World War I Diary of Charles Fahy
Charles Sheehan*
In 1917, many Americans had never seen an airplane. That year the Navy,
with support from its young Assistant Secretary, Franklin Roosevelt, bought its first.
Only the year before had the Army used planes—unarmed “Jennies” dispatched by
General Pershing to observe the movements of Pancho Villa’s rebels in Mexico.
When America declared war on April 6, 1917, its combined Army and Navy aerial
force consisted of thirty-five qualified pilots and fifty-five airplanes. All but four
were obsolete. No non-obsolete plane was armed. All were useless for combat.
America “could not have flown a single, combat-ready plane into the war in the air.”1
“I felt I should go”
To the young man newly embarked on a career in law came rumblings from
abroad of passenger vessels on the Atlantic shelled and sunk by German submarines.
These outrages, and the sense of the long and vital friendship between America and
France altered the “period of uncertainty in my mind as to the direction of my
sympathies … I fairly quickly straightened out in my own mind where lay our
interests and the relative morals of the matter.”2 So he decided. “Being unmarried
and with no dependents I felt I should go into the service.”3
Born in 1892 in Rome, Georgia, one of eleven brothers and sisters surviving
infancy, Fahy attended the University of Notre Dame a single year, 1911. The dry
goods store founded by his Irish immigrant father in 1873 was generally successful,
but financial straits ended further college. In Fahy’s pocket when he arrived in
* Fahy was my grandfather. His forty-some loose leaf page, handwritten diary
(March 30, 1917–November 25, 1918), mostly on letter sized paper, is part of the
Library of Congress collection of Fahy papers. I note four preliminary matters. First,
diary pages are unnumbered. Even dates to which citation could be made are often
days or weeks apart, making accurate citation impractical. All quotations not cited to
a source are to the diary. Second, I attempted no thorough discussion of the
historical setting. I consulted a few other sources that came my way—notably Fahy’s
oral history, complementing his diary—but otherwise omit broader context unless to
set the scene behind incidents in the diary, or throw occasional light on aspects of
Fahy’s life, earlier or later, associated with those incidents. Third, all photographs
were in Fahy’s personal possession. Fourth, my method was not to merely
transcribe, but with minimal addition convey Fahy’s experiences as he told them,
with his words the unifying thread. Lastly, many thanks to Margaret and Mike
McCaleb for indispensable support, proofing and photo insertion assistance.
1 Samuel Hynes, The Unsubstantial Air (American Flyers in the First World War) 15
and 39 (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2015) [hereinafter UA].
2 Memoirs of Charles Fahy, Columbia University Oral History Project Collection
(1958) 35 [hereinafter OH].
3 Id. at 16.2
Washington late in 1911 to attend Georgetown Law School was a letter of
introduction from a businessman in Rome. The young man, read the flourishing
script, was “One determined to be a lawyer.”
Since law school graduation in 1914,4 he had been in his own “5th Street”
practice, but in association with Joseph J. Darlington, for whom Fahy had worked as a
“not very competent stenographer” during law school.5 Initially he “didn’t quite
know what service to choose.”6 He thought first of Army aviation, but in mid-August,
on the report of a 5th Street colleague returned from Norfolk and decided on Navy
aviation, Fahy made for the local Navy recruiting office on Pennsylvania Avenue, SW.
He was doubtful about his fitness for service. “I was twenty-five, older than
most of the boys who went into aviation.”7 The “best aviators” came from the
younger set, and he was now many years “away from an athletic life.”8 But after a
physical examination, he passed through the temporary war effort buildings outside
Union Station, boarded a train for MIT and began eight weeks of ground school.
Since May 1917, ground schools had been established at state universities in
California, Illinois, Ohio and Texas, and at Cornell and MIT. The regimen was three
weeks intensive training in military subjects, thus summed up: “how to be a soldier
and an obedient one.”9 The final five weeks took cadets deep into their new craft.
From signaling, maintaining machine guns and clearing gun jams, lectures on flight
theory and bombs, meteorology and map reading to the latest thinking on internal
combustion engines and tactics for air combat—and night flying—they were put to
stern test.10
4 “I had no previous hard and fast conception of the law but do remember that I
expected it to be more settled.” Id. at 12. His first year of practice, 1914, “grossed
$1,200, which enabled me to get along. There was no income tax.” Id. at 39.
5 Id. at 11. A memorial to Darlington, a fawn beside a naked woman, has stood since
1923 in Judiciary Square. It is Washington’s only memorial to a member of the
private bar. “Darlington had an exceptionally fine mind and an orderly method of
work. I think he was one of the greatest lawyers the country produced. He could
take a mass of material, legal or factual—he engaged in some of the most
complicated trials in the history of the courts here—and find the essence, that which
made the difference … the reason for [his memorial’s] selection was that the fawn …
did not hesitate to approach the maiden. And so with Mr. Darlington. Because of his
gentleness and kindness one did not hesitate to approach him.” Id. at 13.
6 Id. at 17.
7 Id.
8 Id.
9 UA at 47.
10 Id.3
MIT Ground School (Fahy, middle row, far left)
For Yale Professor-turned-Colonel Hiram Bingham, who led Army pilot
training, rigor was as it should be. The military must “weed out those who were
mentally, morally, or physically unfitted to become flying officers.”11 One quarter of
those who began ground school would fail.12 The “right type of personnel,” to
Bingham, were “fellows of quick, clear intelligence, mentally acute and physically fit
… the next thing was to make soldiers of them and teach them the value of military
discipline.”13 Senator Norris of Nebraska saw another, less measurable, quality:
“When [a pilot] flies out over the enemy … he must necessarily in a sense be his own
commander. He is really supreme.”14
Fahy’s weeks passed with a “smattering of theory of flight, some navigation,
some study of motors, some Morse code, and plenty of physical training.”15 After
MIT he was sent to the Naval air station at Pensacola to train in “basic flying.”16 On
the way south he diverted home to visit his ailing father, who “conveyed to me the
impression that this was his last illness, which proved to be so, for at Pensacola a few
11 Id. at 48.
12 Id.
13 Id. at 18.
14 Id. at 19.
15 OH at 17.
16 Id. at 18.4
weeks later word came he was dying.”17 Before Fahy could reach home his father
had died.
At Pensacola he trained on N-9s, single pontoon biplanes with 100
horsepower Curtis motors. Instruction planes had dual controls. “In the air flying
itself was easy … but landing was the problem … I enjoyed flying, and preferred
flying to joining the infantry, though I was often frightened.”18
In January 1918 he was commissioned as Ensign, U.S.N.R.F., received his
wings and made instructor of new men at Pensacola. He was first sent to Ft. Worth
for Army training in aerial gunnery. The Royal Flying Corps from Canada traveled
down and participated. Practice included hitting ground targets from the air and
firing machine guns from planes in flight.
“the year of the big bombing raids”
Last stop was New York City. Fahy and fifteen or twenty other Navy aviators,
many friends from Pensacola, boarded the USMS St. Louis on March 29th. “I kissed
my [younger] brother Ambrose good-bye” and “am mighty glad to be at last on the
way across with the prospect of seeing actual service.”
Packed away were boots, soap and woolen underwear. He berthed with
MacDonald. Some fifty men were aboard. There was little to occupy them during the
many days across, calm except for two days of rough weather. The five big guns
were occasionally fired in practice—“making quite a noise with a good deal of
vibration”—and close watch kept for enemy submarines. One night he and “Mac”
played “rump” into the far hours. On the whole, “Mac and I were almost beyond the
realm of enjoyment,” but even the flood of new sensations could not suppress a
pricking note: “I experienced my usual feeling [Easter Sunday] of impatience at
seeing ships apparently idle.”
Through the Irish Channel they quietly slipped into Europe the “rainy, chilly,
gray” dawn of April 6th. To one side slid by the Isle of Man, on the other, Ireland.
“Naturally my thoughts turned to Papa as Ireland came into view.” Two escorting
destroyers “zigzagging back and forth” led through choppy light green waters. Late
in the day the Liverpool harbor was made out. As darkness settled in its light tower
beamed and camouflaged vessels appeared around them. The final word was for the
nameless crew. “I want to set down here my admiration for the personnel of the St.
Louis. We came right across and the way the boat was managed and armed seemed
to inspire confidence.”
The war had now taken a new turn. On March 21st began a massive German
assault on British and French forces. The German army advanced rapidly on Paris.
To this point the British had put much more effort into air warfare than America,
whose few flyers were generally attached to British airdromes in England and
17 Id. at 19.
18 Id. at 17-18.5
France, and who undertook bombing missions only under English or French
command. America would soon lean heavily on its own aerial power, for 1918 was
to be “the year of the big bombing raids.”19
A few days passed at Liverpool. Food was scarce, with little meat, and sugar
rationed. On a stroll to its “prettiest place,” the Cathedral, many wounded soldiers
were about in blue overall-like suits and red ties. Although initial orders directed
Fahy and his companions to London, to their disappointment they were instead sent
across England to Killingholme, an east coast seaplane station for patrolling on the
North Sea near the River Humber. “There was not much doing” at Killingholme. By
mid-April, Fahy was settled into its slow pace and “very blustery, coldish spring.”20
With “simple wooden frame huts … bunks, good blankets and bedclothes … we were
as comfortable as young men will be.”21 Fahy’s first job was “censoring.” One
“attempted” patrol, with Fahy as observer, was quickly ended by fog.
“this first whiff of actual war”
The night of April 12th he was in his hut awaiting a class in navigation when
air raid warnings sounded—“the first actual firing of the enemy that I heard.”22 Out
went the “gas.” Distant guns thundered. Into the night, dark and heavy with low
hanging clouds, huts emptied of their men. Roars grew louder. Enemy zeppelins
were overhead. “This time there was no mistaking our guns were setting up a
barrage. We could see the flashes of the nearer guns, then came the sharp report,
followed by the humming whiz of the shrapnel shells, which seemed to pass over us
not far up.” As the zeppelins moved inland and quiet resumed, “all seemed to enjoy
this first whiff of actual war. I enjoyed the sound of our guns … [although I] felt a
little impatient that the station seemed ineffective to really go after the Zeps.”
In the interval following “we heard the motor of at least one Zep apparently
not far off, and when it passed on a little further three loud ‘booms’.” At 2 A.M., four
or five zeppelins returned. Out spilled the men again, this time to the “flash, report,
whir (a rather musical whiz) and reports following each other all along the line.”
There was “a trembling of the ground—bombs surely.” In a neighboring village two
men, two women and a child were said to have died.
At 4:50 A.M., April 24th, Fahy was “all dressed up in new high boots and
helmet” for “my first flight overseas.” He was to be observer.23 The captain
explained to Fahy “the little contraption to show what compass course to steer.”
After a long wait in the fog (the engine “warms up for it seems an hour”) the crew
19 UA at 196.
20 OH at 20.
21 Id.
22 Id. at 17.
23 “[S]ome observers attached strings … to the pilot’s arms and ran them back to the
rear cockpit, where the observer tugged them this way and that to steer the pilot …”
Id. at 181.6
went up on “dawn patrol.”24 They carried a camera and, in a basket, a pair of carrier
pigeons, with “instructions from the pigeon man [to] throw them clear of the wires if
they are stuck [or] lost … [and] send both back if in great distress.”25 Out over the
Humber they saw a submarine and several destroyers moving down from
Scarborough. Immingham’s “beautiful green fields” were glowing. Forty minutes
later they landed with a “crack” but, “wonder of wonders,” no damage.
Mac and Wilcox had a far different first flight. On April 27th, they left on patrol
at 7:25 A.M. Their pigeons returned at 9 A.M., strapped with a message: “down 20
miles north of Spurn, 4 miles off coast, sinking rapidly.” Spurn, Yorkshire’s
easternmost point, stood on the north lip of the wide Humber delta. Destroyers and
a smaller boat sped off in rescue. At 1 P.M. their plane was reported in tow by
trawlers, but “men not on the plane.” The bare details were recorded by Fahy that
night: “Bad motor; landing in rough sea, smashed pontoons, floated 2 hrs sinking;
picked up by sailing boat, brought to Grimsby [south shore of the Humber].” Fahy
packed Mac’s necessaries and went off to find the men at the Royal Hotel, with Mac in
bed before a “good fire” and “glad greetings” all around. After Mass at St. Mary’s the
next day all were back at base by noon.
On April 30th Fahy and three friends were ordered to the Salisbury Plains,
near Stonehenge, to train for night flying on the massive new marvels, the Britishbuilt
Handley-Pages (HP).26 Weighing seven tons, wings spanning over one hundred
feet (nearly as wide as the Flying Fortress of World War II), they could carry more
than one ton of bombs and range two hundred miles on their two Rolls-Royce
engines. Their weakness was speed. When fully loaded they needed a half mile to
build thrust enough to lift off and, once airborne, were capable only of sixty-five
miles per hour. This made them vulnerable to enemy pursuit planes in daylight—
thus their principal service in night raids. Beginning in the spring of 1917, French
24 “Imagine what it was like, sitting up there … on a patrol, in an open cockpit the
size of a barrel, with only a meager windshield to protect you from the slipstream
that strikes your face at a hundred miles an hour, with no heating system except
what blows back from the engine.” UA at 164.
25 Carrier pigeons were an established tool of wartime communication, in air and on
ground in every branch of service. Their homing instincts made them near infallible
messengers in the hottest conditions. Whether by a bombing crew in peril, by flying
observers of enemy troop movements or by front line tanks relaying positions,
pigeons unvaryingly flew a straight line back to their home coops. Many in the
American 78th infantry and tank corps owed their lives to “President Wilson.” During
a battle in the Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918 he carried a desperate plea for
artillery relief. Shot several times by German soldiers as he rose over their lines, he
reached his coop in time to spur reinforcements and save the troops. Posting of
Jessie Kratz, Unsung Heroes of World War I: The Carrier Pigeons, (Jan. 8, 2018).
26 They were to report to Lieut. Edwards. Fahy’s superiors at Killingholme directed
Fahy “to tell Edwards that Killingholme ‘wants us back’.”7
and British squadrons flew HPs in attacks on railway yards, ammunition dumps and
U-boat depots at Bruges and other Belgium ports.27
The trip to Stonehenge was a fine respite from the “slowness” of
Killingholme, for on the way Fahy and companions were able to take in London.
They lodged at the Carleton, saw the Buckingham Palace Guards, Westminster Abbey
and made an appearance at the American Officer’s Club. “London was wonderful.”
Lieut. Edwards told them their selection for Stonehenge was “fortunate”—Fahy
attributed it to “pure chance”—and of many disappointed at not being chosen. Fahy
regretted leaving many MIT friends at Killingholme, but had been restless there and
was excited that Stonehenge offered “prospects of service in France on the machine
[HP] we had heard so much about,” and bombing German U-boat docks and
operations in occupied Belgium.
“my landings were not especially good”
Stonehenge began at a quick pace. On May 2nd, his second day, “I soloed for
the first time on a land machine.” It was a Maurice-Farnum, “one of the earliest
planes to fly”28 and “the oldest then in use.” The day took an unanticipated turn on a
second flight that afternoon when “I started on cross country in the M.F., with Tom
Bergin as observer.” Neither was yet familiar with the countryside. Fahy had only a
“scant” look at the map before lifting off. Below was the road they followed. It was
the wrong road. They were soon lost and forced to put down in a field outside
Coombe Bisset, near Salisbury, “inquiring our whereabouts of farmers.” With a
borrowed bicycle they found a telephone, called Stonehenge for gasoline, re-fueled
and “[g]ot up again.” But balloons set to mark home for incoming flyers had been
lowered. Again they landed, lost, now at Netheravon, but with fuel enough to make
the airdrome by 8 P.M. Bergin was “fed up.”29
27 UA at 192, 196; Marc Wortman, Flight to Glory, Yale Alumni Magazine
(September/October 2003) [hereinafter Yale Magazine].
28 OH at 31.
29 The unexpected landing in the unknown field was not so unexpected. “As a matter
of fact nearly everybody gets lost,” noted Fahy. “The inevitable crowd of peasants
soon gathered” about Charles Biddle when he was grounded in the French
countryside. UA at 73. In France, “[a] clever young cross-country pilot would watch
out not only for flat open fields but for chateaus.” Id. One gave the prospect
exceedingly eager thought: “The proper thing to do … is to bust directly over a nice
chateau; make a skillful landing on the front lawn under the eyes of the admiring
household and then be an enforced guest for a few days.” Id.

