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Book Review - Hoosier Aviator Paul Baer: America's First Combat Ace

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I've had this small History Press book for several months now, and have read it twice. I thought others might be interested in a bit of a book review.

Book details: Hoosier Aviator Paul Baer: America's First Combat Ace, written by Tony Garel-Frantzen. Published 2017, History Press. 128 pgs. Photos.

This is a decently written book about the first American ace of the Great War, Indiana native Paul Baer, the first United States ace, flying America's true first fighter, the SPAD VII. At 128 pages (100 pages of story) there is not a lot of meat on the bone in this book, and is particularly thin on Baer's military service. Of course, Baer's wartime activities only make up a small portion of his life, and hence perhaps it is fitting that the details surrounding his service make up less than half of the book. However, with a title that includes America's First Combat Ace, one might think Baer's experiences flying over the Western Front would be covered in greater detail. Alas, it is not. Most of the coverage of Baer's wartime exploits are from Baer's own letters home, to the point of overkill (one letter runs on for over a dozen pages). The author might have consulted the daily logs and other sources to flesh out Baer's story (he relied on an item called Paul Baer's Scrapbook and newspaper articles, but no military sources). Thus I feel that the book fails in bringing Baer more to the forefront of American aviation. Details of the combats and the opposition aircraft that Baer shot down are sketchy or missing. Adding in primary military resources could have filled in these missing details. For example, the daily log of the 103rd Aero has this nugget:

March 11
Lt Baer had engagement with group of seven one-place enemy machines this date. Destruction of one of the planes in this group which was seen to fall from a height of 3500 metres completely out of control was performed by Lt. Baer. Official confirmation of the above was received by telephone from Hdqtrs. of Group 21. The encounter lasted about 10 minutes between 18.05 and 18.15 o'clock in district of Vinty [Virty] and Cerney


or this one:
May 22
1st Lt. Paul F. Baer and 1st Lt. Ernest a Giroux disappeared at about 9.45 a.m. this date. They left with patrol consisting of Lt. Baer (Flight Com), Lt. Turnure, Lt. Giroux, Lt. Wilcox and Lt. Dugan at 8.45 a.m. They were last seen in combat with 8 enemy planes in the region of Laventie. The combat took place at 9.45 a.m. The other members of the patrol returned about 10.45 a.m. Lt. Baer was flying Spad aeroplane #3173, Engine #6946, Monoplace type 7. Lt. Giroux was flying Spad aeroplane #2282, Engine #117019 Monoplace type 13.


However, Baer's tale after the Great War has a little more going for it although only 40 pages are dedicated to this portion of Baer's life. Baer's postwar business activities are detailed and less reliance on pages of Baer's letters, leading to more author interpretation, completes Baer's story. A couple of maps showing Baer's wartime and post war movements might have been helpful.

I won't go into details about Baer's overall life...the book can do that for you. If you have more than a passing interest in America's first ace, then this book might be worth your interest.

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Updated 06-13-2023 at 08:25 by predhead

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