Tag Archives: Medal of Honor

9 November 1967: Medal of Honor, Captain Gerald Orren Young, United States Air Force

Medal of Honor

MEDAL OF HONOR

YOUNG, GERALD O.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Orren Young, United States Air Force. (1930–1990)

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 37th ARS Da Nang AFB, Republic of Vietnam.

Place and date: Khesanh, 9 November 1967.

Entered service at: Colorado Springs, Colo. Born: 9 May 1930, Chicago, Ill.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Young distinguished himself while serving as a helicopter rescue crew commander. Capt. Young was flying escort for another helicopter attempting the night rescue of an Army ground reconnaissance team in imminent danger of death or capture. Previous attempts had resulted in the loss of 2 helicopters to hostile ground fire. The endangered team was positioned on the side of a steep slope which required unusual airmanship on the part of Capt. Young to effect pickup. Heavy automatic weapons fire from the surrounding enemy severely damaged 1 rescue helicopter, but it was able to extract 3 of the team. The commander of this aircraft recommended to Capt. Young that further rescue attempts be abandoned because it was not possible to suppress the concentrated fire from enemy automatic weapons. With full knowledge of the danger involved, and the fact that supporting helicopter gunships were low on fuel and ordnance, Capt. Young hovered under intense fire until the remaining survivors were aboard. As he maneuvered the aircraft for takeoff, the enemy appeared at point-blank range and raked the aircraft with automatic weapons fire. The aircraft crashed, inverted, and burst into flames. Capt. Young escaped through a window of the burning aircraft. Disregarding serious burns, Capt. Young aided one of the wounded men and attempted to lead the hostile forces away from his position. Later, despite intense pain from his burns, he declined to accept rescue because he had observed hostile forces setting up automatic weapons positions to entrap any rescue aircraft. For more than 17 hours he evaded the enemy until rescue aircraft could be brought into the area. Through his extraordinary heroism, aggressiveness, and concern for his fellow man, Capt. Young reflected the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the Armed Forces of his country.

Sikorsky HH-3E 66-13290, a Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopter of the 37th Air Rescue Squadron, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, 1968. This aircraft is similar to 66-13279, Jolly Green 26, the helicopter flown by Captain Young, 9 November 1967. (U.S. Air Force)
Sikorsky HH-3E Sea King 66-13290, a “Jolly Green Giant” rescue helicopter of the 37th Air Rescue Squadron, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, 1968. This aircraft the same type as 66-13279, “Jolly 26,” the helicopter flown by Captains Young and Brower, 9 November 1967. (U.S. Air Force)

The remaining crew members of Jolly Green 26 died in the crash. They were Captain Ralph Wayne Brower, the helicopter’s co-pilot; Staff Sergeant Eugene Lunsford Clay, flight engineer; Sergeant Larry Wayne Maysey, Pararescueman. The soldiers that “Jolly 26” had just rescued, Special Forces Master Sergeant Bruce Raymond Baxter and Specialist 4 Joseph George Kusick, both of U.S. Army Reconnaissance Team UTAH, were also killed.

Captain Brower, Staff Sergeant Clay and Sergeant Maysey were each posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for “extraordinary heroism” during the rescue.

Hill 891, a 2,923-foot hilltop just west of the Laos/Vietnam Border: the crash site of UH-1D "Spartan 53" and HH-3E "Jolly Green 26," 9 November 1967. (190th AHC)
Hill 891, a 2,923-foot hilltop just west of the village of Talat Luay, Laos, near the Vietnam Border: the crash site of UH-1D “Spartan 53” and HH-3E “Jolly Green 26,” 9 November 1967. (190th AHC)

The Sikorsky HH-3E (Sikorsky S-61R) earned the nickname Jolly Green Giant during the Vietnam War. It is a dedicated Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter flown by the U.S. Air Force, based on the CH-3C transport helicopter. The aircraft is flown by two pilots and the crew includes a flight mechanic and gunner. It is a large twin-engine helicopter with a single main rotor/tail rotor configuration. It has retractable tricycle landing gear and a rear cargo ramp. The rear landing gear retracts into a stub wing on the aft fuselage. The helicopter has an extendable inflight refueling boom.

The HH-3E is 72 feet, 7 inches (22.123 meters) long and 18 feet, 10 inches (5.740 meters) high with all rotors turning. The main rotor has five blades and a diameter of 62 feet (18.898 meters). Each blade has a chord of 1 foot, 6.25 inches (0.464 meters). The main rotor turns at 203 r.p.m., counter-clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the right.) The tail rotor also has five blades and has a diameter of 10 feet, 4 inches (3.150 meters). The blades have a chord of 7–11/32 inches (0.187 meters). The tail rotor turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor turns 1,244 r.p.m.

