Victor Bertrandias was born at San Francisco, CA on May 14, 1894, almost a decade before the first successful flight of a human-occupied, heavier-than-air machine. He learned to fly and soloed at San Mateo, CA in 1915. He made and held his share of aviation records, and carried his expertise further into the aviation industry by serving as Army Air Corp manager of aircraft manufacturer relations (liaison with Boeing and Douglas companies) and, as a civilian, serving in high level offices within the Douglas and Fokker aircraft companies. Below, from the San Diego Aerospace Museum Flickr Stream (SDAM), is a photograph of Bertrandias standing next to what appears to be a Curtiss Hawk model.
Victor E. Bertrandias, Ca. 1926 (Source: SDAM)
This photograph and the one immediately below were probably taken during the same photo session.
Victor E. Bertrandias, Ca. 1926
The same year he learned to fly, he served as mechanic and performed with Art Smith at the Pan-Pacific International Exposition. They toured Japan a year later, but a landing accident in Sapporo brought their tour to an abrupt end. Art suffered a broken leg, and his plane was badly damaged.
During WWI, Bertrandias served in France with Eddie Rickenbacker's 94th Pursuit Squadron ("Hat in the Ring"). He was Rickenbacker's chief of maintenance. He remained in the Air Corps until 1929.
He signed the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register twice. Both times he carried VIP passenger Donald W. Douglas. (Douglas founded the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1921. He was Company President 1921-1957, and Chairman of the Board from 1957-1967. At the upload date of this page there are over 1,000 Google hits for "Donald W. Douglas".)
Image, left, from his NASM file, that captures him in 1926 soon after he made an emergency decent by parachute near Baltimore, MD. The propeller left his airplane, and, according to the photo caption, "...disintegrated in air." This link dates that jump on July 24, 1926. An earlier photograph of Bertrandias in France during WWI can be viewed here. He is at the far left.
Bertrandias and Douglas first landed and signed the Register on Thursday, March 17, 1927. Bertrandias, based at Dayton, OH, McCook Field, was carrying Douglas (based at Santa Monica, CA) to their next stop, El Paso, TX, and then, noted in the destination column, to Dayton, OH. They were traveling in 26-423, a Douglas C-1C Transport. They stayed in Tucson overnight, continuing east the next morning at 8:40AM. This landing was about two years after the successful World Flight by Douglas aircraft.
According to Joe Baugher's site, Army numbers 26-421 to 427 were Douglas C-1Cs, c/n 366 to 372. Our airplane, 26-423, was transferred to McCook Field as P464. No date was given for the transfer.
Their second landing was on Thursday, August 25, 1927. They were again eastbound to El Paso, TX. Their airplane, 27-228, was a Douglas O-2H.
According to his NASM record, Bertrandias was, from 1926-1929, the "Army Air Corps Manager of the Western District", with responsibilities for Army relations with Douglas and Boeing Aircraft Companies. We can assume his flights with Douglas and his Company's airplanes that brought them to Tucson were in support of those duties.
In 1929, he resigned the military and became assistant general sales manager for the Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America, based in New York. From 1932 to 1938 he was Export Sales Manager for Douglas Aircraft. American Aviation, November 1, 1938, announced his appointment as Vice President, continuing his role in export sales.
One source in his NASM file states he was an Early Bird of aviation, but I find no mention of him among the membership listings of that organization.
In July, 1942, he was recalled to the military from his position at Douglas (Vice President for Materiel, where he directed the procurement program and coordination and collaboration with the automobile industry for aircraft manufacture). He reentered the military at the rank of Major and returned in 1944 as a two-star General.
His WWII service, based mostly in the Pacific, included developing and executing the logistics program for the defense of Port Moresby. He organized maintenance depots and supplies at Townsville and Darwin, Australia.
Bertrandias then became Deputy Field Commander of the Far East Air Force Service command, and later served as temporary Commanding General for the entire theater under General MacArthur. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for this work.
In November, 1944, after 28 months overseas, he returned to Wright Field as Chief of Maintenance for the Air Technical Service Command, charged with the maintenance and overhaul operations that kept the Army Air Force's air fleets in action.
Victor E. Bertrandias, ca. 1950
In the summer of 1945, Bertrandias, as Major General, returned the Far East to take over depot installations at Okinawa as Commanding General of the 8th Air Force Service Command. Following peace negotiations with Japan, he moved into Japan the first day as Advanced Echelon COmmanding General of the 5th Air Force, taking over Japanese airfields for the initial occupation. He attended the surrender ceremony on September 2nd aboard the USS Missouri. On completion of his duties in the Far East, in February 1946 he returned to civilian status and resumed the vice presidency for sales of the Douglas Aircraft Company.
In August, 1949 he was reassigned to active-duty as adviser to the special assistant to the chief of staff, US Air Force. In February 1950 (right) he was appointed director of flying safety in the Office of the Inspector General and stationed at Norton AFB, California.
Interestingly, Victor Bertrandias is one of only a few Hispanic pilot surnames in the Register. Others include Baez, Montijo, Pedigo and Quesada. Bertrandias died March 18, 1961 and is buried in Section 30 of the Arlington National Cemetery.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/08/09 REVISED: 11/28/14