and British squadrons flew HPs in attacks on railway yards, ammunition dumps and
U-boat depots at Bruges and other Belgium ports.27
The trip to Stonehenge was a fine respite from the “slowness” of
Killingholme, for on the way Fahy and companions were able to take in London.
They lodged at the Carleton, saw the Buckingham Palace Guards, Westminster Abbey
and made an appearance at the American Officer’s Club. “London was wonderful.”
Lieut. Edwards told them their selection for Stonehenge was “fortunate”—Fahy
attributed it to “pure chance”—and of many disappointed at not being chosen. Fahy
regretted leaving many MIT friends at Killingholme, but had been restless there and
was excited that Stonehenge offered “prospects of service in France on the machine
[HP] we had heard so much about,” and bombing German U-boat docks and
operations in occupied Belgium.
“my landings were not especially good”
Stonehenge began at a quick pace. On May 2nd, his second day, “I soloed for
the first time on a land machine.” It was a Maurice-Farnum, “one of the earliest
planes to fly”28 and “the oldest then in use.” The day took an unanticipated turn on a
second flight that afternoon when “I started on cross country in the M.F., with Tom
Bergin as observer.” Neither was yet familiar with the countryside. Fahy had only a
“scant” look at the map before lifting off. Below was the road they followed. It was
the wrong road. They were soon lost and forced to put down in a field outside
Coombe Bisset, near Salisbury, “inquiring our whereabouts of farmers.” With a
borrowed bicycle they found a telephone, called Stonehenge for gasoline, re-fueled
and “[g]ot up again.” But balloons set to mark home for incoming flyers had been
lowered. Again they landed, lost, now at Netheravon, but with fuel enough to make
the airdrome by 8 P.M. Bergin was “fed up.”29
27 UA at 192, 196; Marc Wortman, Flight to Glory, Yale Alumni Magazine
(September/October 2003) [hereinafter Yale Magazine].
28 OH at 31.
29 The unexpected landing in the unknown field was not so unexpected. “As a matter
of fact nearly everybody gets lost,” noted Fahy. “The inevitable crowd of peasants
soon gathered” about Charles Biddle when he was grounded in the French
countryside. UA at 73. In France, “[a] clever young cross-country pilot would watch
out not only for flat open fields but for chateaus.” Id. One gave the prospect
exceedingly eager thought: “The proper thing to do … is to bust directly over a nice
chateau; make a skillful landing on the front lawn under the eyes of the admiring
household and then be an enforced guest for a few days.” Id.

