Heroes take many forms, from comic book characters to everyday people doing extraordinary things. I consider a hero to be someone who is recognized for their courage or nobility. Most often they are also those who risk or sacrifice their own life for their beliefs, especially those who serve and defend their country in war. Offering one's very life to protect the beliefs and soil that they hold sacred is extremely heroic. Of those serving in warfare, there are those who even go above and beyond that calling, and may considered to be “war heroes.”
There is a particular war hero that I personally admire. At first glance, he was a nonconformist; he disobeyed orders and was quite reckless. Nicknamed the “Arizona Balloon Buster,” his tour of duty was short, but his impact lasting. Second Lieutenant Frank Luke of the U.S. Army Air Corps was a World War I aviator, and eventually was conferred the highest military award and recognized as the second highest ranked American ace in World War I. But one must ask, how does such an unpredictable person become a war hero?
Frank Luke was sent to overseas duty in May 1918, and was soon transferred to the front in the Aisne-Marne salient of France in July of 1918. He was more of a lone wolf flyer and his own companions considered him to be a dangerous to fly with. He got a talent and tendency to attack air balloons, a very daring target, as they were protected by heavy ground artillery. He had his own personal crusade towards these balloons, and over the course of 5 days, Luke tallied 13 victories. His commander had grounded him for recklessness and disregard for squadron policy with respect to not attacking balloons alone.
He nonetheless went out one day, September 28, 1918, and took off from his base never to return. Luke began his attack on 2 German aerial balloons, he was attacked by a group of Luftwaffe Fokkers. He downed the 2 balloons and 3 German aircraft, but his plane had received battle damage, and broke off to make a landing. While he attempted to land in a village called Murvaux, currently held by German troops, he strafed a column of German infantry killing 6 and effectively wounding 6 more. He landed his SPAD S.XIII, egressed, and proceeded to a stream where he sought water. Luke was casually approached by a company of German infantry, with their weapons down, who were going to accept his surrender. They were not going to act hostile towards him, as was the custom towards aviators at the time. They were usually treated as gentlemen. Nonetheless, he proceeded to draw his two sidearms and fired at the enemy troops, shooting 7 soldaten before he received a fatal chest wound. Luke died a hero, and was buried by in the local village. He was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest honor, The Congressional Medal of Honor, reinterred at a US military cemetery in Romange, France, and later had Luke Air Force Base named after him.
Frank Luke was a unique individual. He wouldn’t stick to the strict policy that limited him, and bravely did what he believed to be right. Luke defended his beliefs and country through his short career, right to the death. He was a distinctly different individual and Frank Luke has my personal admiration for his gallant accomplishments.