Lt. Harold E. Goettler

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Harold E. Goettler of Chicago, Ill., enlisted in the U.S. Army's Aviation Section in July 1917. After pilot training, he joined the 50th Aero Squadron in France, where he was assigned to fly U.S.-built De Havilland DH-4s on artillery spotting missions. The DH-4 carried a pilot and an observer.

Goettler's first mission was on Sept. 12, 1918, the first day of the Allied St. Mihiel Offensive. His observer was Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley. On Oct. 6, Goettler and Bleckley were ordered to search for the so-called "Lost Battalion" of American units surrounded by German forces in the Argonne Forest. Several aircraft could not find them because the ground troops' commander feared signaling the fliers would reveal his units' position to the enemy. Goettler and Bleckley saw them, however, and dropped supplies despite heavy ground fire. On their second supply trip, as Goettler flew the airplane very low to drop supplies more accurately, he was killed by German rifle and machine gun fire. The plane crashed in Allied territory and observer Bleckley died shortly afterward.

For bravery while facing fierce enemy fire, Goettler and Bleckley were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in December 1922. Goettler's remains are buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago.


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