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 right. 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.
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.
“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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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 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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
In 1919, the U.S. Army airfield at Ford Island, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was named Luke Field in honor of Lieutenant Luke. In 1939, the Air Corps was moved to Hickham Field and the Pearl Harbor facility was turned over to the U.S. Navy. In 1941, a new Air Corps training base was established west of Phoenix, Arizona. It was named Luke Army Airfield. During World War II, Luke Field was the largest fighter pilot school in the United States. In 1951, it became Luke Air Force Base.
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).
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.
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.
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
EDWARD V. RICKENBACKER
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service.
Place and date: Near Billy, France, 25 September 1918.
Entered service at: Columbus, Ohio. Born: 8 October 1890, Columbus, Ohio.
G.O. No.: 2, W.D., 1931.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, 25 September 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines, 1st Lt. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker, protecting two type Halberstadt). Disregarding the odds against him, he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.
Edward Reichenbacher was born 8 October 1890 at Columbus, Ohio. He was the third of seven children of Wilham and Elizabeth Reichenbacher, both immigrants to America from Switzerland. His formal education ended with the 7th grade, when he had to find work to help support the family after the death of his father in 1904. He worked in the automobile industry and studied engineering through correspondence courses. Reichenbacher was a well known race car driver and competed in the Indianapolis 500 race four times. He was known as “Fast Eddie.”
With the anti-German sentiment that was prevalent in the United States during World War I, Reichenbacher felt that his Swiss surname sounded too German, so he changed his name to “Rickenbacker.” He thought that a middle name would sound interesting and selected “Vernon.”
The United States declared war against Germany in 1917. Edward Vernon Rickenbacker enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, at New York City, 28 May 1917. He was appointed a sergeant, 1st class, on that date. After arriving in France, Sergeant Rickenbacker served as a driver for General John Pershing.
On 10 October 1917, Sergeant Rickenbacker was honorably discharged to accept a commission as a 1st lieutenant. Two weeks later, Lieutenant Rickenbacker was promoted to the rank of captain. He was assigned to 3rd Aviation Instruction Center, Issoudun, France, until 9 April 1918, and then transferred to the 94th Aero Squadron as a pilot.
Captain Rickenbacker served with the American Expeditionary Forces in France, and served during the following campaigns: Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne. Between 29 April and 30 October 1918, Rickenbacker was officially credited with 26 victories in aerial combat, consisting of 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. He shot down the first six airplanes while flying a Nieuport 28 C.1, and the remainder with a SPAD S.XIII C.1., serial number S4253.
Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with seven bronze oak leaf clusters (eight awards). France named him a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur and twice awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Eddie Rickenbacker is quoted as saying, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”
In 1930, after Charles A. Lindbergh, Commander Richard E. Byrd, Jr., and Warrant Officer Floyd Bennett had each been awarded the Medal of Honor for valorous acts during peacetime, the 71st Congress of the United States passed a Bill (H.R. 325): “Authorizing the President of the United States to present in the name of Congress a congressional medal of honor to Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker.”
In a ceremony at Bolling Field, the headquarters of the U.S. Army Air Corps, 6 November 1930, the Medal of Honor was presented to Captain Rickenbacker by President Herbert Hoover. President Hoover remarked,
“Captain Rickenbacker, in the name of the Congress of the United States, I take great pleasure in awarding you the Congressional Medal of Honor, our country’s highest decoration for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above an beyond the call of duty in action. At a stage in the development of aviation when you were achieving victories which made you the universally recognized ‘Ace of Aces’ of the American forces. Your record is an outstanding one for skill and bravery, and is a source of pride to your comrades and your countrymen.
“I hope that your gratification in receiving the Medal of Honor will be as keen as mine in bestowing it. May you wear it during many years of happiness and continued service to your country.”
In 1920, Rickenbacker founded the Rickenbacker Motor Company, which produced the first automobile with four wheel brakes.
