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Name: Frank Luke, Jr. Balloon-Buster
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster (DSC - United States)
Croce di Guerra (Italy)
Frank Luke

Country: United States
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Service: United States Air Service
Units: 27th Aero
Victories: 18
Born: 19 May 1897
Place of Birth: Phoenix, Arizona
Died: 29 September 1918 Killed In Action
Place of Death: Near Murvaux, France
Cemetery: Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne, France
Plot A Row 26 Grave 13 Image
 
 
Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the "Arizona Balloon-Buster" was the leading ace in the United States Air Service at the time of his death. After aerial combat training at Issoudun, France, Frank Luke, Jr. was assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron under Harold Hartney on 25 July 1918. Often flying alone or with his sidekick Joseph Wehner, he shot down 18 enemy balloons and planes in just 18 days. After flaming three German balloons on 29 September 1918, Luke's SPAD XIII (S7984) was shot down by ground fire. Resisting capture, he shot it out with approaching German soldiers and was killed near the crash site. After the war, Luke's remains were reburied at the Romagne Military Cemetery. Luke Field in Hawaii and Luke Air Force Base near Glendale, Arizona were named in his honor.

"Man, how that kid could fly! No one, mind you, no one, had the sheer contemptuous courage that boy possessed. I know he's been criticized for being such a lone-hander, but, good Lord, he won us priceless victories by those very tactics. 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." Harold Hartney, Commanding Officer, 1st Pursuit Group

"He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other ace Britain's Bishop from Canada, France's Fonck or even the dreaded Richthofen had ever come close to that." Edward Rickenbacker
The Tucson Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, Saturday, 16 November 1918, page 4
Combat Report, 12 September 1918
 
Documents and Articles
Graves Registration Letter - "From the inspection of the grave and interview held with the inhabitants of this town, the following information was learned in regard to this aviator and his heroism. He is reported as having..." more

American Red Cross Letter - "This officer was killed at Murvaux (5 kilometers east of Dun-sur-Meuse) on Sunday, September 29, 1918. The Germans stripped him of all identification, but Captain McCormick..." more

Murvaux Affidavit - "The undersigned, living in Murvaux, Department of the Meuse, certify to have seen on the 29th of September, 1918, toward evening an American aviator followed by an escadrille of Germans..." more

Frey's Murvaux Affidavit, 1962 - "At approximately 2.pm on Sunday, 29 September 1918, an Allied pursuit plane made a strafing attack on a group of German soldiers in the area of La Maisonette, a large building on a hillside..." more

Monument to Frank Luke Restored by Stephen Skinner
"On the average tourist map, the tiny village of Murvaux is non-existent. But if you buy a large, detailed Michelin map of France and a good magnifying glass, you'll find it represented by a tiny speck about 5 kilometers..." more
 
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Frank Luke, Jr., Second Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near St. Mihiel, France, September 12 to 15, 1918. Lieutenant Luke, by skill, determination, and bravery, and in the face of heavy enemy fire, successfully destroyed eight enemy observation balloons in four days.
General Orders No. 34, W.D., 1919
 
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) - Oak Leaf Cluster
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Frank Luke, Jr., Second Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Etain, France, September 18, 1918. Immediately after destroying two enemy observation balloons, Lieutenant Luke was attacked by a large formation of German planes, Fokker type. He turned to attack two, which were directly behind him, and shot them down. Sighting an enemy biplane, although his gasoline was nearly gone, he attacked and destroyed this machine also.
General Orders No. 34, W.D., 1919
 
Medal of Honor
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Murvaux, France, September 29, 1918. After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within 17 days he voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by 8 German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames 3 German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within 50 meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing 6 and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.
Medal of Honor citattion
 
Victories
Date Time Unit Aircraft Opponent Location
1 12 Sep 1918 0809 27th   Balloon Marieulles
2 14 Sep 1918 27th   Balloon Buzy
3 14 Sep 1918 1000 27th   Balloon 1 Boinville
4 15 Sep 1918 27th   Balloon Boinville
5 15 Sep 1918 27th   Balloon Boinville
6 15 Sep 1918 1950 27th   Balloon Chaumont
7 16 Sep 1918 27th   Balloon Reville
8 16 Sep 1918 1940 27th   Balloon 2 Romagne
9 18 Sep 1918 1640 27th   Balloon 2 Mars la Tour
10 18 Sep 1918 1640 27th   Balloon 2 Mars la Tour
11 18 Sep 1918 1645 27th   Fokker D.VII St. Hilaire
12 18 Sep 1918 1645 27th   Fokker D.VII St. Hilaire
13 18 Sep 1918 1645 27th   Halberstadt C Jonville
14 28 Sep 1918 0600 27th   Balloon Betheniville
15 28 Sep 1918 1550 27th   Hannover CL Monthainville
16 29 Sep 1918 1705 27th   Balloon Avocourt
17 29 Sep 1918 1710 27th   Balloon Avocourt
18 29 Sep 1918 1712 27th   Balloon Avocourt

1 Shared with Lt L H Dawson, Lt T F Lennon
2 Shared with Lt Joseph Wehner
 
Books
American Aces of World War 1
by Norman Franks, Harry Dempsey (Illustrator) / Paperback / Osprey Publishing (September 25, 2001)
The Balloon-Buster: Frank Luke of Arizona
Norman Shannon Hall / Textbook Binding / Ayer Co Pub 1972
Frank Luke: September RampageReview
William P. Haiber / Softcover / Info Devel Press, La Grangeville, N.Y., 1999
Over the Front
by Norman L. R. Franks, Frank W. Bailey / Hardcover / Grub Street the Basement (May 1992)
The Stand: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.
by Stephen Skinner / Hardcover / Schiffer Publishing (September 2008)
 
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