Description: The black and white photograph measures 3 9/16″ high and is11 7/8″ wide.
History: On Memorial Day, May 30, 1928, in a well-attended ceremony, Wilmington’s local airport was named after World War I combatant, Arthur Bluethenthal (1891-1918). Arthur was the first Wilmingtonian to die in combat during the First World War.
A marker was dedicated to Arthur Bluethenthal’s memory, and the county airfield was renamed Bluethenthal Airfield. Military bands played music, planes from Fort Bragg and other air stations flew over the field, and religious leaders and politicians spoke. Arthur’s little nephew and namesake, Arthur Bluethentha (1923-, was supposed to unveil the marker, but he seems to have become too nervous to perform the ceremony, and the duty fell to his older brother, Herbert (1917-2009).
In 1990, Arthur Bluethenthal donated this photograph of the occasion to the Museum. He also donated hundreds of photos of, and taken b y, the first Arthur Bluethenthal, as well as medals, diplomas, telegrams, and other materials relating to Mr. Bluethenthal’s life and military service.
Arthur Bluethenthal was born in Wilmington in 1891. His parents, Leopold and Johanna came to the United States from Germany after the Civil War. Leopold arrived in 1877 and worked for his uncle’s wholesale dry goods business. Johanna came in 1887. The couple married in 1889. The Bluethenthal family prospered. They lived on Dock Street, had a cottage at Wrightsville Beach and, at the time of the war, had three living children: Herbert, Elsa, and Arthur.
Arthur Bluethenthal was the younger son. He received his early education in Wilmington, and then attended the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy between 1907 and 1909. In 1913, Arthur graduated from Princeton University, where he had been a football star. After graduating, Bluethenthal went to work for his father’s business, and coached football at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at his alma mater, Princeton.
In 1916, after World War had raged in Europe for two years, Arthur joined the American Field Service in France where he became a member of the ambulance service. He later joined the French Foreign Legion and became an aviator. His plane was shot down near Maignelay, about fifty miles north of Paris, on June 5, 1918.
Arthur was a decorated war hero before his death, and the French government posthumously awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm on June 9, 1918. Bluethenthal was buried in Europe, and then in the early 1920s, his body was re-interred at Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery.