The George Henry Mills Collection was donated to the National Air and Space Museum in 1994 by Mills' daughter, Mrs. Georgia Mills Head.
Scope and Contents:
The George Henry Mills Collection consists of 14.59 cubic feet (14.47 linear feet) of material collected from his naval career, 1918-1948. A large part of the collection is made up of records of Mills' service during World War II as the commander of the Atlantic Fleet's airship formations. The collection also includes records of his service as an official Navy observer aboard the German rigid airships Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg. Of particular interest are records of the period before and immediately after the entry of the United States into World War II: the pre-war build-up of the Navy's LTA program, the "Neutrality Patrols" as the Navy fought an undeclared war against Germany, and of the harrowing early days of the Battle of the North Atlantic as German U-boats roamed the eastern coast of the United States. Mills maintained an extensive correspondence with many of the leading figures of LTA: Charles E. Rosendahl, Garland Fulton, and Scott E. Peck --their letters provide a unique picture of the Navy LTA program during its most active and successful period.
The collection also includes numerous technical reports on aspects of LTA flight, training material, photographs, clippings and articles on LTA.
Note: The digital images in this finding aid were repurposed from scans made by an outside contractor for a commercial product and may show irregular cropping and orientation in addition to color variations resulting from damage to and deterioration of the original objects.
The George H. Mills Collection is arranged in the following series:
Series I: Naval career of George H. Mills
Series II: Correspondence
Series III: General LTA Papers
Series IV: General Naval Papers
Series V: Publications, Articles, Clippings
Series VI: Lectures, Speeches, Papers
Series VII: Miscellaneous Papers
Series VIII: Photographs
Series IX: Scrapbooks; Oversized Material
George Henry Mills (1895-1975), Naval officer and airship aviator, was a member of the U.S. Navy's inner circle of advocates of lighter than air (LTA) flight. Mills was born on August 5, 1895 in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, the son of John Craton Mills and Nora Poole Mills. He attended Bingham Military School in Asheville, North Carolina, and entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1914. Mills graduated from the Academy in June, 1918 and served in various fleet and shore assignments (a chronology of Mills' naval service will be found in the notes to Series I on page 2). He married Leonore Wickersham of Corning, NY in 1923; their daughter, Georgia Lee Mills, was born in 1928.
Mills was assigned to LTA training at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1931. He completed his training in 1932 and served in the Navy's LTA fleet through the 1930's. Mills flew as an observer on board the Graf Zeppelin in 1934 and on the Hindenburg in 1936. In 1935, Mills survived the crash of the USS Macon off the California coast. Mills returned to Lakehurst, serving there in various assignments; he was made commanding officer of NAS Lakehurst in January, 1940.
At Lakehurst, Mills organized blimp patrols as part of the Navy's Neutrality Patrol and helped coordinate the Navy's rapid buildup of the LTA program. When Airship Patrol Group One was formed in January 1942, Mills was named commanding officer; in December 1942 he commanded Airship Wing Thirty. In July 1943, Mills was assigned as the commander of Fleet Airships, Atlantic - the chief of the Navy's LTA forces in the Atlantic Theater. George Mills was promoted to the rank of Commodore in November 1943.
In 1945, Mills returned to sea as the captain of the troopship USS Hermitage. Before retirement from the Navy in 1949, Mills served as the chief of the Naval Airship Training and Experimentation Command (CNATE) at NAS Lakehurst.
After leaving the Navy, Mills settled in North Carolina and worked for the Equitable Life Insurance Company, and later for the National Securities and Research Corporation. Mills served one term in the North Carolina State Legislature from 1950 to 1952. George H. Mills died on October 24, 1975, the same day as his longtime LTA colleague and friend, Garland Fulton, whose papers are also part of the collections of the National Air and Space Archives. They were buried on the same day in Arlington National Cemetery.
