Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Profiles Lt Frank Luke Jr. Part 2 Oct. 21, 2005
Posted on 10/20/2005 7:49:25 PM PDT by alfa6
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September 12th, 1918. 0500 hours.
The St.-Mihiel Offensive begins.
It had been raining for days, and did not stop.
That morning Frank Luke and Joe Wehner took off together into the mist, rain, and fog. It is unlikely that Lieutenant Grant knew about it.
Wehner spotted a drachen near Montsec and approaching from behind and put 100 rounds into it. The balloons crew began winching it down rapidly, and considering the ceiling (no more than 800 meters at that time and day) the job couldn't have taken very long. Joe made another turn but the drachen was already in its nest. Though it never burned Joe requested confirmation of a balloon kill when he returned to base.Luke reported spotting three enemy aircraft near Lavigneville and that he flew east after them toward Pont-A-Mousson, where they disappeared toward Metz. Luke was now out of his sector. According to his flight report it was at this moment that Luke spotted a draken near Marieulles.
Frank came in shooting and closed to yards of the balloon before pulling off. The thing wasnt burning. He throttled back and swung around again, flying his Spad dangerously close to the draken before firing. Nothing. A third time, with the frantic ground crew winching their draken down as fast as humanly possible, Frank Luke flew through the antiaircraft cannon and massed machine-gun fire and gave the Draken one last, long, frustrated burst. Both guns jammed, and Luke broke left to reduce the stoppage while simultaneously wheeling around for another pass.
But the partially deflated balloon had started to burn, and the flames now spread rapidly. In an instant - at exactly 8:09 a.m.- it exploded in a red ball, the flaming bag dropping the short distance to the ground to consume both the Draken and the winch crew.
Almost no one had believed he had shot down the Albatros on Aug. 16th. Rather than turn his Spad back toward Rembercourt, Frank put down near an American observation balloon on our side of the lines at Dieulouard. American infantrymen rose up out of their trenches as the wheels of Luke's Spad splashed through the French mud and hustled Luke into the trenches before his Spad attracted artillery fire. But, hey, no draken, no artillery fire!
The Americans in the trenches were most pleased to see the Draken destroyed. Wounded waiting in the front line trenches could be carried back to the doctors at 9:00 AM that day instead having to wait for dark to make the long muddy trip. Water, food, and ammunition could be brought up.
Luke had several of the officers write affidavits that Luke had indeed shot down the Drachen.
COMBAT REPORT - September 12, 1918
Lieutenant Frank Luke reports:
Saw three E. A. (enemy aircraft) near Lavigneville and gave chase, following them directly east towards Pont- a-Mousson where they disappeared towards Metz. Saw enemy balloon at Marieulles. Destroyed it after three passes at it. Each within a few yards of the balloon. The third pass was made when the balloon was very near the ground.
Both guns stopped, so pulled off to one side. Fixed left gun and turned about to make one final effort to burn it. The next instant it burst into great flames and dropped on the winch, destroying it.
There was a good field near our balloons, so landed for confirmation. The observer, Joseph M. Fox, who saw the burning, said he thought everal were killed when it burst into flames so near the ground. Left field and started back when my motor began cutting out. Returned to same field and there found out my motor could not be fixed, so returned by motor cycle. Attached you will find confirmation from Lieutenant Fox and Lieutenant Smith. Both saw burning.
Lukes Spad was picked up that night. The squadron head mechanic inspected Lukes Spad and said:
"Lieutenant, I've seen a lot of planes come in. But when they come in this way, the bird that drives 'em gets it and he gets it fast."
"They can't get me. Look at that!" - inserting a finger in the hole through the seat - "Why didn't that one hit me?"
Patrols on the 13th yielded no results.
The 14th was another successful day for the young Arizonan.
COMBAT REPORT - September 14, 1918 [Morning Patrol]
Lieutenant Frank Luke reports:
Left formation at Abaucourt and attacked an enemy balloon near Boinville. Dove at it six times at close range. Had two stoppages with left gun which carried incendiary bullets and, after fixing both, continued the attack. After about seventy-five rounds being left in right gun, I attacked an Archie battery at the base of the balloon. Am sure that my fire took effect as the crews scattered.
After my first attack on the balloon the observer jumped after he shot at me. The last I saw of the balloon, it was on the ground in a very flabby condition.Confirmation requested.
Compare Luke's report to Lt. Dawson's:
I [Dawson] left the formation over Moranville and attacked an enemy balloon near Boinville, diving at it three times and emptying both guns. Tracers entered it in great numbers. The observer jumped and the balloon was hauled down in a very flabby condition. White flaming balls were fired at me. Lt. Luke was below the balloon firing at the Archie battery. I left after the balloon had struck the ground it was not sent up again, at the time I left, twenty minutes later. From what I could observe it was very badly shot up.
