Published: 15 September 2023
By Daniel C. Williamson, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S.A. (Retired)
Aviation Lead – Doughboy M.I.A.
A man is only missing if he is forgotten…
Born on 1 May 1897 in Baden-Baden, Germany to American parents, our Doughboy of the Month is First Lieutenant Carter Landram Ovington, the only child of son of Edward J. Ovington and Georgia Cheatham Maize Ovington. His father and his uncle were the heads of the New York based Ovington Brothers Company with locations in Germany and Paris, France. Because his father managed the European portion of the family business, Carter spent his first ten years in Germany followed by eight years in France.
After the United States declared war on German on 6 April 1918 and just after his twentieth birthday, Carter Ovington, while attending the Ecole Superieure de l’Electricite (Superior School of Electricity) in Paris, decided to join France’s Service Aeronautique on 20 May 1917. He immediately was accepted and sent to the French aviation schools at Avord, Pau, and Cazeaux, receiving his pilot’s brevet on 17 August 1917 with the rank of Caporal (Corporal).
1LT Carter L. Ovington
The young aviator was delighted to find he was being sent to advanced training to become a pursuit (fighter) pilot. Completing the training on 12 December 1917 Caporal Ovington was subsequently assigned to Escadrille SPA85 flying the rugged SPAD VII produced by the Societe Pour L’Aviation et ses Derives (Society for Aviation and its Derivatives).
As an American citizen flying for France, Corporal Ovington was now an official member of the Lafayette Flying Corps. Like the famous Lafayette Escadrille N124, the Lafayette Flying Corps was also made up of American volunteers flying for France but were assigned to other French Escadrilles. Corporal Ovington fought with SPA85 for just less than a month until 9 January 1918. On that date Corporal Carter L. Ovington was promoted to Sergeant and reassigned to Escadrille SPA98, also flying SPAD VIIs.
Flying with SPA98 for the next three months Sergeant Ovington saw much combat but was not lucky enough to shoot down any enemy aircraft and receive confirmation. Carter Ovington’s luck for promotion continued when on 1 April 1918 Sergeant Ovington was officially accepted in the United States Air Service and commissioned a First Lieutenant. However, much to his dismay, he was ordered to the American Acceptance Park in Orly to train new flyers.
As a combat pilot who had only five months of experience Lieutenant Ovington petitioned to remain a member of Escadrille SPA98. Requesting help to remain with the French Escadrille from Lieutenant Georges Prevost, the Commander of SPA98, Lieutenant Ovington was granted permission to remain with the French Escadrille.
Newspaper reporting Ovington’s loss.
During the Chateau Thierry Campaign, which was launched by an attack from the German Army on 29 May 1918, Escadrille SPA98 was one of the few French Squadron in the sector and was forced to fly an exceptionally high amount patrols that day. Lieutenant Ovington was among the small group of aviators forced to fly multiple patrols to stop the German advance on the ground and control of the air space in the sector.
Encountering large formations of German enemy aircraft, First Lieutenant Carter L. Ovington and his fellow Escadrille pilots were involved in multiple combats that first day of the offensive. Lieutenant Ovington himself fought four separate combats on one of his many missions that day. After returning to base for fuel and rearmament, he was assigned Flight Commander of a mission to attack and destroy enemy observation balloons.
As the Flight was returning from the mission, the aviators became enveloped in blinding, low lying clouds. With his and his fellow aviators’ vision severely limited, Sergeant Leon George Hoor of his flight, came out of a blinding cloud bank and collided with Ovington’s aircraft. Both men and their SPAD VIIs fell from 1800 meters, just under 6,000 feet high, in the region of the village Lagery in the Marne Department, north of Chateau Thierry.
First Lieutenant Ovington’s mother, Georgia M. Ovington, standing in front of the memorial granite bench she had made and placed near the village of Lagery to honor her son.
Both Sergeant Hoor’s body and Lieutenant Ovington’s remains have never been found despite the heroic efforts of the French government and the United States Army Graves Registration Service to locate the two unfortunate and brave fliers. In honor of his service to France, the French government awarded Lieutenant Ovington the Croix de Guerre, with Palm for his leadership and sacrifice on May 29, 1918.
His mother, Georgia M. Ovington who was still living in Paris during the war, and so became the Secretary of the Lafayette Flying Corps after her son’s death. Her desire was to pay honor to her son’s memory and work to help authorities to locate her son’s remains. She never found her son. After the War, she made several trips to the village of Lagery. Eventually she had a memorial granite bench made and placed near the village of Lagery to honor her son.
First Lieutenant Ovington’s Legion d’ Honneur plaque
In 1928, France posthumously awarded First Lieutenant Carter L. Ovington the honor of being named a Chevalier de la (a Knight of the) Legion d’ Honneur in appreciation for his service and sacrifice defending France during the war.
His name is one of the 1060 listed on the chapel wall at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in Belleau, France under the heading “THE NAMES RECORDED ON THESE WALLS ARE THOSE OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT IN THIS REGION AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES.”
The name of Sergeant Carter L. Ovington (the highest rank he held in the French Army) is one of those honored on the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial located at the Military Cemetery in Marnes-la-Coquette, France.
Would you like to be involved with solving the case of First Lieutenant Carter Landram Ovington, and all the other Americans still in MIA status from WWI? You can! Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to our non-profit organization today, and help us bring them home! Help us do the best job possible and give today, with our thanks. Remember: A man is only missing if he is forgotten.