Eddie Rickenbacker married Adelaide Pearl Frost (formerly, the second Mrs. Russell Durant) at Greenwich, Connecticut, 16 September 1922. They would later adopt two children.
From 1927 to 1945, he owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1938, he bought Eastern Air Lines, which he had operated for General Motors since 1935. He was the chief executive officer (CEO) until 1959, and remained chairman of the board of directors until 1963.
In 1941, Rickenbacker was gravely injured in the crash of an Eastern Air Lines DC-3 aboard which he was a passenger. He barely survived.
During World War II, Rickenbacker was requested by Secretary of War Henry Stimson to undertake several inspection tours in the United States, England, the Pacific and the Soviet Union. While enroute to Canton Island from Hawaii, 21 October 1942, the B-17D Flying Fortress that he was traveling aboard missed its destination due to a navigation error. The bomber ran out of fuel and ditched at sea. The survivors drifted in two small life rafts for 21 days before being rescued. All credited the leadership of Rickenbacker for their survival.
Rickenbacker was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA.
Edward Vernon Rickenbacker died of heart failure at Neumünster Spital, Zollikerberg, Zürich, Switzerland, at 4:20 a.m., 23 July 1973. He was 82 years, 10 months of age.
1 September 1968: Two U.S. Air Force McDonnell F-4D Phantom II fighters were on a pre-dawn strike against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, near the Ban Karai Pass. Both Phantoms, call signs CARTER 01 and CARTER 02, were hit by anti-aircraft gunfire and their crews had to eject. Both pilots from CARTER 01 were quickly picked up, but the aircraft commander of CARTER 02 was hidden by the jungle. The Weapons System Officer was never seen again.
A Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission was immediately sent out to locate and rescue the missing airmen. Two Sikorsky HH-3 Jolly Green Giant helicopters, the recovery team, were escorted by four Douglas A-1 Skyraiders to help in the search and to suppress any enemy gunfire that was trying to shoot down the rescue helicopters.
The Skyraider was a Korean War era carrier-based attack airplane originally in service with the U.S. Navy. It had been replaced by modern jet aircraft, but the Air Force found that its slow flight and ability to carry a heavy fuel and weapons load were ideal for the CSAR escort mission.
The four Skyraiders were from the 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhom Phanom, Thailand. They operated with the call sign SANDY. Lieutenant Colonel William A. Jones III, the squadron commanding officer, on his 98th combat mission, was the on-scene commander flying SANDY 01, an A-1H, serial number 52-139738.
MEDAL OF HONOR JONES, WILLIAM A., III
Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 602d Special Operations Squadron, Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand
Place and date: Near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, 1 September 1968
Entered service at: Charlottesville, Virginia
Born: 31 May 1922, Norfolk, Virginia
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Col Jones distinguished himself as the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft near Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. On that day, as the on-scene commander in the attempted rescue of a downed U.S. pilot, Col. Jones aircraft was repeatedly hit by heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. On 1 of his low passes, Col. Jones felt an explosion beneath his aircraft and his cockpit rapidly filled with smoke. With complete disregard of the possibility that his aircraft might still be burning, he unhesitatingly continued his search for the downed pilot. On this pass, he sighted the survivor and a multiple-barrel gun position firing at him from near the top of a karst formation. He could not attack the gun position on that pass for fear he would endanger the downed pilot. Leaving himself exposed to the gun position, Col. Jones attacked the position with cannon and rocket fire on 2 successive passes. On his second pass, the aircraft was hit with multiple rounds of automatic weapons fire. One round impacted the Yankee Extraction System rocket mounted directly behind the headrest, igniting the rocket. His aircraft was observed to burst into flames in the center fuselage section, with flame engulfing the cockpit area. He pulled the extraction handle, jettisoning the canopy. The influx of fresh air made the fire burn with greater intensity for a few moments, but since the rocket motor had already burned, the extraction system did not pull Col. Jones from the aircraft. Despite searing pains from severe burns sustained on his arms, hand, neck, shoulders, and face, Col. Jones pulled his aircraft into a climb and attempted to transmit the location of the downed pilot and the enemy gun position to the other aircraft in the area. His calls were blocked by other aircraft transmissions repeatedly directing him to bail out and within seconds his transmitters were disabled and he could receive only on 1 channel. Completely disregarding his injuries, he elected to fly his crippled aircraft back to his base and pass on essential information for the rescue rather than bail out. Col. Jones successfully landed his heavily damaged aircraft and passed the information to a debriefing officer while on the operating table. As a result of his heroic actions and complete disregard for his personal safety, the downed pilot was rescued later in the day. Col. Jones’ profound concern for his fellow man at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of this country.
