Tag Archives: World War I

1 July 1915

Leutnant Kurt Wintgens, Luftstreitkräfte, wearing the Pour le Mérite (the “Blue Max”) (Postkartenvertrieb W. Sanke)

1 July 1915: German Luftstreitkräfte fighter pilot Leutnant Kurt Wintgens was flying a pre-production Fokker M.5K/MG, number E.5/15, (designated Eindecker III when placed in production), which was equipped with a single fixed, forward-firing machine gun. An interrupter gear driven off the engine stopped the machine gun momentarily as the propeller blades crossed the line of fire. This was known as synchronization.

Leutnant Wintgens' Fokker M.5K/MG Endecker fighter, E.5/15.
Leutnant Wintgens’ Fokker M.5K/MG Eindecker fighter, E.5/15. (Peter M. Grosz Collection)

At approximately 1800 hours, Leutnant Wintgens engaged a French Morane-Saulnier Type L two-place observation airplane. The French airplane’s observer fired back with a rifle. Eventually, the Morane-Saulnier was struck by bullets in its engine and forced down.

Wintgens is believed to have achieved the first aerial victory using a synchronized machine gun, though because his victim went down inside Allied lines, the victory was not officially credited.

The Fokker prototype was armed with an air-cooled 7.9 mm Parabellum MG14 aircraft machine gun made by Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken Aktien-Gesellschaft. This gun fired ammunition from a cloth belt which was contained inside a metal drum. It had a rate of fire of 600–700 rounds per minute. The synchronization mechanism had been designed by Anton Herman Gerard Fokker, who was also the airplane’s designer.

The Fokker Aviatik GmbH M.5K/MG Eindecker III was a single-place, single-engine monoplane fighter constructed of a steel tubing fuselage with a doped fabric covering. It had a wingspan of 6.75 meters (22.15 feet), a wingspan of 8.95 meters (29.36 feet) and height of 2.40 meters (7.87 feet). The airplane had an empty weight of 370 kilograms (815.7 pounds) and gross weight of 580 kilograms (1,278.7 pounds).

It was powered by an 11.835 liter (722.2 cubic inch) air-cooled Motorenfabrik Oberursel U.0 seven-cylinder rotary engine which produced 80 Pferdestärke (78.9 horsepower). This engine was a German-built version of the French Société des Moteurs Gnome 7 Lambda engine.

The M.5K/MG had a maximum speed of 130 kilometers per hour (80.8 miles per hour) and a service ceiling of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet). Its range was 200 kilometers (124.3 miles).

Type L
Morane Saulnier Type L (Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

The Aéroplanes Morane-Saulnier Type L was a single-engine two-place monoplane used as a scouting aircraft. The single wing is mounted above to fuselage on struts. This type is called a “parasol wing.” The airplane is 6.88 meters (22.57 feet) long with a wingspan of 11.20 meters (36.75 feet) long and height of 3.93 meters (12.89 feet). Its empty weight is 393 kilograms (866 pounds) and gross weight is 677.5 kilograms (1,494 pounds).

The Type L was powered by a 10.91 liter (665.79 cubic inch) Société des Moteurs Le Rhône 9C nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 83 horsepower at 1,285 r.p.m.

The Morane Salunier Type L had a maximum speed of 125 kilometers per hour (78 miles per hour). It could be armed with one .303-caliber Lewis light machine gun on a flexible mount.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 May 1918

Sous-lieutenant Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, Aéronautique Militaire, circa 1917.  Lufbery is wearing the pilot’s badge of the Aéronautique Militaire on his tunic. He also is wearing the Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, Médaille Militaire, and Croix de Guere with one silver and three bronze palms. (Captain Robert Soubiran/Library of Congress LC-USZ62-101970)

19 May 1918: Major Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, Air Service, United States Army, a leading Allied fighter pilot of World War I, was killed in action at Maron, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France. Flying a Nieuport 28 C.1, he engaged by a Rumpler two-place observation plane of Reihenbildzug Nr. 3, a photographic reconniassance unit, flown by Gefreiter Kirschbaum and Leutnant Schieibe. Lufbery’s fighter was hit by gunfire from the Rumpler. The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte airplane was later shot down and its crew captured.

