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This week in 1918 | Trouble

Updated: Nov 11, 2018


July 22-28

In March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive designed to crush the British and knock France out of the war.[1] In short order this surprise attack enabled the Germans to drive 30 mile wedge into Allied lines directly at Paris, the very heart of France.[1] A rushed defense involving French and American troops stopped the attack in its tracks[1]

However, the menacing German salient remained. In mid-July, the Germans launched a new offensive designed to strengthen their gains and allow them to resume the advance to Paris[1]. Fortunately, Allied intelligence discovered the time and place of the German attack allowing them to successfully thwart the assault and launch a counter-offensive before the Germans could regroup[1].


42nd Division Advance during the Aisne-Marne Campaight

July 18th saw the kick off of this counter-offensive known to the world as the Aisne-Marne Campaign.[1] For several days, the 26th Liberty Division (from New York) rolled the Germans back for six miles up to the Ourq River.[2]

The 12th Aero Squadron was there too tracking troop progress along the front line, adjusting artillery to smash the enemy and providing valuable reconnaissance and photos to commanders.[3]


Lt. E.E. Stuck Stockton Collection National Archives NASM-9A11573-095

On 23 July, 2nd Lt. E.E. Stuck was awarded the Silver Star

for his actions on this date.[3]

On 25 July, after several heavy days of combat, 1st Lt A. J. Bradford and 1st Lt. Alfred N. Joerg departed on an infantry contact mission. Their goal: track 26th Division troop progress on the Front. Bradford and Joerg never returned from their mission.[3] Unfortunately, the story of their actions and fate on that day remains unknown. They gave their lives performing an exceptionally dangerous mission. Infantry contact patrols often required crews to fly just a few hundred feet through No Man’s land directly exposing themselves to intense ground fire.[4]

The next day, the 42nd Rainbow Division relieved the 26th and resumed the advance.[5]

On the morning of the 28th, troops from the 42d finally crossed the Ourcq River.[5] German units left behind to cover the German retreat put up stiff resistance.[5] For several hours the 42d attempted to dislodge the enemy only to be forced back to a sunken road between Fere-en-Tardonios and Cierges just east of the Ourcq River.[5]

Out of this fray came an evening call to the 12th Aero Squadron to provide assistance.[6] 1st Lt. Dogan H. Arthur and 1st Lt. Howard T. Fleeson were set to go. Lt Arthur describes in a letter what follows.[7]

“Fleeson and I were assigned to a mission to get some valuable information concerning the movement of troops. We attempted to leave in one ship but the motor wasn’t working good, so we took another plane. This motor failed and we were forced to land about five miles from our airdrome on the way to the line. So our alternates, John Miller, as pilot, and [an] observer named Thompson, took to the air to carry out the mission.”[7]

That Sunday evening 1st Lt. John C. Miller and Thompson, escorted by 2nd Lt. Alfred B. Baker and2nd Lt. John C. S. Lumsden launched their planes ducking under an 800-foot cloud deck headed for Germany.[6]

Arriving several miles behind enemy lines, Miller and Thompson set about their work. In the other plane, however, Lumsden’s sharp eyes detected eight Fokker D.VII’s[8], arguably the best German fighter planes of the war,[9] headed straight for them. Lumsden yelled to his pilot “Bake, we’ve got to keep them off John [Miller].”[8]

“Bake, we’ve got to keep them off John”

The enemy formation split into two. Four attacked Baker and Lumsden while the remaining four pounced on Miller and Thompson.[8]

Lumsden understood the need to protect his wingman. Thompson was the mission plane and his information had to get back to the Allies. If Thompson was shot down before he could deliver this information, the mission would fail and American troops could be in jeopardy. Lumsden divided his attention between the aircraft attacking himself and those attacking Thompson.[8]

During the fight, Baker twice heard Lumsden stop shooting at the enemy attacking himself in order to shoot at the aircraft on Thompson and Miller’s tail.[8] Lumsden was deliberately exposing himself drawing enemy fire to buy Thompson and Miller precious time for an escape. The second time Lumsden exposed himself to the enemy Baker heard Lumsden’s guns fall silent.[8] An enemy bullet struck him in the head killing him instantly.[8] Five rounds hit Baker, one of them grazing his face.[6] Another explosive round ripped through his gas tank forcing his engine to fail.[8] Owing to his low altitude, Baker was forced down inside enemy territory.[8]