And Lt. Lennon's version:
Followed Lt. Luke and Dawson. Saw them attack enemy ballon in vicinity of Boinville. Observed that the observer jumped and enemy archie began to burst. The balloon flattened out and went to the ground. I dove on it and fired 50 round from each gun. The last I saw of balloon it was on the ground in a very flabby condition.
That afternoon the 27th was ordered to attack another draken over Buzy. When Hartney briefed his officers (the now Captain Grant, Lt. Lawson, Lt. Clapp, and Lt. Lennon) on the plan Clapp suggested the unwelcome Luke be given the hazardous assignment. If he succeeded, fine. If he failed he would ship out. If he died they wouldn't lose much sleep over it. Luke would dart out of the formation to be the "shooter;" and only Joe Wehner would cover him.
September 14, 1918 [Afternoon Patrol]
Lieutenant Frank Luke reports:
I and Lieutenant Wehner were to leave with formation to attack enemy balloon by order of C. O. On arriving at Buzy, left formation and brought down enemy balloon in flames. While fixing my guns so I could attack another balloon near by, eight enemy Fokkers dropped down on me. Pulled away from them. They scored several good shots on my plane. I saw Lieutenant Wehner dive through enemy formation and attack two enemy planes on my tail; but, as my guns were jammed, did not turn, as I was not sure it was an Allied plane until he joined me later. You will find attached confirmation of balloon.
Lieutenant Wehner had been flying high cover for Lieutenant Luke. He had saved Frank from death, and neither for the first nor the last time.
With two confirmed balloons to his credit the other pilots could no longer call Luke a liar. Mad, maybe, arrogant certainly, a jerk, an ass, whatever, but not a liar.
According to Hartney Luke tried to go up on an unauthorized third patrol at dusk in another pilot's plane and was massively chewed out by Captain Grant. Major Hartney persuaded him to fill out his combat reports and accept Grant's orders. Joe Wehner did fly that evening; and while a French flier beat him to the balloon, he shot down two Fokker D-VII's (although not confirmed).
By the evening of the 14th the legend of Frank Luke had begun to take shape. He was no longer dismissed as only a flake. Perhaps he was boastful and unpopular but he and Wehner had "the right stuff". They had destroyed three balloons and fought off defending German fighters. To Mitchell, Hartney, and other American commanders, the 27th seemed to be the unit to tackle the heavily defended "sausages." With Luke and Wehner on the sharp end.
The next morning, the pattern continued. As specifically noted in Frank's combat report, he was ordered to leave formation and attack the gasbags at Boinville and Bois d'Hingry
COMBAT REPORT - September 15, 1918 [Morning Patrol]
Lieutenant Frank Luke reports:
I left formation and attacked an enemy balloon at Boinville in accordance with instructions and destroyed it. I fired 125 rounds. I then attacked another balloon near Bois d'Hingry and fired fifty rounds into it. Two confirmations requested.
Wehner kept pace with his deadly friend, burning two balloons and shooting down two Fokkers that tried to get on Luke's tail. A very nice piece of teamwork by our two youngsters.
Luke had noticed that the German fighters left the draken in time to land in the late dusk while there was still some light. The draken were therefore without air cover during the late evening. A Spad could fly low across no mans land at part throttle and not be noticed from the balloon against the dark ground while the Draken could be seen against the sky glow of late dusk. With luck, the draken installation would not realize they were under attack until the Spad was perhaps a mile away. The Spad at full throttle then climbed and fired into the German balloon. Starting from a four mile distance the Spad could complete an attack run within the four minutes. Seems a short time, hey? Four minutes is the time it took Frank Luke to flame one Draken and then another one four miles away on the evening of September 16th, as is described by Edward Rickenbacker below. Luke proposed to rely on a lit-up airfield to land safely, and pure cussedness for navigation.
His evening patrol report follows:
COMBAT REPORT - September 15, 1918 [Evening Patrol]
Lieutenant Frank Luke reports:
Patrolled to observe enemy activity. Left a little after formation, expecting to find it on the lines. On arriving there I could not find formation but saw artillery firing on both sides. Also saw a light at about 500 meters. At first I thought it was an observation machine but on nearing it I found that it was a Hun balloon, so I attacked and destroyed it. I was Archied with white fire, and machine guns were very active. Returned very low. Saw thousands of small lights in woods north of Verdun. On account of darkness coming on I lost my way and landed in a French wheat field at Agers about twenty-one hours thirty. Balloon went down in flames at nineteen hours fifty.
Records from German Balloon Company Eighteen of Balloon Battalion Thirty- three confirmed these victories.
