- Historic Sites
A Flier’s Journal
The planes were fragile and the Boche was tough, but the girls were pretty, the wine was good, and death was something that happened to someone else
December 1969 | Volume 21, Issue 1
November 3 —Over with Duncan on a photo mission. … We got a lot of dope and brought back the first news of a general retreat by the Germans all along the line. Over at headquarters where we turned in our report to General “Billy” Mitchell, he took us in to see General Hunter Liggett, the boss of the American First Army. General Billy praised us and told of the high points of our report. Liggett seemed quite pleased, was very cordial, and complimented us on the job. …
November 6 —First flight off to Souilly but weather too bad for any trips across the front. Peace talk getting hot.
November 7 — … Peace talk still hotter.
November 10 — … The rumor tonight is that Germany has accepted the terms proposed to them by the Allies. All the French in town went crazy, ringing bells, singing, and parading all over the place.
November 11 —It is official. The war is over at 11:00 o’clock this morning. … This evening all the French towns and cities are lit up for the first time in years. A lot of talk by members of the squadron that we should have gone all the way to Berlin and signed the peace treaty there so that the Germans would really believe that they had been licked.
IV. Army of Occupation
November 20 —Orders came in for us to move tomorrow to Preutin, a little village about twenty-five miles northeast of Verdun, where we will occupy an old German airdrome.
November 21 —… Preutin is almost in ruins but the château where the German officers lived … is in fine shape. When we took it over, we found the diningroom table all set—dishes, silverware, glasses, wine, and cold cuts. A note said they were sorry they couldn’t do any better and especially that they didn’t have any decent cigarettes to leave for us but if we liked the wine, there were over two hundred bottles of it still in the cellar. Some of the new members of the gang were a little leery about eating the food or even drinking the wine but all the old-timers just laughed and ate it up. The idea that fellow aviators would poison us didn’t make sense. We located the wine and also a barrel of excellent sauerkraut.
March 23 —In Wiesbaden all day. Pretty town, undamaged by the war. At the Rheingold Café for lunch and drinks and reminiscing with some German aviators who did most of the buying. … They all speak quite good English and are not bad guys except one named Goering, who is a good-looking, arrogant, Prussian type who admits his engine was hit back on October 9 in the Meuse-Argonne sector in a combat with three Salmsons bearing the insignia of a white knight on a black horse chasing a red devil. That was my flight. He said he cracked up when he had to make a forced landing with the dead engine but that he was back in the air that afternoon. He claims thirty-five official victories.
June 2 [Near Brest, France, shortly before embarkation]—Two years ago today I was sworn in as a private in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps Reserve. … All I wanted then was to learn to fly, get to the front, and help run those German fliers out of the air. Well, they taught me how to fly, sent me to the front, and gave me plenty of chances to operate against the German fliers and also against their damned ack-ack guns, which I disliked intensely. They shot at you but you couldn’t shoot back at them. Now the war is over and I am about to go home. I have been pretty lucky, at that. I have been decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star, promoted to a captaincy, and I have been officially credited with the destruction of two German airplanes in aerial combat. When I put in for a regular commission the other day, I was serious. I like this flying game and if I can make it, I’m going to stay in for keeps. …