Stonehenge crash, Spring 1918
The next morning Fahy and Kirby studied local maps and flew to Oxford.
Calculations and conference with instructors predicted, given the mix of wind, 3,000’
altitude and sixty miles per hour speed, a trip of forty-two minutes out and fifty-six
minutes back. They went out in forty-two and back in fifty-eight—“in good style …
was fine for things to work out so well.” Tea, cigars, shaves and dinner awaited them
at the airdrome. It was Fahy’s “best landing yet” in an FE and, at ninety-four miles,
his longest flight. Kirby and Fahy went up for bombing practice the next morning,
loosing three “fairly wild” and one “good” (20–30 yards from target circles) bombs,
but Fahy landed the FE roughly, “bursting the left tire.”
May 22nd was a holiday. Many flyers were off to London. Fahy had an illfitting
suit altered, procured 30 pounds from the paymaster and, by bus, taxi and
foot, Fahy and companions reached the officers’ club by lunch. Dinner was at the
Imperial, but no meat was to be had “without a card,” nor sugar. The “prevalent
vegetable” was potatoes. It was then to the Savoy for “Nothing But The Truth,” a
“good farce whose principal character appeared to be drunk.” Officers from allied
countries in varied uniforms thronged the lobby. Egg sandwiches and ginger ale at
the Waldorf were followed by bed, after a quick reading of “Life” magazine.
Motoring back through Salisbury the next morning in a “balky” Ford, they
passed the beautiful cathedral, “massive and old,” but appearing “crumbling at close
quarters.” Fahy and Kirby took a 4,000’ practice run the next day, “tickled” at all four
bombs striking within eight yards of the target—“better than average”—and hoping
their success was “not mixed” with another crew’s showing of “scattering [bombs] all
over the place.” Nearby were German prisoners constructing hangars, “as slow as
you please … rather quiet, bordering on sullenness,” but “well treated here.”

