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This Week in 1918... | Fokkers

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

30 October 1918

On Wednesday morning the 12th Aero Squadron assembled five aircraft to fly a photo mission. Four aircraft were to protect the photo plane flown by Lts. Harwell and Davidson.


Lt. Foy, a radio officer and not an aviator by training volunteered to go....


Unfortunately, recent losses left the 12th desperately short of Observers. In October alone the 12th suffered three wounded, one killed and one captured. For this mission, they were short one Observer. Lt. Foy, a radio officer and not an aviator by training volunteered to go. Lt. Muller agreed to take him along [2].


Fokkers decked out in all sorts of paint schemes: red, silver, checkers, stripes and solids swarmed in on their prey


The flight of five Salmsons departed Remicourt. [4] Two were forced back due to mechanical problems. Lts Arthur and Fleeson stayed with the formation in their “new” “Old Carolina.” The original “Old Carolina” was destroyed Monday two days ago an engagement with Richthofen's "Flying Circus" [4]. Muller and Foy, also remained with the formation.


Officers of the 12th Aero Squadron, Toul France. Lt. Davidson far left second row kneeling

Fighter cover failed to materialize yet the flight of three pressed ahead [4] arriving north of Bucancy, near an enemy airfield. Moments later, eighteen brightly colored Fokkers pounced [4].


Fokkers decked out in all sorts of paint schemes: red, silver, checkers, stripes and solids swarmed in on their prey [4]. Muller and Foy’s aircraft went down first. They were last seen in a spin plummeting deep into German territory.


The remaining two Salmsons did the only thing they could when outnumbered eighteen to two. They ran. Bullets slammed into Davidson and Harwell’s plane ripping through their Salmson’s gas tank [3]. Trailing fuel they managed to make it to No-Man’s-Land before fuel starvation forced the engine to stop [3]. Davidson slipped the plane to the ground [3]. On impact, their plane flipped over throwing Harwell clear of the wreck. His only injury - a sprained arm [3]. Davidson emerged from the wreck just before it ignited into a blazing inferno [3]. Nearby an American Corporal rose from a shell hole offering to guide them to safety [3]. From the Corporal’s dugout, Davidson and Harwell watched the Fokkers repeatedly strafe the debris of their once proud Salmson [3]. Not long after, German 17’s began pulverizing its charred remnants [3]. Regardless of personal feelings, one couldn't help but admire German thoroughness.


Davidson emerged from the wreck just before it ignited into a blazing inferno..

Lt William D. Harwell: 12th Aero Squadron, Observer Signal Corps Image 111-SC-39340

In the sky above, Arthur and Fleeson were neck deep in the fight of their lives.

Arthur gunned his engine, nosing over the "New Carolina" gaining speed in a terrific dive [4]. Like his previous engagement two days ago he kicked the rudder hard to throw off his attacker’s aim. Incendiary and explosive bullets slammed into the “New Carolina.” Arthur’s wing caught fire, smoke trailing from his stricken ship [4]. Behind him, Fleeson’s twin Lewis machine guns raged at the attacking Fokkers. Fleeson's marksmenship ripped two of them from the sky [4]. Arthur saw the wing extinguish, the fire evidently starved of oxygen from the speed if his dive [4].


His problems were only beginning. Incendiary and explosive bullets ripped through the "New Carolina" shredding its fuselage nearly tearing off an aileron [4]. At this rate it wouldn’t hold together much longer. Arthur found his elevator jammed by a bullet [4]. Fortunately, the bullet worked itself free. As the fight raged on an incendiary round burned past searing a deep wound in Arthur's cheek [4].


Incendiary and explosive bullets ripped through the "New Carolina" shredding its fuselage...


Still two miles behind the lines and the enemy hot on his tail, the “New Carolina’s” engine quit [4]. With little choice, Arthur circled to land. His tormenters certain of their victory granted Arthur, breaking off their attack [4]. Arthur brought his aircraft in low for a forced landing. Nearing 100 feet the "New Carolina’s" engine sprang back to life.


