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May 5, 2018 - Arcadia WW1 History Symposium

Ross Field - Arcadia WW1 Balloon School – 100 Years

 

by Joni Joy Betten

 

the gilb museum of arcadia heritage resultThe Gilb Museum of Arcadia HeritageIf you haven’t ever visited Arcadia, you should add it to your bucket list. It is a beautiful community with an amazing amount of interesting history. It is the home of the Santa Anita Race Track, which in itself has its own bucket-load of history. Arcadia has lots of green parks which all seem to have their own flock of peacocks, (another Arcadia history story.)

But my husband and I were not in Arcadia just to enjoy the scenery that May 5th, 2018.

The Gilb Museum of Arcadia Heritage was presenting a history symposium celebrating the old military base named Ross Field, a WW1 Balloon School. My husband Bill Betten, a Co-Director of the California WW1 Centennial Task Force was one of the keynote speakers.

The Gilb Museum sits on a large piece of property which also houses several city buildings and the recreation department surrounded by a huge park. All this land was once part of the Balloon School.

ross field ww1 balloon schoolRoss Field Balloon School during WW1.You ask what is a balloon school? Well 100 years ago, back before remote controlled drones, when the United States entered the Great War, the US Army began teaching men how to operate large hot air balloons in order to scout out the enemy’s whereabouts.

I learned these interesting facts from Mark Rosenblum, another presenter at the symposium, who is a local Arcadia historian. He has tediously collected many fascinating details about the Balloon School that are even unknown to most citizens of Arcadia.

He informed us that the field was named later after the one U.S. Army balloon pilot who died in the war in France, Lt. Cleo J. Ross, an observer with the 8th Balloon Company.

task force co director bill bettenThe symposium began that morning with a welcome by Dr. Dana Hicks. the curator of the museum. She then introduced my husband Bill who started off the symposium with a talk entitled, “From This Land to No-Man’s-Land: War Like We Have Never Seen, Nor Will Ever See Again”. This was a very interesting overview of the war, spotlighting much of the changes in technology that put generals in a tailspin, not knowing quite how to fight and overcome all these new weapons of destruction. Attrition took the lives of millions of men, and those who didn’t die were forever affected by the many horrors they had to face. (You can find his presentation here.)

After this, Mr. Rosenblum presented his lecture, “Rediscovering Ross Field: The Balloon School a Century Later.” I could tell this topic is one he is very passionate about.

jack mccrea arcadia heritageHistorian Jack McCrea in the Archives of the Gilb Museum of Arcadia Heritage.Winding up the symposium, Jack McCrea, another local historian, and Dr. Hicks presented an amazing assortment of original photographs from the museum’s permanent collection. Their presentation of these images brought to life the men of the Balloon School from 100 years ago. It was an eerie feeling knowing that where we sat was right in the middle of where these pictures were taken.

dana hicks arcadia heritageDr. Dana Hicks- Gilb Museum of Arcadia Heritage Curator at work in the archives.They also explained that before any of these men made it to France though, the war ended.

After the presentations, the Acadia Heritage Group offered a wonderful lunch out on the patio, where we could all socialize and ask further questions of the speakers. We also enjoyed a tour of the museum. It made for a wonderful day where I came home feeling like I had truly learned what some of those who went before us here in California had done to keep our state and country secure.

 

 

 Joni Joy Betten is a guest author for the California WW1 Centennial Task Force and Granddaughter of a WW1 Veteran.joni betten 2018 result

 

 

 

 

 

California WW1 Centennial Task Force

 

Managing Board Co-Directors

Bill Betten
Sal Compagno
Col. Andre N. Coulombe
Hugh E. Crooks, Jr.
Mike Hanlon
Brigadier General R.G. Head, Ph.D. USAF (Ret.)
Prof. Jennifer Keene, Ph.D
Courtland Jindra
Dennis Matarrese
Major General Michael J. Myatt USMC (Ret.)
Stephen M. Payne, Ph.D.
Anthony Powell
Lester Probst
Prof. Jonathan Roth, Ph.D.
Col. Fred Rutledge 

Northern California Committee

Sal Compagno
Mike Hanlon
Stephen M. Payne, Ph.D.
Lt. Col. Kenneth Nielsen
Major General Michael J. Myatt USMC (Ret.)

Anthony Powell
Col. Fred Rutledge
Prof. Jonathan Roth, Ph.D.

Southern California Committee

Bill Betten
Maria Carrillo
Col. Andre N. Coulombe
Brigadier General R.G. Head, Ph.D. USAF (Ret.) 
Courtland Jindra
Lester Probst
Jeff Sharp

 Education Committee

Bill Betten, Master of Arts in Education, (Retired teacher DUSD, OUSD, AGUSD)
Lauren Weiss Bricker, Ph.D., Professor of Architecture at Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Scott Corbett, Ph.D, Lecturer, History, CSUCI
Jennifer Keene, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of History, Chapman University
Michael Powelson, Ph.D., Lecturer, History, CSUCI
Jonathan Roth, Ph.D., Professor of History, SJSU, Burdick Military History Project Director [Committee Chair]
Miriam Raub Vivian, Ph.D.,  Professor of History, CSUB

Website Administrator

Bill Betten

 

Email: courtland.jindra@worldwar1centennial.org

Snail Mail:
     California World War 1Centennial Task Force
     330 Myrtlewood Dr.
     Calimesa, CA 92320

 

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