“In case of my death over here”
“This morning, a wonderful morning,” May 30th, was Fahy’s first HP flight.
Even on two hours sleep he was “really in love” with the astounding aircraft, and
“hope I am put with a HP squadron.” During the preceding night hours he had
reveled in being observer on an HP run. “[N]ight flying is great sport, with its
shooting of lights, flares … darkness and 2 eyed inhabitants of the night. Last night
was glorious.”30
A rhythm fell over the days and weeks at Stonehenge. It was a “fine, pleasant
lot of fellows,” including Army officers and mechanics. They lived “in a frame hut,
dormitory style, with cots in a row.”31 Letters were written to, and eagerly received
from, family. The weather was dry, more comfortable than Killingholme. Food,
“simple but adequate,”32 consisted largely of Australian hare, a homeland pest
welcome at English tables. Light refreshments, tea and chocolate graced mornings,
Holland cheese and “biscuits” the afternoons. For leisure was a YMCA tent, set with
benches and a piano. Less ideal, noted the barber, you “couldn’t get a good razor
over here.” In France, it was said, “you could get all kinds of American things,”
including good cigars and candy.
30 The enchantment of flight, by night especially, was to endure. In early 1941,
Assistant Solicitor General Fahy represented America’s military in the “basedestroyer”
negotiations with the United Kingdom, led by Winston Churchill. Of the
Yankee Clipper on which he flew from Bermuda to Lisbon, he reflected on the:
marvelous product of man’s daring and infinitesimal attention
to detail; a thing of great size and power, and yet dependent upon
the finest care, skill and workmanship. I shall never forget the
appreciation I felt of the workshops and workmen of America as
I listened hour after hour to the unfailing and coordinated hum of
the orchestra, composed of thousands of pieces of metal brought
together in four huge motors, as we sailed through the night winds
above the Atlantic, catching on silvery wings and propellers white
fragments from the moon.
Remarks at Annual Dinner, Harvard Law Review, at 2–3 (May 1941) [hereinafter
Harvard Law].
31 OH at 21.
32 Id.

Handley-Page over Stonehenge, Spring 1918
But over the camaraderie and adventure clung shadows. “[I]n this flying
world, death came suddenly: a friend who was alive beside you yesterday is dead
today.”33 Late on the day he exulted in the glories of flying HPs, Fahy wrote:
In case of my death over here, I hope these words reach mama.
I have tried to do my duty in the service, and have desired to reach
France and take active part in the hazards and suffering, if need be,
of those who stand first against the foe … I know mama will be glad
that I am flying Handley-Page machines … But what I want to say is
how much I love her and how often I think of her, and all at home,
and Papa, and how great a help the constant thought of her has been.
I know that her prayers have always been with me, keeping me …
her sacrifices … fill the heart with unspeakable love … Let me in
33 UA at 91.

some measure deserve of her the love and righteous pride she
deserves of me.
Stonehenge aviators (Fahy, bottom row, middle) Spring 1918
On June 17th Fahy received word of his transfer to the Calais-Dunkirk region
for night bombing. At the urging of his captain he first took a two day “station
holiday” at Bournemouth, “that beautiful spot on the sea,” with RAF Lieut. Brown and
Ens. Taylor. Brown told Fahy, confidentially, that higher levels wanted to keep Fahy
at Stonehenge as HP instructor. Fahy “did not care to remain as instructor” and “got
away” on the 20th before orders retaining him might issue. He was given several
days more “nominal” leave, allotted to the “two best in squad”—quickly withdrawn
by Admiral Sims (commander of all American Navy forces in Britain)—who ordered
Fahy to London until the 24th. What London duties were is not clear, but they
accommodated a stay at the American Officers’ Club (“a delightful place”), a “musical
given for American officers by Mrs. Palmer” and, with old Killingholme friends,
“taxi[ing] around seeing the principal points of interest.”
“what to expect when I go night bombing”
On June 26th he was in Paris, en route to Dunkirk. That night “claxons” rang.
“I supposed the Gothas are coming.”34 A bomb fell at La Vendome, a block from his
lodging at the Continental Hotel, “with a great crash and shattering of glass around …
[I] saw the smoke floating away, and later walked to the spot.” In the rubble of
shattered pavement an officer handed Fahy a “still hot” bomb fragment. Several
blocks away began another “heavy barrage.” The next day the “Big Bertha … this
34 Gothas were huge German bombers. “Allied pilots didn’t meet [them] in the air,
but … heard them from the ground—rumbling ghosts in the darkness over Paris, or
London, or Dunkerque, dropping destruction on the streets below.” UA at 196. They
“could inflict thousands of casualties in a single night.” Id. at 191.

remarkable piece of artillery,” was “shooting into Paris.”35 It all “gives me an idea of
what to expect when I go to night bombing, which I expect to do shortly.”
Dunkirk, about twelve miles from the front, was deserted when he arrived the
morning of June 29th, after a sleepless night propped up in a crowded train
compartment of British, Belgian and French officers. He entered a city like a “garden
left to the weeds.” Eighty percent of the population had fled shelled buildings amid
shattered glass. Among the few civilians moved allied soldiers. That afternoon
appeared the “white speck” of a German photographic plane at 20,000’, ringed with
“white puffs” from pursuing allied planes. “Seldom do these Germans get back
home.” Later, remnant of the stricken city’s former life, a “pretty bell tolled off”
during lulls in a “deuce of a barrage”—bombs falling, big ground guns “cracking
away” and “bursting shrapnel [lighting up]” Fahy’s room. Near midnight, after the
“seemingly full magazine” of a nearby machine gun went quiet, he slept.
A few days on he was settled in a house on the beach occupied by a “very
congenial lot” of American officers. Late that night came a bombing raid, “shrapnel
bursting and motors whizzing apparently right overhead,” but not disturbing the
“poker game calmly going on in [the] next room.” The “dickens of a noise” set Fahy
to “wonder how it feels up there”—a clarity “I suppose I will know soon, as expect to
leave daily for the H.P. squadron near Calais.” The sudden riot in the skies cut off his
musings: “lights … out for a minute … either a big bunch of Huns coming over or they
are kept in the same place; lights out again; on now—going out, no—don’t know
what to do. Motors still close; barrage must have boxed them in … at it again now,
French … English too. Motors dying out.”36
By early July he was “at my [night bombing] squadron at last” in St. Inglevert,
eighteen miles down the coast from Calais. It was RAF 214, equipped with HPs and
formed by British forces recently moved from Dunkirk after seven hundred bombs,
“the worst on record,” fell on them over two nights.37 It was to be a temporary post
for American flyers. From the British they would learn the country and acquire
experience, but stay at 214 only “until our own U.S. squadron is ready.” This was
expected in August. Navy flyers now in Italy would join them.
The first American-led bombing raid, by daylight, had been made in June,
targeting heavily defended North Sea supply lines at the heart of the German warmaking
capacity—the Belgian docks, ports and repair yards in and near Bruges,
Ostend and Zeebrugge—from which dozens of U-boats launched devastating attacks
35 OH at 31. “At other times [Big Bertha] shelling caused the loss of many lives …
something of a depressing influence on morale in Paris, but on the whole it caused
the French to be more determined … Experience such as this no doubt had
something to do with the French desire for a harsh exaction from the Germans.” Id.
at 31–32.
36 “Two Hun planes [were] brought down. Saw the few remains of one on exhibition
in the square a few days later.”
37 The British “lost little, however, as machines were out bombing the enemy.”

