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This Week in 1918 | Back at it

Updated: Nov 11, 2018

26 Aug - 1 Sept

Last week the 12th returned to the Western Front. Since August 12th, they have been flying missions out of Toul Airfield. This week the missions continue while the U.S. begins gearing up for the Saint Mihiel Campaign.

On Wednesday morning, 28 August, Lt. Eddie Orr and Lt Phil A. Henderson took off - alone, unprotected and headed West to perform a reconnaissance mission over the Front. During the mission, they spotted a patrol of eight enemy fighter planes. One of them dove on an American observation balloon intending to kill it.

Example of an Observation Balloon in WWI

Caquot Type R Observation Balloon

Caquot Type R Observation Balloon

Lt. Phil A. Henderson

Observation balloons made for vulnerable targets. Suspended in gondolas under these floating hydrogen "sausages" were American artillery observers doing a similar work as the 12th albeit with far less ability to see. Defying the odds, Chicago native, Lt. Orr and his observer from Washington state intervened. Together they defied the odds diving on the attacking aircraft to protect the vulnerable balloon. Lt. Orr only had a single machine gun against the German's two. Henderson cooly faced off against the remaining seven Germans on his tail. Orr pressed the attack to about 150 feet before he lost sight of the German in a dive.

Unfortunately, they were too late. The balloon was destroyed before they could drive the enemy off. Orr and Henderson now contended with the other seven German fighters hot on their tail. During the fight, the Germans were able to score several hits on Eddie's engine. Their plane heavily damaged Orr and Henderson were finally forced to land. The 12th Aero Squadron reported them overdue that day and knew not of their fate until the following day when Orr and Henderson made it back to the squadron. Lt. Edward Orr and Lt. Phil A. Henderson were both awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions on the 28th of August 1918.


Gorrell, Gorrell's History of the A.E.F. Air Service Section E. Vol 3. Squadron Histories

(2016). Retrieved from Hall of Valor:

(2016, Aug 22). Retrieved from usmilitaria forum:

Girton, F. (Ed.). (1920). The History and Achievements of the Fort Sheridan Officers' Training Camps. Fort Sheridan Association.

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