During World War I, Carl Spatz was the captain in charge of the United Stated aerodrome in France. Toward the end of the war, his commanding officers wanted to go home, but he petitioned them for a week at the front.
Holding Down the Fort
Spatz was a commander of the 31st Aero Squadron at Issoudun training American flyers to head to the front. They also did repairs and coordinated logistics for the small group of American planes.
Even though it was small, it was an important operation. Spatz's supervisors had put a lot of faith in him, especially since he did not go to West Point and sat at a desk as an infantry officer while others fought.
He did his job to the letter for the majority of the war. He made the Issoudun Aerodrome into the functioning air installation that helped planes get airborne.
He trained units such as the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons and sat as they flew off to fight, leaving him behind at the aerodrome. Legendary aces trained under Spatz, aces like Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, Lt. Douglas Campbell, and Capt. Hamilton Coolidge.
In 1917, U.S. pilots flew to France to train. But in March 1918, the 94th Aero Squadron set out on its first attack mission, and in six months, American pilots were either lost or became an ace in a day.
In August 1918, he was ordered to return to the United States, but he asked to spend a week at the front to have some combat time. His superiors gave him a week and promoted him to major. For three weeks, he volunteered for operations but did not take out any enemy fliers.
He volunteered for a mission on September 26, flying across enemy lines and attacking a grouping of German planes. Spatz took out three enemy planes in rapid order. He decided to pursue a fourth who was running to the east.
Unfortunately, he was a little too exuberant and ran out of fuel. Repositioning as far west as he could, Spatz landed the plane in friendly territory. For his effort, he was given the Distinguished Service Cross.
In World War II, he was promoted many times, finally landing on lieutenant general. After the war was over, he was promoted to general. In 1947, he was appointed the first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.