Paul Frank Baer
|Paul Frank Baer|
Paul Frank Baer
|Born||29 January 1894
Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA
|Died||December 9, 1930
|Buried at||Lindenwood Cemetery, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA|
|Service/branch||Aéronautique Militaire (France)
Air Service, United States Army
|Battles/wars||World War I|
|Awards||American Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster
French Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre
First Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer was the first flying ace in the history of American military aviation, credited with nine confirmed and seven unconfirmed aerial victories in World War I. He also scored the first aerial victory ever for an American military unit.
Early life and characteristics
Paul Frank Baer quit selling Cadillacs to join the military. He was described as short, sturdy, pink-cheeked, square-featured, with brown hair and blue eyes.
World War I service
Baer joined the Lafayette Flying Corps in 1917, being posted to Escadrille N.80 from August 1917 to January 1918. He transferred to the Lafayette Escadrille in January 1918 to transition into the 103rd Aero Squadron of the United States Army Air Service. He scored his first aerial victory for the 103rd, on 11 March 1918; it was the first triumph of an Air Service unit. (Lt. Stephen W. Thompson of the 1st Aero Squadron shot down an Albatros on 5 February 1918 while flying as a gunner with a French unit. Baer is second on the official chronological list.) Baer scored his fifth kill on 23 April 1918, making him the first Air Service ace.
He continued to score; on 22 May, he brought down his ninth victim to lead all American pilots. However, he was shot down during this victory, and fell into German hands. He would remain a prisoner of war until after the armistice. If his seven unconfirmed wins had been verified, he would have been one of the leading American aces.
Baer continued to fly postwar. In late 1919, he became a member of the American Flying Club and tried to raise a squadron of fifteen American aviation combat veterans to form a "Pulaski Squadron" to support the Polish drive for independence. Baer foresaw his role as commanding the unit with the rank of major. He claimed to have Paderewski's support for his efforts. (The Polish Air Force did have the Polish 7th Air Escadrille aka "Kościuszko Squadron" of US volunteers.)
Baer went on to forge a career in civil aviation. By 1927, he was a Department of Commerce aeronautics inspector in San Antonio, Texas. He then spent about a year flying as a commercial pilot in South America.
Baer died in an aircraft accident in Shanghai on 9 December 1930. He was taking off in a floatplane with a Russian woman as his passenger. Baer's plane struck the mast of a junk on the Yangtze River and crashed. He was believed to have about 3,500 flight hours experience when he died. He is buried in Lindenwood Cemetery at Fort Wayne.
Honors and awards
- Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Action Date: March 11, 1918
- The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Paul Frank Baer, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism on March 11, 1918. First Lieutenant Baer attacked, alone, a group of seven enemy pursuit machines, destroying one, which fell near the French lines northeast of Reims, France. On March 16, 1918, he attacked two enemy two-seaters, one of which fell in flames in approximately the same region.
- Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Oak Leaf Cluster Action Dates: April 5, 12, & 23, and May 8 & 21, 1918
- The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Paul Frank Baer, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action. First Lieutenant Baer brought down enemy planes on April 5, 12, and 23, 1918, and on May 8, 1918. First Lieutenant Baer destroyed two German machines, and on May 21, 1918, he destroyed his eighth enemy plane.
- American Aces of World War I. p. 81.
- (Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Sunday 23 November 1919) http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/newspaper-articles/31661-lieutenant-paul-baer-will-help-poland-win-liberty.html Retrieved on 29 June 2010.
- Maurer, Maurer (1969). "U.S. Air Service Victory Credits World War I" (PDF). U.S.A.F. Historical Studies No. 133. Maxwell AFB: Historical Research Division, Air University. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- (San Antonio Express, 10 December 1930) http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/newspaper-articles/35926-local-aviator-dies-china.html Retrieved on 29 June 2010.
- "Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD)" (Searchable database). Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Retrieved 2015-07-01. Note: This includes Arthur L. Paulison (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Lindenwood Cemetery" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-01. and Accompanying photographs
- (General Orders No. 128, W.D., 1919) http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/usa/baer.php Retrieved on 29 June 2010.
- Paul Frank Baer @ theaerodrome.com
- American Aces of World War I. Norman Franks, Harry Dempsey. Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84176-375-6, ISBN 978-1-84176-375-0.