Two of Major Fleet's most outstanding pilots were Howard Paul Culver and Torrey H. Webb.
Howard Paul Culver was born in Eau Claire in 1893 and grew up in Ashland, Wisconsin. Paul, as he preferred to be called, graduated from St. John's Military Academy in Delafield and received a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He learned to fly at the Curtiss School of Aviation in Newport News, Virginia. Culver was a test pilot and flying instructor during the first World War and was an army airmail pilot from May 15 to August 9, 1918. Of the first airmail pilots, Culver was the only one who had more than four months of flying experience. During his airmail service, Culver flew over 3,000 miles, logging 48 hours of flying time and suffering only one forced landing in 36 trips.
After graduating from Columbia and serving in the army, Lieutenant Torrey Webb completed his aviation training at Ellington Field, where he came to Major Fleet's attention. His good record spoke well for him, and Fleet hired him for the airmail service. Webb flew over 3,500 miles as an airmail pilot, spending 45 hours in the air. As did Culver, Webb suffered only one forced landing in his airmail career.
Lieutenant Torrey Webb poses with a bag of airmail before it is loaded into his Curtiss Jenny JN-4B airplane on the morning of May 15, 1918.
Lieutenant Webb crashed his Jenny airplane nose first into the ground on one flight. Fortunately, Webb emerged unscathed from the accident.
Lieutenant Paul Culver poses with dignitaries and the first bag of airmail before leaving on his historic flight on May 15, 1918.
Lieutenant Torrey Webb, May 15, 1918, on takeoff in his Jenny from the landing field the Army had set up at Belmont Park in New York.