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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
September 1 —No flying. Rain and low clouds. Drew paycheck. Big crap game. I won most of the money and said I would buy so we took oft for Nancy. Big party at La Liegeoise. … The party, augmented by most of the Royal Flying Corps and part of the French flying show, moved over to the Angleterre, where we had a suite of four bedrooms and a big living room, and kept the hotel staff busy until 3:00 A.M. A crap game started but most of the players were shooting lying down as it seemed a bit difficult to do it standing. … There was only one fight all evening. Two Irishmen. One from Canada and the other from Australia. We broke it up easily. They shook hands and left to look for some women. We didn’t see them any more that night so I guess they found them. I don’t know how much the party cost but my hotel bill was 983 francs and after I paid it I had about the same amount of money that I had yesterday before the crap game. It was a grand party. Come easy, go easy.
September 4 —Vie Strahm leading the same four-plane formation as day before yesterday except that Siebring was Foster’s observer instead of Perry. Got in another big fight this morning over Metz. They shot down two of the three German planes that attacked them, but “Pep” Foster and Siebring didn’t come home. They were last seen going down in German territory, apparently under control.
September 6 — … The Germans dropped a note saying that Foster was a prisoner unhurt but that Siebring was dead. A note in Pep’s handwriting was enclosed asking us to send him cigarettes, canned kidneys, and his tennis racket to his prison camp through the Red Cross in Switzerland. This system works well. All the letters from the prisoners agree that the stuff sent them comes through all right.
September 11 — … Major Reynolds gave us the advance dope on the new first all-American offensive, which jumps off tomorrow at daybreak to reduce the Saint-Mihiel salient. …
September 12 —Americans over the top after a brute of a night of artillery preparation fire. The Saint-Mihiel salient is busted. Every town in the salient on the German side is in flames. The old lines are dead. Hellish flying weather all day but lots of it just the same. …
September 13 —Got up for the early flight but the clouds were down to the ground. The guns up at the front were still going strong. Went over at 10:00 A.M. on visual reconnaissance from 100 meters to 300 meters altitude. … The Americans are into the Hindenburg Line in three places.
September 14 —Up on a six-plane photo mission but I was delayed on the take-off and missed the formation. As we had a camera, Bill and I went over anyhow. Got a few good pictures but the weather was too cloudy to finish the job. Six Boche, Pfalz or Fokkers, jumped me near Etain and chased me out to the west of the sector toward Verdun. As soon as they left, we went back in for a visual reconnaissance. Over Conflans, the carburetor backfired and blazed up. I sideslipped and dove and the fire finally went out. We got back home after about three hours’ flying. The plane was pretty badly shot up by Archie fire. … Strahm and Wallis had another fight with six red-nosed Fokkers. Looks like the Germans have moved the Richthofen Circus into this sector. They paint the noses of their planes red. …
September 15 —… Went over with Badham on a photo mission. Diekema and Hammond and Cole and Martin flew protection for us. Over Gorzé we were jumped by four Boche, Pfalz Scouts. Badham shot one down from about fifty meters. He went up in a zoom and fell off in a vrille, on fire, and disappeared in the woods below. My ship was badly shot up with one of the elevators almost off and wobbling. I turned back toward the field wondering how much longer we would be flying. As Diekema and Cole closed up behind me, one of the Boche dove on Cole’s plane and opened fire. At the first burst, a bullet pierced Cole’s neck forcing him to make for the lines and an emergency landing before he fainted from loss of blood. … This evening, the doctors over at the Toul hospital said that Cole would be all right and back in … about six weeks.
III. Combat Flying, Meuse-Argonne
September 21 —Moving day. Flew Number 5 over to the new field at Vavincourt. Rotten field. Two little hills with a valley in between that is sometimes soft. This was one of those times. Broke a propeller blade on landing. Diekema busted up his Number 3. Back to Toul for supper.
September 24 — … Big push starts tomorrow. The Americans are attacking on the front from the Meuse River west to the Argonne Forest, where the French 77th Division moves forward as we advance. Troops have been moving into this sector, mostly at night, for the past week.