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Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lts. Harold E. Goettler and Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lts. Harold E. Goettler and Erwin R. Bleckley. (U.S. Air Force photo)

WWI observer Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley Medal of Honor on display in the Early Years Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

WWI observer Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley Medal of Honor on display in the Early Years Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

WWI observer Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley Medal of Honor on display in the Early Years Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

WWI observer Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley Medal of Honor on display in the Early Years Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Lt. Erwin Bleckley and Lt. Frank Luke exhibits at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Lt. Erwin Bleckley and Lt. Frank Luke exhibits at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Erwin R. Bleckley of Wichita, Kan., was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Kansas National Guard Field Artillery in July 1917. He was sent to France in March 1918, and when the Air Service needed artillery officers to serve as aerial observers, Bleckley volunteered. After training, he was assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron for combat duty in August 1918.

Bleckley began flying missions as an observer with pilot Lt. Harold E. Goettler at the outset of the Allied St. Mihiel Offensive on Sept. 12, 1918. On Oct. 6, Bleckley and Goettler took off to search for the so-called "Lost Battalion" of American troops, who were cut off and surrounded by German forces in the Argonne Forest. Finding them, they dropped supplies despite intense ground fire. On their second trip, they flew very low to drop supplies more accurately. This time their DH-4 aircraft was brought down when rifle and machine gun fire hit both Bleckley and Goettler, the latter dying instantly. The plane crashed in Allied territory and Bleckley was thrown clear, but the unconscious observer died before French soldiers could get him to a hospital.

For heroism in the face of intense enemy fire, Bleckley and Goettler were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in December 1922. Bleckley's remains are buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery in Romagne, France.

Click here to return to the Early Years Gallery.

 

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WWI Medals of Honor

Related Fact Sheets
De Havilland DH-4
St. Mihiel Offensive
Lt. Harold E. Goettler
Medal of Honor Awards in the Air Force
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