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Wednesday, August 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: War aviator returns home with harrowing stories from Germany

Spokane war aviator Lt. Ralph Stone arrived home with harrowing stories to tell of his 18 months over Germany, reported The Spokesman-Review on March 9, 1919. (The Spokesman-Review Archives)
Spokane war aviator Lt. Ralph Stone arrived home with harrowing stories to tell of his 18 months over Germany, reported The Spokesman-Review on March 9, 1919. (The Spokesman-Review Archives)

Spokane war aviator Lt. Ralph Stone arrived home with harrowing stories to tell of his 18 months over Germany.

German fighters would “stick around cloud banks and then drop down on us unexpectedly in the hope of making a killing before we could maneuver,” Lt. Stone said. “Thus, one day, while I was piloting … we ran into a hail of bullets about 3,000 feet up. Seven (German) machines had suddenly scuttled from behind a cloud and came tearing down on us. Their bullets were making the chips fly off my machine and ripping through the wings in the instant it took me to flop over and start straight for Earth. On they came, and the observers in our machines got into the game in a second. They were firing up as the (German fighters) came down. The great speed of our motors permitted us to get away after we had fallen enough to dress ship and do some dodging.”

He also discussed the strain that came from being under constant anti-aircraft fire.

“Anti-aircraft shells, when they explode nearby, rock an airship just as waves do a boat,” he said. “A man thinks he is gone and the wings and body wrench under the strain. The smaller bullets pass through and on and, except for the feeling you are under fire, they amount to little. Of course, the nervous strain is terrible. … I have seen many a flier alight and throw off his gloves and coat, declaring he would never fly again. The next morning he would sail away as usual.”

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