fame in speed skating and ice hockey. But ninety-six years ago, four years before the first Winter Olympics, a Wisconsin native participated in the Games of the VII Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium while serving as an active duty officer in the United States Army.

Carleton L. Brosius, a Milwaukee native, earned a sterling reputation as a physical trainer in the Army in the early twentieth century. His father, George, was a Civil War veteran and a celebrated gymnast who had taught thousands at the Turner Hall in Milwaukee, and the son followed in his footsteps both as a veteran and athlete. Carleton joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 1896. He served in the Spanish-American War and along the Mexican Border before accepting a commission in the Regular Army in 1917. He remained stateside during World War I, traveling between encampments to set up training regimens for soldiers. In 1918, Captain Brosius oversaw the physical training of nearly 40,000 men in nineteen Army training camps.

Carleton L. Brosius (WVM Mss 17)

Carleton L. Brosius (WVM Mss 17)

In 1920, on the heels of World War I, Europe began the process of recovering from four years of destructive fighting. The Olympic Games, originally granted to Budapest, Hungary, were moved to Antwerp, Belgium largely to reward the people of Belgium for their suffering during the war. Opening on April 20, 1920, the games ran until September 12 of the same year – nearly 5 months! The Games of the VII Olympiad were record setting in several ways. It was the first Olympics to fly the five-ringed Olympic Flag, the first where competitors took the Olympic Oath, and the first to release doves as a sign of peace.

The United States decided to use military personnel for some of its Olympic team, and Brosius was selected as captain of the tug of war team and an alternate on the fencing team. In July 1920, he accompanied hundreds of other soldiers and sailors to Europe aboard the USS Princess Matoika. Stopping in Germany to visit friends among the American occupation troops, Brosius reached Antwerp and participated in the tug of war competition on August 17 and 18—the American team did not place. An alternate in fencing, he was not called upon to compete.

Tug-o-War Carleton L. Brosius  (WVM Mss 17)

Tug-o-War Carleton L. Brosius (WVM Mss 17)

Following the Olympics, Brosius served as the physical trainer at St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield before taking over the operation of Brosius Gymnasium in Milwaukee from his father. In 1936, Brosius became the adjutant at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, where he lived after retiring following World War II. WVM holds his military papers and Olympic scrapbooks, which document the story of a man who used his love of physical fitness to serve his country in many different ways. Watch the WVM website and facebook page this summer for more from Carl Brosius’s Olympic experience.





Tug-o-War Carleton L. Brosius  (WVM Mss 17)

Tug-o-War Carleton L. Brosius (WVM Mss 17)

Mexican Expedition

By Russ Horton, Reference Archivist.


Image courtesy Library of Congress.

One hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the mobilization of the Wisconsin National Guard for military service. However, he did not send them to Europe, where a World War raged. Instead, he sent them to Texas to protect our border. While their service during this time did not involve pitched battles or high casualties, these men answered the call to duty and did what was asked of them. What’s more, many would go on to fight in the trenches of World War I. For these reasons, we remember their service on its 100th anniversary.


When the United States officially recognized Venustiano Carranza as the president of Mexico in 1915, it angered Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa[1], who began striking out against Americans in a series of escalating events. On March 9, 1916, Villa and his men attacked Columbus, New Mexico and the nearby Army post Camp Furlong, killing several American civilians and soldiers. The next day, President Wilson released a statement that US military forces would pursue and capture Villa.


On March 15, General John J. Pershing received orders to lead federal troops into Mexico without the permission of the Mexican government. As they proceeded further into the country, political tensions rose and Carranza threatened military action of his own. War with Mexico seemed close and raids into the United States grew in number. In May, Wilson mobilized the Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas National Guards to augment the federal troops, and one month later called the remaining states’ National Guards into federal service.


Roughly 4,000 Wisconsin National Guard troops reported to Camp Douglas on June 22. Between June 27 and June 30, six units were mustered into federal service: Troop A of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry; Battery A of the 1st Wisconsin Field Artillery, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Wisconsin Infantry Regiments, and Field Hospital #1. Troop B of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry mustered into service about a month later, on July 24.


