Hickam honors historic aviators

  • Published
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs

A ceremony was held April 26, 2023, at the 15th Wing Headquarter building on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to rededicate two street signs and continue honoring the legacy of the aviators they are named after.

A formation of DH-4A aircraft fly in formation over Ford Island’s Luke Field. As one of the pilots attempts a 2000-foot climb, they suddenly sputter into a violent tailspin. Against all odds, the pilot regains control just 300 feet above the ground before tragically entering a second tailspin, causing the gasoline tank to explode and engulf the aircraft in flames before crashing at Waipio Peninsula, Hawaii.

This catastrophic accident occurred October 26, 1921, claiming the lives of Army Air Service pilots 1st Lt. Ulric Louis Bouquet and Staff Sgt. Vernon E. Vickers. Bouquet commissioned as a 1st Lt. in field artillery in November of 1917, followed by the completion of aerial observer school. Because of his fascination with aviation, Bouquet pursued the ambitious goal of earning his wings and becoming a rated pilot, which he accomplished in October of 1919.

Bouquet and his wife, Nellie, welcomed their first child, Ulric Louis Bouquet, just three months before he was killed in the aircraft accident. Bouquet was given full military honors and laid to rest in his hometown cemetery of Hackensack, New Jersey.

“Knowing that a street was dedicated in honor of my grandfather, a man my father and I never had the privilege of getting to know personally, makes me feel so honored and proud of his military bravery and service to our country,” said Halley Patrick, Lt Ulric Bouquet’s granddaughter.

Tragedy struck again when 2nd Lt. Robert Lewis Bedle, Jr., a United States Army Air Corps reserve pilot, and his passenger, were killed in an A-12 aircraft crash in Kalihi Valley, Hawaii, June 17, 1941. Bedle Jr. and his passenger, Air Cadet Navigator Ralph Merkl, were squadron-mates, both assigned to the 14th Bombardment Squadron at Hickam Field, Hawaii.

Bedle was born September 25, 1919, in Augusta, Georgia. After completing high school, he went on to graduate from the Citadel Military College in 1940 where he was selected for flying cadet school by the Army Air Corps Board. Bedle earned his flying wings and was given orders to the 14th Bombardment Squadron in January of 1941. His father, Robert Bedle Sr., relocated to Hawaii to be closer to him in February of 1941 and spent time with him there until his son’s death in June.

His father was comforted and supported by the men in his son's squadron before departing for the mainland to bury his son. Bedle received full military honors and is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Jessie Higa, a local volunteer historian at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, spent countless hours gathering this background information on these local aviators to mend a discrepancy made decades ago.

“I’m relieved and grateful,” said Higa. “Now a major boulevard and street on Hickam Field reflects the correct spelling of both Lt. Bouquet and Lt. Bedle. In researching these aviators, I learned more about their lives and their families and military peers who were left to grieve. Once you know their story by heart and connect with their descendants, correcting the spelling just had to happen.”

Street signs are often named after individuals who had a large impact on the base or local area. According to Higa, sometime between June 1941 and June 1945, a street was dedicated posthumously in Honor of 2nd Lt Bedle near the Hickam Field Office’s Club. Today’s ceremony continues honoring these aviators by fixing the appropriate spelling of their names on the street signs.

“Remembering and honoring those who came before us is incredibly important,” said Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander. “These streets are named for those who came before us and gave their lives; the aviators who help us learn and become the Air Force we are today.”