The HH-3E has an empty weight of 13,341 pounds (6,051 kilograms). The maximum gross weight is 22,050 pounds (10,002 kilograms).

The Jolly Green Giant is powered by two General Electric T58-GE-5 turboshaft engines, which have a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 1,400 shaft horsepower, each, and Military Power rating of 1,500 shaft horsepower. The main transmission is rated for 2,500 horsepower, maximum.

The HH-3E has a cruise speed of 154 miles per hour (248 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 177 miles per hour (285 kilometers per hour), also at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The HH-3E had a maximum range of 779 miles (1,254 kilometers) with external fuel tanks.

The Jolly Green Giant can be armed with two M60 7.62 mm machine guns.

Sikorsky built 14 HH-3Es. Many CH-3Cs and CH-3Es were upgraded to the HH-3E configuration. Sikorsky built a total of 173 of the S-61R series.

Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant 67-14709 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 November 1944

Second Lieutenant Robert Edward Femoyer, Air Corps, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)

2 November 1944: The 8th Air Force sent 638 B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bombers, escorted by 642 P-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning fighters from their bases in England, over 500 miles to attack the I.G. Farben Leunawerke synthetic oil refinery at Leuna, a 3-square-mile facility a few miles from Merseberg, Germany.

The Leuna refinery used a hydrogeneration process to produce aviation gasoline from coal. This was the most heavily defended target in all of Germany, surrounded by more than 1,700 88 mm and 105 mm antiaircraft guns (“flak”) in 36-gun batteries. According the the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, “Aircrews viewed a mission to Leuna as the most dangerous and difficult assignment of the air war.

One B-17 pilot described it: “When I describe the flak over Leuna as a cloud, I don’t mean just a wall of smoke; it was a box, the length, width, and depth of our route to the ‘bombs away’ point.”

On the 2 November attack, the bombers were under “intense” anti-aircraft fire for 18 minutes, and heavy fire for 30 minutes. They were also attacked by a record 700 Luftwaffe fighters including the new Me 262 twin-engine jets. The 8th Air Force lost 38 B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and 28 fighters. An astonishing 481 bombers were damaged.

Second Lieutenant Robert E. Femoyer was the navigator on one of those B-17s, commanded by Second Lieutenant Jerome Rosenblum. B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress 42-38052, Hotshot Green, of the 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy) based at RAF Rattlesden, was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire and fell out of formation.

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor

The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
to

FEMOYER, ROBERT E.

(Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, 711th Bombing Squadron, 447th Bomber Group, U.S. Army Air Corps.

Place and date: Over Merseberg, Germany, 2 November 1944.

Entered service at: Jacksonville, Fla. Born: 31 October 1921, Huntington, W. Va.

G.O. No.: 35, 9 May 1945

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty near Merseburg, Germany, on 2 November 1944. While on a mission, the bomber, of which 2d Lt. Femoyer was the navigator, was struck by 3 enemy antiaircraft shells. The plane suffered serious damage and 2d Lt. Femoyer was severely wounded in the side and back by shell fragments which penetrated his body. In spite of extreme pain and great loss of blood he refused an offered injection of morphine. He was determined to keep his mental faculties clear in order that he might direct his plane out of danger and so save his comrades. Not being able to arise from the floor, he asked to be propped up in order to enable him to see his charts and instruments. He successfully directed the navigation of his lone bomber for 2-½ hours so well it avoided enemy flak and returned to the field without further damage. Only when the plane had arrived in the safe area over the English Channel did he feel that he had accomplished his objective; then, and only then, he permitted an injection of a sedative. He died shortly after being removed from the plane. The heroism and self-sacrifice of 2d Lt. Femoyer are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

B-17 Flying Fortress bombers under anti-aircraft artillery fire over Merseberg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force)
B-17 Flying Fortress bombers under anti-aircraft artillery fire over Merseberg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force)

Robert Edward Femoyer was born 30 October 1921 at Huntington, West Virginia. He was the first of two children of Edward Peter Femoyer and Mary Elizabeth Kramer Femoyer. After graduating from St. Joseph’s Central Catholic High School in Huntington, Femoyer attended Marshall College for one year before transferring to the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute (better known as Virginia Tech), at Blacksburg, Virginia, as a member of the Class of 1944.

In February 1942, when he registered with the draft board, Femoyer was an employee of the Hercules Powder Company, a manufacturer of explosives. He was described as having brown hair and eyes, was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds. Femoyer joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps at Roanoke, Virginia, 11 November 1942. He enlisted as a private in the Air Corps 4 February 1943 at Miami Beach, Florida, where he received basic military training.