The first Wisconsin units, Troop A and Battery A, left their home soil on July 1 and arrived at Camp Wilson, Texas four days later. Located just outside of San Antonio, near the grounds of Fort Sam Houston, Camp Wilson[2] was named after the sitting President and would be home to all of the Wisconsin units during their service. The remaining Wisconsin units arrived shortly thereafter and the men began a strenuous regimen of training and drilling in the heat of a Texas summer.


The Wisconsin troops left Camp Wilson on August 7, carrying out a two day hike to Leon Springs for target practice with live ammunition. On August 18, the night before they began their march back to Camp Wilson, a Category 4 hurricane, that had hit Corpus Christi before heading inland, struck their camp while the men slept. Almost every tent in the camp was blown down but no serious injuries were sustained. The units commenced their march in the pouring rain and arrived at Camp Wilson exhausted and completely drenched.


The following month, while on an 80 mile march to Austin, the Wisconsin troops took part in a simulated battle. On September 18, the roughly 4,000 Wisconsin National Guardsmen defended the city of New Braunfels against 10,000 Guardsmen from other states and held off the superior force for the better part of a day. Soldiers on both sides fired over 80,000 rounds of blank ammunition during the exercise. The mock battle and long march gave the men valuable experience in organization, fighting, and supplying men in the field.


Soon after, the United States began reducing its military presence on the border. Troop A and Battery A returned to Camp Douglas to be mustered out of federal service in October. Troop B remained behind, and while patrolling on October 27, caught 50 National Guardsmen trespassing in some private pecan groves near Salado Creek. The men were arrested and either fined or sentenced to labor for trespassing and for disobeying a direct order to stay off of private property.


November 1916 brought a presidential election in which Woodrow Wilson sought re-election against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. In a very close election, 2,600 Wisconsin soldiers cast ballots from the field, the largest turnout among the various states’ National Guards.


Following the election, the men stationed in the San Antonio area turned their attention to another American tradition—football. Sixteen teams created from federal units and National Guard units from Wisconsin, West Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, Illinois, Virginia and more played games in November and December as part of a massive tournament. While all of the Wisconsin teams did well, the 1st Wisconsin Infantry team made it all the way to the championship game. On Christmas Day, they defeated the 3rd Illinois Infantry 9-0 to claim the 12th Division trophy.


Two days later, the men of the 1st Wisconsin boarded a train to begin their trip home. Unlike Troop A and Battery A, who mustered out at Camp Douglas, the remaining Wisconsin troops stopped first at Fort Sheridan, Illinois to be mustered out of federal service before returning to their home state. The 3rd Wisconsin Infantry had completed their service in December; the 1st Wisconsin Infantry and Field Hospital #1 were mustered out in January 1916; the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry in February; and Troop B of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry were the last of the Wisconsin soldiers to leave active duty, mustering out of service at Fort Sheridan on March 6, 1916.


While the Wisconsin troops did not have much of an opportunity to utilize their training during the Mexican Expedition, their service was far from in vain. Mere months after they returned to Wisconsin, the United States declared war on Germany, and many of those Wisconsin National Guardsmen were called into service as part of the newly formed 32nd Division. On the battlefields of France, the training and drills performed at hot, dusty Camp Wilson, Texas paid huge dividends as the 32nd Division proved itself to be one of the finest in the entire American Expeditionary Forces.


Camp Wilson_June Blog_2016

Image courtesy Library of Congress.


Military Spouses Day: Majil Steiner

By Andrea Hoffman, Collections Manager

Majil Steiner wearing the parachute gown.

Majil Steiner wearing the parachute gown.

On November 21, 1944, the B-29 “Snafuperbomber” with the 40th Bomb Group was attacked over Japan while approaching its target city of Omura. While badly damaged, the crewmembers managed to keep the B-29 airborne back across the China Sea. But when the aircraft’s usable fuel supply began to run low, the crew was forced to bail out over Japanese-occupied territory in eastern China, the order to jump coming from the aircraft commander as they approached a valley filled with rice paddies. 1st Lt. Floyd “Dick” Steiner, the aircraft’s navigator, was quickly rescued by local farmers and smuggled back to safety. Steiner kept his parachute and ripcord throughout the ordeal, and upon returning to his base in Chakulia, India a few days later, mailed it home to his wife, Majil, back in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Along with the parachute came his request that she reuse the material to make a new dress for herself.