on allied shipping lanes and nearly starved Britain into surrender. The next phase of
attack was American-led night bombing.
“[L]iving by my lonesome” at 214, Fahy first had a “good tent … small, with a
good iron cot and exceptionally fine woolen Navy blankets.”38 Nearby were
quartered Navy construction officers, doctors and paymasters in a “picturesque old
chateau, red looking as the hills.” From his tent Fahy soon moved to a frame hut on
the beach, “perfectly adequate.”39 From the chateau’s excess came his mattress, from
an RAF flyer now in Holland his wooden washstand, and from friends rummaging
about, his chair and stand for “odds and ends.”
Newly-arrived Americans were not altogether strangers among the native
Our airdrome was in the country-side … There were, of course,
farmers and other French people in the vicinity, and contacts
with them were only occasional but pleasant. There was a little
estaminet down at the crossroads where we gathered from time
to time, conducted by a French family who developed pleasant
relations with the Americans and the British. There was a
Catholic priest nearby, with a rather small but attractive stone
church and rectory.40
July 4th was celebrated in fine style. Calais was “gaily bedecked with flags of
all nations.” Fahy was set to fly a raid that night but his “machine” was out of order.41
Thus to the red chateau that evening flocked Fahy, other aviators and the Englishspeaking
village priest for a “splendid dinner—wine and champagne”—presided
over by 214’s commanding officer and Royal Navy heavy gun Commander Bigford, a
“big, jolly fellow.” Fahy and companions departed for their tents early “in
expectation of flying” the next day. The priest, they later learned, “asked for his hat
and coat” at 11 P.M., when, said the priest, affairs turned a bit too “atmospheric.”
38 OH at 22.
39 Id.
40 Id. at 34.
41 The four planes that did get off were forced by bad weather to a beach landing and
night on the sands.

“over the line”
Fahy attended confession and mass the next morning, “feel[ing] better for
what may come.” The “what may come” was certainly never far from the mind of any
The lives of these earliest fighter pilots were unique in the
history of war … [T]errifying combat [was] carried on at
elevations and in atmospheric conditions that only Edwardian
mountain climbers and polar explorers had experienced. The
cold and wind, oxygen deprivation and gravity forces could
make a pilot sick and senseless—even without the tension of
constant watch for attackers. Frostbite was common and
debilitation and emotional casualties virtually universal, and
agonizing deaths in mid-air … witnessed by on the ground
below. As many as one of four aviators were killed in action.42
On July 8th Fahy “went over the line for the first time.” He watched six large,
black HPs “lumber” ahead down the runway, “turn with much snorting & flying dirt”
and swoop across and up. Then, Fahy manning the three rear machine guns, RAF
Lieut. Ellison piloting and Bell observing, they lifted up a 9:35 P.M. Toward the docks
of Bruges they carried four 250 lb., six 112 lb. and four small Cooper bombs—“two of
the latter of which I was to drop through the tail.” Two of Fahy’s guns looked over
the sides and one through the tail. Until night cover settled in, the seven plane fleet
of “mammoth black birds,” each bearing “a light on wing tip & tail,” circled safely
over the sea at 7,500’.
With darkness they turned from sea toward the docks, first “com[ing] close”
to the shells of friendly Dunkirk batteries “evidently taking no chances” on the
nationality of bombers overhead. With lights out and “objects practically invisible on
the ground” they crossed into Belgium. As they passed between Ostend and
Zeebrugge and south toward Bruges, Ostend sent up a barrage and searchlights
began “to pop out on all sides.” A shaft caught them “at least 10 times … I thought
surely they would pick us up … [two] played on us for 15 seconds.” They were now
at 10,000’. Parachute flares lit wider swaths of sky and “green onion” bombs “came
up frequently.”43 Antiaircraft gunfire began. Ellison dodged in and out, “changing
course as lights flared up too close.”
With “no shell seeming to burst very near,” they sailed on. “All this time I was
on the look out for scouts, my job, and trying to ‘learn the country’.” Up front were
Ellison and Bell. “I could … see their heads together at times conferring, no doubt, as
to just where the objective was.” At last Ellison “put her nose down.” At 8,000’ Fahy
42 Yale Magazine.
43 “Green onions” were “chains of fire” that “exploded into luminous nets of green
flame, designed to entangle and set fire to the oil-splattered wooden frame and
canvas skin of an aircraft.” Id.

let go two bombs. Up came answering onion bombs from “Mr. Fritz,” which helpfully
illuminated the docks for a second drop, one by one, of more “big brown destruction
fellows.” Fahy “saw some of them burst far below.” Only the small Coopers
remained, below deck. Fahy “scrambled” down, drew out his sister “Janie’s little
scissors brought along for the purpose” and cut their strings. The Coopers exploded
beside the clearly seen canal. All the while “bursts of red were around the sky.”
“Now to get away!” As they made for sea, “more search lights sprung up.” Off
to the right and north, Flushing was visible on the coast of Holland. Bell released his
two Coopers and one ground light went out. To lower engine noise they throttled
down. Another searchlight went up to 20,000’ but missed them. After turning
southwest over Ostend, friendly searchlights marked a landing strip on the coast
some distance from the airdrome. In came Ellison’s “beautiful landing.” All seven
machines “got back,” and hot chocolate and sandwiches awaited the crews. Fahy,
“tired as the dickens,” finally slept in a wood-floored tent at 2 A.M.
Sleep was brief but spirits high when they rose at 4 A.M. for the final leg. “One
by one the machines took off for home. We raced along it seemed to me a few feet
from the ground, nose down, 105 miles an hour, wires singing; on, on over tree tops,
houses, villages, just over the top of Calais, out in the open again, swooping down to
the ground occasionally to scare folds and cattle; then home again—breakfast, & bed
at 6:30 A.M.”44
An interlude of rare quiet ensued. Night bombing “work” meant “we have
practically nothing to do during the day.” Dreariness was relieved in study of maps
and pictures of bombing targets. On July 17th, Fahy first piloted an HP. Ellison took it
off and flew south some miles to Boulogne. Below were passenger ships to and from
England, escorted by destroyers. “Ellison spiraled down over them, several miles out
in the English channel, and it was a beautiful sight … this fine formation, with the
white wake traveling along, [Boulogne] away in the distance.” The decks were
“brown with Tommies” heading home. “[We] went down close over them” and they
waved upward. When Ellison had climbed again and brought the machine over land,
Fahy took control, flew north, came near a “kite balloon hovering behind the lines,”
and back over Calais toward the airdrome.
As they approached their landing, an HP below was speeding for takeoff. It
suddenly “nosed into the ground and nearly turned over, its huge tail sticking up in
the air in the opposite direction.” Uncut wheat had snared the wheels and caused a
terrific crash, hurtling three of the four men out over the smashed front. RAF Lieut.
Binches broke has back. Bobby Stocker, with Fahy at Stonehenge—“a very fine boy,
44 “Sometimes [flyers] simply flew very low and as fast as the plane would move, just
for the thrill of the speed (which you feel more intensely when you’re close to the
ground).” UA at 113. One wrote home: “The fun was quite intense today. I went
bush-bouncing … It’s great sport to get going about 120 mph right around five feet
above the ground.” Id. at 114.

