Sidney Johnson Brooks Jr

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Though it was never proven by today's forensic medical standards, an immunization shot has long been blamed in the death of the pilot for whom Brooks City Base is named.

    Born May 21, 1895, Sidney Johnson Brooks Jr. was the son of a prominent lawyer and judge in the 57th District Court from 1899 to 1904. The family's home at 155 Crofton Ave. in the King William area is listed as a Texas Historic Landmark, according to news archives.

    Brooks' grandfather, John Anderson Brooks, served in the Confederacy's 13th Kentucky Cavalry and survived the Civil War, dying just a few years later, according to the Early Birds of Aviation Web site. His widow remarried and moved the family to Texas around 1879.

    When the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, San Antonio native Brooks joined the Army. Brooks, a former San Antonio Light reporter, volunteered for aviator training at Camp Funston, later called Camp Stanley, near Leon Springs.

    He passed his physical exams and attended ground training at the University of Texas in Austin, graduating with the highest honors in the ground school's first class, according to the 2000 edition of "A History of Military Aviation in San Antonio," a reference compiled by local Air Force historians. From there, he trained at Kelly Field and was one of more than 10,000 people who trained with Curtiss JN-4Ds, or Jennies. Cadets frequently crashed the bi-wing aircraft.

    On Nov. 13, 1917, Brooks was returning from a trip to Hondo, some 30 miles west, to complete his training. He needed to land in San Antonio to earn his pilot's wings. He was over the city at about 2,000 feet when his craft nosed down in a moderate dive and crashed at the edge of Kelly Field. He was the first San Antonian killed during America's involvement in World War I and posthumously received a second lieutenant's commission.

    Retired Maj. Gen. Fredric Doppelt, a former Brooks commander, said a cholera shot Brooks took that morning was suspected of causing his death. "The cholera shot, as in many people in those days, produced a high fever," Doppelt told a Brooks archivist in 2002 for a CD-ROM the base issued a short time later.

    "He flew to Hondo, was noticed to be febrile and sweaty, nevertheless gutted it out and came back, and probably passed out" on his landing approach, Doppelt said. "It was experiences like that that started physicians looking into what are the proper medical procedures and what are the proper physical qualifications for flight."

    An airfield south of San Antonio that had opened months earlier, first as Gosport Field, then Kelly Field No. 5, was renamed Brooks Field in honor of the young cadet Feb. 4, 1918. It was later renamed Brooks Air Force Base in 1948 and Brooks City-Base in 2002.

    On Veterans Day 1993, Sidney Brooks' remains were moved from the Alamo Masonic Cemetery on the East Side to Sidney J. Brooks Memorial Park just west of the historic 1918 Hangar 9 at the base. A procession at the base included a World War I ambulance that carried his remains and a riderless black horse with boots placed backward in the stirrups to symbolize a death in action.

    A 12-foot marble and granite marker, topped by a 5-foot bronze eagle, marks the spot where he was reinterred with his family's consent. Before to the reinterment ceremony, local architect Pat Chumney, a descendant of the Brooks family, recalled stories an aunt had told about the cadet.

    "I've heard her say many times what an outstanding young man he was, and that he was very handsome," Chumney told the San Antonio Express-News. If a plan to relocate Air Force missions at Brooks is approved in September, the base's ties to the military could be severed. But the cadet's grave, and his name, could remain there for years

    Sidney Johnston Brooks, Jr

    Birth - May 21, 1895
    Death - Nov. 13, 1917

    A member of a prominent family, Cadet Sidney J. Brooks, Jr. became the first San Antonian to lose his life in World War I activities. He was killed when his JN-4 biplane crashed on his final return training flight from Hondo airfield to Kelly Field (now Kelly Air Force Base), Texas. Cadet Brooks was posthumously awarded his aviator's wings and commissioned at the request of the City Council. Brooks Field (now Brooks Air Force Base), San Antonio, was named in his honor. In November 1987 the Sidney J. Brooks Jr. Memorial Park and monument was dedicated on the base. He was reinterred, and his original gravestone transferred, from the Alamo Masonic Cemetery near downtown San Antonio, to the park on November 11, 1993.

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