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Ask Rufus: Capt. Sam Kaye's 'Acrobatic Easter Egg'


Capt. Sam Kaye of the “Hat in the Ring” Squadron and his Spad airplane which he called his “Acrobatic Easter Egg.” The photo was taken in France during early 1919.

Capt. Sam Kaye of the “Hat in the Ring” Squadron and his Spad airplane which he called his “Acrobatic Easter Egg.” The photo was taken in France during early 1919. Photo by: Courtesy


Rufus Ward



On June 15, 1919, The Columbus Dispatch reported that Capt. Sam Kaye had arrived home from France. The article described Kaye as returning home; "Decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, bestowed on him by his own government for bravery in action, and with the Croix de Guerre, bestowed by the French government for exceptional prowess in the air." 


Samuel Kaye, a Columbus native, enlisted in the U S Army Air Service at the start of World War I. He was sent to the Aviation Field School at Austin, Texas, and then to flight training at Chanute Field in Illinois. He was ordered to Europe and arrived in England in November 1917. 


Kaye''s first assignment was as a ferry pilot flying between Paris and London. Then on July 9, 1918 he was assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, at Saints, France. The 94th was known as the "Hat in the Ring" Squadron and was under the command of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, America''a top Ace of World War I. 


Rickenbacker and Kaye became life long friends. After the war Rickenbacker, who founded Eastern Airlines, would come to Columbus to visit Kaye.  


Kaye was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross for action over the region of Epinonville, France, on Sept. 29, 1918. Lieutenants Kaye and Reed Chambers attacked a formation of 6 German planes shooting down one and forcing the others to retire back to German lines. 


The citation for Kaye''s second Distinguish Service Cross reads: 


"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Air Service) Samuel Kaye, Jr., United States Army Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 94th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, U.S. Army Air Service, A.E.F., over the region of Montfaucon and Bantheville, France, 5 October 1918. Lieutenant Kaye encountered a formation of seven enemy machines (Fokker type). Regardless of their numerical superiority, he immediately attacked and by skillful maneuvering succeeded in separating one enemy plane from its formation and after a short combat shot it down in flames."  


On another occasion, he shot down a German Fokker that had a new Spandau model machine gun that was air cooled and able to fire 650 rounds a minute. Kaye went to the crash site and recovered the machine gun so that it could be examined. His closest call came when an "air shell" shot away part of his propeller and he was forced to land, 


During aerial combat, Kaye was credited with four confirmed German Fokkers shot down and three probables. He was promoted to captain and served as the commander of the 94th Squadron''s 1st Flight. At the close of the war pilots of the 94th painted their spad airplanes in distinctive colors. Sam painted his light blue with red and white polka dots. He called the airplane his "Acrobatic Easter Egg". The 94th remained in Europe for several months as the last U.S. Army Air Service squadron there. 


Sam Kaye continued to live in Columbus after his return from France and had The Columbus Auto Co. which was the local Ford dealership. He died in 1939. Unable to attend the funeral because of a business commitment, Eddie Rickenbacker sent a huge floral arrangement forming the insignia of the "Hat in the Ring" Squadron. 


Columbus Air Force Base was originally named Kaye Field in January, 1942 but the name was changed to Columbus Army Air Field in April of that year because of confusion with the older Key Field in Meridian. Planes often flew to the wrong field as it was spelled Kaye but pronounced Coy. The names were easily confused over aircraft radios. Even mail was often delivered to the wrong base. . 


In 2007 the Auditorium at Columbus Air Force Base was named in Sam''s honor and his uniform is displayed there. 


The British company, ''Blue Rider", sells a decal kit for plastic model Spad airplanes titled "Samuel Kaye''s Easter Egg Spad XIIIC." It is the only airplane kit listed that has an individual''s name in the title.  


Sam''s son, John M. (Jack) Kaye, was an Army Air Corps fighter pilot in the Pacific during World War II.  


Rufus Ward is a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to him at [email protected]


Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at [email protected]


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