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John D. Ledford Collection

Identifier: L112-86

Scope and Content

This collection contains Naval Aviation and Naval Aviation Reserves documentation; Naval orders; maps; schedules; handwritten notes; draft for a letter to Popular Science Magazine; a pilot’s flight logbook; student flight record; promotion forms; officer qualifications questionnaires; officer assessment qualifications; active duty extension applications; directions to separate; maneuvers checklist; aviation cadet manual; Naval Aviation academy course descriptions, syllabus, and study materials; clippings and photographs that were created and/or collected by John D. Ledford during his military service in Naval Aviation. The John D. Ledford Collection is housed in four boxes of various sizes, totaling 3.92 linear feet.

The collection arrived in fair condition and was initially processed with only a container list as description. Due to a change of the content management system, further description proved to be necessary. After reviewing the materials, the collection was identified for additional processing. The archivist identified five series with the first series being the Personal Papers Series, which contains a hardbound, United States Naval Aviation - Aviators Flight Logbook; information on dependents, residency, a static exhibit, flights, travel, pilot, passengers and aircraft types; instructor approvals; an amended Civil Air Regulations, part 43 general operation rules; general information on FH-1 operating procedures; a photograph of map of local flying area “plate X”; landing charts; general information on aviation.

Handwritten notes describing personal matters, mechanical stats, arrival and departure times, administrative office information, course listings, 35 mm slide information, drill accountabilities, and résumé notes; a page from a publication with various information and comics, which also includes hand drawn doodles; pay vouchers with handwritten notes; list of special qualifications and skills; letter to Popular Science magazine explaining the mechanics of a blimp.

Uniform records; flight school information on correspondence courses, reserve training, and exam questions; forms for volunteer reserve, active and inactive duty, and promotions; student flight records and class grades; officer’s qualification reports; an officer data record; annual and officer qualifications questionnaires; qualifications for naval air reserve.

Military and lighter-than-air correspondence; naval information regarding drill schedules, drill requests, duty orders, daily plans and schedules, performance activity recordings, check out sheets, charge outs, training dates, and naval aviation applications; a notification for years of service; a medical clearance; leave requests; instructions to separate; discharge options.

The second series is the U.S. Naval Air Station Training School Series, which is further organized into two subseries: 1. Manuals and 2. Syllabus.

Subseries 1. contains printed naval aviation flight school manuals for subjects on Non-Rigid Airship; Routine Installation and Service Instruction; YE and YG Sector Coded Homing Radio Navigation Aid introduction; Commander Fleet Airship Wing One Air Sea Rescue Procedure; Postflight Inspection Instructions; Extracts from the Parachute School Instruction Manual; Science of Ballooning; Lifting Gases; Course Rules Examination, Annex Barer; Materials Design Construction, “K” and “L” Types; Blimp Hedron One-Detachment Fifteen; Strategy, Tactics, and Missions; Ground Handling and Mooring: Brief History of Ground Handling; Airship Maintenance and Dock Routine; Aerostatics; Non-Rigid Airmanship, Photography; Flight Officer’s Order #2-44; Daytime Flights Traffic Rules Training Squadron; Mixture Control Information Sheet; Naval Airship Reserve Training Unit (NARTU); Takeoff and Landing.

Subseries 2. contains printed naval aviation syllabus information for the Sociology of War, Aerology; Instrument; and Link Trainer for Lighter-Than-Air.

The third series is the Publications Series, which contains various clippings and excerpts from newspapers and magazines. These clippings depict photographic images, artist renderings, and articles about the use of airships; post World War II airships; naval aviation; naval aviation history; Air-Sea rescue ships; blimps; dirigibles; lighter-than-air; dirigible wrecks, accidents, and rescues; articles on the mechanics of dirigibles and naval aviation; clipping images of various WWII airplanes and float planes; a clipping image of a 1930s biplane; clippings where Lt. John D. Ledford is mentioned and pictured; a clipping of commissioned “Liberty” sculpture; a photocopied article on the lives of knights; a half page clipping from the Chicago Daily News dated May 14, 1959; a single newspaper page from the Dallas Morning News dated January 21, 1963; a single newspaper page from the Ledger-Star newspaper, dated December 10, 1968; the Chicago Daily Tribune newspaper showcasing covers of major events dated Friday, September 1, 1939, December 8, 1941, May 6, 1942, May 9, 1942, June 6, 1942, November 8,1942, September 3, 1943, June 6, 1944, April 12, 1945, May 8, 1945, August 7, 1945, and August 15, 1945; a watch pamphlet on Pioneer Sensitive Altimeter watch.

The fourth series is the Photographs Series, which is further organized into three subseries: 1. People, 2. Naval Ships, and 3. Airships

Subseries 1. contains a contact print of various military personnel; a portrait of a man; a military person standing with a person in knight attire; an active shot of a person playing tennis; an individual practicing tightrope walking; a man in formal wear and top hat; Commander John D. Ledford in formal dress uniform, in conversation, with vice admiral of the German Navy; various military personnel with U.S. aircraft #6 on tarmac and cameras; various military personnel with U.S. aircraft #8 on tarmac and cameras; U.S. aircraft #6 taking off as camera crew film; a close up of pilot in U.S. aircraft #8 being filmed; a pilot in U.S. aircraft #8 being filmed; a close up of pilot in cockpit of aircraft; a hula dancer with a man playing the ukulele.