and a good pilot, having done much patrol work in England in seaplanes”—and
making his first flight beside the pilot, lay unconscious from a brain concussion.45
“how completely my heart is with them all”
Fahy’s second night bombing flight across the lines was also with Ellison and
Dell. On July 18th a group of bombers targeted German operations at Ghistellis,
Belgium, just south of Ostend. Like their first it began on a high note. “It is a
wonderful sight standing in the tail, after adjusting the guns and clearing goggles …
to watch the others thunder away, and then to pass into the night yourself … big
engines spraying a blue exhaust flame.” Once up, Calais was “plainly visible in the
half moon’s light … lights across the channel clearly seen.” Only at midnight (“[t]he
machine did not climb well”) did they reach 8,000’, pass Dunkirk and “started in to
cross the lines.” Searchlight-aided anti-aircraft fire began. German aircraft appeared.
Several enemy planes challenged them “& we replied.”
Passing over Belgium’s flooded lands and nearing Ostend, more searchlights
rose and a “mass” of “green onions”—a “weird sight”—showered up. One searchlight
“held us for some time,” but they shook it, circled and let go four 250 lb. and six 112
lb. bombs. Fahy saw them explode far below. He left his scout watch and went
under. Using Janie’s scissors again he released two other bombs. An enemy shell
burst “quite close by us.” Off to the left as they returned were “star shells going up &
dying in their own reflections as they fall back.” At 1:20 A.M. they landed to tea and
sandwiches on the beach. “All machines returned safely.” After two hours
“attempted” sleep they started home at dawn. “The sun came up while we were in
the air; a haze hung over the sea, and the sky and sea mingled as one.”
Between the tedium of base life and terror of bombing raids were habitual
tugs homeward. Every few weeks the void of family letters burst with several
arriving at once. “I wish the home folks could realize how much their letters are
enjoyed, and how completely my heart is with them all.” He took his mother’s
injunction, while in Pensacola, to England and the far French front: “to say a prayer
whenever I go up.” Her faithful son made his own prayer: “If I should ever go up and
not return, or return dead, I pray that God will give mother and all the dear loved
ones at home, the grace to bear their loss calmly, and to know that I died thinking of
them, as I know I shall do, and thinking, by His Grace, of Him … I shall be glad, if He
wills, to die in this cause in which I fully believe.”
On July 24th, the same three men went up to “a pretty interesting time.”46
With them went a new, “terrific thing,”47 a 1660 lb. experimental bomb, the largest
ever produced by the allies, perhaps even the Germans, so heavy it required a special
rack. “Quite a lot of interest was shown in the bomb” by an anxious crowd of officers.
45 Accidents were omnipresent. One third of air service deaths were by mechanical
failure or other accidents. Id. at 81.
46 OH at 24.
47 Id.

Commander Hanrahan urged them to check “everything possible in regard to the
bomb and its effects” and bade the crew “good luck.”
They first “went to sea over Calais” under a “fine moon” before turning to the
ammunition dump on the coast at Middlekerk, Belgium. At 10:35 P.M., over land at
8,500’, began the glide to the target. To catch the oncoming wind they first passed
over the dump and turned back. At 5,000’ Dell was about to open the bomb rack
when Fahy suddenly saw a “black form,” a two seater enemy plane at a few hundred
yards “looking for bombers.”48 “I cocked both upper guns and made ready; flashed a
signal to Dell.” Ellison sped off to sea pursued by green onions, searchlights and
“sharp firing.” The “Hun showed no disposition to follow.”
In getting away they lost altitude and had to ascend again. They circled and
made a second attempt at the dump but “searchlights caught us … tremendous things
—and antiaircraft fire.”49 Ellison climbed to evade them but “a battery must have
seen us in the moonlight.” Up came “shrapnel bursting pretty close … we could hear
the shrapnel explode in the air above the sound of our motors.”50 It was “too hot.” A
final time they set for sea, climbed, turned back and, at 6,000’, let go the massive
bomb. With a “wicked noise” it “bounced the machine up a bit” and Ellison made for
home. Later photos showed the bomb landed wide and did little damage.
About this time Fahy ran across Gaston, Torres and McKinnon in the “Officers’
Rest” in Calais. They had just arrived from England. One afternoon Fahy and Torres
took some practice flights. Then, on August 1st and two hours notice, Fahy was
ordered to detach from 214 and proceed to Paris before beginning night bombing
with the Northern Bombing Group, adjoining 214 at St. Inglevert. Boarding the
Paris-bound train in Boulogne at 8:25 P.M. for the “old tiresome ride again,” Fahy sat
or stood the entire way and arrived at 8 A.M. He reported to familiar, “friendly”
Commander Hanrahan.
“Several of our finest young men were killed”
The Northern Bombing Group was all American—leadership and aviators—
“the Navy’s way of claiming a piece of the strategic bombing action.”51 It was formed
in May 1918 in the Calais-Dunkirk region. From its six airdromes would launch a day
and night bombing campaign against German U-boat operations in occupied
Belgium. Six night squadrons would each have ten Caproni Ca.5 bombers—large,
Italian-made bi-planes with a seventy-two foot wingspan and three Fiat motors, two
facing forward and one aft.52 “The British could not supply us with [HPs], which we
48 Id.
49 Id.
50 Id.
51 UA at 195.
52 Id. at 196.

preferred, and the United States aviation industry was not able to supply us with
night bombers … I never thought [Capronis] were equal to the Handley-Page.”53
Obtaining Capronis was the first task. The plan was for aviators to pick up
Capronis at their factory in Milan and fly a seventy-five mile leg back to Turin, at the
foot of the Alps. There they would wait for clear skies. Then over the Alps they
would fly to Lyon, then Dijon, then Paris. From Paris, Capronis would be dispersed
to various Northern Bombing Group bases in northwest France.54
“The work of ferrying our Capronis from Italy was underway” by early
August, but ominously. The first three-Caproni squad of Americans to leave Milan, in
late July, lost one plane to a crash even before reaching Turin. A second went down
fifty miles south of Paris. Fahy’s first order from Hanrahan was to travel to Sens,
eighty miles southeast of Paris, to survey another Caproni crash. On his return
Hanrahan ordered six crews formerly from 214, Fahy included, to travel by train to
Milan to fly back more Capronis.
Turin: Fahy standing in front of his Caproni before flight over Alps, August 1918
In his few days in Paris before formal orders were in hand, Fahy attended
Sunday Mass at the Madeleine, took in the Cathedral and had a “real pleasant time
about the City.” The six crews left for Turin by train on Monday night. Tuesday “we
had our eyes full admiring the Alps,” stopped for meals and postcards occasionally
and reached Turin by 8 P.M. By noon Wednesday they were in Milan, “a very pretty
place, with plenty of good food and rather carefree appearance.”
53 OH at 22.
54 William Hallstead, World War I: American Caproni Pilots in Italy, Aviation History,
(May 2003) [hereinafter Aviation History].

Fahy piloted a new Caproni on the first leg to Turin. Beside him was Otis, on
the maps, and Jenkins in the rear. As they rose over Milan, Fahy took in the
Cathedral, “probably as beautiful a building as I have ever seen.”55 The weather over
the mountains barred immediate passage over the Alps and the crews held back two
days in Turin. On Sunday morning, August 11th, all six lifted off, reaching heights of
14,000’ over the Alps, 56 “but only three proceeded across.” Krum and Walker “got
lost and crashed.”57 At noon the remaining crews arrived at Lyon, then ended the
day in Dijon.
Fahy (left) and Otis in Caproni in flight over Alps (photo taken by Jenkins)
Fahy spared his sister Janie the harrows when writing her that night:
[It was] the most wonderful trip I ever had; we looked down
hundreds of feet on snow covered mountains; away on the right
was Mt. Blanc, larger and whiter than the others. It was a clear,
bright morning and it all seemed like a dream unfolding; only a
score of people have ever made this trip, but I daresay when
aeroplanes are like automobiles are today “over the Alps”
will be one of the popular routes. When the mountains were
passed, in a long line from horizon to horizon—white and
rugged, a mist seemed to cling in the lower heights, leaving the
peaks clear above, Mount Blanc a white robed king of them all.
55 OH at 23.
56 During the first ferrying operation in late July, “[a]t close to 14,000 feet without
oxygen or heated suits, the three crewman in the Caproni suffered mightily from the
cold. Ice formed in Lewis’ mustache.” Aviation History.
57 On a test flight twelve days earlier their plane’s “right hand motor caught fire in
the air.” The Aerdrome Forum, WW I Aviation (Dec. 2001)
( [hereinafter Aerdrome Forum]. Both flyers survived
their crash. What became of the other two crews is not clear.

