Air Force

October 4, 2013

This Week in History: October 4

Frank Luke Jr.

Sept. 29, 1918: Frank Luke Jr. shot down, dies from wounds

This week 95 years ago the leading ace of the American Expeditionary Force was killed in combat in northern France during World War I.

Frank Luke, Jr., the son of German immigrants, was a 20-year-old Phoenix native. He excelled in sports, the rough-and-tumble life of a copper miner, and boxed in bare-knuckled matches. He enlisted in the aviation section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and underwent flight training in Texas and California before earning his wings and commission as a second lieutenant in March 1918.

World War I had been raging for four years before Luke arrived in France in July 1918. It was an artilleryman’s war. Part of the heavy artillery system of the day was observation balloons. Filled with hydrogen, these balloons were highly flammable and heavily defended from the ground and air. Because of the danger, most Allied fliers shied away from attacking balloons.

Luke attacked and destroyed a balloon Sept. 12 and received his first aerial victory credit, and the nickname the “Arizona Balloon Buster.”

He chose to attack at dawn when the balloons were moving skyward to start the day’s artillery observation or at dusk when they were being hauled down for the night. He used the dark to camouflage his approach or escape, depending on the time of day.

In the beginning he flew with his close friend, Lt. Joseph Frank Wehner. Wehner flew cover while Luke attacked the balloons. Only six days later, while carrying out that maneuver, Wehner was shot down and killed. Luke turned on the attackers and shot two of them out of the sky. He then turned his attention back to the balloons and downed two of them.

Luke had few friends among the pilots. He was seen as arrogant. He had a tendency to fly alone and disobey orders. His grief over Wehner only deepened his loneliness.

The day before he died he landed at a French aerodrome due to engine trouble instead of returning to his home base at Rembercourt, France. When he arrived at Rembercourt the next morning, the squadron commander refused to believe he had had engine trouble, accused him of going AWOL and threatened to place him under arrest. Luke took off without authorization and flew to see his group commander at a forward airfield near Verdun. The group commander cancelled the arrest order.

That evening, Luke took off on his last flight. When he arrived in the area of Dun-sur-Meuse, Luke attacked three balloons. Eight German aircraft attempted to shoot him down, but it was the heavy ground fire that hit him, probably from a hilltop. One round entered his right shoulder and passed through his body. As he looked for a place to land, he strafed a body of German troops before safely landing the aircraft in a field near Murvaux, France. He got out of his aircraft, drew his pistol and fired as German infantry approached. He then died from his wound.

Frank Luke, Jr. was the first Airman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He received it for his exploits, especially for the mission that took his life. After the war, his remains were moved to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial east of the village of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. America bestowed many honors on Luke, not the least of which was Luke Air Force Base being named in his honor.

 




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


 
 

 
Courtesy Photo

Chrach saves lives, earns recognition

Courtesy Photo Tech. Sgt. Steven Bruner, 56th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and Chrach, 56th SFS MWD, pose for a photo in Afghanistan during their 2012 deployment. Chrach was recently awarded the 12th A...
 
 

Ahead of schedule …

Master Sgt. Thomas Hartley, right, 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group depot structural maintenance chief and Staff Sgt. Joseph Kern, 309th AMG DSM craftsman, analyze blueprints to repair cracked canopy seal longerons in Hangar 914 Dec. 11 at Luke Air Force Base. Hartley is team leader for the seven-man depot team sent from Hill Air Force Base,...
 
 

Heating up the asphalt …

The heat and exhaust of a launching F-16 Fighting Falcon creates a photo opportunity Jan. 8 on the runway at Luke Air Force Base. Luke’s mission is to train the world’s greatest F-16 fighter pilots while deploying mission-ready warfighters.
 

 

Divorce comes with heavy baggage

Divorce, though a difficult chapter in many lives, happens. Divorce comes with both financial and emotional burdens for all involved. Once the decision is made, knowing what will come next can be helpful and comforting. In order to file for divorce in Arizona, one of the parties must reside in Arizona for 90 days. In...
 
 
6_150113-F-VY794-166

Test … testing … 1-2-3

Airman 1st Class Brian Dirgo, 56th CMS avionics team member, demonstrates soldering procedures on an engine diagnostic unit.
 
 
Courtesy photo

White Sands ‘Vipers’ – F-16 training thrives at Holloman

Courtesy photo Lt. Col. Jerod Rick, 54th Fighter Group chief of standardization and evaluation, and 1st Lt. Taylor Roberts, 311th Fighter Squadron basic course student, prepare to taxi Nov. 13, 2014, in an F-16 Fighting Falcon ...
 




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