Lufbery’s Nieuport rolled inverted, and he fell from airplane. He was killed on impact.

Raoul Lufbery is considered to have been the first American “ace,” although all sixteen of his officially-credited aerial victories took place while in the service of France.

Major Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery, Air Service, United States Army, with a Nieuport 28 C.1 fighter, 1918.

Gervais Raoul Victor Lufbery was a dual American and French citizen, born 14 March 1885 at Chamalières, Puy-de-Dôme, France. He was the fourth child of Edward Lufbery, an American chemist, and Anne Joséphine Vessière Lufbery. Mme Lufbery died when he was about one year old. His father left Gervais in the care of his maternal grandmother, Madeline Vessière Greniere, and returned to the United States. Gervais grew up in France.

In 1907, at the age of 22, Lufbery traveled to America to visit family members in Connectiticut. After traveling around the country and working in various occupations, Lufbery enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned from the recruit depot Fort McDowell, Angel Island, San Francisco, to Company F, 20th Infantry Regiment, at the newly establish Fort Shafter, Territory of Hawaii, 13 December 1908. From 1 April 1909, Lufbery was stationed with Co. M, at the Presidio of Monterey in California. In 1910, he was sent to the Quartel de Espana, Manila, Philippine Islands.

After completing his term of service with the United States Army, in 1914 Lufbery enlisted in the Légion Étrangère (the French Foreign Legion). He was initially assigned as an aircraft mechanic, but was soon trained as a pilot. In 1916, Sergent Lufbery was assigned to a newly-formed unit, N-124,¹ Escadrille Lafayette of the Aéronautique Militaire (the French Air Service) which was made up primarily of volunteers from America. (The United States did not enter the War until 6 April 1917.)

Lufbery shot down his first enemy airplane 30 July 1916, and his fifth, 12 October 1916.

Sergent Lufbery was awarded the Médaille Militaire 11 September 1916. He was promoted to Adjutant, an non-commissioned officer rank. Adjutant Lufber was awarded his first Croix de Guerre avec palme 26 September 1916, and his second, 28 October 1916. he was appointed a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur 10 March 1917. Lufbery was promoted to the commissioned rank of Sous lieutenant des Troupes Aeronautiques. Additional awards of the Croix de Guerre followed on 15 May, 15 June, 13 October, 29 October, 9 November 1917, and 11 January 1918.

Between 30 July 1916 and 2 December 1917, while serving with the Aéronautique Militaire, Lufbery shot down sixteen enemy airplanes (officially credited).

Sous lieutenant Lufbery was transferred to the 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, and was commissioned a Major, United States Army.

Following his death, Major Lufbery was awarded the Purple Heart, and Britain’s Military Medal. His remains are interred at the Lafayette Memorial du Parc de Garches, Paris, France.

Nieuport 28 C.1 serial number 6215.

The Nieuport 28 C.1² was a single-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane fighter built by Société Anonyme des Éstablissements Nieuport for the French military. It was rejected, however, in favor of the SPAD S.XIII C.1. The new United States’ Air Service was in great need of fighters. There were none available of American manufacture, and because the new SPAD was in great demand, 297 Nieuport 28s were acquired by the American Expeditionary Force and assigned to the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons.

The Nieuport 28 C.1 was 6.30 meters (20 feet, 8 inches) long with an upper wingspan of 8.160 meters (26 feet, 9¼ inches), lower wingspan of 7.79 meters ( 25 feet, 6-2/3 inches)  and height of 2.30 meters (7 feet, 6½ inches). The upper wing had a chord of 1.30 meters (4 feet, 3.2 inches), and the lower, which was staggered behind the upper, had a chord of 1.00 meters (3 feet, 3.4). The upper wing had very slight dihedral, while the lower wing had none. Its empty weight was 399 kilograms (880 pounds) and loaded weight was 626 kilograms (1,380 pounds).

