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2000 Closed threads from 2000 (read only)

 
 
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Old 2 January 2001, 06:09 AM   #31 (permalink)
Vin
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Ray

No, balloon attacks were obviously not for sissies. It required courage but no great flying ability to attack balloons because of the protection from groundfire and patrolling scouts, as you point out. These dangers aside, an easy shot. High reward but high risk. I agree with Kory’s assessment that he was a glory seeker. Balloons were a quick and easy way to rack up a score. The odds caught up with him very quickly. By the way, he may not have been as gung ho has the groupies would have you think. Look at

http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/airserv2.htm

BG Gen William Mitchell suggests that Luke destroyed his balloons by straffing them on the ground after nightfall when they had been winched in rather than when in the air at work, so to speak.

If he is to be compared with others then it should be with Karl Schlegal (14 balloons out of 22 victories), Oskar Hennrich (13 out of 20) or Claude Marcel Haegelen (12 out of 22). All were more successful and the latter 2 survived the War. Comparisons with greats like Voss, Von Richthofen and Foncke are laughable.

If it wasn’t for that cock and bull yarn about the shootout, I doubt that the story would garner any notice in the 51 states.


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Old 2 January 2001, 06:22 AM   #32 (permalink)
Michael Dailey
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VC's, PLM's, and MOH's given for self sacrifice verging on the foolhardy rather than exemplary achievement?

The PlM does not fit into the same category with the other two decorations mentioned. A German pilot who does what Barker did in October 1918 or what Luke did in September would not recieve a PlM for his effort. He might recieve an iron cross second or first class, depending on what he had already been awarded in the past.

A German pilot who did what Barker did in the months leading up to his final scrap would certainly recieve the PlM.

Luke recieved the MOH for one act of bravery that went beyond the call of duty, that is the criteria for the award. It does not matter if he were an upstart or whether he was an ace of any standing. That is why a Private who is in combat for the first time can win a MOH but would never win a PlM no matter what he did.

Even though each award mentioned is the highest combat bravery award of its respective country, each is different respect to the way it is awarded and it is sometimes misleading to lump them together.

There are exceptions where the MOH has been awarded for exemplary achievement over a period of time (Bong?) and where the PlM has been awarded for one achievement (Rommel at Caporetto)
but I must emphasize that these are exceptions.

regards

MDD
 
Old 2 January 2001, 06:43 AM   #33 (permalink)
Michael Dailey
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I would also like to mention that had Voss had of course earned his PlM long before his fight with McCudden and Co.

I would also like to point out that the Germans gave Voss no posthumous award whatsoever for his final fight, even after they knew about it.

Had Voss been British or American, he would have almost certainly received a posthumous VC or MOH once the circumstances of his demise became known.

But he got nothing, zero from the Germans for this event. He had already earned his iron crosses and PlM for an exemplary record of sustained acheivement before his death.

Had he been a regular non ace German pilot and survived the fight he would have got no PlM unless he had reached a certain victory total as a result of the fight (again, sustained acheivement). For the fight itself he might have recieved a pat on the back, or the next higher level iron cross decoration if he were lucky.

Contrast with Barker who had a record of exemplary acheivement leading up to his final fight then got his big medal specifically for this act and not for the record of achievement leading up to it.

MDD
 
Old 2 January 2001, 07:01 AM   #34 (permalink)
Mark M.
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Vin seems to contradict himself a bit with his treatment of the "Arizona boaster". On the one hand, as a balloon-buster, Luke is courageous, but shows no great flying skill. Is this also true of the other balloon busters, or just Luke? The German command instructed Erich Löwenhardt to write a terchnique on balloon attack prior to the spring 1918 offensive. Some of EL's writings are reproduced in the Bodenschatz diaries, and the instruction goes to great pains to describe how the attack must be planned, surveyed, and executed. Flying skills seem to be the most important factor, as described by the German.

