Military History/Balloonatics


John, we just had boxes of memorabilia from Howard K.
Smith's personal effects donated to our museum.  He was a balloonatic in WWI and trained in Omaha.  Can you please tell me anything about him.  I'm told he flew over Paris.

Hello Debbie,

I looked in “Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919”, and "Who's Who of Ballooning".  I could not find a Howard K. Smith, listed in either of them.

Here is the link to the "Who's Who of Ballooning".

This reference catalogues all those who had anything to do with ballooning prior to 1918, or as the website states “Basically, one has to be dead first, born before 1918, or have participated in some epic event.”  It catalogues almost all the US Army Rated Balloon Pilots of WWI.  This doesn’t mean that he was not a Balloon Pilot; it just means that either he never went for a civilian license, or he has not been added to the list yet.  

Here is the “S” Section, as you can see there is no Howard K. Smith.'swho-s1.html

I looked in “Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919”, and it too does not have a Howard K. Smith, listed.

I did find a 2nd LT. Howard Smith A.S. (Air Service), listed in “Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919”.

The 2nd LT Howard Smith that is listed was the Commanding Officer of the 12th Photo Section, 1st Army Day Bombing Group.  This Howard Smith did work with Balloon Companies.

In “Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919”, there are 27 pages of documentation with 2nd LT Howard Smith’s name mentioned.

I am more than happy to assist you, in tracking down all the correct information.

If you can you can, please email me with your contact phone number (since you are a museum), and I would be more than happy to talk to you on the phone, as it is much easier, as I  need to find out more information on Howard Smith, to correctly identify him.

I look forward to talking to you, and helping you finding out all the information on Howard Smith, so you can properly display his personal effects.



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John Vargas


I can answer general as well as specific questions about U.S. Army – Naval Aviation from 1913 to 1946 and WWII U.S. Airborne, to include key personalities, units, commands – doctrines. My specialty is U.S. Aviation Badges (all Branches of the Service, from WWI to the Present), U.S. Airborne Badges and Insignia (from WWII to the Present) as well as Issued Flight Gear (flight uniforms, helmets, sunglasses, etc.). I also specialize in Airborne, as well as Infantry Badges and Insignia (from WWI to the Present), both authorized as well as unauthorized of the period. I have all the actual original badges, insignia and most of the flight gear that are specific to this period of history as they are part of my personal collection. I also have access to a vast personal library of publications – text, which includes original orders, manuals, books, die card, die envelopes, guides and many other publications that are period, as well as publications – text from others...such as museums.


I have over 20 years’ experience in collecting and cataloging WWI to WWI U.S. Army Aviation – U.S. Naval Aviation, WWI to WWII U.S. Issue Aviation Flight Gear, U.S. Airborne Badges, Insignia and Airborne Equipment. I was the former assistant curator at the Gen. Wm. C. Lee Airborne Museum in NC. I have written histories of Wing Badges – Aviation Insignia for several manufacturing companies to include The Robbins Company, Bailey Banks & Biddle, and I am working on the histories for several other companies at the moment such as Bausch & Lomb Tiffany, Herff Jones as well as several others. I am a consultant on regular basis to many museums, including the U.S.A.F., U.S. Army, Private and Public Museums, the Institute of Heraldry, as well as the Department of National Defence (Canada), for the Canadian Armed Forces. I am regularly called upon to authenticate U.S. Aviation Badges, Insignia and Flight Gear (all Branches of the Service) for Fine Auctions Houses such as Bonham’s, as well as sunglass manufactures such as Including Bausch & Lomb (vintage verification) and many others.

Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA-FL) Historian – I am not a Vietnam Veteran nor a Vietnam Era Helicopter Pilot, I was not old enough to serve in Vietnam, unless the U.S. needed a one-year-old and then I would have Proudly Served.

I am perusing an advanced degree in history (Ph.D.), with a concentration in WWI and WWII U.S. Aviation. I am a U.S. Army Paratrooper and I am a Qualified and Rated Aviator.

Awards and Honors
Kentucky Colonel, National Honor Society, President’s List, Campbell University, Distinguished Honor Graduate, Various “Who's Who”, from 1988 to Present, Numerous Special Recognition Awards both Military and Civilian.

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