We recommend all visitors follow the CDC’s guidelines when visiting our sites.

SHSND Home > Archives > Archives Holdings > Archives & Manuscripts > Military > 10109
To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or archives@nd.gov.

OCLC WorldCat Logo

SHSND Photobook - Digitized images from State Archives

Digital Horizons

2019-2021 Blue Book Cover

Federal Depository Library Program

Chronicling America

Manuscripts by Subject - Military - #10109

Title: Richard V. Grace Papers

Dates: 1922-1955

Collection Number: 10109

Quantity: 8 feet and oversize

Abstract: Correspondence, literary manuscripts, scrapbooks, books, notes, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Papers relate to Grace's service in the world wars and his film and stunt flying career.WWI and WWII pilot, barnstormer, author, and Hollywood stuntman.

Provenance:  The State Historical Society of North Dakota acquired the Richard Virgil Grace Papers as a gift from Dr. Cyrus Grace and the State Library Commission of North Dakota in 1968 and 1972 respectively.  Gregory Camp prepared the inventory for the Richard Virgil Grace papers in December, 1985.

Property Rights:  The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights:  Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.

Access:  This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation:  Researchers are requested to cite collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Transfer:  A total of four hundred photographs, most of which document Grace's career in aviation, were transferred to the Photo Archives of the State Historical Society of North Dakota in December 1985.

Related Collection:
00120 Richard V. Grace


Richard Virgil Grace was born on January 10, 1898, in Morris, Minnesota.  As a young boy Grace moved to the Mohall, North Dakota area with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Grace, and his two brothers, Alonzo and Cyril.  It was during those years immediately after the turn of the century that the young Grace saw his first airplane at a county fair.  Enthralled with the flimsy aircraft, Grace decided then and there that aviation would be his life's work.  It was a promise that he kept with a vengeance.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, after years of self-imposed isolation, Grace got his opportunity to fly in the fledgling air force of his country.  Lt. Grace quickly advanced as a fighter and bomber pilot.  In 1918, the 20 year old pilot flew over the German island fortress of Helgoland and dropped three one hundred pound bombs from his Navy aircraft.  His daring and skill won him fame and, unfortunately, a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in the line of duty.  His experience over France, Belgium, and Germany proved to be beneficial upon his return to the United States and civilian life. During the 1920s and 1930s, Richard Grace was an unmatched stunt man and crash pilot for Hollywood during the movie industry's "Golden Age."  Walking on the wings of aircraft in flight, jumping from one plane to another, or crashing into the ground at between 90 and 110 mph was all in a day's work for Grace.  During one stunt on a plane's wing, Grace's clothes were torn from his body by the winds produced by the 100 mph air speed.  Grace completed the scene naked and gave his producers some fabulous - but unusable - film footage.  He is perhaps best known for his forty-seven crash landings for various movies between 1927 and 1940.  During that time, he broke 81 bones and suffered countless bruises and cuts.  Grace was the leader of a nine-man stunt pilot group known as the "Squadron of Death."  By the beginning of World War II, Grace alone survived the many crashes.  A prolific writer, this courageous pilot authored many articles and books dealing with his own experiences as well as fictionalized stories about flying.  For Grace, however, the advent of World War II was another opportunity to fly military aircraft in an open conflict with the Luftwaffe.  Despite his age, 46, the barn-storming stunt flyer was given an active commission as captain in the United States Army Air Corps.

As a pilot of one of the legendary B-17 "Flying Fortress," Grace was sent to England to join the U.S. Eighth Air Force (Army Air Corps) in daytime raids on Nazi Germany.  By 1944, Captain Grace made regular bombing runs over the Third Reich; in the process, he received another wound and subsequently received his second Purple Heart.  In 1945, at the war's end, Grace was the oldest pilot in the service.  He earned the nickname "Lucky" from the younger pilots for both his prewar and war experiences.  With the end of hostilities after the surrender of Germany and Japan, Grace returned home to his wife Christine, whom he had married in 1938.

The life of Captain, later Major, Grace was one filled with excitement and action.  Since he first saw an airplane in flight as a boy, to his death-defying antics as stunt pilot, Grace pushed his profession to its limits and beyond.  A prolific writer, the aviator put to paper his experiences as a fighter in both war and peacetime. His success in publishing his stories mirrored his career in the cockpit.  Major Richard V. Grace died in June, 1965, at the age of 67.  His wife Christine died in 1955; they had no children.  Grace was survived by two brothers, Dr. Alonzo Grace of the University of Illinois, and Dr. Cyril Grace of Northwestern State College of  Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Dr. Grace was a former president of Mayville State College, Mayville, North Dakota.

Fargo Forum, June 26, 1965, page 8
Richard V. Grace Papers


The Richard V. Grace Papers date from approximately 1922 until 1947 and measure five feet.  The papers have been divided into four series: manuscripts (no date), correspondence, 1937-1947; military records, 1940-1945; and published material, 1928-1950.

The manuscript series is the first and largest of the five in this collection, occupying two and one-quarter feet.  The manuscripts are undated, but are believed to be from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.  There are first drafts, hand-written, as well as typed and carbon-copy of articles and books which were submitted for publication.  The vast majority of the manuscripts herein contained are titled and identified; a couple, however, are not and are in files marked "unidentified" or "unfinished."  This series documents events in Grace's life, as well as showcasing his writing ability.

Series II, which is made up of correspondence dating from 1937 to 1947, is almost completely related to Grace's writings.  For instance, letters from publishers and editors abound, reminding the author about deadlines, publication dates, and revisions to be completed.  Personal correspondence is virtually non-existent.  The significance of this small series, approximately one-half cubic foot, is in its revelation of the mechanics of getting a piece published as well as the effect of Grace's name and fame in helping him to that end.

Series III, dating 1940 to 1945, occupies approximately one-quarter foot, deals with Grace's military records during World War II.  These records document the subject's health, availability for overseas duty, training records and notebooks, orders, and active duty assignments.  Although small, this series records the application and acceptance of Grace into the United States Army Air Corps - at the age of 46.  Grace was the oldest pilot in the American Armed Forces in World War II.

Series IV, published materials, occupied one foot and dates from 1928 to 1961.  This series contains newspaper clippings, a scrapbook (not boxed and filed), movie magazines, family magazines, and aviation journals which contain either material written by Grace, or about him.  This series gives an impressive account of the high degree of respect commanded by Grace among his peers.

Four hundred photographs were transferred to the Photo Archives.  They include many promotional pictures from Paramount dealing with movies in which Grace appeared.  The majority of the photos, however, were of World War I era Europe.  Virtually all of them contain some aspect of aviation and Grace's interest therein.  Some of them were taken from the cockpit, and detail some beautiful, but unidentified, French coastal towns and countryside.


Series I:     Manuscripts, ca. 1928-1950s

Box 1:
1 "Blue Fog" manuscript, handwritten, n.d.
2 "Blue Fog" manuscript, typed, n.d.
3 "Cathedral of Vice," hardbound, typed manuscript, n.d.
4 Dick Grace article, "Crash and Walk Away From It," typed, n.d.
5 "Criminal Opportunity," typed manuscript, n.d.
6 "Desert Winds," typed manuscript, 1932-1933
7 Devastation," typed manuscript, 1932-1933
8 "Devil's Squadron," screenplay by Howard J. Green, n.d.
9 "Eagles of Mexico," First draft typed manuscript, n.d.
10 "Early Birds of the North," typed manuscript
11 "Flight Surgeon," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
12 "For the National Defense," typed manuscript, n.d.
13 "For the National Defense," typed manuscript, n.d.
14 "Glorious Coward," copy 1, n.d.
15 "Glorious Coward," copy 2, n.d.
16 "Grand Jury of the Air," typed manuscript, n.d.
17 "Lost Squadron," typed manuscript, n.d.
18 "Miles Per Hour," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
19 "Mirage," typed manuscript, n.d.
20 "The Real Lost Squadron," typed and handwritten manuscript, n.d.
21 "Birds of a Feather," typed and handwritten manuscript, n.d.
22 "Atlantic Flight," typed and handwritten manuscript, n.d.
23 "This Age is Coming to No Good," typed manuscript, n.d.
24 "Arctic Wings," typed manuscript, n.d.