As Majil later recounted, “When the box arrived I opened it, and with amazement pulled out the roomful of nylon parachute.” As an only recently-developed synthetic reserved for military usage during the war, nylon was still a novelty in the mid-1940s. The silk-like panels were carefully taken apart by her and her friends so that the cloth could be reused for her gown design. Unfortunately, the dress would also require a sturdy lining fabric, something essentially unavailable given wartime limitations. Majil was not deterred, however, and sought help finding it from a fabric company in St. Paul, Minnesota. The company wound up taking an interest in her husband’s story and the dress project and soon mailed her several yards of the required lining material.


V2015.09.1 Majil Steiner’s parachute gown.

V2015.09.1 Majil Steiner’s parachute gown.

With the further assistance of an experienced dressmaker, as well as a rug maker who taught Majil how to braid the shoulder straps out of the parachute’s cords, her evening dress was completed in 1945. She had a portrait taken of her in the dress, and mailed it off to her husband in India. He carried the photograph of her wearing the life-saving parachute material on him for the rest of his tour. The couple, now married 71 years, has since moved out west, but recently returned the dress to its home state of Wisconsin by donating it to our museum’s permanent collection.

Grim Reaper

By Andrea Hoffman, Collections Manager

Utility jacket worn by James Mosel in Vietnam.

Utility jacket worn by James Mosel in Vietnam.

Part of fulfilling our museum’s mission to commemorate Wisconsin veterans includes gathering as complete a story as possible in our donation process. Ideally, we supplement our object collections with archival components like letters and photographs and vice versa. When Vietnam veteran James Mosel of Chippewa Falls partook in an oral history interview last August, interviewer Rick Berry—also a long-time volunteer cataloger in object collections—well understood the importance of creating these links and encouraged Mosel to donate artifacts to the museum. Mosel obliged and gave both his utility jacket and KA-BAR knife shortly after, providing a tangible complement to his personal story.

Mosel enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1967, training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as a rifleman before heading to Camp Pendleton and Scout Sniper School where he graduated with an expert badge. He was sent to Vietnam in March of 1968, assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, Seventh Marines as a scout sniper. Several months later in August he received his second wound when he was shot in the right hip and had to spend four months recovering at a hospital in Japan. He was then reassigned to Delta Company, 1st Recon Battalion, designated the team leader of call sign “Grim Reaper”.

Mosel was involved in six major offensive operations during the 1968-1969 period he was in Vietnam. He recalled wearing this jungle utility jacket “in excess of 100 days in the jungle on the Laos/Vietnam boarder on long range recon patrols”.   The so-called ERDL camouflage pattern seen here—named after the Army’s Engineer Research and Development Laboratories (ERDL) which first designed it in 1948—appears in the original general purpose green color way known as the “lowlands” pattern. It was first employed in Vietnam by reconnaissance and special operations units in early 1967. Mosel’s jacket is also noticeably devoid of all insignia to help avoid identification by enemy forces.

After his tour ended, Mosel returned stateside and was assigned to Guard Company at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. (“8th and I”), serving as a part of President Nixon’s security administration in charge of protecting the president and other dignitaries. He was then discharged September of 1971, having attained the rank of Sergeant E-5 and the recipient of numerous decorations, including two Purple Hearts, Vietnam Civic Action with palm, a Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with palm, Vietnam Service with four bronze stars, a Vietnam Campaign Medal, a Marine Combat Action medal, three Meritorious Unit Citations, two Presidential Unit Citations, a Good Conduct Medal, as well as a National Defense Service Medal.

Mosel later returned to Western Wisconsin and has since been involved in the start- up of several companies. He is currently the President/CEO of J. Alan Group in Chippewa Falls in addition to serving on the Board of Governors for the United States Marine Corps Association and Foundation. Mosel’s story is just one of over 1,800 captivating personal interviews available to the public through the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Research Center.

In Celebration of Women’s History Month

by Ellen Brooks, Oral Historian

Julia, 2016

Julia, 2016

On January 7, 2016 I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Lannin (nee McCall) at her home in West Allis. Lannin served as a neurosurgical nurse in the Army during World War II. She was one of ten children born and raised in South Carolina. Lannin and her older sister, Olivia, attended nursing school and joined the Army together in 1943. Three of their brothers also served during the war, in various theaters. Assigned to the 5th Army, 33rd General Hospital the sisters were sent overseas in June of 1943, first to Casablanca and then to Bizerte, Tunisia (Africa) where they were stationed for approximately ten months.