Wehner had shot down two balloons and three combat planes in three days, and Luke had killed six draken. Most likely the other pilots of the 27th sucked it up a bit. One likes to see the good guys win.Lieutenants Luke and Wehner became celebrities. Congratulations came in from other units and reporters asked for interviews. Newspapers back home carried the story. I dont like this vulgar display forced on such men but the media are like bedbugs or lice, ubiquitous and grotesque even then.
On the morning of September 16 Luke and Wehner again patrolled the front. The German balloon line had become wary. Twice they sighted German balloons, and twice the bags were hastily landed before they could be attacked. Not terribly hard to see why, hey.
The very dangerous balloon attacks became entertainment that evening when Hartney invited Col. Billy Mitchell to watch the show.
v In the late afternoon Mitchell and sundry brass arrived in a Mercedes auto. Luke and Wehner did a show and tell, a song and dance, and then it was getting to be time for the show itself. Some American artillery began to fire and the German balloons rose up a bit to get a better view of the muzzle flashes.
As dusk deepened Luke and Wehner left Major Hartneys headquarters and walked to their machines. Luke pointed to the two plainly visible German observation balloons to the east of the field, suspended in the sky about two miles back of the German lines and perhaps four miles apart.
From Captain Edward Rickenbacker:
Keep your eyes on these two balloons, said Frank as he passed us. "You will see that first one there go up in flames exactly at 7:15 and the other will do likewise at 7:19."
We had little idea he would really get either of them, but we all gathered together out in the open as the time grew near and kept our eyes glued to the distant specks in the sky. Suddenly, Major Hartney exclaimed, 'There goes the first one!' It was true! A tremendous flare of flame lighted up the horizon. We all glanced at our watches. It was exactly 7:15 on the dot!
"The intensity of our gaze towards the location of the second Hun balloon may be imagined. It had grown too dusk to distinguish the balloon itself, but we well knew the exact point in the horizon were it hung. Not a word was spoken as we alternately glanced at the second-hands of our watches and then at the eastern skyline. Almost upon the second our watching group yelled simultaneously. A small blaze first lit up the point at which we were gazing. Almost instantaneously another gigantic burst of flames announced to us that the second balloon had been destroyed. It was a most spectacular exhibition."
COMBAT REPORT - September 16, 1918
Lieutenant Frank Luke reports:
Patrol to strafe balloons. Everything very carefully arranged. Lt Wehner and I left airdrome passing over Verdun. We attacked balloon in vicinity of Reville at 19 h 03. Both Lt. Wehner and I shot a burst into it. It burst into flames and fell on observer who had jumped a few seconds before. We started for another balloon in vicinity of Romagne. I attacked and destroyed it. It burst into flames on the ground, burning winch. The anti-aircraft guns were very active scoring several good hits on my plane. The last I saw of Lt. Wehner he was going in a south-easterly direction after the first balloon went down. I shot at supply trains on my way back. Two confirmations requested.
COMBAT REPORT - September 16, 1918
Lieutenant J. F. Wehner reports:
Patrol to strafe balloons. Flew north-east passing over Verdun and attacked balloon in vicinity of Reville with Lt. Luke at 19 h 05. We each fired one burst when I observed that it instantly caught fire. The observer jumped but was burned to death by the flaming balloon before reaching the ground. I headed towards the Meuse river trying to pick up another balloon; could not locate one so headed towards Verdun. On the way back saw a fire in the vicinity of Romagne which evidently was Lt. Luke's second balloon. While waiting for Lt. Luke near Verdun saw red flare over Mangiennes. Thinking it our prearranged signal from Lt. Luke, I headed in that direction. Saw balloon just above the tree tops near Mangiennes and brought it down in flames with one burst at 19 h 35. Anti-aircraft very active. Two confirmations requested.
Three Draken destroyed the 16th.
September 17 - no reported combat
September 18 - Joe Wehner was killed. The two men destroyed two draken over Labeuville and were attacked by several German fighters. Wehner was killed and Luke shot down three.
COMBAT REPORT - September 18, 1918
Lieutenant Frank Luke reports:
Lieutenant Wehner and I left the airdrome at 16 h 00 to spot enemy balloons. Over St. Mihiel we saw two German balloons near Labeuville. Maneuvered in the clouds and dropped down, burning both. We were then attacked by a number of E.A. (enemy aircraft), the main formation attacking Lieutenant Wehner, who was above and on one side. I started climbing to join the fight when two E. A. attacked me from the rear. I turned on them, opening both guns on the leader. We came head on until within a few yards of each other when my opponent turned to one side in a nose dive and I saw him crash to the ground.