Subseries 2. contains the launching of U.S.S. New Jersey (BB-62), bow view, Navy yard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; U.S.S. Olympia docked in the Boston Navy Yard with various crew members aboard; view from aboard the deck of a ship.

Subseries 3. contains U.S.S. Los Angeles (ZR-2) in vertical kite on mast; a “N” type airship arriving at U.S. Naval Air Station Glynco, Georgia from Lakehurst, New Jersey; a ZMC-2 all metal clad, non-rigid airship landing east of hangar #1 with the help of crew members at U.S. Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey; a navy blimp breaking up before crash; a damaged front under view of gondola and landing gear airship; a damaged quarter portside under view of gondola and landing gear of airship; nose view of a U.S. Navy ZSG-4 airship using a Dacron fiber envelope, undergoes pressure tests in hangar at U.S. Naval Air Station, Lakehurst; close up of spindle, nose cone, and nose cone battens on airship; portside view of the gondola of a ZSG-3 79 airship after first touch down at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Lakehurst; portside view of the gondola of a ZSG-4 airship #131923; two airships, one on tarmac front portside view with crowd gathered around and one in the air portside under view; a “M" type airship XL-3 being docked in hanger #1 at Glynco, Georgia while two “K” type airships are being made ready for departure in the background; starboard side view of a U.S. Navy airship, tail number K-92.

The fifth series is the U.S.S. Olympia Series, which contains a negative of the dock area to be used by the U.S.S. Olympia; a blueprint of Chestnut Street Pier No. 4 South Delaware River, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, first deck plan; research sheets on the U.S.S. Olympia; a newsletter with ad looking for information or a model to assist as references for the U.S.S. Olympia restoration; blueprints of sections of the U.S.S. Olympia; a letter excerpt with history on the U.S.S. Olympia; a letter from Bethlehem Steel Corporation explaining they have the original plans to assist in the restoration.


  • Creation: 1895 - 1968
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1943 - 1944


Language of Materials

Collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection are open for research.

Literary Rights Statement

Permission to publish material from this collection in any form, current or future, must be obtained from the Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

Biographical Sketch

Jonathan Denton Ledford was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 21, 1921, and graduated from Oak Park High School, Oak Park, Illinois, in 1939. Ledford achieved his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in speech and acting from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, in 1948.

Before enlisting in the military, Ledford used his trade skills in ship building, lofting, pattern making, and as a mechanic while working at Henry C. Grebe & Co. Private Naval Shipping Yard in Chicago, Illinois. Ledford worked as a lofts-man and supervisor, drafting and working with pattern layouts for the YT tugboat, YMS-1 minesweeper, and SC-1 subchaser from 1941 to 1942. During Ledford’s life, he also worked for the Public Service Northern, Public Utility Gas Division in Chicago, Illinois, as a gas line mechanic and the Trinity Cement Company, Portland Manufacturing, Dallas, Texas, for fourteen years as a sales representative.

In 1943, Ledford attended flight schools at Lakehurst, New Jersey; the USN Navy Pre-Fight School, Iowa City, Iowa; and the Naval Air Station, Moffett, California. Ledford would go on to serve as a WWII Blimp Commander. Ledford piloted the lighter-than-air ZNP blimps for both Blimp Squadron 15, Naval Air Station Glynco, Georgia, from 1943 to 1944, and for Blimp Squadron 41, São Luís, Brazil, in 1944. In 1955, Ledford decided to report back to active duty, and in 1967, he requested to have his active duty extended to be a supervisor for a motion picture project.

In addition to Ledford’s military career, he was known to be an entertainer and performer. He held a membership with the Motion Picture Screen Actors Guild, and starred in cult films such as The Amazing Transparent Man (1960), Free, White and 21, (1963), Strange Compulsion (1964), The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (1964), Under Age (1964), High Yellow (1965), Attack of the Eye Creatures (1967), and Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1967).

Ledford married Ms. Suzanne Cox on April 13, 1948, although it is unclear if they remained married, or if the couple had children. However, there is documentation he had a fourteen year old dependent and one wife in 1967. Jonathan Denton Ledford passed away on May 31, 1984 in Dallas, Texas, at the age of sixty-three.


"John D. Ledford Collection," Naval Aviation Career Part I, Folder 2, Box 1, Series I, History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
"John D. Ledford Collection," Naval Aviation Career Part II, Folder 3, Box 1, Series I, History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
"IMDB," "Jonathan Ledford." [Online] 04 November 2022.


3.92 Linear Feet (One manuscript box, one half-size manuscript box, one non-standard box (11.5x15.0x3.0), one non-standard box (25.0x21.0x1.5).)


Jonathan Denton Ledford was both an actor and U.S. Naval Aviation blimp commander with a passion for lighter-than-air airships. This collection includes materials Ledford collected during his time with the U.S. Navy, such as documents related to his time in flight school, personal correspondence and history, flight log book, clippings related to lighter-than-air airships, World War II, photographs of dirigibles, naval ships, and entertainers.

