DEATH OF LOCAL HERO DESCRIBED
Witness Writes Lieut. Schoen's Mother of Gallant Fight Against Odds.
Mrs. William Schoen Morgan, 4801 Broadway, mother of First Lieutenant Karl Schoen
, who was killed Oct. 29 in an air battle in France, has received a letter from Lieut. Felix A. Leser, who witnessed the battle in which Lieut. Schoen met his death. The letter gives a graphic description of the fight. Lieut. Schoen was a member of the One Hundred and Thirty-ninth Aero Squadron and had been overseas in action for several months.
The letter, dated Oct. 29 and written from "A Dugout Somewhere Along the Front," is as follows:
"My Dear Mrs. Schoen: I want to extend my most sincere sympathy in your great sorrow over the death of your brave boy, and also give you a full description of the plucky fight he put up.
Two U. S. Planes Attack.
"On the afternoon of Oct. 29, I was in an advanced ammunition dump getting powder when three German planes came over, bent on destroying it, as they had tried two nights previous, but without success. Almost instantly two American planes appeared and flew straight toward the enemy. Quite a few shots were exchanged and one boche was seen to lose control, his machine tumbling over and over, finally crashing to the ground in what once had been a city (can't mention its name, as the censorship regulations are very strict).
"Then they seemed to pair off, your son and a boche, and the other American plane with the remaining German machine—at first the fighting went on high up in the sky, then gradually they came lower, and I could distinguish, with the aid of my field glasses, the aviators, one in each American plane, which were nothing but small scouting machines, and two, an aviator and an observer, in each German machine, which meant that each boche plane could handle four machine guns to our one.
"Suddenly a wing collapsed on an American plane, and it was a pathetic sight to see it whirling round and round, like a piece of paper dropped from a great height, shining like silver as the rays of the late afternoon sun fell upon it, finally falling over the next hill—a pile of wreckage—and its pilot, a Lieut. Phillips, I believe, killed before the fall, as two machine gun bullets had pierced his head.
Driven Toward Ground.
"I then turned my attention to the other American machine, which, as I found out later, was piloted by your son. He was splitting about even. First he would be on top and then the boche—both planes maneuvering for the most advantageous position, but as the minutes sped by one could tell he was putting up a losing but game fight. They drove him down until barely 300 yards separated him from the ground. The odds were against him—four machine guns and two men against one machine gun and one man in a much smaller plane—but your son was game: had the sort of stuff in him that has made the Germans more afraid of the Americans than any other nation.
"He was so near the ground that he could have landed and have been alive today, but to quit then after he had seen his brother aviator shot down was not in him; instead of quitting he pulled hard on the steering lever and his little machine bounded straight up under his adversary.
"At the same time his machine gun must have jammed, for I saw him pull his pistol and fire several shots, one or more being effective, as the German observer dropped limp in his seat, and I thought for a moment that he would come out victorious but a sudden burst from the boche's machine gun broke your son's arm, and losing control, his machine started into a fatal nosedive and as it did I saw your boy fire several more shots with his pistol at the then departing boche, and when we picked him up he still had the automatic clasped tightly in his right hand, brave boy that he was, fighting till the last.
Boche Plane Crumples.
"I also had the satisfaction of seeing our anti-aircraft guns make a direct hit on the retreating boche and saw his machine crumple up and crash to the earth about one kilometer from the spot where your son fell. Am enclosing a small strip of the camouflaged wing of the German plane.
"I did not know your son, but I was sure that you would appreciate the details of your son's death, and as soon as I am permitted I will send a map showing the exact location of his last resting place.
"In closing I wish to say that he was a man—a man through and through—and you may well afford to be proud of your boy as he died fighting, fighting for the right cause, and died game—game until the very end."
Lieut. Leser is in the Coast Artillery. Lieut. Schoen's widow, Mrs. Maurine Schoen, and a 10-months'-old daughter live at 5201 College avenue.
The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis, Indiana) - Wednesday, November 27, 1918