The Nieuport 28 C.1 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 15.892 liter (969.786-cubic-inch-displacement) Gnome Monosoupape 9 Type N nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.45:1. The Monosoupape had a single overhead exhaust valve actuated by a pushrod and rocker arm. As the pistons reached the bottom of their exhaust strokes, a series of intake ports near the bottom of the cylinder were uncovered. The intake charge was drawn from the engine crankcase. The Type N produced 160 horsepower at 1,300 r.p.m. and turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller with a diameter of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.4 inches). The engine weighed 330 pounds (150 kilograms).

The Nieuport 28 had a top speed of 198 kilometers per hour (123 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) and 1,380 r.p.m., a range of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and a service ceiling of 5,300 meters (17,388 feet). Duration at full power was 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Two .303-caliber Vickers machine guns were mounted on the cowling, firing forward through the propeller arc.

Nieuport 28 C.1, serial number 6215.

¹ The “N” indicates that Escadrille 124 was equipped with Nieuport fighters.

² “C.1” was the French designation for a single-place chasseur, their World War I term for what we now consider to be a fighter.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 April 1918

Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, with a Nieuport 28 C.1 fighter. (U.S. Air Force)

29 April 1918: Lieutenant Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, while flying a Nieuport 28 C.1, scored his first aerial victory when he shot down a Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte Pfalz D.III fighter near Saint-Baussant, France. He was awarded the first of eight Distinguished Service Crosses. By the end of World War I, he had destroyed 26 enemy aircraft.

1st Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker in the cockpit of a Nieuport 28 C.1 fighter, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)
1st Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker in the cockpit of a Nieuport 28 C.1 fighter, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)

The Nieuport 28 C.1¹ was a single-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane fighter built by Société Anonyme des Éstablissements Nieuport for the French military. It was rejected, however, in favor of the SPAD S.XIII C.1. The new United States’ Air Service was in great need of fighters. There were none available of American manufacture, and because the new SPAD was in great demand, 297 Nieuport 28s were acquired by the American Expeditionary Force and assigned to the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons.

U.S. Air Service Nieuport 28 C.1, N6215. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Air Service Nieuport 28 C.1, N6215. (U.S. Air Force)

The Nieuport 28 C.1 was 6.30 meters (20 feet, 8 inches) long with an upper wingspan of 8.160 meters (26 feet, 9¼ inches), lower wingspan of 7.79 meters ( 25 feet, 6-2/3 inches)  and height of 2.30 meters (7 feet, 6½ inches). The upper wing had a chord of 1.30 meters (4 feet, 3.2 inches), and the lower, which was staggered behind the upper, had a chord of 1.00 meters (3 feet, 3.4). The upper wing had very slight dihedral, while the lower wing had none. Its empty weight was 399 kilograms (880 pounds) and loaded weight was 626 kilograms (1,380 pounds).

The Nieuport 28 C.1 was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 15.892 liter (969.786-cubic-inch-displacement) Gnome Monosoupape 9 Type N nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.45:1. The Monosoupape had a single overhead exhaust valve actuated by a pushrod and rocker arm. As the pistons reached the bottom of their exhaust strokes, a series of intake ports near the bottom of the cylinder were uncovered. The intake charge was drawn from the engine crankcase. The Type N produced 160 horsepower at 1,300 r.p.m. and turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller with a diameter of 2.50 meters (8 feet, 2.4 inches). The engine weighed 330 pounds (150 kilograms).

The Nieuport 28 had a top speed of 198 kilometers per hour (123 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) and 1,380 r.p.m., a range of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and a service ceiling of 5,300 meters (17,388 feet). Duration at full power was 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Two .303-caliber Vickers machine guns were mounted on the cowling, firing forward through the propeller arc.

Pfalz D.IIIa 8413/17
Pfalz D.IIIa 8413/17

The Pfalz D.III was a single-seat, single-engine, single-bay biplane fighter built by Pfalz Flugzeugwerke. The fuselage was built of two layers of plywood strips laid over a mold to form one half. The two halves were glued together. This was then covered with doped fabric. The wings were made of fabric-covered wood spars and ribs, with wooden ailerons.