I then turned on the second, shot a short burst, and he turned and went into a dive. I saw a number of E. A. above but could not find Lieutenant Wehner, so turned and made for our lines. The above fight occurred in the vicinity of St. Hilaire. On reaching our balloon line, flew east. Saw Archie on our side, flew toward it, and found an enemy observation machine. I gave chase with some other Spads and got (cut) him off from his lines. After a short encounter he crashed within our lines, southeast of Verdun. Lieutenant Wehner is entitled to share in the victories over both the balloons. Confirmations requested, two balloons and three planes
Frank Luke was now the leading American ace with four planes and ten balloons destroyed. Of these fourteen thirteen had been destroyed in one week during which he had flown on five days.
This photo was taken the next day, showing Luke standing in front of the wreckage of the observation aircraft he had destroyed the previous evening:
A newsman put Luke in front of the September 18th Halberstadt and took this photo. I believe I can see that Luke finds this fellow vulgar. Notice the strain showing around the eyes. Lieutenant Luke is twenty-one years and four months old.
Good morning. How's it going?
It's going well this morning. I have the day off, so a long weekend for me.
Hope all is well with you & yours.....
Also OU homecoming tommorow with their game vs. Baylor at 6 tommorow night on Fox Sports Net.
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- (From left) Staff Sgt. Stephen Manley, Senior Airman Robert Welch, Tech. Sgt. Xavier Sanford and Senior Airman Gary McCormick present the colors during a change of command ceremony here May 15. Sergeant Sanford is assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, and Sergeant Manley and Airmen Welch and McCormick are assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Mark D. Gibson)
Hi miss Feather.
TGIF! Two whole working days without phone calls until Monday.
That game with Baylor ought to be a good one - Baylor aint a pushover this season.
Best wishes to your Dad.
Today is Friday, I knew it would come around sooner or later. LOL
27th Aero Squadron insignia from Lt. Frank Luke's SPAD XIII.
It took long enough getting here. ;-)
LOL! I do like seeing the Warthog. :-)
On This Day In History
Birthdates which occurred on October 21:
1760 Katsushika Hokusai (d.1849), Japanese printmaker,
born. Hokusai was a master designer of color woodblock prints. His paintings included 36 views of Mt. Fuji.
1772 Samuel Taylor Coleridge England, poet (Rime of the Ancient Mariner)
1803 George Wright Brig General (Union volunteers), died in 1865
1833 Alfred Bernhard Nobel Stockholm, created dynamite & Peace Prizes
1912 Sir Georg Solti Budapest Hungary, conductor (Fidelio)
1914 Martin Gardner Scientific American math & puzzles columnist
1917 Dizzy Gillespie trumpeter, a creator of Bee Bop
1925 Joyce Randolph Detroit Mich, actress (Trixie-Honeymooners)
1928 Edward "Whitey" Ford hall of fame pitcher (NY Yankees)
1929 Ursula LeGuin American writer (Lathe of Heaven)
1933 Georgia Brown actress (Study in Terror, The Fixer)
1940 Frances FitzGerald NYC, journalist/author (Fire in the Lake)
1940 Manfred Mann rocker (The Mighty Quinn)
1940 Osamu Watanabe Japan, featherweight (Olympic-gold-1964)
1942 Elvin Bishop Okla, rocker/Blues guitarist, National Merit Scholar, Paul Butterfield Blues Band
1943 Paula Kelly Jacksonville Fla, dancer/actress (Liz-Night Court)
1949 Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister
1950 Ronald E McNair Lake City SC, astr(STS 41B, 51L-Challenger disaster)
1953 Charlotte Caffey singer (GoGos-Our Lips are Sealed)
1956 Carrie Fisher Beverly Hills, actress (Star Wars-Princess Lelia)
Wernher von Braun
Gather 'round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience.
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown,
"Ha, Nazi, Schmazi," says Wernher von Braun.
Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.
Some have harsh words for this man of renown,
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude,
Like the widows and cripples in old London town,
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun.**
You too may be a big hero,
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero.
"In German oder English I know how to count down,
Und I'm learning Chinese!" says Wernher von Braun.
Tom Lehrer, when the left had a sense of humor. I remember when this song came out...I was shocked. "That Was The Week That Was" played his stuff alot (as I recall)
Tom Lehrer would have been a liberal in the Hubert Humphrey mold I would guess. I have all three of his albums on cassette somewhere, what a hoot.
I actually had the "honor" of getting to shake Sen Humphrey's hand while in high school during the 1968 election campaign.
IIRC one of the teachers had connections with the Democratic party in the St. Louis area and convinced the Humphrey campaign that it would be a good Photo op for ol Hubert to be seen at a local military school there in St Louis.
While I did not support his candidacy I've on occasion wondered what things would have been like had he been elected.
ANother for the what if file, eh?
Picture on my desk.
LOL. So you know about thread count 'eh?
LOL. I'd bet that you are a hard sell!