Late next day the remaining crews finished their mission at Orly’s American
Army airdrome in Paris. Obtaining Capronis for America’s bombing campaign was
ultimately calamitous.
We undertook to ferry seventeen or eighteen Capronis from
Milan to northern France, but only seven finished the journey.
Several of our finest young men were killed in this ferrying
operation. I do not know quite what the trouble was. Perhaps
our mechanics or pilots did not know the motors well, or we got
a bad lot.58
“For a while it looked as if we were lost”
A few days later Fahy flew the second Caproni to reach his new American
base at St. Inglevert. “Our whole outfit was composed of a fine group of men.”59
Lieut. Robert Lovett was in command.60 One day, “Assistant Secretary of the Navy
[Franklin Roosevelt] … walked across our airdrome in northern France, before his
illness”—“with a swinging stride.”61
As Fahy had experienced flying with the British at 214, night bombing made
special demands. Equipment was primitive—an altimeter, compass and perhaps an
unilluminated clock.62 Only by clear skies and memory of “photographic maps” could
one make out the contour of the coast to be followed before the “turn inland with a
fairly good chance of visually picking up our objectives.”63 Capronis were equipped
with bomb sights (“theoretically we should hit the target”64) but their effectiveness
depended on a medley of adjustable and moving parts. The eye had to be lined up
with the target through the bars and calibrated against the assumption of a fixed
altitude in a fixed direction. Unexpected wind or speed threw everything off.65 And
58 OH at 23. The “seventeen or eighteen” were the total purchased by the Navy for
the Northern Bombing Group. Several caught fire in flight. Aerdrome Forum. At
least nine crashed. Planes were “strewn across various fields from Milan to northern
France … five pilots were killed.” Aviation History.
59 OH at 24.
60 Lovett, a few years younger than Fahy, began naval aviation service in the famed
First Yale Unit. He had “an attractive personality [with] qualities which gave
justification for his selection as commanding officer … We liked and respected him.”
Id. at 23–4. Lovett and Fahy were to cross professional paths in coming decades, the
last time likely the litigation on President Truman’s attempted “steel seizure” during
the Korean War. Lovett was Secretary of Defense and Fahy on the D.C. Circuit.
61 OH at 69 and Harvard Law at 4.
62 UA at 107.
63 OH at 25.
64 Id.
65 Id.

as Lovett observed, attacking U-boat docks was “the most dangerous objective there
is [with] defenses [that] far exceed anything one could imagine.”66
Fahy’s Caproni being readied for first night bombing raid (Fahy on nose behind slanting strut; Lovett
walking away from plane, looking at camera, hands in pockets)
Late on August 15th, to “great interest of the camp,” into hazy skies carrying
two 250 lb. and one 550 lb. bombs, commenced the first American night bombing
raid. Taber was first pilot and Fahy second, with dual controls. Seated over the nose,
Fahy served also as observer and manned the Lewis machine guns extended over the
front. Hale, whom Fahy had known from Stonehenge, handled the Lewis gun
guarding the rear. The objective was the German U-boat repair and refueling works
along the inland basin at Ostend, Belgium. From photographic maps, at least with
good visibility, they should be able to follow the coast and basin even in darkness.
The Caproni proceeded up the coast before turning inland. “There was a good
deal of anti-aircraft fire,” but otherwise “clear sailing in getting over the objective”
and releasing the bombs.67 “We made it all right, & were back in 2 hrs. 50 minutes.”
The raid was not without a fearful passage. On their return a wind shift blew
in haze, making it difficult to account for drift. Sight of the coastline disappeared.
66 Yale Magazine.
67 OH at 26.

“For a while it looked as if we were lost.”68 They neared what they believed to be the
landing field. In Morse code Fahy’s flashlight signaled the ground crew to throw on
landing lights. None came. They continued “lost for a bad little while.”
Eventually ground lights appeared and they landed safely to the greetings of
Lovett, “a happy man, and we got a fine welcome all around.” Fahy “felt pretty good,
and was happy to be on the first raid and felt we had made a successful start.” After
later reports and photographs showed a damaged railway station near the targeted
dock, “it was considered a fairly successful raid.” Hale recounted:
[W]e made some very good hits on a repair station on the docks.
The raid was very successful in every way though the visibility
was not very good … We were a long time on the way back and
could not distinguish the channel lights until we were very near
them. We landed on the drome at 12:30 … and Lieut. Lovett was
very well pleased. Well I am lucky there’s no doubt about it … I
could not help asking myself “do you know who you are.” I was
told at Killingholme what I officially was and there is no denying
it but I am finding my level in spite of all the previous opposition
to it. Oh this is a great day in my life.69
Darkening this period was news of friends, some recently reunited with Fahy.
“About this time I learned the sad news of Torres’ death in a Caproni near Turin,”70”
and of McKinnon’s death when his bomber went down at sea—“Both unusually fine
boys, and good friends of mine.” Lieut. Fletcher, like Fahy the observer on a bombing
raid to Ostend, was shot down over Ostend.71 By this late point, “survivors begin to
record deaths collectively … It’s bound to happen … in a flying war.”72
One flyer, Lance Holden, had been at the front not yet three months and
thirteen friends were dead or missing. “How can one help being an utter fatalist … It
looks like certain death. Just a question of time.”73 With each death ushered in the
rituals, the friend or tent mate sorting through possessions—pictures, letters, watch
68 Id.
69 U.S. Militaria Forum, WWI US Northern Bombing Group, handwritten diary of
David C. Hale ( [hereinafter Hale Diary].
70 His gas pump handles were incorrectly positioned. Aerdrome Forum.
71 “[I]n 1918 pilots did not carry parachutes; you jumped or you burned. It was a
terrible choice.” UA at 142. General Billy Mitchell, commander of all American air
combat units in France, recalled: “The burning of a pilot in the air as his ship catches
first from hostile flaming bullets is a terrible thing. He is there alone, suspended in
space … When he is wounded and falls, it is for thousands of feet.“ Id.
72 Id. at 230.
73 Id.

