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  • Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley

    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
  • Lt. Frank Luke Jr.

    Frank Luke Jr., nicknamed "The Arizona Balloon Buster," was born in Phoenix, Ariz. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1917, learned to fly and arrived on the front in France in July 1918. Assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron, his exceptional bravery initially earned him a reputation for being "wild and reckless." His fellow pilots soon
  • Lt. Fred Norton

    Lt. Fred Norton of Columbus, Ohio, was a pilot in the 27th Aero Squadron. On July 20, 1918, during the Chateau-Thierry campaign, he was severely wounded by ground fire while strafing a column of German troops. Although he was able to land his Nieuport 28 behind Allied lines, it took him two days to get to a hospital in an ambulance because of
  • Lt. Walter B. Wanamaker

    On July 2, 1918, Lt. Walter B. Wanamaker of the 27th Aero Squadron was shot down behind German lines by the famous Ernst Udet, the leading German ace to survive World War I. Udet cut the fabric from the rudder of Wanamaker's Nieuport 28 as a trophy and though seriously injured, Wanamaker autographed the fabric.In 1931 when Udet came to the U.S. to
  • Lt. Quentin Roosevelt

    Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, was a pilot in the 95th Aero Squadron. On July 14, 1918, he was shot down behind German lines by Sgt. Thom, a German ace with 24 victories. Roosevelt's Nieuport 28 crashed at Chamery near Coulonges-en-Tardenois and his body was buried by the Germans at the crash site.
  • Lts. Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell

    The first U.S. Air Service aerial victories by fighter planes in the American sector in France were by Lts. Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell, two pilots of the 94th Aero Squadron, which had just been transferred to the Front. On Sunday morning, April 14, 1918, they were on "alert" at Gengoult Aerodrome near Toul, France. German planes were
  • Lt. Harold E. Goettler

    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
  • Lighter-than-Air Flight

    Lighter-than-air flight was the first method used to take to the skies. Air that is less dense (or "lighter") rises. Heating the air inside of an envelope (or balloon) makes the heated air less dense, thereby causing it to rise. Another method is to fill the envelope with low-density (or "light") gas such as hydrogen, which is very flammable, or
  • Lawrance L-4S

    Lawrance L-4S 60-hp air-cooled engine of the early 1920s was flight-tested in "Pony Blimp" airships as well as the Sperry "Messenger" airplane. It is typical of early-type radial engines that were developed following the demise of the rotary engine used during World War I.Click here to return to the Early Years Gallery.
  • Liberty 12-A Inverted

    The inverted Liberty is a conversion of the famous Liberty 12, one of America's greatest technological contributions during World War I. During the war, 20,478 Liberty 12s were produced in the United States and used primarily in U.S.-built DH-4s, the only American-made airplane to get into combat over the Western Front. Initial attempts to invert

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