- 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
September 26 —Plenty of action up at the front. The Americans are moving forward on both sides of Montfaucon but not as fast as we did in the Saint-Mihiel drive. All the roads leading to the front on our side of the lines are loaded with traffic which is moving very slowly and part of the time not at all. … Lieutenant Frank Luke, the guy they are beginning to call the “Balloon Buster” because he has shot down ten or eleven of them since arriving on the front the iath of September, landed on our field this noon in a brandnew Spad. He wanted some gas and ammunition for his machine guns. I took him down to the mess to get something to eat. I knew he had been sent to Paris to get a new plane and to get a little relief from the fast pace of combat he had been setting, so I said, “Frank, why don’t you stay here tonight and get a little rest? The weather isn’t too good anyhow.” He laughed and said, “Maybe you are right. I think I’d better go out to the flying line and see what they have done to my ship. Thanks for the lunch.” He left. About half an hour later we heard the roar of an engine and, looking out the door, saw a Spad barrel-rolling as it disappeared in the haze headed east toward the front.
October 1 —My Number 5 had engine trouble so I took Number 9 and went over with Badham on a solo photo mission to get pictures of the Kriemhild Stellung position, the main German line in the MeuseArgonne sector. … Archie was hot as hell. I was holding a straight and level course for Bill’s photos and the bursts got closer and closer. Just as he was about through, one burst almost jarred my teeth loose. I thought we had been hit, especially when I heard a garbled voice over the speaking tube. It was Bill. I didn’t know it but the jar had upset him and he was on the floor all tangled up in his speaking tube and drums of ammunition that had fallen out of the racks. I called to him, “Bill, are you hit?” “Yes,” I thought I heard him say over and over again. Poor Bill, I thought, he’s really got it, so I pulled off the course and headed wide open for Souilly to get him to the hospital there before he bled to death. We landed, and as soon as we had rolled to a stop, I got out to help Bill out of his cockpit. Much to my astonishment, he stood up and yelled, “What in hell are we landing here for?” “I came in here to get you to the hospital,” I replied. “When I asked you if you were hit, you said, ‘Yes.’ Now, are you or aren’t you wounded?” I was exasperated. “No, I’m not wounded and I didn’t say I was,” Bill roared back. “All I was telling you was to ‘Ess,’ instead of keeping on flying in a straight line until those damned Archies shot us down. I was through taking pictures and just wanted to get out of there fast. What’s the matter? Are you sore because I didn’t get hit?” I started to make some pithy remark but as we glared at each other, the silly situation dawned on us and we both laughed. We took off, flew back to Vavincourt, and forgot about it.
October 6 —Rain all day. No flying. The word around is that Frank Luke is dead. Guess the Germans must have dropped another note.