Luke is a glory-seeker, involved in a high risk/high reward endeavor? Vin believes that Mitchell's piece in the GWS archive suggests that Luke was something less than a skilled drachen buster because his efforts sometimes flamed grounded bags. I would submit that the same is true for all the famous balloon busters, most of whom conducted their attacks near the time when the bags were going down for the night or up in the morning. Further, the closer to the ground the balloon is located, the closer the attacker must bring himself to heavy concentrations of enemy guns.

Finally, comparing Luke to greats such as vR, Voss, etc is laughable? While it is true that he survived to fight only for a brief time, look at what the man accomplished in that time. Except for a handful of Escadrillers and RFC'ers, Americans were not in the game for long. US pilots entering the game in 1917 or 1918 had no experience and a lot to learn. If you were to say that Luke had more guts than brains I might be inclined to agree, but it seems to me that he thought about what he wanted to do, consulted the experts on the issue (US & French balloon personnel), devised a plan of attack, and was successful using the plan. The no respect for authority and disdain for his own safety are things that everyone can like about him. I agree, maybe Luke was not the greatest pilot of the war, but, with respects to Putnam and Capt. Ed, he was the best America had.
 
Old 2 January 2001, 07:47 AM   #35 (permalink)
Vin
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Mark,

Attacking a large stationary object which does not shoot back requires less flying skill than dog fighting an aircraft of similar or greater capabilities. If Luke did strafe balloons on the ground after dark as Mitchell suggests, and/or apply other techniques, then he was doing his job properly. Not glamorous enough for the groupies, though. Any comparisons should be with others who plied the same trade with similar results, Schlegal, Hennrich and Haegelen. Now that does not suit the groupies because they are unknowns. It is laughable to compare him with Voss et alia because his achievements pale into insignificance against theirs.

The groupies never make comparisons with Rickenbacker and Putnam, presumably because neither are in the same league as Voss, Von Richthofen etc and do not add to Luke’s stature.


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Old 2 January 2001, 08:03 AM   #36 (permalink)
Kory Clark
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Luke's 4 Air to Air victories occur within one month. Now this does not compare to Voss's 12 during bloody april but then Luke was fighting D7s. I don't think he was a slouch in the flying "skills" department. Shooting down 2 D7s in one dogfight is a feat. However I don't think anyone was trying to compare these two in air combat ability. Just aggresiveness.

I do however, think Frank Luke ranks up there with other nations "big" aces. This is coming from a Canadian. I don't see any reason he should not be talked about in the same sentences as Barker, Voss, Fonck, or Ball.

 
Old 2 January 2001, 02:25 PM   #37 (permalink)
Vin
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Kory

Are you able to say on what basis you consider Luke ranks up there with other nations "big" aces ?

Score ? 4 aircraft plus some balloons -v- 40 - 80 ?
Longevity ? He lasted a little over 2 months, for most of which he was unproductive
Leadership qualities ? Did not achieve leadership rank and may have been flying against orders at his death
Aggression ? The really greats were controlled
Flying skill ? Took 50 odd days before he scored and was dead within a couple of weeks.


Vin
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Old 3 January 2001, 05:19 AM   #38 (permalink)
Kory Clark
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Well i guess it's a difference of opinion, I do think he ranks up there as much as say willy coppens who only had two plane victories. Willy did more for the "War" than any of the pampered boys. I say again, in the interest of the topic of this thread Luke can easily be compared to Voss. No one is comparing "Victories" or "Flying skill" here.

 
Old 3 January 2001, 06:28 AM   #39 (permalink)
Vin
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If you want to assert that Luke ranks up there with other nations "big" aces or that he can easily be compared with Voss, you must have some basis for saying so. Of course no one is comparing "Victories" or "Flying skill" here. There is no comparison. That is what is objectionable with the comparisons between Luke and the truly greats which the groupies trot out from time to time. They imply quality not earned by performance.

Coppens scarcely cops a mention on this forum. That sums up popular sentiment on the issue of the victim value of balloons –v- aircraft as victims. Not much glamour factor in balloons. A comparison between Luke and Coppens is heading in the right direction. Coppens learned to fly in 1914 and was flying during 1916 although his first victory was in April 1918. His score, leadership qualities etc. put him in a completely different category from Luke.

Now if there was a category for Flash in the Pans…


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