The Balloon Backer: Luke And Rickenbacker

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American involvement in the “War to End all Wars” was a long awaited arrival for the Triple Entente, yet anticipated by the Germans. Due to political turmoil between Washington and Berlin and military actions by Germany involving the reinstated the use of unrestricted submarine warfare, America declared war on Germany on April 4, 1917. However, the U.S. Army and Navy had never participated in a war that was outside of their own borders and their soldiers lacked the training that would help them be successful in the trenches of France, Belgium, and Germany. This created the massive need for training to be instituted among the ranks, as well as creating a unique atmosphere for American officers to experiment with tactics that utilized the new …show more content…
Both served well in the air, with Rickenbacker scoring “twenty-six victories over balloons and piloted craft” (Sims 59) and Luke with an unprecedented record of “four aircraft and fourteen balloons in eighteen days, or, to be precise, in seven days of action” (Franks 230). These aerial kills did their part in the war of attrition with Germany. However, Luke especially became famous for his uncanny ability to shoot down enemy balloons, which would lead to his nickname “the Balloon Buster”. Yet, to fully understand the impact of these kills, the purpose of aircraft during this time was …show more content…
Luke and his wingman Lieutenant Joseph Wehner “developed a twilight technique that was to be further developed (into night-fighter operations) in the next war. They would attack the enemy in the last, fading light of the day and land after dark” (Sims 61). These tactics demonstrated Luke’s intellectual prowess in the air and his ability to adapt to the ever-changing battlefield of WWI. Yet what made him an excellent fighter pilot was his killer instinct and daring attitude. Even Rickenbacker in his autobiography, “Fighting the Flying Circus”, stated, “… Frank Luke, who in my opinion was the greatest fighting pilot in the war …” (Rickenbacker 229), as well as “There was Luke – the most intrepid airfighter that ever sat in an aeroplane. What possible honor could be given him by his country that would accord him the distinction he deserved!” (Rickenbacker 323). Rickenbacker himself realized the immense skill Luke had and the role he had played during the

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