Air Force

March 15, 2013

World War I ace, hero Luke AFB namesake

Tags:
56th Fighter Wing History office

2nd Lt. Frank Luke, who was second only to Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, referred to as the Ace of Aces of American fliers overseas, poses next to one of three German observation balloons he brought down in 30 minutes in 1918.

America’s second ranking ace in World War I and Medal of Honor recipient, 2nd Lt. Frank Luke Jr. embodied the fighting spirit and public image of a fighter pilot of the time. Luke Air Force Base is named in his honor.

He went after the toughest targets, heavily defended German Drachen observation balloons. They were protected from planes attacking above the balloon by a ring of aircraft, and balloon-mounted machine guns protected attacks coming from beneath the balloon.

To attack a balloon was practically suicide. But Luke volunteered for these dangerous missions. Some surmised it was because of the easy confirmation as the fireball fell from the sky with a plume of smoke.

One of nine children of German immigrants, Luke was born May 19, 1897, in Phoenix. On Sept. 25, 1917, he enlisted in the Signal Corps’ Aviation Service and soon departed for flight training, first in Austin, Texas, then in San Diego.

Luke arrived in France March 19, 1918, and joined the 27th Aero Squadron at Saints July 25 along with eight other replacement pilots. His exploits covered only a scant 17 days, but in this time, as records reflect, he destroyed 14 German balloons and four aircraft, earning him the title of the “Arizona Balloon Buster.”

Luke’s commander, Maj. H.E. Hartney, said of him, “No one had the sheer contemptuous courage that boy possessed. He was an excellent pilot and probably the best flying marksman on the Western Front. We had any number of expert pilots and there was no shortage of good shots, but the perfect combination, like the perfect specimen of anything in the world, was scarce. Frank Luke was the perfect combination.”

On Sept. 12, 1918, Luke shot down his first balloon. His last flight was Sept. 29, 1918. At least 13 people in a village watched his final blaze of glory. Even though he had been grounded by his commander, he obtained permission to go after three balloons near the Meuse. He was severely wounded by a German Fokker aircraft patrolling the skies after he downed the first balloon. Rather than returning to base for medical treatment, he continued toward the other targets, destroying them. He crash landed in the village of Murvaux, where he drew his pistol instead of surrendering. He was killed in a gun battle with German soldiers.

For three months, nothing was known of Luke, except that he had disappeared. For several months, his grave was marked with a wooden cross that read, “Unknown American Aviator.” American military authorities received confirmation of his death after the war was over. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Italian War Cross and the Aero Club Medal for Bravery.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Lightening-within-five

Lightning over Luke …

The F-35 Lightning II isn’t the only lightning striking over Luke Air Force Base. This strike, about five miles west of the Luke flightline, was captured on camera at 1:12 a.m. Aug. 12 at the jet engine test cell.
 
 

Program smooths change from military to civilian life

It can be difficult to find work in today’s economy, even more so for families that are moving to a new area or families that are transitioning from military to civilian life. One program available to veterans is the Workforce Investment Act, which can help veterans have a smooth transition to civilian work. The 56th...
 
 

New form second chance to do EPRs right

Without fail, every time I am around a group of young NCOs, there is one subject guaranteed to come up — the enduring question of “How can I write a stronger EPR for my Airman?” My answer to this question is fairly standard and is one that a chief shared with me many years ago....
 

 

Plan for final out

How many of you are prepared for life outside of the military? Seriously, if you were told tomorrow was your final out, what would you do? We are currently in an environment where Defense Department rollbacks are a serious issue we must all contemplate. Fewer officers are being commissioned. Last year there was only one...
 
 

News Briefs August 22, 2014

Commander’s call Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, 56th Fighter Wing commander, will hold a commander’s call Monday in the Luke Air Force Base theater at 7 a.m. for Airmen, 9 a.m. for NCOs, 11 a.m. for senior NCOs, 1 p.m. for civilians, 3 p.m. for officers and 5 p.m. for those not able to make another...
 
 
Airman 1st Class 
JAMES HENSLEY

Commandant challenges students to be best

Airman 1st ClassJAMES HENSLEY Master Sgt. Sheris Poisson, 56th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School commandant, briefs students Aug. 12 about the active-shooter exercise Aug. 15 at Luke Air Force Base. Poisson asked ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin