Recovery of Famous Aviator’s Body


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Divided Back Era, 1907-1914. Life Savers in a vain effort to recover St. Croix Johnstone’s body – August 15, 1911. St. Croix Johnstone was one of the famous daredevil aviators of the early 1900s who toured the country trying to convince people of the dangers that our country faced from enemy aero-planes, as they were called in those days, and why our military should have fleets of them. In spite of the obvious and varied reasons, there were many early skeptics. On August 10, 1911 in Augusta, Maine the daring aviator thrilled a crowd of 10,000 people who had gathered to watch him fly. For nearly all of them, this was the first time that had ever seen an aero-plane. Little could the folks in Maine have imagined that just a few days later, the man who many of them had met personally and shook hands with, would meet his death at the Chicago Aviation Meet on August 15, 1911.

Thousands witnessed Johnstone’s Moisant monoplane as it seemingly stalled in the air and plunged into Lake Michigan. A Life-Saving crew that had been on standby immediately launched a rescue boat. The wood and canvas parts of the plane had scattered about on impact, and the engine sank to the bottom of the lake. As seen in this photo, the rescuers had hoped that Johnstone would be found alive in the tangled canvas from the plane, but he was not. An hour later, the Life-Saving crew recovered Johnstone’s body.