A long title but a great story! The Dayton Wright Airplane Company on Springboro Pike in Moraine made the nation’s first bomber, the Dehavilland DH-4. It was used in the tail end of World War I primarily for daytime bombing, observation and artillery spotting. The plant in Moraine produced 3,106 DH-4s.
The first DH-4 arrived in France in May 1918, and the 135th Aero Squadron flew the first DH-4 combat mission in early August. Unfortunately, the early DH-4s had drawbacks including the fuel system. These problems led to the title of “The Flaming Coffin”, even though only eight of the 33 DH-4s lost in combat by the US burned as they fell.
Perhaps the most notable mission flown in the DH-4 was the brave attempt by Lt. Harold Goettler (Photo #5) and Lt. Erwin Bleckley of the 50th Aero Squadron to find and assist the famed “Lost Battalion” on October 6, 1918. During a resupply mission to this surrounded unit, their DH-4 was shot down. Both men posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
The Lost Battalion was the US 77th Division surrounded by Germans in the Argonne Forest. Of the 554 soldiers, only 194 were rescued. The 77th Division was low on ammo, low on food, was under relentless fire by the Germans and was being pelted by friendly fire from American cannons who did not know their location in the forest. The hero, a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami. Despite severe wounds from German rifles, the pigeon flew 25 miles back to Army headquarters with an important message about the Battalions location. The pigeon became a WWI hero and is stuffed and on display at the Smithsonian Museum.