William Atkinson Jones III was born 31 May 1922 at Norfolk, Virginia. He was the son of William Atkinson Jones, Jr., an attorney in general practice, and Elizabeth Goodwin Hart Jones, a school teacher. Mr. Jones had served as a pilot in the Signal Corps, United States Army, during World War I. The Jones family had lived in Warsaw, Virginia, since the 1840s.
When his parents divorced in 1929, Bill and his mother relocated to Charlottesville, Virginia. Jones attended Lane High School in Charlottesville, where he was a member of the literary society, and played on the varsity football and basketball teams.
Following his graduation from high school, Jones studied at the University of Virginia, which was also in Charlottesville. He was captain of the university’s fencing team, and a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon (ΣΦΕ) fraternity. Jones graduated in 1942 at the age of 19 years, with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Already a university graduate, William Atkinson Jones III was appointed a cadet at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. He entered West Point on 1 July 1942, as a member of the Class of 1945. along with academics and military training, Cadet Jones was a member of the Army Fencing Squad.
Bill Jones graduated from West Point with a Bachelor of Science degree. On 5 June 1945, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, Air Corps, United States Army.
Lieutenant Jones was trained as a pilot at several locations around the United States, including Oklahoma, New York, and Arizona. Lieutenant Jones served as a fighter pilot, stationed in the Philippine Islands, 1946–1948. Returning to the United States, Jones was assigned as a transport pilot based at Biggs Air Force Base, Fort Bliss Texas.
On 20 October 1948, Lieutenant Jones married Miss Lois Marie McGregor at Bisbee, Arizona, her home town. The ceremony was officiated by Reverend John L. Howard. They would have three daughters, Anne, Elizabeth and Mary Lee.
In 1952, Jones was assigned as a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar pilot with the 317th Troop Carrier Wing at Rhein-Main Air Base, Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). He remained in Europe for the next four years.
In 1956 Jones transitioned to bombers, training as an aircraft commander in the Boeing B-47E Stratojet. He was stationed at Lake Charles Air Force Base, Louisiana, and Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire.
Jones attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama, 1965–1966. He earned a master’s degree in international affairs. His next assignment was as a staff officer at The Pentagon.
In 1968, Major Jones requested a transfer to the Douglas A-1 Skyraider training course at Hurlburt Field, in Florida. On completion, he was assigned as the commanding officer of the 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Navy Base, Thailand.
Lieutenant Colonel Jones was severely burned during the rescue mission of 1 September 1968. He was transported back to the United States for extensive medical treatment at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.
Bill Jones was promoted to the rank of colonel, 1 November 1969. One 14 November, President Richard M. Nixon approved the award of the Medal of Honor to Colonel Jones.
On 15 November 1969, Colonel Jones was flying his personal airplane, a Piper PA-20 Pacer, N7015K. The Pacer was a small, 4-place, single-engine light airplane. At 12:55 p.m., he took off from Woodbridge Airport (W22), a small, uncontrolled airport about 12 miles (19 kilometers) southwest of Washington, D.C.
Immediately after takeoff, Colonel Jones radioed that he was returning to the airport. The airplane was seen in a left turn with a nose down attitude. It crashed off the airport and caught fire. Colonel Jones suffered third degree burns over his entire body an died immediately.
