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Most Valuable Contributing Ace To World War I 

By Michael Grindle
via the Odyssey Online web site

In World War I, attacking through the air was a brand new form of warfare; it provided for various tactical uses such as reconnaissance, air superiority and close air support of ground troops. During this time period, two bold aviators, Edward V. Rickenbacker and Frank Luke, Jr were pioneers on this new front of technology in the war. While each man made a sacrifice and risked his life in the hopes of making a difference in the war’s outcome, Frank Luke Jr. was the pilot who made the most valuable contribution to the War effort in World War I due to his personal sacrifice and the mission he carried out during his flying career.

Frank Luke JrFrank Luke, Jr.Leadership is a characteristic that has been found in most flying Aces and Medal of Honor recipients. Both Rickenbacker and Luke showed their leadership skills in various ways. For instance, they both served on voluntary patrol. By doing this, they both demonstrated their willingness to go and risk their lives, even when they did not have to do so.

One thing that sets Frank Luke Jr. apart from Edward Rickenbacker is the type of enemy they went after. Originally, both aviators fought against other pilots and downed a decent amount of enemy aircraft, but Frank Luke Jr. went on a different route after shooting down his share of enemy planes. Frank pursued German Observation balloons and shot down three of them. This is more critical to the war effort because these observation balloons were what allowed the Germans to see the movement of troops; with less observation power, the German military would have less information on the position of their enemy. For this reason, Frank Luke Jr. made a more valuable contribution to fighting the enemy in World War I than Edward Rickenbacker did.

Additionally, Edward Rickenbacker was an excellent Ace—he was even named “America’s highest flying Ace,” but he made bold decisions that might not have always been the best. Many times, he disregarded the odds and he luckily made it out of his fights safely. On the other hand, Frank Luke Jr. made decisions with more regard to his current situation. He showed professionalism when he fought until the end against the Germans. He did not break even when people were shooting at him and in his last moments alive, he spent them defending himself and holding off the Germans. His bravery and determination helped him be one of the greatest flying Aces of the war and one of the most valuable airpower contributions to the war.

Lastly, one main difference between the two Aces and one that sets them apart, are their differences in intellectual powers. Edward Rickenbacker grew up always doing acts of courage and boldness. This explains his bold actions as an Ace during the war and why he would disregard odds and go for a target anyway. It helped him be an Ace—maybe even the best Ace of WWI—but not the most valuable contribution to the war.

On the other hand, Frank Luke Jr. was said to have quick thinking and be very creative. This might have stemmed from the fact that his spirit reflected that of his father who was into pioneering. It also could have contributed to his determination not to give up after being shot down.

Read the entire article on the Odyssey Online web site here.

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