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Maj. Gen. Leigh Wade, USAF, Retired

Leigh Wade


Maj. Gen. Leigh Wade was born February 2, 1897, in Cassopolis, Michigan. A gifted pilot, he dedicated his career to the advancement of aviation through the testing of new and improved aircraft and equipment.

Initially enlisting in the North Dakota National Guard at age 19, he transferred to the Signal Corps and received flight training from the Royal Canadian Air Force and advanced combat training in France. Flying such airplanes as Nieuport, Caudron, Sopwith, and captured German bombers, Wade made acceptance tests of warplanes in Paris until his assignment to McCook Field, Ohio, in 1919. At McCook he served as chief test pilot, setting an altitude record of 27,120 feet in 1921, and a three-man altitude record of 23,350 feed in 1922.

Wade was chosen to participate in the first attempt of a round-the-world flight by four Douglas World Cruisers as pilot of the "Boston." Though his plane was forced down with engine problems, Wade and his co-pilot later rejoined the flight in Nova Scotia in the "Boston II." The historic flight successfully ended in Seattle having covered 27,000 miles in 175 days.
Resigning from the Air Service in 1926, Wade spent his time as chief test pilot for Consolidated Aircraft Corporation and pioneering development of aviation in South America.

Wade returned to Army Air Services in 1941, serving first with the Air Intelligence Section and the 1st Bomb Group. Next he served as commander of the Batista Field in Cuba until the end of World War II. After the war, he became Air Attache to Greece and Brazil and served as chief of the air section on the joint Brazil-United States Military Commission until he retired as a major general in 1955. Leigh Wade, age 94, died on August 31, 1991.

Wade was enshrined on October 22, 1994, for his military and civilian contributions to aviation, and his years of devotion to aeronautical advancements.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program