Meanwhile, Lt. Thompson, recently returned from gunnery school, also engaged the enemy.[6] Taking careful aim at the first plane, Thompson squeezed the trigger unleashing a burst into the diving attacker.[6] The German plowed to the earth never recovering from the dive.[6] Thompson then aimed at the second German with similar results.[6] It too smashed into the ground. By now in the third Fokker, Germany's second highest scoring ace Erich Lowenhardt took aim.[10] His bullets splintered Thompson’s guns rendering them inoperable.[6] Defenseless, Thompson shouted to Miller “Go Home!”[16]

Miller responded immediately diving for home. The remaining two Fokkers pressed the attack. More bullets ripped through their plane. Thompson took a round to the leg. Another pierced Miller’s back exploding in his belly.[6] Miller, mortally wounded fought to the end. Despite intense pain and blood loss he violently jerked and jinked the plane to throw off the enemy’s aim.[6] Miller’s abrupt maneuvers nearly tossed Thompson out of the plane before he came crashing down in the cockpit shattering his seat.[6] Huddled in bottom of his cockpit, Thompson bounced around “like a rock in a tin can”[6] all the while thinking to himself “I wonder if this is going to kill me? I won’t have to wait long to find out.”[6]

“I wonder if this is going to kill me? I won’t have to wait long to find out.

Crossing friendly lines, Miller finally shook off his attackers. Miller was dying.[7] He knew he had to land immediately. Miller found a gravel bank on the Ourcq River and managed to set their Salmson down on relatively flat space.[6] The plane hit hard bouncing into the air.[6] Upon striking the ground a second time its landing gear collapsed.[6] The lower right wing snagged on the gravel before being sheared away.[6] Next its nose dug in flipping the plane on its back.[6]The once proud Salmson now lay inverted at a 45 degree angle with its tail in the air.[6] Neither Miller nor Thompson suffered injuries from the crash landing, a testament to Miller’s piloting skill.[6] As the dust settled, Thomson hanging upside down in his harness heard Miller, also hanging upside down, say to him “I’m shot.”[6] “Me too,” replied Thompson.[6] Lt. Thompson loosened his belt, fell to the earth then helped his pilot out the plane.[6] Pale and weak, his stomach in tatters, Johnny was in bad shape. Nearby American soldiers rushed to their assistance. Thompson last saw Miller being carried away on a stretcher headed to a field hospital.[6] Lt. Johnny Miller’s injuries, however, proved too great to surmount. This courageous soul passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital.[6]

Thompson still had work to do. He hobbled over to Lt. Col W. E. Bare’s dugout, a small underground room about 5’ square


Evan, M. M. (2013). Victory on the Western Front: The Decisive Battles of World War One. Arcturus Publishing.

with railroad ties for a roof.[6] Lt. Col Bare, the Executive Officer of the 167th Regiment received Thompson’s report containing all the information he had gathered on the Germans during the flight. His report now complete, Thompson dug the bullet out of his numb leg with his pocket knife before walking to a 1st Aid station to receive treatment for his wounds.[6]

A few miles behind German lines Baker sat in his plane. He had crashed squarely in a gun pit of German 77mm cannons and was immediately taken prisoner.[8] German soldiers took Baker to an aid station where they treated his wounds. The wound on his face left a permanent scar.[6] Lt. Baker remained a Prisoner of War until the Armistice.[8]

Soldiers were sent on burial detail to lay to rest the two Germans Lt. Thompson shot down. They discovered one of the pilots was a woman.[6] Efforts to date have not yet been able to confirm her identity.

Lt. Lumsden’s deliberate sacrifice and Lt. Miller’s incredible efforts despite mortal wounds saved Thompson’s life that day enabling him to deliver precious information to American troops. Even while facing extreme adversity, these members of the 12th Aero Squadron went to great lengths to ensure the mission was completed. Their actions were a prime example of the 12th Aero Squadron’s dedication to the troops and to their mission.