It was 6.95 meters (22 feet, 9½ inches) long with a wingspan of 9.4 meters (30 feet, 0 inches) and height of 2.67 meters (8 feet, 9 inches). Empty weight was 695 kilograms (1,532 pounds) and gross weight was 933 kilograms (2,057 pounds).

The fighter was powered by a 14.778 liter (901.812 cubic inches) water-cooled Mercedes D.IIIa single overhead cam inline six-cylinder engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.64:1. It produced 174 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. The D.IIIa weighed 660.0 pounds (299.4 kilograms).

The maximum speed of the Pfalz D.III was 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour) at Sea Level, and the service ceiling was 5,200 meters (17,060 feet).

It was armed with two 7.92 mm LMG 08/15 Spandau machine guns.

Approximately 1,010 Pfalz D.IIIs were built.

¹ “C.1” was the French designation for a single-place chasseur, their World War I term for what we now consider to be a fighter.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 April 1915

Second Lieutenant Bernard Rhodes-Morehouse, Royal Flying Cross
Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, Royal Flying Corps (Beaminster Museum)

War Office,

                                                                                                         22nd May, 1915.

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve the grant of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers, Non-commissioned officer, and Men, for their conspicuous acts of bravery and devotion to duty whilst serving with the Expeditionary Force :—

2nd Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, Special Reserve, Royal Flying Corps.

For most conspicuous bravery on 26th April, 1915, in flying to Courtrai and dropping bombs on the railway line near that station. On starting the return journey he was mortally wounded, but succeeded in flying for 35 miles to his destination, at a very low altitude, and reported the successful accomplishment of his object. He has since died of his wounds.

The London Gazette, Special Supplement 29170, Saturday, 22 May, 1915 at Pages 4989–4990

Chlorine gas dispersing downwind at the Second battle of Ypres, April 1915
Chlorine gas dispersing downwind at the Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April 1915

Beginning 22 April 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres, the military forces of the German Empire began to use lethal chlorine gas as a weapon on the battlefield. The Royal Flying Corps was ordered to interdict the German supply lines by bombing railways. On 26 April 1915, Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhead, Royal Flying Corps, of No. 2 Squadron at Merville, France, was assigned to attack the railway at Kortrijk, West Floandern (Courtrai, West Flanders) with his Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b reconnaissance airplane, number 687.

Departing alone from Merville at 3:05 p.m., Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse flew to his target, approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) away. He approached the railway station from an altitude of approximately 300 feet (91 meters) to accurately drop his single 100 pound (45.4 kilogram) bomb. He was hit in a leg by a rifle bullet, and shrapnel from his bomb damaged his airplane.

As Rhodes-Moorhouse flew away from the railroad station, he descended to 200 feet (61 meters) and was wounded twice more.

Gare de Kortrijk (the Courtrai Railrod Station)
Gare de Kortrijk (the Courtrai Railroad Station)

The wounds to his hand and leg were serious, but the one to his abdomen was mortal. However, he continued the difficult return flight in his damaged airplane, and arrived back at Merville at 4:12 p.m. Rhodes-Moorhouse’ airplane had 95 holes from bullets and shrapnel. The wounded pilot insisted on making a report to his commanding officer and friend, Captain Maurice Bernal Blake, before being taken to an aid station.

It was soon apparent that Rhodes-Moorhouse would not survive. Captain Blake informed him that he had recommended that he be awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, died of wounds at 2:25 p.m., 27 April 1915.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom’s highest award for valor, on 22 May 1915. Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse was the first airman of the British Empire to be so decorated. His medal is part of the Lord Ashcroft Victoria Cross Collection, displayed in the Aschcroft Gallery of the Imperial War Museum. He also was awarded the 1914–1915 Star, The British War Medal 1914–1918, and the Allied Victory Medal.

Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse’ medals were purchased by Lord Ashcroft, KCMG, PC, and are displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres, KP, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCMG, ADC, PC, commanding general of the British Expeditionary Force, later said that Rhodes-Moorhouse had been responsible for “the most important bomb dropped during the war so far.”

