Capt. Stephen Noyes worked as a civil engineer before receiving his commission as a first lieutenant in 1917. Noyes served with both the 1st and 3rd Aero Squadrons before joining the 12th Aero Squadron in July 1918. He was the Commanding Officer of his unit until October, when he was promoted to Captain and reassigned to the 5th Corps Observation Group.
During WWI, as a member of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), Capt. Noyes served as a pilot and flew reconnaissance missions over enemy lines. On these missions he photographed landmarks, railroads, highways, and rivers in surrounding areas. Capt. Noyes received the Croix de Guerre for his mission on July 6, 1918, when he attacked the enemy, thereby allowing his observer to take the necessary photographs. He then attacked a second time and was forced to land behind enemy lines. On October 16 of the same year Capt. Noyes completed a dangerous mission to stake out advanced lines. In spite of approaching darkness and bad weather that forced him to fly at a low altitude, he obtained the necessary information while exposed to heavy enemy fire. After landing on a shell-torn field, Capt. Noyes walked to headquarters. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He was discharged from the Army in 1919.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania received Capt. Noyes's collection in 1947. This remarkable collection includes his notes on aerial observations, orders and instructions, maps of France and Switzerland, and other papers relating to his military career. The bulk of the collection consists of unusually rich photograph albums compiled by Noyes that document his European service. The photos, of both a personal and a military nature, depict aircraft, fellow airmen, and local townspeople that he encountered during his service. Aerial photographs of battlefields and nearby terrain are particularly interesting. It is exciting to see images that in this day and age would undoubtedly be classified material. In addition to these rare aerial views, depictions of many French towns destroyed by shell fire are also noteworthy.