Even before America entered the fight, a famous photographer captured Embry-Riddle’s vital contribution to World War II airpower. Charles Clyde Ebbets documented Royal Air Force pilot training at Carlstrom Field in Arcadia, Florida.
Today, Ebbets is most celebrated for Lunch Atop a Skyscraper (1932), depicting 11 workers eating lunch on a beam 700 feet above the Manhattan skyline. When Time magazine ranked the 100 most influential photos of all time, his photo was their fourth pick.
As a licensed pilot who knew Florida well, Ebbets was the perfect choice to serve as an attaché to the Army Air Corps Special Services. Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold requested that Ebbets photograph the development of the Royal Air Force training bases that Riddle Aeronautical Institute established in Arcadia, Florida. This first primary pilot training base opened at Carlstrom Field in March 1941. John Paul Riddle directed the construction of the new facility adjacent to an abandoned World War I installation.
In covering the training and daily life of the cadets, the photos Ebbets provided had promotional and documentary value, encouraging support for the war effort. His assignments also included confidential aerial photography.
After the war, Ebbets lived in Miami, not far from his old friend John Paul Riddle. He died at 72 in 1978. However, through his images, we can we continue to see the part we played on the world stage at a decisive moment.
View photos of Florida’s Carlstrom field in the Embry-Riddle University Archives.