Paying homage to Eglin namesake
By Minty Knighton, Team Eglin Public Affairs
/ Published September 22, 2009
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The hand-painted portrait that hangs in the main hall of building 1 depicts a stoic person immaculately dressed in military uniform, but few people know who he is and why his portrait graces the entrance to the Air Armament Center's administrative offices.
The portrait is of Lt. Col. Frederick Irving Eglin, Eglin Air Force Base's namesake. Colonel Eglin grew up in New York. Both his parents died while he was young. He finished high school where an alumnus took notice of him and paved his way to college at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind.
During his college years, Colonel Eglin met and married Mary Oda. The two would have two children. He was also an excellent athlete excelling in football, baseball, and basketball. He briefly served as an athletic director, but he made his career in the military.
He began his military career in 1911, rising quickly through the ranks, first in the 2nd Indiana Infantry National Guard, where he served nearly six years as a private, corporal, sergeant and ultimately a second lieutenant.
Soon after making lieutenant, he completed flight training for the Army and helped train WWI pilots. As a first lieutenant he held positions in engineering, motor transport and aero-supply.
In 1929, he was promoted to captain and commanded several organizations including the 9th Observation Squadron in Sacramento, Calif., the Provisional Administrative Company at Clark Field, Philippines and the 40th School Squadron at Kelly Field, Texas. Eglin was also an instructor and executive officer for the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala. Later, he served as director of the Department of Command, Staff and Logistics before becoming a major in 1934.
As a major, he worked as Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Air Force at Langley Field where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He also earned titles as Airplane Pilot, logging over 3,800 hours and Airplane Observer with over 100 hours.
It was not long after his promotion to lieutenant colonel that Eglin lost his life in 1937 at the age of 45 on a mission. Wreckage of his Northrop A-17 pursuit aircraft was found on the Appalachian peaks of Ala. about 50 miles from Birmingham. At this same time, the Army Air Corps was going through a transformation and because of Lt. Col. Eglin's accomplishments and sacrifice, the Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base was renamed in 1937 "Eglin Field" which after the establishment of the Air Force later became Eglin AFB.
Although Lt. Col. Eglin accomplished much in his short life, it is the lasting words of his devoted friend, Russell Hesler of the Journal Review in Crawfordsville which may speak most to his character, "[he] was intensely loyal to his friends, possessed a sympathetic understanding of the problems of others and deeply patriotic."