Rhodes-Morehouse’ remains were buried at the family home at Parnham Park,¹ Beaminster, Dorset. After his son, Flight Lieutenant William Henry Rhodes-Morehouse, DFC, was killed during the Battle of Britain, his ashes were placed alongside his father.

Parnham House, William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse' home in Dorset, England.
Parnham House, William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse’ home in Dorset, England. (Country Life Magazine, 29 August 1908)

William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse was born into a wealthy family at London, England, 26 September 1887. He was educated Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He developed an early interest in aviation and was soon an expert airman of international renown. Rhodes-Moorhouse married Miss Linda Beatrice Morrit in 1912. They had one son.

William Bernard Rhodes-Moorhouse
William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse (Bridport & LymeRegis News)

With England drawn into World War I, Rhodes-Moorehouse joined the Royal Flying Corps. He was assigned to No. 2 Squadron, joining the unit at Merrville on 21 March 1915.

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E. (which stands for Blériot Experimental, meaning that it was a tractor-type airplane, which had been developed by Louis Blériot) was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane which was used as a trainer, reconnaissance aircraft, artillery spotter or bomber. An observer occupied the forward cockpit and the pilot was aft.

The B.E.2.b was essentially the same as the B.E.2.a, except the cockpit sides were higher. The elevator control cables were external from the pilot’s cockpit, aft. Probably the most significant change was the use of ailerons for the B.E.2.b, where the previous versions had used wing-warping like the original 1903 Wright Flyer.

The fuselage was constructed of a wooden framework, cross-braced with wires. The wings had wood spars and ribs. The airframe was covered in doped fabric.

The wings of the 2.a and 2.b were straight with no dihedral. Both upper and lower wings had the same span and there was no stagger. The lower wing spars were connected through the fuselage with steel tubing. The landing gear had both wheels and tires, but also wood-covered steel tube skids extending forward to protect the propeller from contacting the ground.

This Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a, No. 347, of No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, at Lythe, near Whitby, June 1914. Its pilot, Lieutenant Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly, Royal Irish Regiment, is at the lower right of the photograph. (Imperial War Museum Image number Q 54985)
This Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a, No. 347, of No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, at Lythe, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, June 1914. Its pilot, Lieutenant Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly, Royal Irish Regiment, is at the lower right of the photograph. (Imperial War Museum Image number Q 54985)

The B.E.2.a–2.b was 29 feet, 6½ inches (9.004 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 7½ inches (11.773 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,274 pounds (578 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,650 pounds (748 kilograms).

The B.E.2, B.E.2.a and B.E.2.b were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch) Renault Type WB side-valve 90° V-8 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The WB was rated at 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m. The engine drove a four-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller at one-half crankshaft speed. The Renault WB was 3 feet, 9.5 inches (1.556 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.8 inches (0.833 meters) high and 2 feet, 5.8 inches (0.757 meters) wide. It weighed 396 pounds (180 kilograms).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). It could climb to 3,000 feet (914 meters) in 9 minutes and 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) in 35 minutes. The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Maximum endurance was 3 hours.

The B.E.2.b was unarmed. The crew could only defend themselves with their personal weapons. The type was easy prey for German fighters. It could carry a small bomb.

Although designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnbourough, only 6 B.E.2s were built there. The remainder were built by Armstong Whitworth, British and Colonial Airplane Co., Coventry Ordnance Works, Handley Page, Hewlett and Blondeau, and Vickers. Eighty-five of the B.E.2.b variant were produced, with most being used as trainers. Nineteen were sent to the Expeditionary Force in France, and one to the Middle East Brigade. By late 1915, the type had been almost completely replaced by the improved B.E.2.c.

A reproduction of the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b flown by Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse is in the collection of the Royal Air Force Museum. In a 2015 interview with Richard Moss for “Culture 24,” Ian Thirsk, Head of Collections, said, “It’s another gem of the collection, and was built from scratch by a designer called John McKenzie to the original drawings at the former RAF Museum facility at Cardington between 1983 and 1988.”

