SUBJECTS >> OPERATIONS >> World War I
AIRCRAFT >> OTHER AIRCRAFT >> Brequet
High above the city of Saarbrucken on 5 February 1918, Lt. Vetter of Jasta 3 pulled his Albatross Fighter out of its dive and started climbing upward expecting to find the unprotected belly of a French Brequet bomber above him. He was shocked to find only an empty sky ahead. His intended victim had slid off to the side, and as Lt. Vetter's plane rose slowly alongside it offered the Brequet's gunner almost a perfect target. The gunner did not miss. Raking the Albatross with fire from both guns, he wounded Lt. Vetter. The Albatross stalled and fell off toward the ground below. The Brequet formation continued back toward its base as the Albatross crash landed below, destroying itself. It was the first victory of the U.S. Air Force, for the gunner that day was Lt. Stephen W. Thompson of the U.S. 1st Aero Squadron on loan to the nearby French 123rd Brequet Bombing Escadrille as part of his training. His pilot, Sgt. Duval and the other French flyers gave Lt. Thompson full credit for shooting down the Albatross and notified his commanding officer, Major Royce who in turn notified General Pershing. Yet it took the Air Force almost forty-nine years to get around to officially recognizing and awarding Lt. Thompson credit for his first historical aerial victory of the U.S. Air Force. It was not until 27 May 1967 that he received the official recognition in a ceremony at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio.