Sunday, December 11, 2011

Frank Luke: The Most Bad Ass Medal of Honor Recipient

The Medal of Honor has a long history of being awarded to great heroes. In fact the award has been given to some 3,400 men who served the United States, but there is one that I'd like to especially highlight, Frank Luke. Now why Frank Luke? I mean there are some 3,400 other brave souls that I could choose from, but Luke stands out above the rest for two reasons. First, he has been overshadowed and two he might be the biggest bad ass of World War I. As we will see Luke deserves more then just to be a Medal of Honor recipient, but a national hero and be honored for his actions.

From the very beginning Luke was destined to be a bad ass. His family immigrated from Germany to Arizona in the 1870s. Seriously, Arizona in the 1870s? It was like a baron waste land in the 1870s. Either way that is where the Luke family established their home. As Luke grew up he working in a copper mine, again, seriously a kid working in a cooper mine? Luke was also quite the athlete and was well known in the area for his bare knuckle boxing matches. These feats were all achieved before the young Luke reached the age of 18. Then in 1917 when America entered World War I there was only one  thing Luke could do and that was go over to Europe and beat back the Huns. So, Luke joined the U.S. Signal Corps and was placed in the 27th Aero Squadron. It wouldn't be long before Luke was flying high and shooting down those want to be Red Barons.

As Luke completed his training he grew a reputation for being a tough guy. During training, Luke was well known for his reckless flying and disobeying of orders. He also tended to fly alone without any support, just another sign of his arrogance and bad assness. When Luke hit Germany his squad was given the goal of taking down enemy observation balloons. These missions were seen as suicide mission by other pilots but Luke and his longtime friend Joe Wehner volunteered for every mission. In the first 2 weeks Luke was in Germany he took down 14 balloons. In his first dogfight, he shot down two German fighters. That's right, Luke fights two people at a time and still wins. By September 29, 1918 Luke had claimed 18 confirmed kills on top of the 20 some odd balloons which he had destroyed. Yet on September 29, Luke's luck would change and he would face every fighter pilots nightmare, being shot down behind enemy lines.

The day started like any other for Luke, he woke up ready to rain hell on the Jerrys and he did it in typical Luke fashion. He took off that morning unauthorized and was threatened with being arrested for going AWOL. He was on his way to continue balloon hunting and he made his way six miles behind Firtz's line... untouched. It was then when Luke was hit and forced to land in Murvaux, France but not until he took out a few German ground troops. Now this is where Luke really earns his strips as one bad ass American. Beginning hit he tried to make his way to cover, but the Germans were onto him. So being one tough s.o.b. Luke drew his Colt Model 1911 and opened fire. He was found the next day with an empty gun in his hand, surrounded by empty shells and dead from a single wound which he received during his flight. Along with his body and gun was several Heinies. That's right Luke took out targets until the second he died, why does this man not have a holiday yet? The following day Luke was buried by the Germans. After his death and confirmation of his giant balls of steel he was awarded the Medal of Honor which was presented to his father. Luke's legacy was summed up by fellow pilot Eddie Rickenbacker,

"He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other ace, even the dreaded Richthofen (The Red Baron), had ever come close to that."

Now oddly enough the reason Luke is overlooked is because of his friend Eddie Rickenbacker. How? Well Rickenbacker took down almost 30 German planes in 4 months. He returned home a hero and wouldn't be surpassed as the greatest American pilot until Charles Lindbergh made his flight across the Atlantic. But that's the way things work for war heroes, the living get all the glory. But Luke deserves better then that. And he kind of has though, he has his Medal of Honor and two Distinguished Service Cross, however these were all issued after his heroic death. Luke does have several other honors, there is Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, AZ, a statue at the Arizona State Capital Building, there is Lukeville, AZ and he was named Class Exemplar of the 2010 Air Force Academy's graduating class but that's it. Those are great honors, but they are localized in his home state and within the Air Force. Luke needs to be honored on a nation wide scale, perhaps a made for TV movie, or at least be brought to the national spot light for his heroics. In the end the efforts of Luke are being forgotten to time. I hope I could somehow do him some justice by shedding some light on his life, personality, achievements, death and his heroic service during a time that seemed to almost push the world to it's breaking point.


  1. Excellent!!! I am a fan of Rickenbacker, and my son attended the Air Force Academy,class of 07. I had no idea, thank you.

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