or fountain pen—and cot, bedding, helmet, compass or other flying gear distributed
through the camp.74
“and we crashed”
On Lovett’s order of August 22nd the same Ostend raid crew aimed for the
Zeebrugge Mole, a sweeping concrete harbor breakwater just beyond Ostend and a
vital U-boat base. High wind prevented departure on the “bright moonlight night”
until after 10 P.M. The climb was difficult. At 8,000’ near Dunkirk half an hour later,
Taber signaled a bad starboard engine and directed a beach landing. Fahy “pointed
out the place” prearranged for emergency landings. As they drew down on it, Fahy
warned Hale to stay in the gunner’s cage—“fortunately,” Hale said.75
German bombers were over Dunkirk. Fahy’s alert light to the ground crew
“got the red danger light in reply.” All went dark below. Fahy told Taber to circle
again. Gradually they lost altitude. Fahy signaled again, and again “got no reply.” In
total blackness toward an invisible beach “Taber came down to land regardless,
failed to flatten out, and we crashed.”76 For Hale, “the noise of the crumbling
machine is all I remember until I found myself staggering around on the beach and I
caught a glimpse of the ruined machine out of my right eye, the left was completely
closed up and the darkness and silence around the machine gave me fear that Taber
and Fahy were badly injured.”77
Fahy “jumped almost simultaneously with the impact and was catapulted
some distance.” He revived “huddled up on the beach suffering the most terrible
pains in the back. Thought it was broken … Got some relief by stretching out legs and
arms.” Taber was unhurt and called for “stretcher, Dr. Stevenson, ambulance,
hospital.” Beside the “contusion” to back and chest was a bad cut on the inside of
Fahy’s knee.
Nine days later Fahy was “getting along fine” at Queen Alexandra’s Hospital,
at Mal les Bains, near Dunkirk. Stitches were out of the knee and pain mostly gone
from his back and chest, “although I feel it will be some time before it is completely
well.” To the Quaker nurses and Army doctors from England, and “the good sisters,
74 Id. at 235.
75 Hale Diary.
76 It was before the era of permanent landing lights. The best to be hoped with
emergency night landings were ground crews using flares (a bucket with half a
gallon of ignited gasoline), bonfires or truck headlights. Night flyers were also at the
mercy of powers beyond ground crews. Water towers, electricity lines or rocks
could await them in their dark descents. “There were many groping emergency
landings and many crashes.” UA at 107.
77 Hale Diary.

nurses, doctors, orderlies, etc.” who did “so much to lighten and cure” suffering, “I
owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for the most tender and efficient care.”78
Another month passed in recovering at an inland base hospital. The knee was
“getting along finely.” The “principal difficulty was [the] back injury and concussion
through the chest.”79 For one promising stretch he “sat up” eleven days running.
Letters came from Mama and sisters Janie, Hannah and Sarah. Here the account
becomes fragmentary: Holy Communion, the Father, Sisters Yuratt and Wright.
“Huns over one night.” General Lamb and Lovett appear, and the “night sister.”
On September 9th he and Foster traveled to London for further treatment.
Stocker had preceded them there to recuperate from his severe HP ejection injuries.
Foster’s arm was badly damaged from his own ejection in a take-off crash while still
with 214. He had struggled back to his plane to rescue a trapped companion who
otherwise would have been burned. The British decorated him for heroism.
In London their residence was a home converted into a Naval hospital where
Foster, Fahy and Stocker were “extremely well taken care of [in] what proved to be a
very pleasant visit.” Commander Edwards told Fahy he could be transferred to
America to instruct flyers, but Fahy preferred to return to service at St. Inglevert. It
was now October and the end was sensed. The Germans had fallen back in Belgium
and the airdrome was now far from the lines.
Stocker returned to St. Inglevert first. Foster and Fahy later made their way
back by way of Dover, “crowded in between the sea and the rising cliffs” and the
“most strictly sea town I ever saw.” They neared it in darkness on October 24th, with
“dim outlines” of boats appearing in the haze, their “small lights of different colors.”
They lodged among many officers in the “homelike” Burlington Hotel and toured
Dover’s medieval castle overlooking the harbor, enjoying its moat, draw bridge,
turrets and inner court. At a hotel dance Fahy watched “brave” Foster take to the
floor. On October 26th, they reached St. Inglevert. Stocker joined them for a visit to
“the ‘Cross Roads’ in honor of the occasion.” Accommodations had since changed,
but “Stocker had places for us in the attic, and there we three bunk.”80
78 Hale, also treated with Fahy at the hospital, was also pleased with its staff: “as
soon as I saw Sister Evans, well cheer-eo.” Hale Diary.
79 OH at 28.
80 “Stocker stayed in aviation after the war and was killed [crashing in the Delaware
River, November 24, 1919, test flying a Navy plane] the early ending of the life of a
very fine, attractive young American.” OH at 28. He was buried in the old family plot
at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hampton, VA, joined decades later by his father, a Rear
Admiral, and mother. In the early 1960s, Fahy inquired with the Navy for Stocker’s
resting place. He and Foster, then a lawyer in New Orleans, exchanged letters about
commemorating “our dear Bobby” (Foster). On Thanksgiving Day, 1964, forty-five
years after Stocker’s death, Fahy and Foster had flowers placed on the Church altar
(the minister wrote) “for the decoration … for our service that day.”

Poor weather since the August 22nd crash prevented any further night raids,
and “after our crash … Capronis were not used again.”81 The station had no working
bombers. Flyers began re-assignments back to the British and HPs. Excepting one
“short … pay hop” in a de Havilland, Fahy would not fly again. “I never considered
myself a particularly skillful pilot.”82
“bedecked to the brim”
Fahy’s final excursion was by land and “reconnaissance car.” In late October
he was given charge of fourteen men for a “sightseeing trip” to the “no man’s land of
Ypres” and Menin. “The land is simply desolate, towers, forests, everything, leveled
and completely shot up.” Where the week before a great battle in Ypres drove back
the Germans lay “terrible ruins [where] we eat our sandwiches.” Red dust and a sign
marked one vanished village. “Shell holes overlap … the cathedral and clock hall
simply do not exist—only in two places are even part of their walls standing.” Near
tanks, “riddled, lying about” among hundreds of unexploded shells, were forests
“simply blown out of existence, with only a few shattered, scarred trunks.” But
refugees, pushing carts, were “moving into shelled homes,” British engineers
beginning to restore roads. Fahy entered an “old hut, surrounded by trenches.” He
“picked up a hun rifle & bayonet just beside it, and nearby a burned hun helmet.”
Ypres, October 1918
Beyond northern France the scene brightened. “Austria is about to surrender,
Germany crying for peace.” The armistice was declared on November 11th. “Packing
up & goodbyes” began. New of the “sad death” of Ens. Ries had just come. Fahy and
“Red” attended to his belongings. On November 20th, Fahy, Foster and others, “after
of course sitting all night,” arrived in Paris in the early morning. They had baths and
breakfast at a Canadian barracks, then strolled to La Concorde and its “weird sight”
of captured guns, airplanes, tanks and zeppelins “lined everywhere.” They walked
81 Id. at 29.
82 Id. at 18. Fahy’s accounts do not note his being awarded the Navy Cross.

that afternoon to Notre Dame through a city flying flags of allied nations and
“bedecked to the brim.”
On November 29th Fahy sailed from St. Nazaire on the old steamer
Susquehanna and was sixteen days crossing in bad weather. They anchored off
Norfolk. Land lighters bore the men ashore. Fahy stayed a few days in Norfolk. By
Christmas he was in New York, where his mother was with his sister Hannah, a
budding stage dancer. “I stopped in Washington on the way to New York to have a
visit at the Lane household.”83 Christmas night he left for Rome.
Back in Washington in January, 1919, “I began again to get a foothold in
private practice.”84
83 In 1929, he and Agnes Lane would marry.
84 OH at 36.