Ashley Chadbourne McKinley
Born(1896-06-23)June 23, 1896
Marshall, Texas
DiedFebruary 11, 1970(1970-02-11) (aged 73)
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchNational Guard
United States Army
United States Air Force
Years of service1916–1926
AwardsDistinguished Flying Cross

Ashley Chadbourne McKinley (June 23, 1896 – February 11, 1970) was an accomplished American aerial photographer and colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps who helped pioneer aviation at subzero temperatures. He accompanied Richard E. Byrd as an aerial photographer on his expedition to the South Pole.[1]

Early career

McKinley joined Battery A of the Missouri National Guard on June 21, 1916, and served on the Mexican Border until December 21 of the same year. Following the United States' entry into the First World War, he enlisted in the United States Army Signal Corps on August 7, 1917, and became a dirigible pilot. He was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in the Officer's Reserve Corps on December 7, 1917, to date from November 27. He was placed on active duty on December 16, 1917.

During World War I, he commanded a balloon observation company. He later taught aerial photography and surveying. He was promoted to the rank of captain on November 20, 1918, shortly after the armistice.[1]

Interwar period

Due to the post war draw down, McKinley's appointment as captain was vacated and he was made a 2nd lieutenant in the Army Air Service on September 21, 1920 (to rank from July 1, 1920). He was promoted to 1st lieutenant on April 12, 1921.[2]

On April 3, 1926, McKinley resigned from the Army to begin an aerial surveying and photography service. In 1928–1929, he was a photographer for the Byrd Antarctic Expedition. He was one of four men (along with Richard Byrd, Bernt Balchen and Harold June) aboard the first aircraft to fly over the South Pole on November 29, 1929.[1] He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross by Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley on July 9, 1930.[3]

World War II

In 1941, as the United States prepared to enter the Second World War, McKinley rejoined the Army Air Corps as a major. He was in charge of the cold-weather operations of the Army Air Force at Ladd Field in Fairbanks, Alaska. McKinley was the first person to suggest that U.S. aircraft be constructed to operate in subzero temperatures and that the Air Force should build a facility to test aircraft in subzero temperatures. He was transferred to Eglin Field for the construction of the facility. He had risen to the rank of colonel by the war's end in 1945.

Post war

McKinley transferred from the Army to the newly created United States Air Force in 1947. He served in Korea in 1951 during the Korean War with the rank of colonel.


After retiring from the Air Force as a colonel on June 30, 1956, McKinley worked as a civilian consultant to Admiral Richard Byrd.

In 1959 he became a member of the Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.[4]

Colonel McKinley died in Florida and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[1]


In June 1971, the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base was named in his honor.[1][5]

Books and film


Distinguished Flying Cross citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Captain (Air Corps) Ashley C. McKinley, U.S. Army Air Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight as aerial photographer for the 1928 – 1930 Byrd Antarctic Expedition. Capitan McKinley, in the face of the very gravest danger performed his duties in such a manner as to merit the highest praise. He participated in numerous flights over the South Pole on 28–29 November 1929. His devotion to and the accomplishment of this duty obtained results which brought great credit to himself, the expedition, and the United States Army.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 2 (1931) [6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "McKinley Climatic Laboratory, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida" (PDF). McKinley Climatic Laboratory brochure. ASME. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-16. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  2. ^ Official Army Register, January 1, 1926. pg. 389.
  3. ^ "Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley presenting decorations to two Reserve officers and one enlisted man who were members of the Byrd South Pole Expedition. Sgt. Benjamin Roth, who received the Soldiers' Medal, Lieut. Dean C. Smith and Capt. Ashley C. McKinley, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Patrick J. Hurley and Maj. Gen. James E. Fechet, Chief of the Army Air Corps". Photograph. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2009-01-17.
  4. ^ Membership application. Florida Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. February 27, 1959.
  5. ^ "McKinley Climatic Laboratory". Landmarks. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Archived from the original on 1 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
  6. ^ "Hall of Valor". Retrieved 2 July 2017.