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This Week in 1918 | Return of the Flare Gun

Updated: Oct 29, 2018

The last two weeks have been eventful ones for the 12th Aero Squadron.


On 4 October, Lt. Samuel Bowman launched with his pilot (records do not indicate the identity of the pilot) on an infantry contact mission. During the mission, Bowman was wounded in the leg from ground fire. Bowman pressed ahead enduring the pain and blood loss to completing his task and even managed to finish his reports airdropping them to headquarters before returning home. Bowman was later decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on that day. [1]


On 6 or 7 October, records aren't clear, Lt. Keely, also an Observer, was wounded in action. [2]


8 October

1015 A.M.

Paradise and Wright departed on their 19th Infantry Contact mission. Presumably the most of any other aircrew. For the last several days the Americans and Germans wrestled for control of a road running south of Grand Pre. On this day, the Americans controlled the road. [3]


…we saw the Germans less than a hundred yards away standing in shell holes with water covering them almost to their armpits...


Lt Robert Paradise from the USAFA Special Collections Division MS-5 Dwight Collection

The pilot, Lt. Paradise describes what follows:

“…we saw the Germans less than a hundred yards away standing in shell holes with water covering them almost to their armpits...leaning forward watching the road intently with their rifles resting on the ground before them.” [3]


Webley & Scott Mk III flare pistol

In a fit of rage, Wright leaned over as far as he could and hurled his flare gun at the nearest German he could find.


The Germans were lying in wait for the Americans. Paradise returned to the American lines and circled as Wright attempted to warn them of the danger. Wright loaded the proper signal rocket in his flare gun and fired it only to have it fail. [3] Paradise continued circling as Wright fruitlessly wrangled with the gun trying to get it to operate. Time was of the essence, and this failure prevented him from warning the Americans. In a fit of rage, Wright leaned over as far as he could and hurled his flare gun at the nearest German he could find. [3]


Whether coincidence or not history cannot say but in short order the Germans returned fire releasing a fierce barrage. Bullets ripped through #15, [4] Paradise and Wright’s plane, sending splinters everywhere. Paradise wrenched the aircraft away from the danger. [3]


The post-flight inspection, revealed two bullet holes

inches from Paradise’s head...


Dark storms were gathered all around but Wright still had more work to perform. Together, Wright and Paradise made seven more trips over the lines before completing the mission. [3]

On the way home, they endured six rainstorms, one with hail, [4] before finally arriving at home field. Paradise set the plane down hard collapsing the landing gear but both Wright and Paradise were able to walk away. [3]


The post-flight inspection, revealed two bullet holes inches from Paradise’s head, one through the oil tank, another in the main spar and one more in the wing. [3] It had been a rough day for the pair but they made it through and more importantly they finished the job.


Day after day the 12th battled low visibility, rain, winds and low clouds just to get to the Front to contend with the enemy as they worked to provide useful intelligence.


His plane crippled...and no way to safely navigate home, Noyes made a forced night landing.


October 16th was no different.* No missions launched that day on account of the weather. However, late in the day, the 12th received an urgent mission to confirm the location of the 82nd Division. [6]


Weather was terrible and there was not enough time to fly the mission and return before nightfall. It was very dangerous and 12th Aero Squadron Commander, Lt. Stephen H. Noyes decided he would fly the mission. Lt. Justin Follette volunteered to perform Observation duties. [1] [Together they launched into the evening sky skirting the earth at barely 150 feet. [1]


Lt. Noyes and Lt. Follette crept through No-Man’s-Land moving from shell hole to shell hole


New England Aviators (Vol. 1). (1919). Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Capt Stephen H. Noyes 12th Aero Squadorn

They endured heavy gunfire, anti-aircraft shells and poor weather yet they held firm. By the time the finished locating the 82d lines night had already fallen. [6] His plane crippled from enemy fire and no way to safely navigate home, Noyes made a forced night landing. Somehow, he managed to land in the shell torn fields of No-Man’s-Land…in total darkness. [6]

Lt. Noyes and Lt. Follette crept through No-Man’s-Land moving from shell hole to shell hole until finally arriving at friendly lines. [6] They delivered their vital intelligence to command that night completing their mission. Noyes and Follette were each awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. [1] They were the second and third members from the 12th to be awarded the D.S.C. in the last two weeks.


The Armistice lay just a month away but there would yet be more sacrifice and courage acts from the 12th before the war would close.




*Author's Note:Lt. Noyes' and Lt Follette's DSC citations state 15 Oct as the date of action however, squadron records show Noyes and Follette flew together on the 15 October. Lt. Burdette Wright also mentions in his diary the mission took place on the 16th. Squadron records support this claim showing only one flight for the 16th. Lts Noyes and Follette were listed as the crew for that mission.



CITATIONS

 

  1. (2016). Retrieved from Hall of Valor: http://valor.militarytimes.com

  2. Gorrell. (n.d.). Gorrell's History of the A.E.F

  3. Coles, M. H. (2002). Pershing's Eyes in the Sky. Military History,46-49.

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

  5. 2 Main Line Men Receive Crosses. (1919, January 2). Evening Public Ledger. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  6. Image of Lt. Noyes from New England Aviators(Vol. 1). (1919). Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

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