Aviation Cadet Robert Edward Femoyer, Air Corps, United States Army, 1943. (Imperial War Museum)

After aircrew training at the University of Pittsburgh, March through June, 1943, Aviation Cadet Femoyer was sent to the Mississippi Institute of Aeronautics, Jackson, Mississippi, for flight training. He did not qualify as a pilot but was recommended for training as a navigator. He trained at Selman Army Airfield, near Monroe, Louisiana, and attended aerial gunnery school at Fort Myers, Florida. On graduation, 10 June 1944, Robert Edward Femoyer was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Following combat crew training at Lincoln, Nebraska, he was deployed to England in September 1944. Lieutenant Femoyer was assigned to the 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy) at RAF Rattlesden, southeast of Bury St. Edmunds Suffolk, England.

Second Lieutenant Robert Edward Femoyer’s body was returned to the United States in 1949, and buried at the Greenlawn Cemetery, Jacksonville, Florida. A residential building at Virginia Polytechnic Institute was built following the war and named Femoyer Hall.

Douglas B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress 42-38052, 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy), RAF Rattlesden, Suffolk, England. At the time of this photograph, the airplane carried the name, Lucky Stehley Boy. (Mark Brown, U.S. Air Force)
Douglas B-17G-25-DL Flying Fortress 42-38052, 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy), RAF Rattlesden, Suffolk, England. At the time of this photograph, the airplane carried the name, Lucky Stehley Boy. (Mark Brown, U.S. Air Force)

B-17G-25-DL 42-38052 was one of 2,400 B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bombers built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at Long Beach, California from 1943 to 1945. 2,395 of these were the “G” variant, with its distinctive “chin” gun turret. -052 was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1943. In January 1944, the new bomber was assigned to the 711th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at U.S. Army Air Forces Station 126 (RAF Rattlesden), Suffolk, England. The new bomber flew its first combat mission 4 February 1944.

The B-17G was camouflaged with the standard U.S.A.A.F. olive drab sides and upper surfaces, with neutral gray underneath. The vertical fin and wing tips were painted yellow and two vertical green stripes circled the aft fuselage. The four engine cowlings were painted blue, and a blue chevron was painted on the top of the right wing, indicating that this B-17 belonged to the 711th Bomb Squadron. The 447th’s group identification, a white letter “K” surrounded by a black square, was painted on the upper portion of the fin. Below this was its abbreviated serial number, “238052.” A black capital “L”, identifying the individual airplane, was painted at the bottom of the fin.

42-38052 was a replacement aircraft and was flown by several crews. It carried the names El Mal Centavo (“The Bad Penny”) and Lucky Stehley Boy, (“. . . so named in honor of Dr. Stehley of Cumberland. . . .”—Grant County Press, Petersburg, West Virginia, Thursday, 31 August 1944, Page 1, Column 6.)

This Vega Aircraft Corporation-built B-17G-105-VE Flying Fortress, 44-85784, seen at Rotterdam, May 1985, is painted in the markings of the 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy). (Jan Arkesteijn)
This Vega Aircraft Corporation-built B-17G-105-VE Flying Fortress, 44-85784, seen at Rotterdam, May 1985, is painted in the markings of the 447th Bombardment Group (Heavy). (Jan Arkesteijn)

On 27 March 1945, -052 crash-landed at B-53, a forward airfield near Merville, France, when its left main landing gear failed to extend. It was repaired and survived the war.

B-17G-25-DL 42-38052, with one main gear extended, just before crash landing at B-53, 1340 hours, 27 March 1945. (U.S. Air Force)
B-17G-25-DL 42-38052, with one main gear extended, just before crash landing at B-53, 1340 hours, 27 March 1945. (U.S. Air Force)

The veteran bomber was flown back to the United States and on 15 August 1945, arrived at the reclamation center at Kingman, Arizona. It was scrapped 8 November 1945, after less than two years of service.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 October 1918

Harold Ernest Goettler (National Museum of the United States Air Force)
First Lieutenant Harold Ernest Goettler, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army. Portrait by Edward Frederick Foley, New York, 1918. (National Museum of the United States Air Force)

6 October 1918: During the Meuse-Argonne offensive of World War I, approximately 554 soldiers of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division advanced into the Argonne Forest with a French division on their left flank and the American 92nd Division to the left. They moved quickly, unaware that the flanking units were held up. Soon, they were far ahead of the Allied advance and became cut off behind the German lines. With higher ground to all sides, the elements of the 307th and 308th Infantry Regiments and 306th Machine Gun Battalion came under heavy attack by enemy infantry and artillery.

