Commentary

March 11, 2014

World War I ace, hero, Luke AFB namesake

Air Force History Support office and 56th Fighter Wing History office

America’s second ranking ace in World War I, Frank Luke Jr. embodied the fighting spirit and public image of a fighter pilot of the time. He went after the toughest targets, heavily defended German Drachen observation balloons. They were protected by a ring of aircraft from planes attacking above the balloon, and balloon-mounted machine guns protected from 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 in May 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 on 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. 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. Luke Air Force Base is named in his honor.




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


 
 

 

Resource management — Doing more with less

Since I joined the Air Force in 1992, our manpower and resources have been gradually reduced with no obvious change to the mission we support. While this has been labeled “doing more with less,” I don’t believe we’re truly doing any more than we did when I entered the military 22 years ago. We seem...
 
 

Situational awareness

Throughout my career, the importance of situational awareness has been driven into my head. This became exceedingly clear to me when I landed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. It was March 17, 2003, about 48 hours until Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off. We were busy building tents, making bunkers and preparing to execute the mission. Doing...
 
 

Chaplain’s thoughts …

There are times in our lives which are marked by a flash of inspiration. Some coincidental event takes place that brings new insight or understanding. One such event happened for me this past fall at the funeral Mass of one of Luke’s longtime friends, Katie Gillen. Miss Katie served as our base librarian for many...
 

 
Kingdom_Hearts_II_(PS2)

Fly Over: ‘Kingdom Hearts II’ and ‘Coaching Bad′

For Play Station II: ‘Kingdom Hearts II’ “Kingdom Hearts II” was released in 2005 for the Play Station 2 gaming console. The game is the sequel to “Kingdom Hearts” but the third in the series published by Square Eni...
 
 

Don’t get ‘Promotion Remorse’

The day I closed on my first house, my realtor and I did a final walk through to ensure there were no last-minute issues that needed addressing. Since I was a first-time home buyer, I didn’t know what to look for, so I finished my walk-through in 20 minutes. My realtor insisted on staying to...
 
 

Keep military records in check

A common issue we see at the 56th Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Section is that our military customers wait until the last minute to check their records. This can become an issue that can cause hardship on the member when it comes to promotion boards, permanent changes of station, retirement and separation. One scenario...
 




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