Monday, February 5, 2018

Stephen W Thompson -- February 5, 2018

100 years ago today, Lieutenant Stephen W Thompson (no relation) replaced an observer/gunner in a French bombing squadron.  He shot down a German airplane and scored the first aerial victory by a member of the US military.  He was probably not flying in a Caudron G.3, but I like the photo.  

El Paso Herald, 08-February-1918

Gets German Plane First Time.

The American lieutenant who had the honor of shooting down his first German airplane while accompanying a French escadrille on a bombing expedition Tuesday night, had never operated a machine gun before while in-flight and never before had been over the enemy lines. He got his man over the German city of Saarburg.

The bombing squadron was over Saarburg and in the act of dropping bombs when enemy airplanes were seen approaching rapidly. By the time the bomb dropping had been completed the enemy was close at hand and the French formation, which this American and another American aviator had accompanied as gunners, was at an altitude of 11,000 feet.

Late In Action But Wins.

The lieutenant, who is a Missourian, took off his gloves so that he might operate his machine gun more effectively when he saw an enemy plane driving in from the side and firing its gun. The bullets whizzed close to the French machine before the American acting as gunner could get his piece into action. Then he turned a stream of bullets into the enemy and before the first drum was exhausted the enemy machine toppled and started to spiral. Then it flopped and fluttered down with a flare of smoke and flame in its wake. It crashed to the ground a short distance from the German city.

Other Officer Less Fortunate.

The other American aviator, also a lieutenant was not so lucky as the Missourian for the machine he picked out to engage dodged away quickly and he was unable to get in any effective shots.

When the squadron returned, the Missouri lieutenant's hands were swollen to twice their normal size from the cold, he having lost his gloves during the encounter. Otherwise he is just about the happiest officer in the American expeditionary force. He has been in France only a short time.

El Paso Herald, 09-February-1918

Lieutenant Who Shoots Down Enemy Machine Is From San Marcos, Tex.

San Marcos, Texas. Feb. 9. -- The American lieutenant from Missouri, mentioned in the Associated Press story from the American front yesterday as having brought down a German machine on his first night, was identified today as Lieut. Stephen Thompson, son of N. S. Thompson, of San Marcos. Mrs. Thompson received this information In a cablegram today.

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