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.


 
 

 
Airman 1st Class James Hensley

Luke cuts ribbon on F-35 Academic Training Center

Airman 1st Class James Hensley Gen. Robin Rand, Air Education and Training Command commander, cuts the ceremonial ribbon Oct. 9 marking the completion of the academic training center building at Luke Air Force Base. The buildin...
 
 
Forino_J

U.S., Singapore partnership standout

Lt. Col. John Forino Aug. 9 marked the 49th anniversary of Singapore’s independence. The 425th Fighter Squadron is an operational squadron comprised of elite U.S. Air Force and Republic of Singapore air force personnel design...
 
 
shirts-graphicbw

‘Guts’ required to enforce standards

A few years ago, a fellow senior NCO requested I talk to her subordinate about her appearance, specifically pertaining to her hair. Naturally, I asked about what the issue was and why she couldn’t have a discussion with her o...
 

 
141008-F-HT977-008

Airmen get new ‘Community Commons’

Renovations on Bldg. 700, which houses the Health and Wellness Center, will take place April 2015 through spring 2016 at Luke Air Force Base. Subway and the barbershop will remain open during construction. Other amenities, such...
 
 

News Briefs October 17, 2014

Keep good mental health Calling all Airmen! Sleep disturbances such as insomnia and nightmares can affect people personally and professionally. Reaching out to a medical provider is a step in the right direction to good health. Courtesy of the 56th Medical Group Haunted house The 56th Mission Support Group is featuring Operation: Haunted Block House...
 
 

THUNDERBOLT OF THE WEEK

Jessica Behrens 56th Medical Support Squadron Pharmacist Hometown: Seneca, Missouri Years in service: Three Family: Husband, Chris; daughter, Katelyn, 2; son, Levi, 5 months Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of Arkansas and doctor of pharmacy from Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska Previous assignments: Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida; Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma; Spring...
 




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