With their communications cut off, they were soon low on food and ammunition. The only water available was a nearby stream that was protected by German gunfire.

Major General Robert Alexander, commanding the 77th Division, requested that the 50th Aero Squadron, based at Remicourt, attempt to locate the cut-off unit and resupply them by air. Among the officers of the 50th participating in the search were First Lieutenant Harold Ernest (“Dad”) Goettler, the 1st Flight commander, and Second Lieutenant Erwin Russell Bleckley, flying an American-built Liberty-engined DH-4. On their first flight they flew their own aircraft, squadron number 2. Later in the day, after #2 developed engine trouble, they used another crew’s #6.

Medal of Honor

Harold Ernest Goettler

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, pilot, U.S. Air Service, 50th Aero Squadron, Air Service.

Place and date: Near Binarville, France, October 6, 1918.

Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Born: July 21, 1890, Chicago, Ill.

G.O. No.: 56, W.D., 1922.

Citation: 1st. Lt. Goettler, with his observer, 2d Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley, 130th Field Artillery, left the airdrome late in the afternoon on their second trip to drop supplies to a battalion of the 77th Division which had been cut off by the enemy in the Argonne Forest. Having been subjected on the first trip to violent fire from the enemy, they attempted on the second trip to come still lower in order to get the packages even more precisely on the designated spot. In the course of this mission the plane was brought down by enemy rifle and machinegun fire from the ground, resulting in the instant death of 1st. Lt. Goettler. In attempting and performing this mission 1st. Lt. Goettler showed the highest possible contempt of personal danger, devotion to duty, courage and valor.

*************

Bleckley (National Museum of the United States Air Force)
Private Erwin Russell Bleckley, Battery F, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Kansas National Guard, circa June 1917. Private Bleckley was commissioned a second lieutenant on 5 July 1917. (National Museum of the United States Air Force)

Medal of Honor

Erwin Russell Bleckley

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, 130th Field Artillery, observer 50th Aero Squadron, Air Service.

Place and date: Near Binarville, France, October 6, 1918.

Entered service at: Wichita, Kans. Birth: Wichita, Kans.

G.O. No.: 56, W.D., 1922.

Citation: 2d Lt. Bleckley, with his pilot, 1st Lt. Harold E. Goettler, Air Service, left the airdrome late in the afternoon on their second trip to drop supplies to a battalion of the 77th Division, which had been cut off by the enemy in the Argonne Forest. Having been subjected on the first trip to violent fire from the enemy, they attempted on the second trip to come still lower in order to get the packages even more precisely on the designated spot. In the course of his mission the plane was brought down by enemy rifle and machinegun fire from the ground, resulting in fatal wounds to 2d Lt. Bleckley, who died before he could be taken to a hospital. In attempting and performing this mission 2d Lt. Bleckley showed the highest possible contempt of personal danger, devotion to duty, courage, and valor.

Bleckley (National Museum of the United States Air Force)
Second Lieutenant Erwin Russell Bleckley, assigned as an artillery observer with the 50th Aero Squadron, mans the two .30-caliber M1918 Lewis machine guns of a DH-4, 1918. (National Museum of the United States Air Force)

“The Lost Battalion” was finally relieved on the afternoon of 8 October. Of the estimated 554 soldiers who entered the forest on 2 October, approximately 197 were killed and 150 were either missing or captured.

In addition to the Medals of Honor awarded to Lieutenants Goettler and Bleckley, four officers and enlisted men received the Medal. Twenty-eight others were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

An American-built DH-4 assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron, 1918. The position of the pilot’s cockpit identifies this airplane as the original DH-4 variant. The airplane’s manufacturer and serial number are unknown, but the squadron number 23 is painted on the underside of the lower right wing. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

The Airco DH.4 was a very successful airplane of World War I, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. The DH.4 (DH-4 in American service) was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The fuselage and wings were constructed of wood and covered with doped-fabric. The airplane was produced by several manufacturers in Europe and the United States. The DH-4 was 30 feet, 5 inches (9.271 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 8 inches (13.005 meters) and height of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). The DH-4 had an empty weight of 2,391 pounds, (1,085 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,297 pounds (1,949 kilograms). Fuel capacity was 67 gallons (254 liters).

