In 1918, William Langhorne Bond had shipped out to France as an enlisted man in the half-northern, half-southern Blue & Gray 29th Division. He returned in 1919 a commissioned officer, demobilized, and went back to work as a construction foreman for Langhorne & Langhorne construction, a heavy construction concern on his mother’s side of the family that built tunnels, roads, railroads, and bridges throughout the hills and coalfields of Appalachia. It was good, steady work, but by the middle 1920s, it had lost its appeal, and inspired by Lindbergh’s Atlantic crossing in 1927, Bond decided to seek out a job in what was the most exciting, cutting edge technology industry of the day – aviation.
Bond caught on with Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company in the summer of 1929, and a few weeks later, Curtiss merged with Wright Aeronautics and Keystone Aircraft, giving Bond a job in what had become America’s largest aviation company. Bond built a factory for Curtiss-Wright outside Baltimore, but the stock market crash and recession that dogged the U.S. economy in 1929-1930 hit Curtiss-Wright particularly hard and the factory sat idle. Well aware that no job could be more insecure than that of a man in charge of an idle factory, in early 1931, Bond accepted Curtiss-Wright’s invitation to go to China and serve as the Operations Manager of the China National Aviation Corporation, a then-foundering airline that Curtiss-Wright had formed in 1929 in partnership with China’s fledgling Nationalist Government.
An extraordinarily hardworking, dedicated, loyal man, William Langhorne Bond would remain an integral part of the airline’s leadership until its 1949 demise.
He’s the main character in my book, China’s Wings.