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Frank Luke Jr.

27th Aero Squadron

Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Arizona

Died:

9/29/1918

Grave Location:

Plot A, Row 26, Grave 13

Frank Luke standing beside his 13th balloon kill

2ndLt. Frank Luke Jr., nicknamed “Arizona Balloon Buster,” enlisted in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps following America’s entry into WWI. He is credited with shooting down 14 German balloons and four airplanes between September 12 and 29, 1918, ranking second among U.S. Army Air Service pilots in the number of aerial victories.

The 27th Aero Squadron was ordered to attack German observation balloons. These balloons were heavily defended by machine guns on the ground. Luke, along with his good friend Joseph Frank Wehner, continually volunteered for these dangerous missions.

On September 28, 1918 Luke landed his SPAD XIII airplane at the French aerodrome Cicognes because of engine trouble. When he returned to base the next day, he was confronted by his squadron’s commanding officer who threatened to arrest him for being AWOL. Luke then took off without authorization and flew to an airbase at Verdun. Here a sympathetic senior air commander cancelled the arrest order and authorized Luke to continue his balloon hunting.

Subsequently Luke was badly wounded by a machine gun bullet fired from a hilltop above him. He landed near the Ruisseau de Bradon, where he collapsed 200 meters from the plane. The Germans buried him in the Murvaux cemetery. His body was retrieved two months later by American forces.

Awards: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and Italian Croce al Merito di Guerra

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
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Frank Luke Jr. is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery Plot A, Row 26, Grave 13.