115th Observation Squadron
Both the National Guard's lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air aviation units were borne from the ranks of the California National Guard. Today, both the California Army and Air National Guard can trace their aviation roots to the fledgling days of aviation itself. The year 1907 saw the formation of the Aeronautical Squad within the Signal Corps. The activites of this unit led to the formation of the Aeronautical Squad of the Coast Artillery Corps in 1911 and the establishment of the National Guard's first Aeronautical Corps with the enlistment of Eugene B. Ely in February 1911. This marks the beginning of heavier-than-air aviation. Ely was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant on 6 July 1911. By the close of 1911, San Francisco newspapers boasted of the state’s four airships, two wireless stations, automobiles equipped for electrical signaling, a balloon and four signal kites – with a half a dozen skilled aeronauts having enlisted, among them Jack Handy and George H. Loose.
Following World War I, with the reorganization of the National Guard complete, the reestablishment of California’s aviation arm in the National Guard took place on March 24, 1924. On that date, General R. E. Mittelstaedt, Adjutant General of the State of California, addressed in a letter to the Militia Bureau, Washington, D.C., stating that the time was at hand to organize an Air Service in California and that the office of the Adjutant General was willing and anxious to proceed with its formation, providing the Militia Bureau would authorize the same. In reply to the Adjutant General's letter, the Militia Bureau, on April 5, 1924 authorized the immediate organization of the 115th Observation Squadron as part of the 40th Infantry (Sunburst) Division. Federally recognized on June 16, 1924. When the 115th Observation Squadron, 40th Division Air Service, was formed, the Unit held its first training at Clover Field, the site of today’s Santa Monica Airport. The Squadron also trained at the National Guard Armory in Los Angeles and at the University of Southern California. In January 1925, several months after its organization, the Squadron moved to permanent quarters at Griffith Park Aviation Field near Glendale, California.
Throughout the 1920’s the 115th operated a variety of aircraft including the World War I vintage Curtiss JN4D ‘Jenny’ and Douglas O2H. Major Corliss C. Moseley, a pioneering military aviation proponent, was the unit’s first commander. Among the 115th’s original members was America’s first World War I ace, Captain Paul Baer. Distinguished visitors were frequent guests of the 115th, including Colonel T. F. Lahm, Air Officer of the 9th Corps Area, and Colonel William "Billy" Mitchell, formerly Assistant Chief of the Air Service, who himself was a welcome guest owing to the fact that many of the Officers of the 115th Observation Squadron had served under Colonel Mitchell at the front during World War I.
In June 1931, the 115th Squadron participated in the National Air Corps maneuvers flying from Griffith Park, Los Angeles, to Dayton, Ohio, and returning. Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commended the officers of the Aviation unit for the efficient manner in which they performed the work that was assigned to them during the exercises, demonstrating a high degree of training and morale which placed them on an equal footing with the National Air Corps. The Chief of the Militia Bureau, W. H. Waldron, also expressed his personal gratification for the manner in which the maneuvers were carried out.
During the 1930s, the unit began flying the new Consolidated O-17, the Douglas O-38 and in October 1938, the North American O-47A, the unit’s first all metal monoplane. The introduction of these improved aircraft in the late 1930's caused the 115th Observation Squadron to discontinue use of the Camp Merriam parade field (now Camp San Luis Obispo) as its summer training area. In November 1938, the 115th Observation Squadron began using the nearby San Luis Obispo County Airport as its summer aerial observation training center.