(PART FOUR) Document Source: Historical Research Division, Aerospace Studies Institute, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. The World War One Diary of Col Frank P. Lahm, Edited by Albert F. Simpson, Historical Research Division, Transcripted by Doc Snafu (Personal views or opinions expressed or implied in this publication are not to be construed as carrying official sanction of the Department of the Air Force or the Air University. This publication has been reviewed and approved by competent personnel of the preparing command in accordance with current directives on doctrine, policy, essentiality, propriety, and quality.
April 13 (Sunday). Conference at the 45 Avenue de Montaigne which lasted all day. I stopped long enough at noon to get Katherine and take her to Gene Reed’s for luncheon. The Persian attaché to the US with his American wife (from Boston) and a Russian doctor was the other guests. The American wife was most interested in her son, who, she told me, is directly descended from the ancient kings of Persia, and at the same time is all American, wants to go back to the US at once, and will eventually enter West Point if he can get an appointment.
The 2nd Army breaks up the day after tomorrow, and the 1st Army on April 20. All squadrons of the two armies that go to the 3rd Army are turned over to me to handle and to move to the 3rd Army area, after which I go there to command the 3rd Army Air Service with a station at Coblenz. Now if Gertrude (Lahm) can come over, this will be fine, as I am delighted with the opportunity of rounding out my service over here in the Army of Occupation, having joined the 1st Army on its organization, joined the 2nd Amy on its organization and served as Army Air Service Commander during its entire existence.
April 14 (Monday). Reached Orly just in time to see a storm break. 0ldys had come in earlier with the ‘Bug’ but we and all the other waiting pilots had to give it up, so after lunch with Col Theodore Baldwin and Maj Sheldon Wheeler, I left and after a miserable wet ride, reached Toul at 1745.
April 15 (Tuesday). Royce dropped in today while going to Trier to lecture to the Field Officers’ class. The 2nd Army went out of existence at noon today, quietly and unostentatiously, so to speak. Gen Bullard is away – Heintzelman had the HQs staff over for final directions, had a group picture taken – then it was all over. The 2nd Amy came into existence in the middle of the Argonne Battle, October 12, 1918, at a time when everyone was watching the 1st Army and its great fight. No one was interested in the 2nd Army or its Toul Sector – we acted as the feeder for the 1st Army, giving it fresh divisions and taking its tired ones into our comparatively calm sector for recuperation. It has been an interesting experience and I am glad to have been here. Starting with an Air Service of three observation Squadrons in October, it grew to two pursuit groups with a total of 7 squadrons, seven observation squadrons, a bombing group of two squadrons, three park squadrons, eleven balloon companies, 5 photo sections, a total of about 700 officers and 5300 men. Now it has dwindled, and orders are here from GHQ transferring several units to the 1st Air Depot for demobilization and return to the US, the others to the 3rd Army.
April 16 (Wednesday). Lovell came up from Bar-sur-Aube this afternoon to tell of the progress in moving the 1st Army Air Service. Col Davenport Johnson was in for a while today – he is just demobilizing his 2nd Pursuit Group and he doesn’t know where he is going.
April 17 (Thursday). Mr. Sidney Veit and Dr. Hipwell of the Foreign Service Committee of the Aero Club of America came thru today on a trip to air centers – I took them out to the cemetery at the Evacuation Hospital No. 1. He has 47 of the Air Service men buried there, the vast majority of whom are flyers who have been killed. Lufbery, Hobey Baker, Blair Thaw, and John Mitchell, are some of the many.
April 18 (Friday). Flew the Avro to Ourches (20 min), had lunch with Reinburg and the 2nd Day Bombardment Group HQs. They are breaking up and moving to Colombey for demobilization. They are not at all eager now that the time has come to go. This was the first aîrdrome occupied by our Air Service at the front. On April 5, 1918, the 1st Observation Squadron started operating over the front in the Toul Sector from this airdrome. After lunch, Schirra and I flew to Chaumont in the ‘Bug’ – it took 50 minutes, and we went so fast that we ran by to the west and had to turn back and find the town. Col Whitehead was there from Paris – they have a great scheme for closing out the Service of Supply and leaving the 3rd Army in charge of everything, with myself as the senior Air Service officer in Europe. It sounds very fine, but only if Gertrude can join me. We returned from Chaumont to Toul in 45 minutes. Lovell sent up Fitzgerald’s DH 4 today for me – it has a mahogany propeller, Fisher body, extra large windshields, and a specially fitted seat behind; some ship.
Aril 19 (Saturday). Oldys and I flew the Bug down to Bar-sur-AubeChaumont afterward – called on Troup Miller, now G-4, also Lyster and Watkins, about the only members of the 1st Army staff who joined it on July 26 at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre when I did, that are left to break up with it when it goes out of existence tomorrow.
April 20 (Sunday). (Easter) Dr. Wilbert W. White who came originally from the booster and is President of the Bible Teachers Training School in New York City, came in today. I am sending Carter with him to Grandpré in the Argonne where he will look for the grave of his son who was killed on October 10. He ran his plane head-on into a Boche who was after one of White’s patrols, and of course, he and the Boche both crashed from 10.000 feet. He was a flight leader of the 147th and had six Huns to his credit. The story of Lt Wilbur White’s last fly is told in Rickenbacker’s Flying the Flying Circus. The pilot he protected was a new man and would probably have been shot down had White not purposely crashed into him the German airplane.
April 21 (Monday). Col Whitehead and Col Franke came in tonight on their way to Coblenz to look into a depot site and make arrangements in the 3d Army for the new plan of supply etc.
April 22 (Tuesday). Schirra and I flew to Sommesous in the Bug. Found that my Saumur friend de Drouas had left for Romilly, en route to Poland with some aviation the French are sending there. To Nancy and went thru the Berget-Levrault establishment with Law – they are doing their best to turn out the Air Service book, History of the Air Service, but it is slow work and they don’t know how to speed it up. They seem to have most of their force working on it, many of them working overtime, but they don’t know how to work.
(Note The book was a history of the Second Army Air Service. It was prepared by the following: Editorial Staff: 1/Lt Hugo B. Law (638th Aero Sq), Editor, and 1/Lt Raymond Watts (25th Aero Sq), 2/Lt Henry G. Ewing and 2/Lt Freeman B. Kirkendall (163d Aero Sq), Cpl Ned Steel (6th Air Park). Art Staff: Cpl Henry Mayers (Hq Det), Editor, and 1/Lt W. J. Enright (9th Photo Section), 2/Lt H. D. Lowry (100th Aero Sa), Pvt Charles H. Fitzsimmons (141st Aero Sq), Pvt Winthrop S. Gage (23d Aero Sq). Business Managers: 2/Lt Paul H. Bissell, and 2/Lt Henry L. Graves (278th Aero Sq).
April 23 (Wednesday). Had 55 min. in the Avro with Schirra this morning practicing turning, slipping, and landing. I believe I learned more than in all the flying I have done in the past three years.
April 25 (Friday). Schirra and I left in the Bug this morning for Coblenz and in 1 hr 35 landed on the Coblenz Airdrome – after lunch to Fowler’s office – then out to the Horse Show, this being, with the other activities of April 25-27, the major events in the 3rd Army Carnival. It is a great affair. Cit. Montgomery, Chaffee, Wainwright, Margetts, Mest, and Merchant are some of the judges. Wainwright won a blue on a pretty thoroughbred in the officer’s saddle class. The draft animals were the finest, some of the same ones I saw in the 6th Corps show at Luxembourg. The artillery sections were magnificent – one gun of the 2nd Division had 4 stars painted on it for 4 men killed, and a great long Tine of wounded stripes too long to count for the wounded men of the gun crew. Two Britishers on beautiful horses took the 1st and the 2nd in an officer’s jumping class open to officers of the Allied Armies. Tonight, we had dinner at the Coblentzer Hof with Fowler – Whitehead was there, also Mr. Veit and Dr. Hipwell of the Aero Club.
April 26 (Saturday). Talked to Fowler about the arrangements of the new groups etc. Met Mr. LaGuardia, the New York congressman who was in the Air Service during the war, representing us in Italy – he is an Italian by birth, I believe. He is for a separate Air Service, probably with himself at the head of it. He Looks to me like a politician pure and simple. At the Horse Show grounds today were Gen Pershing – Quekemeyer with him – all the generals I ever knew seemed to be there today – Dickman, Hines, McGlachlin, Lassiter, Lejeune of the Marines now commanding the 2nd Division, McCloskey, etc., etc. I lunched at the Red Cross tent with Mrs. Perry, Jouett’s mother, who is in charge, then went thru the aerial exhibit – it is excellent. Two inflated balloons, one is on exhibit, the other to take up passengers. Parris and Bryan are the Company Commanders.
A line of planes stands on the ground, one of every type, one Salmson entirely stripped to show the construction. Two hangars were filled with aero exhibits – a Liberty motor assembled, another one disassembled, aerial armament exhibit, aerial photography, balloon parachute suspended over a basket, all instruments and accessories used in the balloon, and heavier-than-air services. The hangars were crowded with men, all of whom were intensely interested in the exhibits. Schirra and I took off in the Bug got halfway to Trier and ran into a heavy rainstorm with nothing but clouds and rain in front of us, so had to turn round and scamper back to Coblenz. Ran into Lay of the Marines who was with us on a trip to the Taal Volcano in the Philippines in 1902.
