US ace - Frank Luke Jnr
Luke, an Arizona native of German immigrant stock, enlisted in the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps in September 1917, receiving pilot training in Texas and California. After being commissioned a second lieutenant in March 1918, he deployed to France for further training. Luke was then assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron under Harold Hartney on 25 July 1918.
Because of his percieved arrogance and occasional tendencies to fly alone and disobey orders, Luke was disliked by some of his peers and superiors. The 27th was under standing orders, at that time, to destroy German observation balloons. Because of this, Luke, along with his close friend Lieutenant Joseph Frank Wehner, continually volunteered to attack these important targets although they were heavily defended by anti-aircraft guns on the ground. The two pilots began a string of victories together, with Luke attacking the balloons and Wehner flying protective cover. Wehner was killed in action on September 18, 1918 by Georg von Hantelmann in a dogfight with Fokker D.VIIs of Jasta 15, which were attacking Luke. Luke then shot down two of these D.VIIs, two balloons and a Halberstadt 2 seater; the last 'kill' enabled Luke to achieve his 13th official victory.
Luke's final flight took place during the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On September 28, 1918, after achieving his 14th and 15th victories, he landed his SPAD XIII at the French aerodrome at Cicognes where he spent the night, claiming engine trouble. When he returned to the 1st Pursuit Group's base at Rembercourt the next day, he was confronted by Captain Alfred A. Grant, his squadron's commanding officer. Despite being under threat of arrest by Grant for being AWOL, Luke took off without authorization 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 his balloon hunting.
That evening Luke flew to the front to attack three balloons in the vicinity of Dun-sur-Meuse, six miles behind the German lines. He first dropped a message to a nearby United States balloon company, alerting them to observe his imminent attacks. Luke shot down the enemy balloons but was then severely wounded by a single machine gun bullet fired from a hilltop above him, a mile east of the last balloon site 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 a stream leading to the Meuse River. Although weakened by his wound, he made his way toward the stream, intending to reach the cover of its adjacent underbrush, but finally collapsed some 200 meters from his airplane. Approached by German infantry, Luke drew his Colt Model 1911 pistol and fired a few rounds at his attackers before dying. Reports that a day later his body was found with an empty gun and a bullet hole in his chest, with seven dead Germans in front of him were proven erroneous.
Most likely the fatal bullet, fired from the hilltop machine gun position, had entered near Luke's right shoulder, passed through his body, and exited from his left side. On September 30, 1918 the Germans buried Luke in the Murvaux cemetery, from where his body was retrieved two months later by American forces. His final resting place is the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, located east of the village of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon.
He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour. He aslo earned the DSC with Oak Leaves Cluster.
Luke blased a trail of destruction unrivalled in WWI aviation. Eddie Rickenbacker, his only rival for US ace of aces at the time said of him..."He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other ace, even the dreaded Richthofen, had ever come close to that."
There are many depictions of Luke's (most famous?) Spad #26 (though he was sure to have flown others, including #15156 and #7984) and they have various styles and sizes of the wing checkers. I can't find any contemporary photos depicting these so I can't confirm either way so we have this one.
Given his brief appearance in game, I have only made one skin for him.