Travel Adventure Documentary Magazine
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FIRST, OVER THE FRONT

Ralph Franklin Posted by Ralph Franklin in Blogs June 7th, 2015
“We were testing a new aerial camera.”  Wrote Lt. Billy Schauffler, Jr. pilot, First Aero Squadron, US Air Service, AEF in France on April 2nd, 1918.
 

“We accidentally flew over the German lines.  French road maps were not too accurate.  As we focused on a town large puff-balls of black smoke appeared about my plane,”  pilot Billy continued.  “Why were the French firing at me?  I flew low to show the American flag.  Suddenly a burst of machine gun bullets tore through the back cockpit floor.” Cameraman, Captain Griffen, unhurt, roared into Billy’s ear, “Those are German uniforms!  Let’s get the hell out of here!”
 
On landing 172 bullet holes were counted in the fabric of the Spad XI, French Observation plane.  By chance this was the “unofficial” First Over The Front flight with battle damage but no “official” recognition.  April 6th 1918 marks the official day American airpower débuted over the Western Front of World War One. The mostly ceremonial formation, routed over a “quiet” sector, was not fired upon. Tough, hazardous flying would soon come Lt. Billy Schauffler’s detailed diary entries were often written minutes afte returning from battle.  It wasn’t all flying and fighting.  He wrote about French hospitality, fine wine, knee-deep mud, youthful flyboy hijinks   resembling a Wild West Show and elegant mealtime banquets – without
pretty girls.     
 

When Billy’s wartime letters, yellow with age, were found, Stan, a longtime family friend, was given permission to publish Lt. “Billy’s”, later Colonel William G. Schauffler Jr’s. fascinating human interest story of a grim time in history.  Stan’s fellow aviator-filmmaker and professional writer, Associated Press, Bureau Chief, the late Hal McClure, encouraged Stan to complete the book. 

First, Over the Front, paperback, available: authorhouse.com — amazon.com — barnesandnobel.com

 

 

 

 

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