Luke’s final flight took place during the first phase of the Meuse – Argonne Offensive. On September the 28th after scoring his 14th and 15th victories he landed his Spad XIII at the French Aerodrome at Cicognes, where he stayed overnight, claiming engine problems. On his return to the 1st Pursuit Group’s Base at Rembercourt the next day. He was confronted by Capt. Alfred. a. Grant, his squadron’s commanding officer.
Despite being under threat of arrest for being AWOL, Like took off without Authorisation and flew to a forward airbase at Verdun, where his sympathetic Group Commander Major Hartney, cancelled the arrest order and gave Luke tacit approval to continue with his balloon hunting.
That evening Luke flew to the front to attack three balloons in the vicinity of Dun – Sur – Meuse, some six miles behind the German lines. He first dropped a message to a nearby U.S. Balloon Unit, alerting them to observe his imminent attacks. Luke successfully shot down the balloons but was severely wounded by a single machine gun bullet fired from a hill above him, A mile east of the last balloon he had attacked.
Luke landed in a field, just west of the small village of Murvaux, after strafing a group of German Soldiers on the ground, near the Russieau de Bradon, a stream leading to the River Meuse. He made his way to the stream intending to reach the cover of its adjacent underbrush, but finally collapsed 200 metres from his Aircraft. Approached by the German Infantry, Like drew his Colt 1911 Pistol and fired of a few rounds before succumbing to his wounds.
Frank Luke Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour, to join the two Distinguished Service Crosses that he had already received.
(C) Damian Grange 2018