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Klan Air: 1922

March 18, 1922. "Members of the Ku-Klux-Klan about to take off with the literature which was scattered over the suburbs of the city." The date coincides with a Klan parade through Washington's Virginia suburbs. View full size.

March 18, 1922. "Members of the Ku-Klux-Klan about to take off with the literature which was scattered over the suburbs of the city." The date coincides with a Klan parade through Washington's Virginia suburbs. View full size.


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re: Not 1922

Stan is both right and wrong. The Swastika as a symbol of Nazism was unknown in the United States in 1922. However the Swastika is an ancient symbol that seems to appear in many cultures including native American cultures as diverse as the Navajo and Penobscot Indian tribes. Not to mention being found in India. In fact the Swastika was a popular symbol of good luck for early aviators, which is probably the context in which it is seen here.

Birds of a feather

The Swastika either right or left facing has been used by Native Americans and and other civilizations going back perhaps thousands of years. It became the National Socialist symbol in 1920, predating this photograph. I doubt that the 1922 KKK was involved with them at that time. The tail decoration was just a bad coincidence.


It is not a Swastika. Swastikas point to the right. This design was used quite commonly.

[Swastikas can point either way. The National Socialist symbol points clockwise. - Dave]

Noble Sacrifice

Shorty's the bombload.


It does seem appropriate that there was a swastika on the plane in this picture, but I think it it was just a coincidence. The symbol has been around for thousands of years and didn't become unmistakably associated with the Nazi party, especially not in America, until a few years later.

[The swastika on the plane is a "backwards" version of the Nazi symbol, whose arms point the other way. - Dave]

Yes, and there were other variations, too, besides being either left or right facing. Sometimes the "arms" were rounded, and sometimes there was another little extension connected to them. There is a famous picture of Clara Bow in an outfit decorated with swastikas. On the hat, it faces right, like the Nazis used, and on the shoulder it was facing left. Of course, this has resulted in rumors that Clara was somehow involved with the Nazis, or even having an affair with Hitler!

Good luck (I hope not)

The swastika was a popular "good luck" symbol through the 1920s. I hope it didn't work for these guys during their plane ride.

Some irony

From Wikipedia:

"The symbol was popular as a good luck charm with early aviators. A swastika was also painted on the inside of the nosecone of the Spirit of St. Louis."

Not 1922

The Swastika was virtually unknown in the U.S. in 1922 and would not have been used by the KKK at that time. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that this picture is from the 1930s, not the 1920.

[The photo is from 1922. - Dave]


That "person" second from the right looks like he was shot through the heart. Apparently it didn't work. Too Bad.

Guilty pleasure

The last KKK photo you posted really gave me the willies, but this is hilarious, for many reasons! I feel a bit guilty for having fun laughing at these idiots, and the witty comments about them, knowing that some of the ancestors of my children and grandchildren were terrorized by them, but I can't help it! I am going to have to be sure to show it to my kids when they are all here, next!

The Klan was evil enough

without connection to the Nazi party. It is not the Nazi Swastika, which is the reverse of the symbol on the plane's tail. That symbol is ancient. In Japan during the Middle Ages, it was called the manji, a sign for great luck and protection against evil powers.

The Nazis adopted the symbol for their own use, but used the mirror image.

The swastika was used well before the birth of Christ in Iran, China, India, Japan, and Southern Europe. Whether it was also used that early in the Americas, however, is not known. There are no swastika-like signs on the oldest rock carvings there. Neither did the Mayans, the Incas, and the Aztecs use it. However, many of the Indian tribes in the southern parts of North America seem to have begun using the sign after the arrival of the first Spanish colonists.

[The Nazi Party's use of the symbol seems to stem in large part from Hitler's affinity for the writings of Karl May, a German author whose stories about the American West conflated Indians, swastikas and, interestingly, the Ku Klux Klan. - Dave]

Klan Air

In the early 1920s, there was actually a concerted Klan effort to co-opt and essentially take over the Army Air Service. The idea of a Klan Air Force was no joke.