The NTSB accident report listed the Probable Cause as a complete engine failure for unknown causes, followed by a loss of control by the pilot, the cause also undetermined. (Some sources suggest that the Pacer struck wires while returning to the runway.)
At the time of his death, Colonel Jones had flown a total of 7,748 hours.
Colonel Jones was the author of Maxims for Men-at-Arms, published by Dorrance and Co., Philadelphia, 1969.
President Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Colonel Jones widow in a ceremony at the White House, 6 August 1970. At the award ceremony, Miss Mary Jones, Colonel Jones’ youngest daughter, gave a copy of her father’s book to the president.
Colonel William AtkinsonsJones III, United States Air Force, was buried at St. John’s Episcopal Cemetery in Warsaw, Virginia.
The William A. Jones III Auditorium of Anderson Hall at the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, was named in his honor.
In 2011, The William A. Jones III Building at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, (just south east of Washington, D.C.) was also named in honor of Colonel Jones.
The United States Navy and Marine Corps adopted the Douglas Aircraft Company AD-1 Skyraider just after the end of World War II. The U.S. Air Force recognized its value as a close air support attack bomber, but it wasn’t until the early months of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War that a number of Skyraiders were transferred to the U.S.A.F.
These aircraft were identified by Department of the Navy, Bureau of Aeronautics serial numbers, commonly referred to as “bureau numbers,” or “bu. no.” Once acquired by the Air Force, the two-digit fiscal year number in which the airplane was contracted was added to the bureau number, resulting in a serial number with a format similar to a standard U.S.A.F. serial number. For example, Lieutenant Colonel Jones’ Skyraider, A-1H 52-139738, was originally U.S. Navy AD-6 Skyraider Bu. No. 139738, authorized in 1952. (The Douglas AD series was redesignated A-1 in 1962.)
The Douglas AD-6 (A-1H) Skyraider was a single-place, single-engine attack aircraft. A low-wing monoplane with conventional landing gear, it had folding wings for storage aboard aircraft carriers. The A-1H Skyraider was 39 feet, 3 inches (11.963 meters) long with a wingspan of 50 feet, ¼ inch (15.246 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 8 inches (4.775 meters). The total wing area was 400 square feet (37.16 square meters). Its had an empty weight of 12,072 pounds (5,476 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms).
The A-1H was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, direct-fuel-injected, 3,347.66-cubic-inch-displacement (54.858 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division R-3350-26WA Duplex-Cyclone (Cyclone 18 836C18CA1) engine. This was a twin-row 18-cylinder radial, with a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and water/alcohol injection. This engine had a normal power rating at Sea Level of 2,300 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and 2,700 horsepower at 2,900 r.p.m. to for take off. 115/145-octane aviation gasoline was required. The engine drove a four-bladed Aeroproducts constant-speed propeller 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meters) diameter, through a 0.4375:1 gear reduction. The R-3350-26WA was 4 feet, 7.62 inches (1.413 meters) in diameter and 6 feet, 6.81 inches (2.002 meters) long. It weighs 2,848 pounds (1,292 kilograms), dry.
The A-1H Skyraider had a cruise speed of 164 knots (189 miles per hour/304 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 297 knots (342 miles per hour/550 kilometers per hour) at 15,400 feet (4,694 meters). The A-1H could climb to 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) in 9.5 minutes. The ceiling was 31,900 feet (9,723 meters). Carrying a 2,000 pound (907 kilogram) bomb load, its combat radius was 260 nautical miles (299 statute miles/482 kilometers).
The A-1H was armed with four 20 mm M3 autocannon with 200 rounds of ammunition per gun. The Skyraider could carry a combination of external fuel tanks, gun pods, bombs or rockets on 15 hardpoints.
Douglas built 713 AD-6 Skyraiders at Santa Monica, California.