Elmer “Archie” Fowler Stone
A leading aviation pioneer in the United States Coast Guard, Commander Elmer “Archie” Fowler Stone was also one of the most distinguished naval aviators in American history – earning a number of accolades including the Navy Cross, the Congressional Medal of Achievement and the British Air Force Cross.
Born in Livonia, New York, and raised in Norfolk, Virginia, Stone joined the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service as a cadet at the Revenue Cutter Service School of Instruction on April 28, 1910. Less than five years later, Stone and Norman B. Hall, a fellow officer, were the first to approach the Curtiss Flying School in Newport News, Virginia, about the use of aircraft in air-sea rescue operations. They were given the opportunity to participate in experimental flights of Curtiss Model F flying boats.
In 1916, Stone was both a student aviator for the U.S. Navy’s flight facility in Pensacola, Florida, and an aeronautical engineering student at the Curtiss factory. The following year, Stone was named the Coast Guard’s first aviator after graduating from flight training. He was named Coast Guard Aviator No. 1 and Naval Aviator No. 38, and was later assigned to the Naval Air Station in Rockaway, New York.
Stone and Walter Hinton made the first successful transatlantic flight in May 1919, piloting a Navy seaplane. In recognition of his achievement, Stone was named a knight of the Order of the Tower and Sword by the Portuguese government and awarded the British Air Force Cross by the British government. He was also awarded the Navy Cross and Congressional Medal of Achievement in November 1920.
Stone worked with the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics and commanded a destroyer used by the Coast Guard during the enforcement of prohibition of alcohol. He also worked with the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company to develop airborne motor lifeboats, becoming one of the first pioneers of modern air-sea rescue.
Following a tour at sea, he earned the title of commanding officer of the Coast Guard Aviation Unit at Cape May, New Jersey, as he continued to hone his skill at making open-ocean landings in a seaplane. On December 20, 1934, Stone reached the speed of 191 mph over a three-kilometer test course, breaking the world seaplane speed record.
Stone’s final duty was commanding officer of the Air Patrol Detachment in San Diego. He died of a heart attack while on duty on May 20, 1936, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Stone was inducted into the United States Naval Aviation Hall of Honor in 1983 and is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Hall of Fame.
Stone was truly a pioneer in the establishment and development of aviation for the Coast Guard and Navy and was admired by many fellow aviation icons, including Eddie Rickenbacker, Igor Sikorsky and Alexander P. de Seversky.