Who's Who - Paul Baer
Paul Frank Baer (1895-1930) served with both French and U.S. air services during World War One, achieving nine air successes between March 1918 and the armistice.
Keen to become an aviator from his earliest school years at Clay, Jefferson and Nebraska (in Fort Wayne, IN), Baer enlisted with the Franco-American Lafayette Flying Corps in January 1917, several months prior to America's formal entry into the war against Germany. He found his early flight lessons thrilling: "several times my heart was in my mouth" he subsequently wrote home.
Subsequently re-assigned to Spa80 in August 1917, to N124 in January 1918 and finally to 103rd U.S Pursuit Squadron in February, Baer registered his first official 'kill' on 11 March, bringing down a German Albatross D aircraft over Cerney-les-Reims. All nine of Baer's victories - a total which qualified him as an ace - were logged while flying with 103rd Squadron. All were achieved between March-May 1918, his final victory coming on 22 May 1918 when he brought down an Albatross over Laventie.
However having achieved his ninth success in command of a Spad S.XIII Baer was himself downed by a member of the famed German Jasta 18, said to be Hans Mueller. His aircraft crash landed near Armentieres - "My machine was riddled with bullets. I went through a tree and crashed into the ground, smashing my machine to bits. I have bruises all over, but am getting along all right." - and was taken prisoner until the end of the war.
Returning home to Fort Wayne on 28 February 1919 to a rapturous local welcome, Baer took up a post as test pilot for an aeronautical lab based in Detroit. This was followed by a spell as an inspector for the Department of Commerce. His next post took him to South America where he helped to establish an air mail service.
The recipient of both the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) and Croix de Guerre with Palms (the former for single-handedly attacking seven German aircraft, destroying one, on 11 March 1918, and for downing two enemy two-seaters five days later), Baer was killed on 9 December 1930 in Hong Kong when his aircraft crashed while flying mail and passengers for Chinese Airway Federal, Inc. He was 35.
A "Brass Hat" was a high ranking officer.
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