Birthplace of Naval Aviation Pioneer

Historical Marker #1564 in Stanford notes the birthplace of Lt. Richard Caswell Saufley, who was a pioneer in military aeronautics.

Saufley was born in Stanford, Kentucky, on September 1, 1885. After attending Centre College in Danville up to his junior year, Saufley graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1908.

At this time, military aviation was in its infancy. But, after serving on several battleships, Saufley was chosen as one of the first candidates to enter the Navy's new Aviation Corps. Saufley's aeronautical skills were displayed during the 1914 U.S.-Mexican border campaign when he became one of the first pilots to fly a military airplane over enemy territory.

Saufley's groundbreaking military career as a pilot proved bright but short. In 1915 and 1916, he accomplished two significant feats. First, he set an altitude record. He then piloted a plane that took flight from the deck of a ship. In Pensacola, Florida, on June 9, 1916, while attempting to break his altitude record, as well as his sustained flight record, Saufley's plane crashed and he was killed. The investigation into the crash determined that green wood used in the construction of the plane caused it to come apart. Saufley's body was returned to Kentucky and he was buried in the Buffalo Springs Cemetery in Lincoln County.

Saufley's pioneering legacy was remembered when the U.S. Navy named their airbase in Pensacola, Saufley Field, in his honor. In addition, during World War II, the Navy launched the "USS Saufley," a Fletcher-class destroyer, also named in the pioneer pilot’s honor.

Images

Richard Saufley

Richard Saufley

Lt. Saufley is shown here in front of one of his airplanes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Saufley Field

Saufley Field

Part of the Saufley Field complex in Pensacola, Florida is shown here. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Centre College

Centre College

Saufley attended Centre College before graduating from the Naval Academy. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Border Troops

Border Troops

Lt. Saufley flew scouting missions over Mexico during the border trouble there in 1914. This photograph shows Kentucky soldiers serving during the border campaign. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tim Talbott, “Birthplace of Naval Aviation Pioneer,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed April 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/561.

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