Robert Opie Lindsay historical marker

Robert Opie Lindsay 1894-1952 (J-121)

Fighter pilot. State's only WWI ace. Shot down 6 German planes, 1918. Born 1 mi. SW.

Location: US 311 at Lindsay Bridge Road in Madison
County: Rockingham
Original Date Cast: 2016

Robert Opie Lindsay was North Carolina’s only World War I ace in the U.S. Army Air Service. Born in Madison on December 25, 1894, he graduated from North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts (now North Carolina State University) in 1916. He initially attempted to enlist via the Army’s Officer Training Corps in Oglethorpe, Georgia, but was thwarted due to a bout of appendicitis. After his recovery, he joined the U.S. Signal Corps. After receiving training in flying in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York, he was sent to San Antonio where he served as a flight instructor. Lindsay was then sent to France, where he received training in flying the French SPAD S.XIII fighter plane. Afterward he was assigned in 1918 to the 139th Pursuit Squadron of the American Expeditionary Force Air Service.

Lindsay was wounded during the opening day of the St. Mihiel offensive. He recorded his first victory on the afternoon of September 18, 1918, shooting down two German Pfalz D.III fighter planes over Pagny-sur-Moselle. By the end of October 1918, he scored four more victories, shooting down another Pfalz D.III over Clery-le-Petit on September 28, a Hannover C. over Bayoneville on October 22, and two Fokker D.VII fighters on October 27 over Bantheville. The credit for Lindsay’s first five victories were shared with other members of his squadron. He is the only North Carolina native noted on official U.S. Army lists as having achieved the status of ace, which required a minimum of five victories. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in the October 27 action at Bantheville.

After World War I Lindsay lived in New York and Tennessee. He also played a role in the establishment of Berry Field airport in Nashville and served in the Civil Aeronautics Administration. During World War II he served in several stateside posts in the U.S. Army Air Corps, rising to the rank of colonel by war’s end. He died in Fort Worth, Texas, on August 1, 1952.

Norman Franks, American Aces of World War I (2001)
Norman L. R. Franks and Frank W. Bailey, Over the Front: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914-1918 (1992)
Edgar S. Gorrell, “139th Aero Squadron (Pursuit), 2nd Pursuit Group, 1st Pursuit Wing, First, Army,” in “History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919” (typescript), Series E: Squadron Histories, Volume 17, pp. 90-102, Record Group 120, National Archives, Washington, D.C. microfilm series M990, roll no. 20, accessible online via Fold 3
Gene Gurney, Five Down and Glory: A History of the American Air Ace, ed. by Mark P. Friedlander Jr. (1958)
James J. Hudson, Hostile Skies: A Combat History of the American Air Service in World War I (1968)
Thomas C. Parramore, First to Fly: North Carolina and the Beginnings of Aviation (2002)
“Robert Lindsay,” The Aerodrome
Lucien H. Thayer, America’s First Eagles: The Official History of the U.S. Air Service, A.E.F. (1917-1918), ed. by Donald Joseph McGee and Roger James Bender (1983)
News and Observer (Raleigh), May 31, 1919
Reidsville Review, October 25, 1918; November 5, 1918; March 4, 1919; June 6, 1919
Greensboro Record, August 1, 1927; August 30, 1929; April 28, 1943
Greensboro Daily News, June 25, 1919
The Dispatch (Lexington), May 11, 1918
Winston-Salem Journal, July 12, 1919

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