Chronology of George H. Mills' Naval Service
1914 -- June 14 - Entered U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
1918 -- June 6 - Graduated from the Academy, Class of 1919; commissioned Ensign, USN September 21 - Service aboard USS New Mexico. Promoted to Lieutenant (JG)(Temporary)
1920 -- June 1 - Promotion to Lieutenant (JG)
1922 -- First LTA flight as gunnery spotter on captive balloon on USS New Mexico June 3 - Promotion to Lieutenant
1923 -- September 25 - Assigned as personal aide to RADM George W. Williams, Commandant, Sixth Naval District, Charleston, SC June 20 - Assigned as divisions communication officer on staff of VADM Henry A. Wiley, Battleship Division, Battle Fleet
1929 -- June 5 -Assistant gunnery officer and senior watch officer, USS Pensacola
1924 -- August 5 - Served as aide and flag secretary to RADM Williams as Commander Destroyer Squadrons, Scouting Fleet. Served on USS Concord, USS Dobbin, USS Whitney
1925 -- September - Continued as aide when RADM Williams was relieved by RADM Noble E. Irwin
1931 -- June 1 - Ordered to NAS Lakehurst for LTA instruction. Training flights on free and captive balloons and on airships Los Angeles (ZR-3), Akron (ZRS-4), J-3, J-4, K-1 and ZMC-2
1927 -- June 30 - Officer-in-charge, naval recruiting for North and South Carolina, Raleigh, North Carolina
1933 -- September 1 - Promotion to Lieutenant Commander
1934 -- May 14 - Ordered on temporary duty as naval observer on the Graf Zeppelin. Made three round trips aboard the Graf Zeppelin between Friedrichshafen and cities in South America August 9 - Ordered to NAS Lakehurst as Operations Officer October 14 - Ordered to NAS Sunnyvale (later NAS Moffett Field) as tactical officer, pilot and navigational watch on USS Macon (ZRS-4)
1935 -- February 12 - USS Macon crashes off Point Sur, California. Mills is rescued after three hours in the water April 15 - Ordered to NAS Lakehurst as operations and mooring officer
1936 -- November 4 - Ordered to Newport News for fitting out USS Yorktown August - Naval observer aboard Hindenburg on round trip flights between Lakehurst and Frankfort, Germany
1937 -- September 30 – Assigned as gunnery officer, USS Yorktown September 12 – October 2 - Training in chemical warfare at Gas Warfare School, Edgewood Arsenal, MD
1939 -- July 1 - Promotion to Commander June – Assigned as executive officer, NAS Lakehurst
1940 -- January 15 - Appointed commanding officer, NAS Lakehurst
1941 -- July - Temporary duty, Airship Board, Washington
1942 -- December 1 - Appointed Commander, Fleet Airship Wing Thirty June 17 - Promotion to Captain January 2 - Appointed Commander, Airship Patrol Group One
1943 -- November 5 - Promotion to Commodore July 1 - Appointed Commander, Fleet Airships, Atlantic
1945 -- July 23 - Awarded Legion of Merit July 10 - Appointed captain, USS Hermitage (AP-54). Reverts to rank of captain
1946 -- August 5 - Appointed commander, NAS Moffett Field
1947 -- September 26 - Appointed chief, Naval Airship Training and Experimentation Command (CNATE)
1949 -- June 30 - Retirement from U.S. Navy
ADM -- Admiral
ASW -- Anti-submarine warfare
ATC -- Air Transport Command
BuAer -- Bureau of Aeronautics (US Navy)
CDR -- Commander
CNATE -- Naval Airship Training and Experimentation Command
Cong -- Congress
GHM -- George Henry Mills
LTA -- Lighter than air flight
MAD -- Magnetic anomaly detector (often found as magnetic airborne detector)
NACA -- National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
NAS -- Naval Air Station
NATS -- Naval Air Transport Service
ND -- No date
RADM -- Rear admiral
RN -- Royal Navy
Sess -- Session
VADM -- Vice Admiral
WPA -- Works Project Authority
ZNP -- Patrol airship
ZP -- Airship squadron
Georgia M. Head, Gift, 1994, 1994-0022, NASM
No restrictions on access.
This collection, compiled by J. Gorden Vaeth, consists of documents, reports, news clippings, scrapbooks, publications, and photographs relating to rigid and non-rigid airships worldwide.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of documents, reports, news clippings, scrapbooks, publications, and photographs relating to rigid and non-rigid airships worldwide, including the USS Shenandoah; USS Akron; USS Macon; USS Los Angeles; Schütte-Lanz; R-23; TC-14: and the Zeppelins Hindenburg and Bodensee. It was compiled by J. Gordon Vaeth for personal and research reasons.
Collection is arranged by type of material. Most publications are housed individually in folders.
Biographical / Historical:
J. Gordon Vaeth (1921-2012) was an accomplished author and historian on the subject of airships. He was known as the 'leader of the airship underground' during his earlier days with the Naval Airship Program at the start of World War II. During his active duty in the U. S. Navy (1942-1946), he was assigned to Commander Airship Patrol Group One, later Commander Fleet, Airships, Atlantic, then to Naval Air Station Lakehurst. He entered civilian life in 1947, continuing to work with programs relating to airships, including at the Office of Naval Research, the Helios Project, and on Skyhook. Vaeth held many positions for the federal government and was the director of systems engineering for the National Environmental Satellite Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the time of his retirement. Vaeth was a frequent lecturer, including appearances in television documentaries, as well as the author of numerous professional articles and books.
Additional materials: Mr. Vaeth also donated a number of books and volumes of "The Airship Quarterly" which are housed in National Air and Space Museum Branch Library.
J. Gordon Vaeth, Gift, 1993, NASM.1994.0011
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