Army Air Service DH-4s were powered by Liberty 12 aircraft engines in place of the Rolls-Royce Eagle VII V-12 of the British-built DH.4 version. The L-12 was water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter), single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine. It produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and it turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 67.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 27.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 41.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

Major Henry H. Arnold standing beside the first Liberty 12 aircraft engine turned out for war use. "Hap" Arnold would later hold the 5-star rank of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Henry Harley Arnold standing beside the first Liberty 12 aircraft engine turned out for war use. “Hap” Arnold would later hold the 5-star rank of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

The Liberty 12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and the Packard Motor Car Company. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

The DH-4 had a maximum speed of 124 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour), service ceiling of 19,600 feet (5,974 meters) and range of 400 miles (644 kilometers).

Many DH-4s were rebuilt as DH-4Bs. These can be identified by the relocated pilot’s cockpit, which was moved aft, closer to the observer’s position. The an enlarged fuel tank was place ahead of the pilot’s cockpit. Following World War II, many were rebuilt with tubular metal frames for the fuselage, replacing the original wooden structure. These aircraft were redesignated DH-4M.

The prototype American DH-4, Dayton-Wright-built airplane, is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Aviation and Space Museum.

This DH-4, serial number 32364, was assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron. The unit’s Dutch Girl insignia is painted on the fuselage along with the squadron number, 10. The name of the person standing by the airplane is not known. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 October 1920

Ensign William Merrill Corry, Jr., United States Navy, March 1913. (F. Brunel/United States Navy Bureau of Personnel)

Lieutenant Commander William Merrill Corry, Jr., United States Navy, was assigned as aviation aide to Admiral William Braid Wilson, Jr., Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB-38). On Saturday, 2 October 1920, Lieutenant Commander Corry, in company with Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Arthur C. Wagner, Reserve Force, United States Navy, flew from Mitchel Field, Mineola, Long Island, New York, to Hartford, Connecticut. Their airplane was a two-place, single-engine Curtiss JN-4 biplane. The flight was intended as a cross-country flight for the two pilots to maintain proficiency.

On arrival at Hartford, because there was no airfield in the vicinity, the pair landed on the grounds of the Hartford Golf Club. They stayed over the weekend as guests of Colonel Hamilton R. Horsey, formerly chief-of-staff of the 26th Division, U.S. Army, during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives of World War I, and Lieutenant Colonel James S. Howard.

At about 3:00 p.m., on Sunday, 3 October, Corry and Wagner were ready to return to Mineola. Lieutenant (j.g.) Wagner was flying from the forward cockpit, while Lieutenant Commander Corry was in the rear cockpit.

The Curtiss took off toward the north and at about 50 feet (15 meters) altitude, turned toward the southwest. As the airplane passed over the golf course club house, Corry waved to Colonel Horsey. The airplane approached a large grove of trees, then turned right, back to the north. The engine stopped and the airplane nose-dived into the ground from about 75 feet (23 meters).

The Hartford Courant reported:

Burned wreckage of the Curtiss JN-4 biplane flown by Wagner and Corry, 2–3 October 1920. (The Hartford Courant)

     The machine hit the ground at a sharp angle and immediately turned over endwise, the propeller catching in the ground. Commander Corry was catapulted from his seat, but Wagner, who had strapped himself into his seat, was less fortunate. As the machine turned over it burst into flames, enveloping him in a wash of blazing gasoline from the broken tank.

Corry’s Bravery.

     Commander Corry, picking himself up from the ground, was the first to rush to the aid of his comrade. It was in this way that his coat caught fire with the resulting burns to his hands and face. He was unable to pull Wagner free and it was not until Walter E. Patterson of the Travelers Insurance Company, and Martin Keane, an attache of the club, added their efforts this was successfully accomplished. Club members rushed from the clubhouse with several gallons of olive and sweet oil and were on hand almost as soon as the stricken man was freed from his seat. While the burning clothing was being removed from Wagner’s body, Benjamin Allen, a porter in the club, quickly wrapped his coat around Corry’s head and thus cut off any chance of the flames reaching the officer’s nose or eyes.

     Allen then, with Corry helping, removed the coat and smothered the other smouldering pieces of clothing. Corry’s hands and face were so badly burned that not a trace of skin was left untouched. Several ribs were  also broken.

Wagner Game.

     Wagner was rolled over on the ground by willing hands to extinguish the flames and with the help of the two men who had dragged him from his place beneath the plane, such of his clothing as still remained unburned was stripped from his body to make way for dressings in olive and sweet oil, which by this time were available. He was wrapped in swaths of oil soaked linen and cotton sheeting to allay the agony of his burns. Every scrap of clothing was almost entirely consumed and his shoes were burned to a crisp. Throughout the process, Wagner, fully conscious, was directing the efforts of the willing helpers, despite the fact that his face was beyond recognition, with nose and ears burned from his head.