 Replica of 2nd Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse' Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b, No. 687.
Reproduction of 2nd Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse’ Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b, No. 687, at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon. (British Aviation Preservation Council)

¹ Interestingly, Parnham House is believed to have been the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Baskerville Hall” in his famous novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 April 1918

1st Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer, Air Service, United States Army. (Campbell Studios, New York)

23 April 1918: at 09:55 a.m., near Saint-Gobain, France, 1st Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer, 103rd Aero Squadron (Pursuit), shot down an enemy Albatross C two-place biplane. This was Baer’s fifth victory in aerial combat, making him the first American “ace.”

A SPAD S.XIII C.1 S7714 of the 103rd Aero Squadron. The pilot is Captain Robert Soubiran, the squadron’s commanding officer. (U.S. Air Force)

Paul Frank Baer was born 29 January 1894 at Fort Wayne, Indiana, the fourth of four children of Alvin E. Baer, a railroad engineer, and Emma B. Parent Baer.

In 1916, Paul Baer served under Brigadier John J. General Pershing during the Mexican Expedition to capture the outlaw and revolutionary Francisco (“Pancho”) Villa.

He then went to France and enlisted the Aéronautique Militaire, in 20 February 1917. He was sent for flight training at the Avord Groupemant des Divisions d’Entrainment (G.D.E.). He graduated as a pilot, 15 June 1917, with the rank of corporal. After flight training, Corporal Baer was assigned to Escadrille SPA 80, under the command of Capitaine Paul Ferrand, 14 August 1917 to 20 January 1918, flying the SPAD S.VII C.1 and SPAD S.XIII C.1. Baer was next transferred to Escadrille N. 124, the Escadrille Américaine, under Georges Thénault. This Units was equipped with the Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C1.

After the United States entered the War, Baer was transferred to the 103rd Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces, and commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant with a date of rank retroactive to 5 November 1917. The 103rd was under the command of Major William Thaw II, and was operating near La Cheppe, France, flying the SPAD S.VII C.1 chasseur.

Lieutenant Baer is officially credited with 9 victories, and claimed an additional 7. After shooting down his ninth enemy airplane on 22 May 1918, Baer and his SPAD S.XIII C.1 were also shot down. He was seriously injured and was captured by the enemy near Armentières and held as a Prisoner of War. At one point, Baer was able to escape for several days before being recaptured.

For his service in World War I, 1st Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer was awarded the United States’ Distinguished Service Cross with one oak leaf cluster (a second award). He was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by Raymond Poincaré, the President of France. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre with seven palms.

SPAD S.XIII C.1 at Air Service Production Center No. 2, Romorantin Aerodrome, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)

After World War I, Baer, now a “soldier of fortune,” organized a group of pilots to fight against “the Bolsheviks” in Poland. He returned to the United States aboard T.S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam, departing Boulogne-sur-mer and arriving at New York City, 4 November 1919. He then flew as a test pilot, an air mail pilot in South America, and worked as an aeronautical inspector for the U.S. Department of Commerce, based at Brownsville Airport, Texas. In 1930, he was employed as a pilot for the China National Aviation Corporation.

Baer was flying from Nanking to Shanghai for with an amphibious Loening Air Yacht biplane, named Shanghai. The airplane crashed after striking the mast of a boat on the Huanpu River. He died at the Red Cross Hospital at Shanghai, China, at 9:00 a.m., 9 December 1930. A Chinese pilot, K. F. Pan, and an unidentified female passenger were also killed. General Hsiung Shih-hui and four other passengers on board were seriously injured.

Paul Baer’s remains were returned to the United States aboard S.S. President McKinley and buried at the Lindenwood Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1925 a new airport was opened in Fort Wayne and named Paul Baer Municipal Airport. During World War II, the airport was taken over by the military and designated Baer Army Airfield. It is now Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA).

A CNAC Loening Air Yacht amphipian at Lungwha, China, circa 1930. (SFO Aviation Museum & Library R2014.1811.001)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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