Who's Who - Joseph Wehner

Joseph Wehner Joseph Wehner (1895-1918) was a successful American 'balloon buster' of World War One, with six victories to his credit prior to his death in action on 18 September 1918.

Born in Roxbury, MA on 20 September 1895 Wehner's excellence in high school sports, notably football, earned him a scholarship to Phillips Exeter Academy in 1914, from which he successfully graduated two years later.

Wehner thereafter worked for the YMCA in Europe, where his travels took him to Berlin.  He remained in Germany until the U.S. declared war with Germany in April 1917.

Having returned to the U.S. he promptly enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps in June 1917 and developed an interest in flying.  While undergoing training Wehner was briefly arrested by the Secret Service on suspicion of treason on account of his German antecedents.  Released in time the following February saw him posted to England where he was assigned to 27 Pursuit Squadron in late July.

Having struck up a friendship with fellow pilot Frank Luke Jr - a generally unpopular pilot disliked for his tendency to boast but, like Wehner, something of a loner - he flew on tandem balloon busting missions with Luke.

Credited with downing one German aircraft and five balloons in just three days (and having won the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster for his activities on 15-16 September), Wehner was himself killed in action on 18 September 1918 while providing cover for Luke near Serronville, his aircraft brought down by Jasta 15's Georg von Hantlemann.

The Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was the first ever delivered by telegram.

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