     He remained game even to the time when he was being tenderly lifted to the ambulance, when he thanked those who had helped telling them that he was sure they had done all they could. . .

. . . In spite of a heroic fight for life, covering nearly eight hours from the time he received his burns, Wagner died soon after 10 o’clock. The tremendous display of pluck and vitality shown by the man through all of his agony was the marvel of all the physicians and nurses in the hospital. . . .

The Hartford Courant, Monday Morning, 4 October 1920, Page 1, Column 8, and Page 2, Column 1.

Four days later, 7 October 1920,¹ Lieutenant Commander Corry also died of his injuries. He was just 31 years old.

For his bravery in attempting to rescue Lieutenant (j.g.) Wagner, Lieutenant Commander William Merrill Corry, Jr., United States Navy, was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:

“For heroic service in attempting to rescue a brother officer from a flame -enveloped airplane. On 2 October 1920,² an airplane in which Lt. Comdr. Corry was a passenger crashed and burst into flames. He was thrown 30 feet clear of the plane and, though injured, rushed back to the burning machine and endeavored to release the pilot. In so doing he sustained serious burns, from which he died 4 days later.”

Medal of Honor, United States Navy and Marine Corps, 1919–1942.

William Merrill Corry, Jr., was born 5 October 1889 at Quincy, Florida. He was the second of six children of William Merrill Corry, a tobacco dealer, and Sarah Emily Wiggins Corry.

Midshipman William Merrill Corry, Jr., U.S. Naval Academy, 1910.

“Bill” Corry was admitted to the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, as a midshipman, 20 June 1906. He was a classmate of future Admiral Marc A. Mitscher. On 7 July 1910, Midshipman Corry was assigned to the 16,000 ton Connecticut-class battleship USS Kansas (BB-21). He was commissioned an Ensign, United States Navy, 7 March 1912.

Ensign Corry was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), 7 March 1915. He was assigned to the naval aeronautic station (Y-13) at Pensacola, Florida, 7 July 1915. On completion of flight training, Lieutenant (j.g.) Corry was designated Naval Aviator No. 23, 16 March 1916.

26 November 1916, Lieutenant (j.g.) Correy was assigned to the Tennessee-class armored cruiser USS Seattle (ACR-11). In 1917 he was assigned to USS North Carolina (ACR-12).

The United States entered World War I on 6 April 1917. On 22 August 1917, Lieutenant (j.g.) Corry was sent to France for for duty with the U.S. Naval Aviation Forces in Europe. Corry was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, 7 March 1918. He was placed in command of the aviation school at Le Croisic, on the western coast of  France, 7 November 1917. While there he was awarded the Navy Cross, “for distinguished and heroic service as an Airplane Pilot making many daring flights over the enemy’s lines, also for untiring and efficient efforts toward the organization of U.S. Naval Aviation, Foreign Service, and the building up of the Northern Bombing project.” (The Northern Bombing Group targeted bases supporting German submarine operations.) France appointed him a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

Lieutenant Corry took command of the Naval Air Station at Brest, France, 7 June 1918. He was promoted to the temporary rank of Lieutenant Commander, 1 July 1918. He remained at Brest until the Armistice, 11 November 1918. He was involved in the demobilization of U.S. forces in France and Belgium. He also served in various staff assignments.

Lieutenant Commander Corry was ordered to return to the United States as aide for aviation to the Chief-of-Staff Atlantic Fleet. He sailed from Antwerp, Belgium on  2 June 1920, aboard SS Finland, bound for New York.

Lieutenant Commander William Merrill Corry, Jr., Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, is buried at the Eastern Cemetery, Quincy, Florida.

Following his death, the United States Navy named an auxiliary landing field at Pensacola. Florida, Corry Field, in his honor. A nearby airfield assumed the name in 1928, and is presently called NAS Pensacola Corry Station.

Three United States Navy warships have also been named USS Corry. On 25 May 1921, a Clemson-class “flush-deck” or “four-stack” destroyer, USS Corry (DD-334), was commissioned. It was decommissioned in 1930.

USS Corry (DD-334), early 1920s. (Pier Studio, San Diego)

The Gleaves-class destroyer USS Corry (DD-463) was launched 28 July 1941, christened by Miss Jean Constance Corry, with Miss Sara Corry as Maid of Honor. The new destroyer was commissioned 18 December 1941. Corry is notable for its participation in anti-submarine operations in the Atlantic, sinking U-801 on 17 March 1944. Corry rescued 47 sailors from that submarine, and another 8 from U-1059, which was sunk two days later.

