Gerald T. Hanley, Sr. (1884-1950) is considered the founder of the Rhode Island Air National Guard. Then-1st Lt. Hanley of Battery A, Coast Artillery, in the RI state militia used his own Curtiss hydro-aeroplane to provide basic aeronautics instruction to members of his battery well before the US entry into World War I.
Early flier Harry Atwood gave Gerald and his wife an airplane ride in 1912, which hooked them on flying. Gerald went to the Curtiss factory at Hammondsport, NY and bought a flying boat in 1913. By 1915, he was an officer in the RI National Guard, using his own flying boat to bring the state’s militia into the aviation age.
Despite his flying proficiency and experience, Hanley went to France in World War I on horseback, with Battery A, Rhode Island Field Artillery, an element of the 26th “Yankee” Division. After the war he bought a surplus Navy Curtiss seaplane at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and had it shipped to the Gallaudet factory in Warwick where it was made ready for flight. The For several years the Hanley seaplane was a fixture in Narragansett Bay.