 

2nd Lt. John Cooper Stedman Lumsden


Born on 23 November 1877 in Raleigh, North Carolina to Charles and Martha Lumsden, Lt. Lumsden attended North Carolina State University in 1894.[11] He volunteered in the North Carolina Infantry during the Spanish American war and subsequently spent time in Cuba as part of the occupation.[11] Sometime after the war, he again enlisted and was sent to France in December of 1917 as an observer.[11]

On 26 April 1918, Lumsden was assigned to the 12th Aero Squadron.[3] He and Capt “Pop” Hinds, both members of the 12th had the unique distinction of being the oldest U.S. Air Corps aircrew in France. Lumsden was 42 and Hinds was 45 years old.[12]

On 28 July 1918, Lt. Lumsden made the supreme sacrifice while protecting his wingman on a mission behind enemy lines. He intentionally drew fire upon himself in an effort to save his wingman.[8] While thus engaged, Lt. Lumsden was killed when he was struck by an enemy round to the head. Lumsden was survived by his wife Caroline.

2nd Lt. John Cooper Stedman Lumsden is buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Thiaucort, France. He is also one of thirty-four men honored by the North Carolina State University Memorial Bell Tower.

 

1Lt. John C. Miller


North Carolina native Lt John C. Miller was killed in action at age 22. Lt. Miller rarely complained even when given less desirable work.[13] He accepted his assignments and performed them diligently. It didn’t take long before he became one of the go-to pilots for difficult missions. His dedication, courage and tenacity earned him a recommendation for promotion to Captain as well as a recommendation to become a Squadron Commander.[13] Unfortunately, he was killed before either of these promotions could occur.






1st Lt. Alfred N. Joerg


Brooklyn native Alfred N. Joerg was a law student at Fordham University before he joined the Army. He was born 24 October 1889 and attended the Cornell University of Military Aeronautics in Ithaca, NY. He joined the 12th Aero Squadron on 11 July. Just two weeks later this 29 yr old 5’ 6” New York Native was killed in action. Lt. Alfred N. Joerg was laid to rest in Plot B Row 11 Grave 22 at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Seringes-et- Nesles, France [14]









1st Lt. A. J. Bradford


Lt. Bradford, was born in Jackson, Michigan on 12 May 1892. He spent two years as a Corporal in the Washington National Guard before he commissioned and became an Aerial Observer. Bradford married Madaline Cheadle on 30 Sept 1917. On 27 June 1918, he joined the 12th Aero Squadron.[3]

Nearly one month later, this 26 year-old man was killed in action.

 



Sources Cited:

1. American armies and battlefields in Europe. (1938). Washington D.C.: US Government.

2. 26th Division, summary of operations in the World War. (1944). Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.

3. Gorrell. (n.d.). Gorrell's History of the A.E.F. Air Service Section E. Vol 3. Squadron Histories.

4. Wright, C. B. (1919, September). Riding in the Back Seat to War in the Twelfth. U.S. Air Service,2.

5. 42d Division, summary of operations in the World War. (1944). Washington: U.S. G.P.O.

6. Leiser, E. L. (1968). Stephen Thompson's Triumph The First Air Victory. Cross & Cockade, Vol 9 No 2.

7. Stiff, B. (2003, January 18). Two wars, two local heroes die and some parallels. Retrieved from http://www.the-dispatch.com/article/NC/20030118/News/605129815/LD/

8. Gorrell. (n.d.). Gorrell's History of the A.E.F. Section M Vol 10 POW Reports.

9. Stiff, B. (2003, February 15). There's more to the story of Lexington's World War I pilot. Retrieved from http://www.the-dispatch.com/article/NC/20030215/news/605130544/LD/

10. Lt. Stephen W. Thompson. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/197430/lt-stephen-w-thompson/

11. 2LT John Cooper Stedman Lumsden (1877-1918) - Find... (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=56638715

12. Catalogue of official A.E.F. photographs. (1919). Washington: Govt. Print. off. Photo# 111-SC-12486 17 May 1918

13. Haslett, E. (1920). Luck on the wing, thirteen stories of a sky spy. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company.

14. Alfred N. Joerg. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.abmc.gov/node/343309#.W1yqPS_MzOQ

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