April 27 (Sunday). Today the show moved up onto the airdrome where they had the races, flat and steeple chases. The winners in both the officer’s and enlisted men’s steeplechases were two of the best-known riders in the US, Doyle and Tupper. Maj Meskill of the cavalry, formerly a sergeant in the 7th Cavalry, fell in the officer’s steeple chase but was not hurt. There was a tractor race that proved interesting, and a chariot race with two entries, one of 3 horses, the other four well-matched grays. The former won easily. The aerial exhibit was great – at least twenty planes were in the air at once. S.E.5’s flying formation, Sops, Spads, and Fokkers engaged in aerial combats, others doing acrobatics, and message-dropping contests for Salmsons and DH 4’s. Even a hail storm did not stop their flying. A DH choked its motor in slipping down to drop a message, had to land in the Moselle Valley just below the airdrome, and turned over. A gusty crosswind made landing on the airdrome difficult, but the only damage there was an S.E.5 that stood up on its nose.
Toward the end of the afternoon, 4 artillery sections went into battery on the airdrome and fired liquid fire in beautiful streams from their pieces. But the grand finale to the whole show was when they let up an old captive balloon, dropped the basket with its parachute which floated off toward the Rhine and then the four pursuit squadron commanders attacked the balloon in turn with incendiary bullets. Clayton Bissell with his Spad failed to get it, Forester Marshall in his Sop-Camel failed, Kindley in an S.E, missed it, Fauntieroy in a Spad VII failed – just as Schirra and I were about to take off in the Bug, a Spad dove in close and the balloon burst into flames, coming down and continuing to blaze long after it reached the ground. It was a fitting finale to a great 4-days show.
We left in the Bug and an hour and 45 minutes later landed on the Toul Airdrome. Found Chambers of the 94th – who returned today from his trip to Dun-sur-Meuse with Dr. White – they found Mr. White’s son’s body buried about 18 inches underground, grave unmarked – and located some distance from the remains of his plane. His watch, identification tags, etc had been stripped from him. In his hip pocket, they found a letter from his mother and a leave order by which they positively identified him. It was a blow to Dr. White – but a great relief at the same time.
April 29 (Tuesday). Orders for the 24th Squadron at Vavincourt came today, so with Schirra in the new DH 4, I got from Lovell flew to Vavincourt, north of Bar-le-Duc, where Capt Wood commands – then south thru Ligny, Gondrecourt and to the Bomber units airdrome at Trampot. Capt Flounders, who wears the 7th Cavalry cross sabers and seems like a live wire, commands the 258th Observation Squadron and seems to have an efficient outfit. We started south from Trampot, passed Andelot and Chaumont, and were well on our way to Chatillon when a storm to the west of us looked as tho’ it might cut us off from home so we turned around and headed toward Toul, landing at 1810. The total time for the day was 2.05. Travel by airplane somewhat spoils you for ordinary travel – it took only 25 minutes from Chaumont today, and from Colombey-les-Belles to Toul, which is a half hours auto trip, required just 5 minutes in the DH 4. My new plane does not handle as well, nor is it as speedy, as the Bug, but a change in propeller may help this. Went to Nancy this evening with Capt Eckman and Miss Brown to see the moving pictures of the flag presentation ceremony at the Opéra Comique a couple of weeks ago. Kirby, Eckman, and Bryan appeared on the steps of the theater and were handed banners by three French aviators, much to the amusement of the crowd.
May 2 (Friday). In a hurry, phone call from Whitehead. I caught the 1515 train at 1630 this afternoon and was in Paris at 2200.
May 3 (Saturday). Gen Patrick called Whitehead, Dunwoody, and myself in today and we went over the plans for the new arrangement for the structure of the Air Service as part of the American Forces in Germany. I submitted my proposed organization which was approved, except that as Dunwoody is to go to Antwerp in charge of the Service of Supply part, he will make up the organization of that office – really taking his Paris organization with him. Lunched with Fravel at the Palais Hotel, Y.M.C.A. in charge and very good.
May 4 (Sunday). May 4. A perfect May day – bright, balmy, and cheerful. Last evening, my father had Louise Fast from Toledo and Anne Zollars from Canton in for dinner. The former is in library work, the latter drove a Ford truck for the French. Father left this morning for Lyon, about his Ravier reproductions. I called on Col Féline whom I found at his Club on Boulevard St Germain.
May 5 (Monday). Rode out thru the Bois de Boulogne with Whitehead, Exton. I never saw the Bois so beautiful – nor Paris for that matter. Finished up at the Avenue de Montaigne, phoned to Oldys at Toul, he came up in the Bug. We passed the Sommesous Airdrome, the halfway point, in just one hour, and landed on the Toul Airdrome at the end of the 2nd hour – 280 kilometers or 175 miles – with a quartering wind that held us back somewhat.