Corry was herself sunk by during an artillery duel with a German coastal battery off Utah Beach, Normandy, 6 June 1944. Of the destroyer’s crew of 276 men, 24 were killed and 60 were wounded. Broken in half, the ship sank in shallow water. The American Flag at her masthead remained visible above the water as the ship settled on the sea bed.

USS Corry (DD-463) prepares to rescue survivors of U-801, 17 March 1944. (U.S. Navy)

The Gearing-class destroyer USS Corry (DD-817) was commissioned 27 February 1946 at Orange, Texas. The ship’s sponsor was Miss Gertrude Corry, niece of Lieutenant Commander Corry. Corry served the U.S. Navy until decommissioned 27 February 1981 after 35 years of service. It was turned over to Greece and renamed HS Kriezis (D-217). The ship was finally retired in 1994, and scrapped in 2002.

USS Corry (DD-817), a Gearing-class destroyer, alongside USS Baltimore (CA-68), Mediterranean Sea, 1952. (QM2 George Panos, United States Navy)

Lieutenant (junior grade) Arthur C. Wagner, Reserve Force, United States Navy,  was born 18 August 1988. He was the son of William Wagner and Elizabeth Genting (?) Wagner.

At the time of his death, Lieutenant Wagner was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet Ship Plane Division, Mitchel Field, Mineola, Long Island, New York. He had previously served aboard USS Nevada (BB-36). In 1919 he trained as a pilot at Naval Air Station Pensacola, and was then assigned to USS Shawmut (CM-4), a minelayer which had been reclassified as an airplane tender.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Arthur C. Wagner was buried at the Old Cathedral Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 October 1920.

¹ While many sources give the date of Corry’s death as 6 October 1920, probate documents filed with the County of Gadsen court on 5 November 1920, and signed by Corry’s mother, Sarah E. Corry, give the date as 7 October 1920. Further, The Hartford Courant, in its Thursday, 7 October 1920 edition, at Page 1, Column 2 and 3, reported: “Lieutenant Commander William M. Corry, in charge of the Curtiss naval airplane which crashed to earth at Hartford Golf Club last Sunday afternoon, died at the Hartford Hospital at 2:30 o’clock this morning of burns. . . .”

² Most sources place the date of the crash as 2 October 1920. Contemporary newspapers, though, e.g., The Hartford Courant, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Chicago Tribune, reported the date as 3 October 1920.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 September 1918

Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., Air Service, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)
Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., Air Service, United States Army. (U.S. Air Force)

The President of the United States
in the name of
The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor

to

FRANK LUKE, JR.

Rank and Organization: Second Lieutenant, 27th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, Air Service.

Place and Date: Near Murvaux, France, 29 September 1918.

Entered Service At: Phoenix, Ariz. Born: 19 May 1897, Phoenix, Ariz.

G. O. No.: 59, W.D., 1919.

Citation:

“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 eight German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames three 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 six 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.”

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr, 18 September 1918. (Photograph by Sergeant C. E. Dunn, Signal Corps, United States Army)
2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., late in the afternoon of 18 September 1918. (Photograph by Sergeant C. E. Dunn, Signal Corps, United States Army)

Second Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. shot down three enemy observation balloons along the Meuse front, on Sunday, 29 September 1918. He was apparently wounded by rifle or machine gun fire from the ground and made an emergency landing near the village of Murvaux.

Trying to evade capture, Luke walked away from his airplane toward a nearby creek. He exchanged gunfire with several German soldiers that were near, and was killed in the brief fire fight. The event was witnessed by at least thirteen of the local French villagers.

Luke’s body was buried near a village church, and was not located by graves registration personnel until several months later.

Lieutenant Frank Luke's grave at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. (Brooks D. Simpson)
Lieutenant Frank Luke’s grave at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. (Brooks D. Simpson)

Luke’s commander, Major Harold E. Hartney, said of him, “No one had the sheer contemptuous courage that boy possessed. 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.”

Leading American ace Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker said of Luke: “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, even the dreaded Richthofen, had ever come close to that.”

Luke is officially credited with destroying 14 observation balloons and 4 enemy airplanes during a 17 day period, 12–29 September 1918. It is probable that he shot down several more.

2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., 27th Aero Squadron, with his Blériot-built SPAD XIII C.1 fighter, Number 26 (serial number unknown), 19 September 1918. (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)
2nd Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr., 27th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, with his Blériot-built SPAD XIII C.I fighter, Number 26 (serial number unknown), at La Ferme de Rattentout, southeast of Verdun, France, 19 September 1918. (Photograph by Lt. Harry S. Drucker, Signal Corps, United States Army)

The airplane flown by Lieutenant Luke on the day he was killed was a new Société des Avions Bernard-built SPAD S.XIII C.I, serial number 7984. It had been assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron the previous day and had not yet been painted with any squadron markings.

The Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.I was a single-seat, single-engine two-bay biplane designed by Louis Béchéreau. It was first flown by Sous-Lieutenant René Pierre Marie Dorme of the Aéronautique Militaire (French Air Service), on 4 April 1917.

The S.XIII was 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters) long.¹ The upper and lower wings had equal span and chord. The span was 26 feet, 3¾ inches (8.020 meters) and chord, 4 feet, 7-1/8 inches (1.400 meters). The vertical spacing between the wings was 3 feet, 10½ inches (1.181 meters), and the lower wing was staggered 1¼° behind the upper. Interplane struts and wire bracing was used to reinforce the wings. The wings had no sweep or dihedral. The angle of incidence of the upper wing was 1½° and of the lower, 1°. Only the upper wing was equipped with ailerons. Their span was 7 feet, 3½ inches (2.222 meters), and their chord, 1 foot, 7½ inches (0.495 meters). The total wing area was 227 square feet (21.089 square meters).

The horizontal stabilizer had a span of 10 feet, 2 inches (3.099 meters) with a maximum chord of 1 foot, 8¾ inches (0.527 meters). The height of the vertical fin was 2 feet, 7/8-inch (0.876 meters) and it had a maximum length of 3 feet, 11¼ inches (1.200 meters). The rudder was 3 feet, 10-5/8 inches high (1.184 meters) with a maximum chord of 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).

The SPAD S.XIII C.I had fixed landing gear with two pneumatic tires. Rubber cords (bungie cords) were used for shock absorption. The wheel track was 4 feet, 10¾ inches (1.492 meters). At the tail was a fixed skid.

The airplane had an empty weight of 1,464 pounds (664 kilograms), and gross weight 2,036 pounds (924 kilograms).

This SPAD S.XIII C.1, on display at Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona, is painted to represent a fighter flown by Frank Luke. It was assembled from components of several different airplanes and restored by GossHawk Unlimited, Casa Grande, Arizona. (Wikipedia)
This SPAD S.XIII C.I, on display at Terminal 3, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Phoenix, Arizona, is painted to represent a fighter flown by Frank Luke. It was assembled from components of several different airplanes and restored by GossHawk Unlimited, Casa Grande, Arizona. (Wikipedia)

Initial production SPAD XIIIs were powered by a water-cooled 11.762 liter (717.769-cubic-inch displacement), La Société Hispano-Suiza 8Ba single overhead cam (SOHC) left-hand-tractor 90° V-8 engine. It was equipped with two Zenith down-draft carburetors and had a compression ratio of 5.3:1. The 8Ba was rated at 150 cheval vapeur (148 horsepower) at 1,700 r.p.m., and 200 cheval vapeur (197 horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m. It drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, wooden propeller with a diameter of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.43 inches) through a 0.585:1 gear reduction. (The 8Be engine had a 0.75:1 reduction gear ratio and used both 2.50 meter and 2.55 meter (8 feet, 4.40 inches) propellers.) The Hispano-Suiza 8Ba was 1.36 meters (4 feet, 5.5 inches) long, 0.86 meters (2 feet, 9.9 inches) wide and 0.90 meters (2 feet, 11.4 inches) high. It weighed 236 kilograms (520 pounds).

The airplane had a main fuel tank behind the engine, with a gravity tank located in the upper wing. The total fuel capacity was 183 pounds (83 kilograms), sufficient for 2 hours, 30 minutes endurance at full throttle at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), including climb. There was also a 4.5 gallon (17 liters) lubricating oil tank.

During flight testing at McCook Field, Ohio, following the war, a SPAD S.XIII C.I demonstrated a maximum Sea Level speed of 131.5 mph (211.6 kilometers per hour) at 2,300 rpm, and 105 mph (169 kilometers per hour) at 2,060 r.p.m., at 18,400 feet (5,608 meters). Its service ceiling was 18,400 feet (5,608 meters), and the absolute ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).

The chasseur was armed with two fixed, water-cooled, .303-caliber (7.7 mm) Vickers Mk.I machine guns with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. Because of the cold temperatures at altitude, the guns’ water jackets were not filled, thereby saving considerable weight.

The SPAD S.XIII C.I was produced by nine manufacturers. 8,472 were built in 1917 and 1918. Only four are still in existence.

Recommended: The Stand: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., by Stephen Skinner, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, Pennsylvania, 2008.

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¹ Dimensions, weights, capacities and performance data cited above refer to SPAD S.XIII C.I serial number 17956 (A.S. 94101), which was tested at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio (Project Number P-154), 1921.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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