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First Look Review
The Stand
The courage of Lt. Frank Luke underfire
  • The Stand

by: Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]


It began in Phoenix Arizona 19 May 1897 and ended on a meadow near Murvaux, France on 29 September 1918. So went the life of the Medal of Honor winner Lt. Frank Luke of the 27th Aero Sqdn AEF. It was only after the war to end all wars that the story came to to the headlines. Now 91 years later this detailed account of the life and times and death of Lt. Luke comes to light. But is the book all its cracked up to be?

the man,

Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the "Arizona Balloon-Buster" was the leading ace in the United States Air Service at the time of his death. After aerial combat training at Issoudon, France, Frank Luke, Jr. was assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron under Harold Hartney on 25 July 1918. Often flying alone or with his sidekick Joseph Wehner, he shot down 18 enemy balloons and planes in just 18 days. After flaming three German balloons on 29 September 1918, Luke's SPAD XIII (S7984) was shot down by ground fire. Resisting capture, he shot at approaching German soldiers and was killed near the crash site. After the war, Luke's remains were reburied at the Romagne Military Cemetery. Luke Field in Hawaii and Luke Air Force Base near Glendale, Arizona were named in his honor.

Harold Hartney, Commanding Officer, 1st Pursuit Group
"Man, how that kid could fly! No one, mind you, no one, had the sheer contemptuous courage that boy possessed. I know he's been criticized for being such a lone-hander, but, good Lord, he won us priceless victories by those very tactics. He was an excellent pilot and probably the best flying marksman on the Western Front. We had any number of expert pilots and there was no shortage of good shots, but the perfect combination, like the perfect specimen of anything in the world, was scarce. Frank Luke was the perfect combination."

Edward Rickenbacker
"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 Britain's Bishop from Canada, France's Fonck or even the dreaded Richthofen had ever come close to that

the book,

Truthfully it is a detailed account. The writer Stephen Skinner spent the better part of 15 years working on this manuscript. He has unearthed some unique information that previously went undetected. But was it interpreted correctly? I will hold this manuscript under the microscope and discuss the realities of the writer's attempt. Why would I do this? My name is mentioned in the book at several points and I promised the writer I would be as candid as I can."

The problem with detail accounts is that they often reflect the point of view that the author brings to the manuscript. In historical terms this has been labeled as "revisionism." A famous movie line is quoted in the book by writer Barrett Tillman . ". . .When the facts become legend, print the legend. . ."

The account of 2nd Lt. Frank Luke ( he was made a 1st Lt. but it didn't come through until after his death) has been shrouded in the clouds of mystery for over 90 years. Mostly due to conflicting versions. Yet with tried and true old fashion research methods it took 16 years of dedicated digging through files, letters and excavating the fields of Murvaux, France, Mr. Skinner has come up with a valid time line of events that give us a clear image of this most unique man among men. In this case the legend has been revised to a more accurate version of the real incidents that took place on the September evening in 1918. The same compass, the clip and six rounds from his 45 auto that he carried on that fateful day has been uncovered.

My only criticism of this manuscript is that there are times when Mr. Skinner attempts to speak the thoughts and reasonings of Lt. Luke's rationale on the day he died. But even at that the writer does provide insight to Luke's personality with quotes and letters from Luke's own hand.

The manuscript was published by Schieffer pub. It has 260 pages with 18 chapters , 10 appendices and clarification notes. I spent the time between Feb 3 - 21, 2009 reviewing this book.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: In this case the legend has been revised to a more accurate version of the real incidents that took place on the September evening in 1918.
Lows: My only criticism of this manuscript is that there are times when Mr. Skinner tends to speak the thoughts and reasonings for Lt. Luke's rationale on the day he died.
Verdict: It is not the last word on Luke but. . .its closer than anything else I have studied on the subject. I will never regret having this book on my shelf.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-0-7643-3095-7
  Suggested Retail: 74.99 USD
  Related Link: Aeroscale's thread
  PUBLISHED: Feb 21, 2009
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...

Copyright 2021 text by Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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  • The Stand
    The final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke.
  • The Stand
    The final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke.
  • The Stand
    The final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke.
  • Luke
    Lt. Frank Luke in Walking out uniform
  • Luke
    Frank Luke & Spad