Frank Luke Jr.
"He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other ace, even the dreaded Richthofen, had ever come close to that." ~ Eddie Rickenbacker
Frank Luke Jr. was born May 19, 1897 in Phoenix, Arizona and would live not only to become an Arizonan Hero but a true American Hero. As the last of five children in his family Frank grew and developed while excelling athletically, through hard work in the copper mines, and the occasional bare-knuckle boxing match. On September 25, 1917 Luke enlisted into Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps only months after America’s initial entrance into the First World War. After extensive training Frank Luke Jr. is deployed and assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron in France as a Second Lieutenant. The 27th Aero Squadron’s under standing orders were to search and destroy any German observation balloons (balloons that are employed as aerial platforms for intelligence gathering and artillery spotting). Luke had no fear running through his veins and he and his partner, Lt. Joseph Frank Wehner, continually volunteered to go on these missions despite the fact that these balloons were under constant heavy defense from anti- aircraft guns on the ground. The two pilots began to string together an extraordinary amount of victories with Luke on the offensive destroying the balloons and Wehner working a flying protective cover. On September 18, 1918, Wehner is shot and killed during a dogfight with Fokker D. VIIs while attempting to protect Luke. Luke then shot down both D. VIIs and two more balloons accounting for his 12th and 13th confirmed kills. During a 17 day span with only 8 days of aerial combat, Frank Luke Jr. from Arizona was accredited with shooting down 14 German balloons, four airplanes, and collecting 18 victories.
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