Arthur wasted no time heading straight for friendly territory. German soldiers unleashed a torrent of fire as Arthur hedgehopped over the lines too low to dodge their attack [4]. Miraculously he and Fleeson made it through the barrage [4]. Reaching Allied lines, the “New Carolina” breathed its last as the engine quit [4]. Arthur safely set the "New Carolina" down for the last time.


This occasion marked the third time Arthur and Fleeson were shot down...


The "New Carolina's" struts were badly bent and its flying wires all slack [4]. The fuselage was shredded and a longeron near the tail nearly severed [4]. The violent dive and constant battering from the enemy clearly took its toll, yet the sturdy Salmson somehow held together [4].


This occasion marked the third time Arthur and Fleeson were shot down [1]. Today, they’d not only managed to survive but brought down two enemy aircraft marking their second and third aerial victories [1].


Lts. Muller and Foy last seen in a spin over German territory crash landed behind enemy lines. Lt Foy and Muller were captured as Lt. Foy pulled wreckage off Muller [1]. Both were unharmed and remained prisoners until the end of the war [1].


Lts. Davidson and Harwell made it safely across No-Man’s-Land and returned to the 12th Aero Squadron with their harrowing tale [1].

Lts. Arthur and Fleeson were given much needed time off to rest their nerves after being shot down twice in three days [4]. They were each later awarded their second Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest military award [5].


All six of these brave souls survived the war.



 

Distinguished Flying Cross (Oak Leaf Cluster)

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 126 (1919)


Captain Dogan Arthur

Action Date: 18 & 30 October, 1918

Company: 12th Aero Squadron


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Captain (Air Service) Dogan H. Arthur, United States Army Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 12th Aero Squadron, U.S. Army Air Service, A.E.F., on October 18 and 30, 1918, while on artillery reglage. Lieutenant Arthur and his observer were attacked by four enemy planes. His observer's guns were jammed, but Lieutenant Arthur, with splendid courage and coolness, outmaneuvered the hostile aircraft and escaped, although they followed his plane to within 25 meters of the ground, badly damaging it by machine-gun fire. On 30 October 1918, Lieutenant Arthur was one of a formation of nine planes which were to take photographs in German territory. Before the lines were reached six planes dropped out, but the remaining three entered the German lines, although they observed several large formations of enemy planes in the near vicinity. When they were 12 kilometers within the German lines they were attacked by 18 enemy Fokkers. Regardless of his own safety, Lieutenant Arthur engaged these planes in order to allow his companions to escape, and turning toward his own lines only when he saw them shot down. Then he fought his way home, and in the fight which ensued his observer shot down two enemy planes [5].



Distinguished Flying Cross (Oak Leaf Cluster)

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 126 (1919)


Second Lieutenant Howard T. Fleeson

Action Date: October 30, 1918

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Company: 12th Aero Squadron


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Air Service) Howard T. Fleeson, United States Army Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 12th Aero Squadron, U.S. Army Air Service, A.E.F., near Buzancy, France, 30 October 1918. Lieutenant Fleeson accompanied a formation of nine planes on a photographic mission in German territory; six planes turned back before reaching the enemy line, and the remaining three were attacked by 18 Fokker type planes when they had penetrated 12 kilometers into the enemy country. After his two companions, whom he tried to assist, were shot down, Lieutenant Fleeson fought his way back to his own lines, destroying two enemy planes in the combat [5].



Sources

 

1. Gorrell. (n.d.). Gorrell's History of the A.E.F. Air Service

2. Gorrell. (n.d.). Gorrell's History of the A.E.F. Air Service POW Reports

3. Notes from the Burdette S Wright Diaries 1918-1919, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum Archives Dulles

4. Richardson, J. M. (1931, April). At the Mercy of the Enemy. Popular Aviation, 10-12.

pages 10-12 and 64

5. (2016). Retrieved from Hall of Valor: http://valor.militarytimes.com


Cover image retrieved from https://modelbrouwers.nl/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=225&t=43048



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