LCdr. Godfrey Chevalier’s first landing on USS Langley (CV 1).
LCdr. Chevalier

Courtesy Paul O’Brien collection, USS Chevalier.

LCdr. Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier.

Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier was born 7 March 1889 at Providence, Rhode Island. When he was young, his family moved to Medford, Massachusetts, where he attended school and was known as “Darb.” A 1910 graduate of the US Naval Academy, he later completed a course in aviation there and then continued as an instructor until 1914. After a year at sea, he reported to the Naval Aeronautics Station at Pensacola, Florida, and was designated Naval Aviator No. 7.

In 1916, while assigned to battleship USS North Carolina, he helped install the first catapult on a naval vessel, and then piloted the first plane to be launched from it.

In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Chevalier was assigned to duty in Paris, followed by command of the US Naval Aeronautic Station in Dunkerque and the Northern Bombing Squadron, US Naval Aviation Forces in Paris, with intervening assignments in London. For this service he received the Distinguished Service Medal with the following citation: “For exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility in connection with the first aeronautical detachment to reach France, and as Commander of the US Naval Air Station at Dunkirk, which was established and maintained in spite of constant bombing by the enemy.”
   Following the armistice in November 1918, he served in various posts before participating in the conversion of collier Jupiter as the United States’ first aircraft carrier, USS Langley (CV 1) in 1920. After her commissioning, he served aboard as Officer in Charge of the Aviation Detachment and was credited by Rear Admiral Moffett, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, with developing deck landing gear.

First landing

Courtesy Paul O’Brien collection, USS Chevalier.

First landing by LCdr. Chevalier on USS Langley (CV 1).

On 17 October 1922, LCdr. Virgil C. (“Squash”) Griffin made the first takeoff from Langley’s deck; on 26 October, LCdr. Chevalier made the first landing—in an Aeromarine 39-B. Less that three weeks later, however, Chevalier incurred multiple injuries in a plane crash near Norfolk and died two days later at the Naval Hospital there.

Admiral Moffett wrote in The Outlook: “Chevalier was one of the most popular and aggressive officers in naval aviation, and his work is largely responsible for the development that has gone forward to date. His death was not only felt as a severe loss in the wealth of experience and knowledge which he possessed; it had a depressing effect on the entire ship’s company, for Chevalier was loved by the men who served under him and by his brother officers.”

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Two destroyers have borne his name: Fletcher-class DD 451 and her successor, Gearing-class DD 805. Both were built at Bath Iron Works and both were sponsored at launch by his widow, Mrs. Marguerite Jackson Chevalier. LCdr. Chevalier’s name is also perpetuated in the Chevalier Theatre in Medford, Massachusetts and in Chevalier Field, Pensacola, Florida.

More about Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier from the Chevalier Theatre and from the Friends of Chevalier Auditorium.