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1998 Closed threads from 1998 (read only)

 
 
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Old 16 November 1998, 10:25 PM   #1
Pat
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Wasn't he the balloon buster from Arizona?
 
Old 16 November 1998, 10:36 PM   #2
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Frank Luke was the 2nd ranking USAS fighter ace, and yes, he was known as the "Arizona Balloon Buster". Of his 18 confirmed victories, 14 were observation balloons, thought by some to be the most dangerous targets to go after, considering they were usually ringed with machine guns and AA artillery.

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Old 17 November 1998, 01:40 AM   #3
Dan Feltmate
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Yup
 
Old 17 November 1998, 05:17 PM   #4
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Al got the brief description on target so I'll just add a little to it:
Frank Luke, Jr., (21 victories) made himself a reputation for voluntarily attacking what was considered to be the most challenging and suicidal target in modern air warfare at the time: the German Observation Balloon or "affectionately" known as Sausages or Drachen! Frank was a young buckaroo from the deserts of Phoenix, Arizona and a top athlete. He joined up in Sept. 1917, intending to be a mechanic but wound up in flight training. He quickly became a natural flier and was a world class marksman, perhaps the best to ever sit behind a Vickers machine gun ensemble.
He became known as a discipline case when he started dropping out of squadron strength patrols and searching out quarry on his own. Each time he did so the flight commander would give him an ineffective talking to. One day he came back solo and told his waiting CO(Major Harold Hartney) that he shot down a Hun plane. There was no ground confirmation but after giving an exacting report to the CO he was given credit! Thus began the uproar of spurious remarks and accusations of falsehoods in Frank's claim. Frank, was angered by his squadron-mates rebukes and either pointed out there own shortcomings & then challenged them to fight(which there were no takers of the fireball youth)or stonewalled the doubting Thomases. (SEE NEXT MESSAGE)
 
Old 17 November 1998, 06:23 PM   #5
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(CONT.) All except one: Joseph Wehner. A soft spoken, collegiate youth from Boston. Joe's family were from Germany and he worked w/the YMCA in Berlin after graduating college, right up until the U.S. cut diplomatic ties w/Germany in April 1917. Joe joined the air service and was later falsely accused of being a traitor by the FBI & arrested by the Secret Service. He was soon released due to lack of evidence(a complete witch hunt it turns out)and allowed to join his unit in France. He was angry and withdrawn due to the country he was trying to serve questioning his loyalty. Frank and Joe were kindred spirits do to this commonality of mindset and other attributes.
They fast became a daring attack team, destroying many balloons and planes together. Joe usually flew "cap" or cover against Heinie fighters during Frank's attack runs. Joe was killed on one of these missions and Frank was devastated. He was nicknamed "Hard Luck Luke" after another young pilot named Ivan Roberts from Maine was killed while flying as Frank's wingman.
Frank became wild with bloodlust and went after the Hun balloons w/a ferocious disregard for protocol or his own safety. He racked up kill after kill, coming back with his plane falling to pieces and riddled with gunfire. He went AWOL on occasion but only to return w/new victories! The patience of his commanders ran out and concern for his state of mind! He was grounded. Luke walked out of the CO's office, Capt. Alfred Grant, and hopped in his plane. It was Sept. 29, 1918, Luke dropped a note over American Balloon Observer HQ that said "Watch three Hun balloons on the Meuse. Luke". He proceeded to shoot down three balloons and two fighter planes. However, he was apparently injured by groundfire. Wounded and with a damaged crate, he made a screaming eagle dive on German troop positions in the main street of the occupied town of Murvaux. Luke, killed six German soldiers and wounded that many again. He then set down outside of town and went to quench his thirst at a small brook. He was approached by troops and alledgedly ordered to surrender. Frank, true to his nature, drew a .45 semi-auto pistol and opened fire on the Germans. It is unclear how many were actually hit, but the troops cut him down w/Mauser fire. Luke took one in the chest and died. These final events were not known until after the war when Graves Registration officers found his grave and interviewed the villagers. They made a sworn affidavit attesting to these events. Luke was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously in 1919. The first American avaitor to receive it.
 
Old 18 November 1998, 04:52 AM   #6
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It was 18 confirmed victories, not 21.
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Old 18 November 1998, 04:40 PM   #7
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No, it was really 21, possibly 23, if he gave credit to Wehner for two which Luke really got.

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Old 18 November 1998, 06:07 PM   #8
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According to the official list from the old "WAR DEPARTMENT" Luke has 21 victories! It was 19 until 1919, when the 2 fighter planes, in addition to the 3 balloons, Luke downed on Sept.29,1918 were credited to him posthumously after hearing the sworn statements from the citizens of Murvaux. I know many sources, including this website, still list his tally at 18 or 19, but I can assure you that the OFFICIAL record for Luke is 21! For further confirmation contact GUS VINAS, the Luke AFB historian in Phoenix, Arizona. Also, I'm still trying to get my claws on this and other documents in our files to post on this site to settle this and other matters once and for all. Thanks again everybody. Mutley
 
Old 19 November 1998, 02:12 PM   #9
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I'm more than willing to accept an official amendment to the record, but USAF Historical Study 33 (I think) still lists Luke w/18. I suspect the good folks at Luke AFB are reading off a different sheet than the Office of AF History at Bolling AFB and the records center at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. The American Fighter Aces Assn also credits Luke with 18.
Regarding Joe Wehner: the Champlin Fighter Museum has some of his memorabilia, including a set of metal pilot's wings allegedly given Wehner by Luke. Joe's letters to his sister while working with the Red Cross in Germany in 1916 are illuminating: he was an idealistic young man but wholly lacking in any image of glamor in war. He had dealt with too many crippled Germans and injured allied POWs.
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Old 19 November 1998, 06:08 PM   #10
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I can assure you that the information at Luke AFB supercedes and surpasses any other. I think certain sources refuse to recognize the "1st kill" and his two planes in his last action because of affidavit confirmation.
The records we reviewed, pulled through the archives in St.Louis MO, state 21 as his recognized tally. Therefore, that is the way it shall be on the "big screen" and in turn, it shall become policy.
 
 

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