First WW1 US95th Combat Mission – Was Unarmed
The first combat flight mission of the US95th was made on March 15, 1918 at 11:30am. The US95th pilots flew their newly acquired Nieuport 28 fighters. But their fighters were unarmed, as their shipment of machine guns for the airplanes had not arrived yet. The flight consisted of Richard “Dick” Blodgett, 1st Flight leader, Sumner Sewall and Charles Woolley. They were accompanied by a French pilot flying an armed Spad 7 fighter. The flight group flew at 16,000 feet to the area between Epernay and Reims to observe allied anti-aircraft fire at the front.
Three unarmed flights per day were flown for several days.
The First Victory and Death for the US95th Aero Squadron
The first aerial victory for the US95th Aero Squadron occurred on May 2, 1918 when Richard “Dick” Blodgett shot down a German 2 seater (but Blodgett did not receive official confirmation of the victory). Little did any of the US95th pilots know, that just two weeks later, Dick Blodgett would be killed in action.
On May 15, 1918 Richard “Dick” Ashley Blodgett flew a coverage mission. When Dick Blodgett had completed his mission, he went on a hunting flight by himself. His burned plane and body was located a couple hours later about one mile from the aerodrome. It was guessed that he was either wounded by an enemy fighter or he was wounded by archie (enemy anti-aircraft fire), that he tried to fly back to base but passed out and crashed.
The first US95th Aero Squadron victorious pilot was also the first US95th Aero Squadron pilot to be killed in action.
Dick Blodgett had left a letter in the event of his death and it read:
“In case of my death, will some public-minded bum please do the following: First please cable to Blodgham, Boston of my death. Notify Comptoir Nat’l d’Escompte de Paris, 14 Rue Berge’re, Paris of my death, and ask them to cable my account to Blodgham, Boston. Write Hotel Meurice, Rue de Rivoli, to send home my suitcase to Mr. E. E. Blodgett, 60 Federal Street, Boston; either collect, or, if I left enough cash around, pay for it. Pleases send home what stuff I have at the front, especially all pictures and films. Keep what ever flying clothes and odds and ends anyone wants. Fill out the enclosed check for enough to cover all expenses and set the gang up to a bottle of champagne apiece. Good luck to you all. I’ll see you later on. Show them we can fight like hell – a hard, clean fight. Give ’em hell. So long. Dick”
(from the book “Squadron 95” by Harold Buckley, page 59)
Richard “Dick” Ashley Blodgett was 21 years old at the time of his death
A WW1 US95th Pilots First Combat Flight and Victory
July 25, 1918
Lt. Walter Avery was on his first patrol and had crossed the lines with four other US95th pilots. Suddenly, the flight of US95th pilots was attacked from the rear by a group of enemy Fokker fighters. One of the German pilots had singled out Avery’s plane and fired a burst of machine gun bullets at it. The experienced German pilot then cut his planes throttle and hovered above Avery’s plane so he could drop on the rear of Avery’s plane to finish the job. But Avery responded just as quickly and cut his planes throttle also. The German pilot reacted first by throttling up his fokkers engine and started to zoom up and to the right in an effort to circle onto the rear of Avery’s plane. But Avery again responded just as quickly by throttling up his planes engine, zoomed upwards and fired a burst of machine gun bullets into the fokker.The fokker went into a downward spiral and crashed into the woods below.
The uninjured German pilot was captured by French soldiers who were already in the woods. The German pilot was highly decorated, wearing many of his medals, including the coveted “Blue Max” suspended by a ribbon around his neck.
Meanwhile, Avery’s plane engine had frozen up because of a bullet hit to an oil line that drained the engine of its oil. Lt. Avery guided his plane down, landing nearby the crashed Germans plane.
Lt. Avery rode in the back seat, with a French officer and the captured German pilot, of an automobile used to transport the German prisoner. After awhile, the German pilot stated, “I am Captain Menckhoff. Captain Menckhoff of the German Imperial Army. Which aviator, which great French ace, crippled me?”
The German pilot was the proud German Westphalian ace, Karl Menckhoff, commander of Jasta 72 and with thirty-nine aerial victories to his credit.
He was informed by the French officer, “It was not an ace who shot you down. It was not a Frenchman. But, a young American on his first trip over the lines. He sits, at the moment, beside you.”
Captain Menckhoff glanced at Lt. Avery, then stared ahead and said nothing for the rest of the trip.