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This Week in 1918...| Tangle with the Circus

Monday, 28 October 1918


Lieutenants Arthur and Fleeson, returned Sunday after spending four days resting and relaxing in Paris. Now it was Monday, 28 October, and they were back to fighting the war.

Today, they were to drop propaganda leaflets over German lines.


This could mean only one thing.

Baron von Richthofen's Jagdgeschwader 1... was upon them.


12th Aero Squadron Lt Howard T. Fleeson and Lt. Dogan Arthur
Lt. Howard T. Fleeson (Left) and Lt. Dogan Arthur (Right) in front of a Salmson 2A2 - NASM9A11537-213 Paul Stockton Photo Album

At 1450 local, they departed Remicourt headed east...alone. They slipped past the lines either ignored or undetected by the enemy. Roughly three miles behind enemy lines, Fleeson dumped his cargo and hundreds of leaflets fluttered to the ground leaving a literal paper trail visible for miles. If they were previously undetected, the whole of Germany now knew of their position.


Fleeson tried to hold them off. His guns failed.


Six Fokkers closed in sporting colors loud enough to shame a flock of parrots. This could mean only one thing. Baron von Richthofen's Jagdgeschwader 1, or Flying Circus, was upon them.


The Circus swarmed Arthur and Fleeson's Salmson. Fleeson tried to hold them off. His guns failed. Arthur understood their defenseless situation all too well, opened the throttle and dove for home.


...the Fokkers burned through their remaining ammunition...


Explosive and incendiary rounds zipped past them. Arthur kicked his rudder violently zig-zagging attempting to throw these marksmen off their aim. For six miles they chased Arthur, their bullets nipping at his aircraft. A bullet grazed Arthur's foot, several more smashed into his propeller, another handful sunk into his engine and oil tank. Ole' Hump was certain his number was up but he kept fighting. During those six long miles he managed to keep the Circus off balance. Now three miles into Allied territory, the Fokkers burned through their remaining ammunition, broke off the attack and headed home.


Arthur's Salmson had enough. Her engine took this opportunity to fail. Arthur set her down, safely behind friendly lines. Their Salmson was so badly damaged from the attack it would never return to the air. Her crew, however, would fly again.


This was the third time Arthur and Fleeson had been shot down together.

It would not be the last.



 

Sources:


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


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

pages 10-12 and 64



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