General Hospital 33, Africa 1943

General Hospital 33, Africa 1943

In Africa she met Gordon Lannin, the man she would later marry, who was also serving in the Army. From Africa the hospital and staff were transferred to Italy, first to Naples and then to Rome after Rome fell to the Allied forces. The nurses continued to move around Italy, spending time in Viareggio, Pisa and back to Naples where Lannin was when the war ended. After a quick tourist trip to Switzerland, the sisters were sent back stateside and Lannin was discharged in April of 1946. She eventually moved to Wisconsin where she and her husband raised six children.

In the interview Lannin recounted multiple stories about her work as a nurse and memorable patients she worked with.


Lannin met some great characters, including a surly sailor who had a severely injured leg. He was her hospital’s first patient to be treated with penicillin.


Julia on leave in Italy

Julia on leave in Italy

Sisters, Julia and Olivia

Sisters, Julia and Olivia

Towards the end of the interview Lannin discussed how rare it was to talk about serving and about the war, even with her husband or her siblings. She mentioned that she has been receiving more recognition for her service in recent years. I hope that conducting and preserving this oral history interview, along with the other materials Lannin donated to our Permanent Collection including the photos seen here, is just one way that the Museum and the people of Wisconsin can show our appreciation for Lannin’s service.





We would love to add more stories of servicewomen to our Collection! If you or someone you know is interested please contact me about our Oral History Program: oralhistory@dva.wisconsin.gov or (608) 261-0537

Lincoln’s Railcar Plate

By: Andrea Hoffman (Collections Manager)

In November of 1864, the United States Military Railroad’s car shop in Alexandria, Virginia began construction of a new official railcar for President Abraham Lincoln. When it was completed a few months later, the new car, dubbed the “United States,” was considered the most opulent private railcar of its day. This brass builder’s plate from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s collection once served to identify the car’s origins as well as credit B.P. Lamason who oversaw its construction. Due to the tragic events that unfolded shortly thereafter, however, Lincoln did not live to see Lamason’s creation. Instead, his personal car assumed the solemn task of transporting his body back to Springfield, Illinois following his assassination, its one and only official trip.


B.P. Lamason, master car builder and project superintendent, was also personally in charge of the car during its funeral procession to Springfield.

Following the two-week, nearly 1700 mile funeral procession and the soon-after disbandment of the nation’s military rail program, the “United States” was sold to the privately-run Union Pacific railroad. While the lavish car served well to transport executives during the building of the transcontinental railroad, it outlived its usefulness when the line reached completion a few years later. In the early 1870s, Lincoln’s car was sold to another railroad company and stripped down, a move that began its unfortunate spiral into disrepair.

Nearly derelict, the car was returned to Union Pacific in the 1890s. F.W. Oakley, a Civil War veteran from Beloit who served with Co. K of the 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, worked for Union Pacific after the war and had followed the history of the car with interest. When he learned that Union Pacific planned to scrap the car after being exhibited at the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Centennial Transportation Exhibit in Omaha, he removed this plate and kept it as a personal memento.


The “United States” photographed by Andrew J. Russell in Alexandria, January 1865. Image from the Library of Congress, LOT 11486-C, no. 3.

On March 18, 1911, the once-luxurious railcar met its final end in a prairie fire in a farm field outside Minneapolis, where it had only recently been refurbished and promoted to the public as the “most sacred relic in the United States.” Recognizing the plate’s historical significance—one of the few extant objects to remain from the original train car—Oakley donated it to the Memorial Hall collection at the State Capitol before his death in Madison in 1925.

Mess Night at the Museum

Mess_Night_Sidekick_Ad_020816The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is pleased to announce a new quarterly event: MESS NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. These Mess Nights are based off of the naval military traditions, which have a long history in the Navy and Marine Corps. While the tradition and ceremonies vary from branch to branch, Mess Nights are generally formal events for the Officers of the mess, and occasionally include command and personal guests.

