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Alfred Willard Desertion Charges

San Francisco Chronicle 20 Mar 1918, p. 1



Meteoric Career of S.F. Flier to End in Trial This Week at Camp Kearny


Alfred J. Willard Escapes Prison and Joins Aviation Corps in East


After learning to fly in Canada and receiving a commission of Captain in the aviation corps of the United States Army, Alfred J. Willard, son of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Willard of 216 Spruce street, was arrested in Washington two weeks ago on a charge of deserting the California National Guard as a private a year ago and will face court-martial at Camp Kearny this week.


Meager details of the meteoric career that started when Willard is said to have escaped military authorities at Fort Mason and did not end even when an acquaintance exposed him at an aviation camp at Charleston, S.C., as a man accused of deserting the 2d California Infantry about the time war was declared became known yesterday.


There gaps in Willard’s adventures in the United States and Canada that cannot be filled even by his parents. Mrs. Willard said yesterday afternoon she did not hear from her only son from the time he left Fort Mason to the day she received word that he had been commissioned as a Captain in the Signal Reserve Corps. And that was eight months.


Willard Escapes While Army Captive


Last April Willard was a private in the machine gun company of the Second California Infantry. He was a military prisoner at Fort Mason on a minor charge, according to the authorities, and escaped. Later his organization was merged with the 159th United States Infantry, now stationed at Camp Kearny.


Willard went to Toronto and learned to fly as a cadet in the Royal Flying Corps., it is said he became exceptionally expert, and last fall he crossed into the United States, presented himself as an applicant for a commission in the aviation corps.


According to authorities, Willard made good at once. He was sent to Charleston and attached to an aero squadron. He made many successful flights, and then one day hw as recognized as the man accused of deserting the California regiment.


Willard was arrested in Jacksonville, Fla. He escaped again. He went to Washington and there was placed in a military prison. From Washington the young officer was sent under guard to Camp Kearny.


Mother Learns About Trouble From Friend


Mrs. Willard returned a few days ago from Washington. She said yesterday she visited her son in the capitol. 


“But I don’t know if the charges are true or false,” she said. “We didn’t hear from Alfred for months after he left San Francisco. Then one day he wrote that he had been commissioned a Captain in the aviation corps. We did not known of his trouble until a friend in the East told us about it.


“I cannot remember if he left San Francisco before or after war was declared., it has been so long ago. I may go to Camp Kearny to see if I can help him, but I don’t know what I could do.”


Otto Irving Wise, Willard’s attorney, refused to discuss the case yesterday.


A service flag hangs in the window of the Willard home. It has one star. Alfred J. Willard is the only son. He is a nephew of Herbert Law, the capitalist.


Willard is 25 years old. 



16 Apr 1918, San Francisco Chronicle, p. 10


Captain Willard, Army Flier, Held On Insanity Charge

Father Swears to Warrant Charging Son With Irresponsibility


Captain Alfred J. Willard, a young Army aviator, was held at the Detention Hospital yesterday on an insanity warrant sworn to by his father, Maurice Willard, of 216 Spruce street, who charged that his son was morally irresponsible.


Young Willard was arrested in Jacksonville, Fla., last month on a charge of desertion following alleged violations of military regulations. He was brought here from Camp Kearny yesterday.


Willard enlisted in the Army as a private a year ago, and was detailed to Camp Kearny. He donned a Captain’s uniform one day, was placed in the guardhouse and escaped. His father petitioned the Superior Court to declare young Willard incompetent, but found he was out of the jurisdiction of the court.


Later it was learned that he had joined the Canadian Royal Flying Corps at Toronto, and later still he returned from Canada and was commissioned a Captain in the U.S. Army. It is said that the records show he was commissioned on an application based on fraudulent records and that he was a deserter. These charges are still pending against young Willard, to be tried before a military court-martial at Camp Kearny.


Willard’s case will be called before the Insanity Commissioners here.



30 Apr 1918, San Francisco Chronicle, p. 11


Willard to Go Before Lunacy Commission


Captain Alfred J. Willard, San Francisco aviator, whose escapades in the United States and Canadian armies extend from Toronto and Jacksonville, Fla., to Camp Kearny, will have a hearing before a lunacy commission in Judge John J. Van Nostrand’s court on Thursday. Willard is held at the Detention Hospital, where he was taken April 15 on complaint of his father, Maurice Willard, 216 Spruce street. The young aviator has been under observation at the hospital since his confinement there.



3 May 1918, San Francisco Chronicle, p. 3



Testimony of Friends and Relatives Fails to Save Alfred J. Willard


Declared sane yesterday by Superior Judge J. J. Van Nostrand, Captain Alfred J. Willard, U.S.A., who confessed he forged the paper on which he obtained his commission in the Army, is to be turned over to the military authorities and faces court-martial on a charge of desertion. 


Though friends and relatives testified that they believed Willard to be insane and dangerous to be at large, Dr. D. D. Lustig and Dr. Arthur A. Beardsley, who have had Willard under observation at the Detention Hospital since April 15, declared they could not find him insane.


“Willard is a moral defective,” said Dr. Lustig. “He is the type that has been classified as morally insane. He is a liar and tells impossible lies, but he knows the difference between right and wrong and all the things he has done have been done for his own advancement and profit. A State hospital is not the place for Willard. A jail is the only place we have for such cases.”


Willard testified in court that he entered the Army as a private in March 1917, impersonated an officer at Camp Kearny and was arrested for being absent without leave. He escaped from a working party, he said, and fled Canada, where he joined the royal flying corps.  A few weeks later, he testified, he went to New York.


From an English Captain and a French Captain whom he met there, said his attorney, Otto Irving Wise, he stole papers from which he forged a recommendation that got him a commission as Captain in the United State Army aviation corps. He was arrested at Jacksonville, Fla., in March 1918.


His relatives and friends made a strong effort to have him declared insane rather than see him face an Army court-martial.


Among those who testified that they believed Willard to be insane were Rabbi Martin A. Meyer, Dr. Sanford Blum, Edward W. Cahill, Louis Bloch, Attorney Joseph Rothschild and Emile S. Falk.



5 May 1918, San Francisco Chronicle, p. 10


Stay of Execution Obtained by Willard


Attorneys for Captain Alfred J. Willard, U.S.A. aviation corps, who was declared sane Thursday by Judge John J. Van Norstrand, yesterday secured a stay of execution for five days of the order turning Willard over to the Army authorities. This means that Willard will demand a trial by jury to determine whether he is sane. Should he be found insane by a jury, it would assist him in his fight to keep from facing a court-martial on a charge of deserting from the Army. Willard is still at the Detention Hospital, where he was placed April 15. 

Owner/SourceSan Francisco Chronicle
Linked toEmma LOUPE; Maurice WILLARD; Alfred J. "Donald" WILLARD DUNCAN

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