Charles Gordon Greenhalgh

Charles Gordon Greenhalgh

Charles Gordon Greenhalgh (1895-1977) was born into a Pawtucket manufacturing family. Greenhalgh lived on Walcott Street and attended Pawtucket public schools before graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1914. He attended Yale University for three years.

In 1916 the Yale Aeronautical Club was formed, and while there is no evidence young Charles ever joined it, he was doubtlessly influenced by it. The New York press dubbed them the “Millionaires’ Unit.”

Early in 1917, Greenhalgh and a number of Yale classmates left school to fight with the Allies, prior to US involvement. He sailed for France after joining the American Field Service, which supplied drivers for the American ambulances used to carry the wounded French soldiers back from the front. The enlistment period was for six months and the drivers were part of the French Foreign Legion. After completing that tour, he joined the US Army in Paris in October, 1917, and signed up for aviation training. He went up for his flight the next day. After about five hours of dual controls, he flew solo for 25 hours, earning his French Brevet (license).

After completing advanced and gunnery training, he was sent in August, 1918 to the 28th Pursuit Squadron assembling at St. Mihiel. The nucleus of this group was the old Lafayette Escadrille which had been taken over from the French by the American forces. Their first missions were to try and slow the German retreat from the St. Mihiel salient. The 28th went on to the Argonne sector “which was very active, with probably the best German squadrons on the other side of the line and our losses became high.” He was still in this area when the war ended.

Greenhalgh returned to the family mill business and was active in local politics during the FDR administration. He served as a Director of RI Hospital Trust Co. for many years. When the mills were sold in 1960 he managed investments and became known as a major philanthropist, supporting hundreds of charities.

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