The history of Mess Night can be dated all the way back to the Vikings, who celebrated victories and heroes at feasts. Navy and Marine Corps traditions can be traced back to England, through monasteries and schools and up into the military, where the tradition grew into a nightly event. In the United States, Mess Nights have become special events designed to commemorate anniversaries and honor group and individual accomplishments. These events have strict guidelines, described in military manuals, from how the room should be decorated to how to pass the port around the table.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is excited to take this formal military tradition and make it our own. Each quarter MESS NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM will feature a different speaker, topic, and dining menu for guest to experience during this new event. Your fee includes dinner, drinks (alcoholic beverages available at a cash bar), and time to socialize before and after the dinner and talk. Menus for each event will be posted on our events page as they become available, and dietary restrictions or preferences should be disclosed on the registration form.

For more information on each event, please see our event page at http://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/events/?ID=140

To register for mess nights, please see our page at https://www.wvmfoundation.com/registration-form.php?e=195

Every Solider Is A Story: Cpl. Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr.

He was too weak to stand. But no one has ever stood taller. 

North Korea, 1950

Cpl. Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr.  Hatfield, WI

Cpl. Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr.
Hatfield, WI

By the time Corporal Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr. wrapped his arm around a tree so he could remain upright, he’d already been shot eight times. The Korean War was in its early stages. Red Cloud, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation from Hatfield, Wisconsin, had been manning a hilltop observation post on the night of November 5, when he spotted 1,000 Chinese infantrymen quietly moving into position for an attack on his unit, E Company of the 19th Infantry Regiment.

At 3:20 AM, under the light of a full moon, the Chinese troops launched their assault. As the enemy charged from a brush-covered area less than 100 feet from him, Red Cloud sounded the alarm to his fellow soldiers and immediately grabbed his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). Jumping up from his hiding place, he emptied magazine after magazine into the charging Chinese forces at point-blank range. The accuracy and intensity of his attack took the enemy by surprise, but they returned fire. Two bullets in his chest barely slowed him down as he continued to fight, but eventually he incurred several other serious injuries. 2nd Platoon Medic Perry Woodley rushed to Red Cloud’s position to apply field dressings to his wounds, but Red Cloud refused his help. As he moved off to treat other soldiers, he heard the bark of the BAR resume as Red Cloud continued to engage the enemy. Hit by more enemy fire, and severely weakened by blood loss, Red Cloud refused to leave his post. Instead, he pulled himself to his feet, used the tree to prop himself up, and continued fighting until one final Chinese bullet ended his life. When Red Cloud’s body was recovered the next day, he was surrounded by dead enemy soldiers. His fearless and selfless actions saved the lives of many Americans that day, and his bravery was recognized with a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.

A Story of a World War II Fighter Pilot Fritz Emil Wolf

By RICHARD WOLF, Guest Columnist, THE BUGLE Winter 2011 Cover Story (a Quarterly Publication of the WVM).

With the Flying Tigers

Fritz Emil Wolf

Fritz Emil Wolf

Fritz E. Wolf was born in Shawano, Wisconsin on February 8, 1916. He attended Shawano High School where he excelled in leadership, character and athletics, graduating in 1933. His athletic prowess on the gridiron and basketball court earned him a basketball scholarship from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He never played a basketball game for the school. Instead he turned to football, becoming an all-conference fullback for three straight years. During that time Carroll only lost one game. In 1938 Fritz graduated from Carroll College with a degree in Business Administration. He had the opportunity to try out with the Green Bay Packers but missed the tryout do to an appendicitis attack. About this time Fritz realized that if he was ever going to satisfy his dream to learn to fly, now was the time. In 1939, he enlisted in the United States Navy. Upon completion of flight training in 1940, he received a commission as an Ensign and assignment as a dive-bomber pilot aboard the USS Saratoga. In the summer of 1941, Fritz resigned his commission to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG) Flying Tigers. Like a lot of other pilots, he was looking for a little more excitement.

My father sailed in the first contingent of AVG pilots from San Francisco on July 6, 1941 aboard the Jaegersfontein. His passport read agriculture student. The AVG arrived at Toungoo, Burma sometime in September of that year. The first month after his arrival was spent getting the P-40 aircraft ready for combat. The rest of the time was spent learning to fight the Japanese. This was accomplished through one-hour lectures given by Chennault and a lot of simulated dogfights. On December 20, 1941, he took part in the first AVG action near Kunming, China. During that battle, he shot down two Mitsubishi bombers and assisted in downing a third before his ammunition ran out. During the month of February in 1942, somewhere near Rangoon, Burma, Fritz took part in a dog fight with 14 Japanese fighters.