I've run across newspaper articles on the above, but I don't know anything about Klan iconography. Their use of counter Swastika is new to me -- Nazis didn't exist yet in 1922.

[Not so. The National Socialist German Workers' Party was formed in 1920. - Dave]

RE: Cadets

I think jepkid's note vaulted into my Pantheon Of Best Shorpy Comments.

It's official.

"Klan Darts" wins. Thanks, kirkbrewer; laughed myself silly. Just what I needed as a tonic to the absurdity of these goons and the hatred they represent.


I notice the guy at second right appears to have a bullet hole right through the emblem over his heart - perhaps he inherited his bedsheet from the previous wearer. Kudos to the unknown marksman.

And guys at each end forgot their flying goggles.

99.9% NOT Nazi

The use of the swastika was very commonplace among aviators of this era as a symbol of good luck.The use of the swastika was used on many a school uniforms throughout the 1890-1910's too.I'm pretty sure the swastika on the tail is just an ironic coincidence.


I attended a public KKK event about 15 years ago. It was held on the front lawn of the county courthouse in my home town, in northern Indiana. There was a major stink ahead of time on the question of whether it should be allowed on public land; but eventually it was ruled legal as long as they got the proper permits and played by the law, just like anyone else who might request the use of community property.

The police had everything well organized. If you showed up and wanted to be within close range of the stage, you had to declare either that you were for or against the Klan, at which you were ushered to one of two fenced-in corrals. Before entering you had to surrender your belt (it could be used as a weapon), and everything in your pockets (coins in particular might be used as hard projectiles). Your surrendered articles were dumped into water-filled barrels and were not returned. The only thing you could keep was one key, presumably to your house or car.

The Klan speakers were what you'd expect: bigoted, poorly-educated, and so on. However, they behaved themselves to the letter. The more interesting thing to me was that most of the anti-Klan spectators composed themselves rather immaturely. Many anti-Klanners (especially the younger men) were salivating for a knockdown brawl.

After the presentation the two corrals were emptied in opposite directions, single file, and regulated so as to minimize the chance of the two camps meeting up while the blood was still hot. How ironic that the side which played its hand more deftly was a bunch of ignorant racists. This is an example of what the Founders of the United States meant by their vision of this being a country of laws, not of men.


The big guy on the right will need to purchase two seats.

That portly fellow on the right

Hey Bubba -- next time order the salad!

The guy on the right

will have to pay double.

Way Beyond Chubby

I can't imagine the bozo on the right being able to even get into the cockpit of that biplane! And I'd wager they'd need every inch of runway available to sorta get into the air. I wonder if they had helmets on under that silly pointy head gear. It's amazing how extraordinarily dumb they look. Which one of these folks was named "Ace"?

Not to worry

With the kind of technical expertise, management skills and risk taking which that kind of persons normally exhibit, that airplane probably did not fly very long.

There are reasons why the Allies won the last world war, and they are not limited to vastly superior resources. On top of that, the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese also went out of their way to lose it. Same story with the Warsaw Bloc.


Oh, crap, they have their own Air Force?

The power of the pyramid

A little-known fact about the Klan is that it was the first modern pyramid scheme. Members were constantly exhorted to come up with more and more money to support their local chapters, and were under pressure to keep recruiting new people.

Klan darts

I think that if you threw all four of them out of the plane, at least three would stick in the ground headfirst.


These people were and are a disgusting disgrace. The Nazi sysmbol on the tail is a perfect fit. The end state of this ideology was played out during WWII. It is important to remember.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

Who is that masked masked man?

I had to look at it full-size before I realized why one guy had a slightly Batman shaped mask on. I'm not sure the FAA would let them fly like that now!

Someone, let me borrow a Sopwith Camel

So I can shoot down these punks.

Fly the friendly skies

Welcome aboard, we'll be your flight attendants. Only two seats, so you're on the wing with Frank.

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