David Ingalls was born on January 28, 1899, in Cleveland, Ohio. After attending Yale University for a year, Ingalls enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve on March 26, 1917, and went on active duty on April 6, 1917, receiving his commission as an Ensign and designation as a Naval Aviator on September 4, 1917. Ingalls arrived in Europe on September 12, 1917, and after additional training was assigned to the British Royal Air Force where he flew with the British 213 and 217 Squadrons in France. During this time, Ingalls was credited with destroying 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, making him the only U.S. Navy ace in World War I. He left active duty on January 2, 1919, and was discharged from the Naval Reserve on March 25, 1921. After completing degrees at Yale in 1920 and Harvard in 1923, Ingalls was elected to the Ohio General Assembly, serving from 1926 to 1927, and the Ohio House of Representatives from 1927 to 1929. He served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics from 1929 to 1933, during which time he accepted a commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve on January 15, 1932. In 1933 Ingalls became the director of Cleveland's Department of Public Health and Welfare and in 1941 he was made Vice President of Pan Am Ferries. CDR Ingalls went on active duty in the Navy in November 1942, serving as Assistant Operations Officer at Headquarters Air Force Pacific Fleet until June 1943. From June to December 1943, he served as Executive Officer and Chief of Staff for Headquarters Air Center Coordinator Command. He next served as Staff Plans Observer for Headquarters Aircraft South Pacific Force from December 1943 to February 1944. Commodore Ingalls' final active duty assignment was as Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Air Station at Honolulu, Hawaii, from February 1944 until September 1945. Ingalls left active duty on Novmeber 8, 1945, and retired from the Naval Reserve on February 1, 1959. He died on April 26, 1985, and was buried at the Warm Springs Cemetery in Warm Springs, Virginia. Commodore Ingalls was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983.
His Navy Distinguished Service Medal Citation reads:
For exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility as a Seaplane Pilot attached to the Naval Seaplane Station at Dunkirk, where, as a result of his brilliant and courageous work, he was made an acting flying commander by the British authorities over their own pilots. Alone and in conjunction with other pilots, he shot down at least four enemy aeroplanes and one or more enemy balloons.