He was able to shoot down one before he had to break contact. This victory was confirmed, but combat records were lost. On April 8, 1942, near Loiwing, China, he took part in another AVG action during which time he shot down two Japanese fighters. On April 17, 1942, near Magwee, China, Fritz was caught on the airfield’s grounds during a Japanese bombing raid. This was the most terrifying time during his tour with the AVG. Charlie Bond, one of Fritz’s squadron mates, remarked in his diary that even Fritz Wolf was scared, “and Fritz is no baby.”

During his tour with the AVG, Fritz was subject to unhealthy conditions and illness. Anticipating his death, a coffin was built for him. Because of his illnesses he spent significant time on the ground. During that time he assumed operational duties. Like everything else he did, Wolf performed admirably. Chennault praised him for his administrative skills. Fritz Wolf was honorably discharged on July 4, 1942. By that time he had logged 220 hours of combat flying in the skies over Burma and China fighting the Japanese. The Chinese Government awarded him the White Cloud Banner 6th Grade for heroism, China Air Force Wings 2 and 4 star, and China War Memorial Decoration.

Return to the Navy

Fritz Wolf (second from left) posing with fellow cadets while training as a naval aviator in 1940 (Mss 2011.102)

Fritz Wolf (second from left) posing with fellow cadets while training as a naval aviator in 1940 (Mss 2011.102)

After coming back to the United States to recover (he had lost 40 pounds in China), Fritz returned to the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant, senior grade. He was assigned as a fighter pilot instructor at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida. He was later transferred to Green Cove Springs, Florida to train with other replacement pilots that were preparing to be shipped over seas. Fritz was the team’s section leader. Fritz and his team were eventually assigned to the USS Hornet on January 8, 1945. Flying Grumman F6F Hellcats during his time in VF-11 (the Sun Downers), Fritz and the rest of the squadron struck Japanese targets in Hong Kong, Formosa, Hainan Island and French Indo-China. On one mission over Formosa, his plane lost fuel pressure and he was forced to make a sea landing. After three hours floating around in the ocean he was finally picked up by a destroyer. He later said that being plucked out of the water was worse than drowning.

When the Hornet reached Ulithi after conclusion of its South China Sea action in early February of 1945, Fritz was made CO of the newly formed VBF-3 squadron aboard the USS Yorktown. His squadron would participate in strikes supporting the invasion of Iwo Jima. He also led the first historic naval carrier-based bombing attack against targets on mainland Japan. During this mission he officially shot down his fifth plane making him an ace. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic action. He was later transferred to Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Brown Field, Chula Vista, California, where he served as Executive Officer. During this time he made application to the regular Navy, but was turned down for health reasons. His life in aviation was not over, however. He stayed in the Naval Reserve, retiring in 1967 as a Commander. For his service to his country during World War II Fritz E. Wolf received the following awards and decorations: Two Distinguish Flying Crosses, Air Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Award, WWII Victory Medal, Three Stars Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, One Star Philippine Liberation Medal, American Defense Service Medal and American Campaign Medal.

Post War Career

Pilot Fritz E. Wolf in uniform of Claire Chennault’s famed American Volunteer Group - The Flying Tigers.

Pilot Fritz E. Wolf in uniform of Claire Chennault’s famed American Volunteer Group – The Flying Tigers.



In April 1946, Fritz became the first paid employee of the new Wisconsin Aeronautics Commission. Fritz served in an operational capacity until September of 1967 when he was appointed Director of Aeronautics. When the Aeronautics Commission merged with the newly-formed Department of Transportation, Fritz was named Bureau Director. He retired from state service in May of 1981, after 35 years of distinguished service ensuring Wisconsin’s role as a leader in aviation. In 1989, Fritz E. Wolf was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame. Seventeen years later, the State of Wisconsin honored his contributions to the aviation industry by renaming the State Aviation Facility at the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, the “Fritz E. Wolf Aviation Center.”

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs