Biplane fighter aces

United States of America

Jr Frank Glasgow Tinker

14 July 1909 - 13 June 1939

Tinker was born on 14 July 1909 in Kaplan, Louisiana.

In his early years his family moved to DeWitt, Arkansas.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1926 and was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1929.

He graduated with the class of 1933, earning a B.S. degree in business.
Because of the Great Depression, he could not be commissioned right away and Tinker along with many of his classmates enlisted in the Army Air Corps as flying cadets and was assigned to Randolph Field, Texas for flight training.

On 29 May 1934, he was finally commissioned to a Navy Ensign.

He then received flight training at Pensacola, Florida.

With the flight training behind him, Tinker drew an assignment to the cruiser USS San Francisco to fly reconnaissance floatplanes.

His naval career ended when he got into several brawls. The Navy dissolved his commission in 1935 and he was out on the street. Tinker then signed up as a Third Mate on a Standard Oil Tanker working in the Gulf of Mexico.

He volunteered for service in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and used the nom de guerre Francisco Gómez Trejo.

By February 1937, capitán Ramón Puparelli Francia was well enough (he had been wounded in combat on 21 October 1936) to be given command of the first two Spanish I-15 escuadrillas. The short-lived grupo was named Grupo de Caza No 16 but both escuadrillas were to operate virtually independently.
Andrés García La Calle was put in command of the 1a Escuadrilla. Initially it comprised three elements. The 1a Patrulla consisted of La Calle, José Calderón, Ramón Castañeda di Campo and Ben Leider, the 2a Patrulla comprised of Jim Allison, Tinker, Harold Dahl and José ‘Chang’ Sellés and the 3a Patrulla was made up of Luis Bercial, Esteban Ortiz, José Riverola Grúas and Gerardo Gil Sánchez (who joined the unit on 10 February).
Capitán Roberto Alonso Santamaría took command of the new second Spanish I-15 escuadrilla, the 2a Escuadrilla, which was established at Los Alcázares and San Javier. From there they moved to El Soto airfield, again on the Madrid front. The new escuadrilla comprised tenientes Rafael Robledano Ruiz, Juan Comas Borrás (posted in late February), Antonio Blanch Latorre, Ricardo Rubio Gómez, Mariano Palacios Menéndez, Ángel Álvarez Pacheco, Justo García Esteban and Hipólito Barbeito Ramos, sargentos Manuel García Gascón, Alfonso Calvo Ortiz, Cándido Palomar Agraz and Rafael Magriña Vidal and Uruguayan teniente Luis Tuya.

On 7 February, the 1a Escuadrilla moved to the old Hispano-Suiza aerodrome in Guadalajara. They began operations at El Jarama, where their activities were outstanding, but their losses heavy; José Calderón, Ben Leider and Luis Bercial were killed, while Jim Allison and Harold Dahl were shot down but survived.


Back row from left: Tinker, mechanic, José Riverola Grúas, Gil, Castenada, Captain Andrés García La Calle, Velasco.
Front row from left: Bastido, Harold Dahl, Pepito ’Chang’ Sellés, Lecha.

Tinker was shot down on 16 February.

On 14 March, Tinker took off in an I-15 (CA-056) from Guadalajara. During the two-hour mission he claimed one CR.32 before landing at Valencia.

On 20 March, the 1a Escuadrilla (”Escuadrilla La Calle”) took part in the last aerial combat during the battle of Guadaljara. They took off in four patrols, led by Andrés García La Calle, Harold Dahl, Tinker (CA-056) and the Guatemalan pilot Miguel García Granados, and were soon involved with three bombers and 20 Fiats. Granados patrol was jumped by the Fiats, which had been patrolling in a higher altitude, and in the first hail of bullets Granados was shot down. Tinker gained his second victory (M. Scala KIA?), and from the two squadrons of fighters taking part five Fiats were destroyed.
The Italians reported that a patrol of four Fiat fighters under the command of Capitano Mario Viola had taken off from El Burgo de Osma in the afternoon and subsequently bounced two I-15s flying at low altitude in the vicinity of Almadrones. Sergente Maggiore Brunetto di Montegnacco shot one of the aircraft down in flames in spite of his opponent’s violent evasive action, the pilot taking to his parachute and being captured. Montegnacco’s victim was Miguel Garcia Granados, who suffered burns to his face and one hand and he was captured (he later returned in a prison exchange).
Granados (1896-1968) was a former Colonel in the Guatemalan Air Force who had done a famous goodwill flight in 1929 from Washington DC to Guatemala. He had previously commanded the Guatemalan air force, with the rank of colonel, between 1930 and 1933. He had also served with the Paraguayan Air Force in the Gran Chaco War.

While patrolling the Teruel front on 17 April, Tinker (CA-058) claimed a He 51 from the Condor Legion.
It seems that no Condor Legion pilot was killed on this day.

On 3 May, he was transferred to the 1. Escuadrilla de Moscas led by the Russian Ivan Lakeev and equipped with Polikarpov I-16s.

He claimed a CR.32 while flying bomber escort over Segovia on 2 June.

On 16 June he claimed another CR.32 over the Huesca area.

On 13 July Tinker became the first American to destroy a Bf 109 when he claimed one in the Madrid area.

His second Bf 109 was claimed on 17 July during an escort mission in the Madrid area.

On 18 July he claimed his last victory when he claimed a CR.32 while escorting a squadron of R-5 bombers in the Madrid area.

He flew his last missions on 29 July.
Between 7 January and 29 July, he flew a total of 191 hours and 20 minutes.

Tinker ended the Spanish Civil War with 3 biplane victories and a total of 8.

He was paid compensation totalling $18,500 for his exploits in Spain, and returned home in late August.

When he returned to the US he wrote a book about his time in Spain - Some Still Live, An Airman’s Adventures in the Spanish War (Lovat Dickson 1938) and other articles for various magazines and newspapers.

Depressed about leaving Spain (he wanted to go back and fight once again for the Republic), his life slowly went down hill.
On 5 June 1939, Tinker checked into the Hotel Ben McGhee in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On 13 June in a drunken haze, he shot himself. A letter of acceptance from the Chinese Air Force sent by Claire Chennault was found next to his body.
Tinker was buried in DeWitt.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1937                
1 14/03/37   1 CR.32 Destroyed I-15 CA-056 Guadalajara area 1a/16
2 20/03/37 afternoon 1 CR.32 (a) Destroyed I-15 CA-056 Guadalajara area 1a/16
3 17/04/37   1 He 51 Destroyed I-15 CA-058 Teruel area 1a/16
4 02/06/37   1 CR.32 Destroyed I-16 CM-070 Segovia Escuadrilla Lakeev
5 16/06/37   1 CR.32 Destroyed I-16 CM-023 Huesca area Escuadrilla Lakeev
6 13/07/37   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-16 CM-023 Madrid area Escuadrilla Lakeev
7 17/07/37   1 Bf 109 Destroyed I-16 CM-023 Madrid area Escuadrilla Lakeev
8 18/07/37   1 CR.32 Destroyed I-16 CM-023 Madrid area Escuadrilla Lakeev

Biplane victories: 3 destroyed.
TOTAL: 8 destroyed.
(a) M. Scala KIA?

Sources:
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Flyers of Fortune
Några leva än - F. G. Tinker, 1939 T. V. Scheutz Bokförlag AB, Stockholm
Polikarpov Fighters in action Pt. 1 - Hans-Heiri Stapfer, 1995 Squadron/Signal Publications, Carrollton, ISBN 0-89747-343-4
Polikarpov I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces - Mikhail Maslov, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-981-2
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
Stars & Bars - Frank Olynyk, 1995 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-17-5
Additional information kindly provided by Simon Buckley and Mikhail Zhirokhov.




Last modified 17 October 2013