de Seversky's father was one of the first Russian aviators to own a plane. At age 14, when he entered the Imperial Russian Naval Academy, de Seversky already knew how to fly. Graduating in 1914, he was serving at sea when the war began. Requesting a transfer to aviation, he was reassigned to the Baltic Fleet as a pilot in the summer of 1915. While stationed in the Gulf of Riga, he attacked a German destroyer but was shot down before he could drop his bombs. When his plane crashed, the bombs exploded, badly wounding de Seversky's and killing his observer. Doctors amputated de Seversky's leg below the knee. Recovering from his wounds and sporting a new wooden leg, he was deemed unfit for front line duty. To prove his superiors wrong, he made a spectacular but unauthorized flight at an air show and was promptly arrested for his efforts. The Czar intervened on his behalf and in July 1916, de Seversky returned to combat duty, downing his first enemy plane three days later and scoring 3 more victories in August. In February 1917, he assumed command of the 2nd Naval Fighter Detachment until an accident with a horse drawn wagon broke his good leg. After serving as an advisor in Moscow, de Seversky returned to combat duty in the Gulf of Riga and received confirmation for 2 more of his victories. On 14 October, he was forced down in enemy territory but made it back to the safety of his own lines. In March 1918, de Seversky arrived in the United States to serve as assistant naval attaché at the Russian Embassy. Due to the revolution, he never returned home, choosing to become an American citizen in 1927 and founding the Seversky Aircraft Corporation of Farmingdale, Long Island in 1931. Two years later, his company developed the SEV-3, an amphibious, all-metal, three man, monoplane with a low-mounted cantilever wing. On 15 September 1935, at a speed of 230.413 mph, the original SEV-3 set a world speed record for piston-engined amphibious airplanes that has never been broken. de Seversky also developed a turbo-supercharged, air-cooled fighter plane that served as the protoype for the P-47. In April 1939, de Seversky was out of the country on business when the company's board of directors voted him out of office as CEO and changed the name of the firm to Republic. He was awarded the Medal for Merit by President Roosevelt during World War II and spent the remainder of his life working as an aeronautical writer and consultant. He died of a
respiratory ailment at New York's Memorial Hospital. He was 80 years old. The year he died, de Seversky was elected to the Aviation Hall of Fame.
Alexander de Seversky, U.S. aviator and engineer, was once visiting a fellow flyer in the hospital. The young man had just lost his leg; de Seversky, who had had an artificial leg for some time, tried to cheer him up. "The loss of a leg is not so great a calamity," he said. "If you get hit on a wooden leg, it doesn't hurt a bit! Try it!" The patient raised his walking stick and brought it down hard on de Seversky's leg. "You see," he said cheerfully. "If you hit an ordinary man like that, he'd be in bed for five days!" With that he left his friend and limped into the corridor, where he collapsed in excruciating pain. It seems the young man had struck de Seversky on his good leg! From "Today in the Word," 29 October 1992