Series Description

The John D. Ledford Collection is arranged in five series:

Series I. Personal Papers 0.17 linear ft. (four folders), 1943-1967.

Arranged by topic.

Series II. U.S. Naval Air Station, Dallas, Texas 0.29 linear ft. (twenty-eight folders), 1943-1948.

Arranged in two subseries: 1. Manuals and 2. Syllabus.

Subseries 1. Manuals 0.23 linear ft. (twenty-four folders), 1943-1948.

Arranged by topic.

Subseries 2. Syllabus 0.06 linear ft. (four folders), undated.

Arranged by topic.

Series III. Publications 2.12 linear ft. (one manuscript folder and one oversize folder), 1939-1968.

Arranged by topic.

Series IV. Photographs 1.32 linear ft. (three folders), 1895-1958.

Arranged in two subseries: 1. People, 2. Naval Ships, and 3. Airships.

Subseries 1. People 1.27 linear ft. (one manuscript folder and one non-standard box), undated.

Arranged by topic

Subseries 2. Naval Ships 0.01 linear ft. (one folder), 1895-1942.

Arranged by topic

Subseries 3. Airships 0.04 linear ft. (one folder), 1936-1958.

Arranged by topic.

Series V. U.S.S. Olympia 0.02 linear ft. (one folder), 1968.

Arranged by topic.

Provenance Statement

The John D. Ledford Collection was donated to the History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas, by Michael C. Bauman on 1986-12-21.

Additional Sources

Additional information about this topic can be found in the History of Aviation Archives in the following Collections:

Lighter than Air Archives

Image ID

It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission from copyright holders of materials to which this institution does not own copyright.

Images in this collection are identified by a unique number that provides information about the format, record group, collection, series, box, folder, and image numbers. Please use this number when ordering reproductions of images from this collection.

Record Group Code

01 = CAT/Air American Archives

02 = Doolittle Archives

03 = Lighter than Air Archives

04 = George H. Williams, Jr., World War I Aviation Library

05 = History of Aviation Archives (HAC)

06 = University Archives

07 = HAC Stacks

08 = WPRL Stacks

09 = Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Collection

10 = Belsterling Collection

11 = Closed Stacks

12 = Unidentified

13 = Chance Vought Archives

14 = Twirly Birds Archives

Image Format Code

P = Photograph/Postcard

S = Slide

N = Negative

T = Positive Transparency

B = Black and White

C = Color

Example: 03JDL-01-01-PB001

03 = Lighter than Air Archives

JDL = John D. Ledford Collection

01 = Box Number

01 = Folder Number

P = Photograph/Postcard

B = Black and White

001 = Image Number

Images archived in plastic image holders may also have a location code in the format: 1/TL. In this example, the number is the sheet number and the letters indicate the top left position on the sheet. Position indicators are T = top, L = left, R = right, M = middle, and B = bottom. Position indicators may be combined to describe the position on the sheet, as shown in this example.

Note to the Researcher

The materials in this collection are partially arranged and the original order was preserved where possible. The materials are in fair condition. Many of the documents showed discoloration, creasing of paper, and fragility due to acidic paper. Additionally, a few documents showed potential evidence of mold, Series I., Box 1, Folder 1 and Folder 2, Series II., Subseries 2., Box 2, Folder 10, Series III., Box 2, Folder 5, Series III., Box 4, Folder 1; some photographs are mounted with glue onto back boards or include mat boards, not all boards were able to be removed, Series III., Folder 8; one portrait photograph is bound in a leather frame. This photograph is unable to be removed without damaging the frame. The frame is fragile and shows evidence of red rot. This photograph is in its own container, Series IV., Box 3. NOTE: Handle with care since the documents are fragile and could tear or disintegrate with touch. [Existing/possible] damages include tearing, creasing, staining, and signs of normal use. Documents, clippings and articles were photocopied onto acid-free paper; documents, articles, clippings, and photographs were interleaved in folders with acid-free paper. Clippings depending on their size, were housed in archival polypropylene sleeves, Series III., Box 2, Folder 5; photographs depending on their size, were housed in archival polypropylene sleeves, Series IV., Box 2, Folder 6. Staples, paperclips, metal fasteners, back boarding, and mat boards were removed where necessary.

Materials Removed List

0.35 Linear ft. (one manuscript box) of original documents and clippings which were deaccessioned before removal, Series I, Series II, subseries 1., Series II, subseries 2., Series III; and five duplicate black and white photographs, Series IV.

Guide to the John D. Ledford Collection, 1921-1984
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
English (eng)
Edition statement
First revision by Cassandra Zawojek, 2018-07-09. Second revision by Sonja Gaither, 2022-11-02.

Revision Statements

  • 2018-07-09: 1st revision was a migration to ArchivesSpace by Cassandra Zawojek.
  • 2022-11-02: 2nd revision was a reprocessing of the entire collection with a new arrangement by Sonja Gaither.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Division, History of Aviation Archives. Repository

3020 Waterview Pkwy
Suite 11.206
Richardson Texas 75080 US