Box 2:
1 Notes and Drafts of "Arctic Wings," n.d.
2 "Army Wings," typed manuscript, n.d.
3 "Army Wings," typed and handwritten manuscripts, n.d.
4 "Army Wings," typed and handwritten manuscripts, n.d.
5 "Return Engagement," handwritten manuscript, n.d., pages 1-114
6 "Return Engagement," handwritten manuscript, n.d., pages 115-279
7 "Return Engagement," handwritten manuscript, n.d., pages 280-440
8 "Return Engagement," handwritten manuscript, n.d., pages 441-593
9 "Return Engagement," handwritten manuscript, n.d., pages 594-711
10 "Sabotaged Wings," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
11 "The Speed Demon," typed and handwritten manuscript, n.d.
12 Draft of "Squadron of Death," n.d.
13 "Squadron of Death," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
14 "Pinfeathers," typed and handwritten manuscript, n.d.
15 "The Swede Tooth," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
16 "Tall Timber," typed manuscript, n.d.
17 "To Air Is Human," typed manuscript, n.d.
18 "Traitor Pilot," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
19 "Transportation," Part I, typed manuscript, n.d.
20 "Transportation," Part II, typed manuscript, n.d.
21 "Transportation" - Parts I and II, typed manuscript, n.d.
22 "Transportation" - Part II, (portions), handwritten copy, n.d.
23 "Transportation" - Part I, (portions), handwritten copy, n.d.
24 "Via Air Mail," typed manuscript, n.d.
25 "Visibility Unlimited," Formerly "Crash Pilot," typed manuscript, n.d.
26 "Visibility Unlimited," n.d.
27 "Walk Away From It," typed manuscript, n.d.
28 "Wings of the North," 2 copies, typed manuscript, n.d.
29 "Wings of the North," 1 copy, typed manuscript, n.d.
30 "Wings of the North," handwritten copy, n.d.
31 "The Yellow Jacket and the Wasp," typed manuscript, n.d.
32 "Wings for Aurora," typed manuscript, n.d.
33 Unnamed manuscript, n.d.

Box 3:
1 "Heaven Above," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
2 "Million Air Cargo," handwritten manuscript, n.d.
3 "Snow Birds," first draft handwritten manuscript, n.d.
4 Typed manuscript, unknown title, n.d.
5 Typed manuscript, unknown title, n.d.
6 Typed manuscript, unknown title, n.d.
7 "Flight Drag," typed manuscript, n.d.
8 Unidentified Manuscript, typed, n.d.
9 Unidentified Manuscript, typed, n.d.
10 Unidentified Manuscript, handwritten, n.d.
11 "Hot Ice," typed manuscript, n.d.
12 "Visibility Unlimited," First Proof (printed), n.d. (Reader' Digest condensed books version)

Series II:    Correspondence, 1937-1947

13 Letters from George Putnam, 1935-1937
14 Correspondence to and from publishers, 1938-1940, Miscellaneous.
15 Letters from Nannine Joseph, 1940-1942
16 Letters from Nannine Joseph, 1946-1947

Series III:   Military Records files, 1940-1945

17 Captain Richard V. Grace Correspondence concerning overseas duty and Safety Board
18 Notebook, Flight training records, 1940s
19 General Service Records, 1940s
20 Surgeon General Correspondence, certification for overseas duty, 1943-1944
21 Personal papers and orders for European Theatre of Operations, 1944
22 Flight Records, 1945

Series IV:    Published Materials

23 Library Magazine copies, October, 1931- April, 1932
24 Redbook, February, 1937
25 Popular Aviation, October and November, 1930; Literary Digest, December 21, 1929; Modern Mechanics, July, 1930
26 American Boy, January, July, 1930- November, 1931
27 Classics, October, 1929, Screenplay Secrets, July, 1930; Motion Picture Classic, January, 1929; Saturday Evening Post, April 6, 1929; The Magazine of Light, October, 1930

Certificate of appreciation for Grace's service in the U.S. Air Force during World War I and World War II, American legion, September 15, 1955

Box 4:
1 Reader's Digest Condensed Books, n.d.
2 Reader's Digest Condensed Books, 1950
3 Reader's Digest Det Bastas Bokual, German, 1961
4 Reader's Digest, Biblioteca de Selecones, Portugese
5 Reader's Digest, Selezione del Libra, n.d.
6 L'Escadrille de la Mort, (Squadron of Death), French, n.d.
7 Squadron of Death, 1929
8 Newspaper clippings, 1936-1950

612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Get Directions

State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or archives@nd.gov.
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.

Contact Us:
phone: 701.328.2666
email: history@nd.gov

Social Media:
See all social media accounts