Joseph Frank Wehner

Joseph Frank Wehner (20 September 1895 18 September 1918), also known as Fritz Wehner, was an American fighter pilot and wingman to Frank Luke.

Joseph Frank Wehner
Lieutenant Joseph Frank Wehner. 27th Aero Squadron
Born20 September 1895
Roxbury, Massachusetts, USA
Died18 September 1918
Vicinity of Serronville
Allegiance United States
Service/branchAir Service, United States Army
Unit27th Aero Squadron
Battles/wars World War I
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster

Early life

Wehner was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on 20 September 1895. Wehner's athletic achievements as captain of the Everett High School football team earned him a scholarship to the Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1914. He was working for the YMCA in Berlin, Germany when war was declared. He enlisted in the Signal Corps during June 1917.

Aerial service

While receiving flight training, Wehner's German ancestry led to an investigation followed by an unsubstantiated arrest for suspicion of treason by the Secret Service. He was cleared and departed for England in February 1918. He was assigned to the 27th Aero Squadron under Major Harold Hartney in July 1918.

Flying as wing man to the mercurial balloon-buster Frank Luke, Wehner shot down one Fokker D.VII and five balloons in just three days of aerial combat during September 1918.[1]

Protecting Luke as he attacked a third balloon, Wehner's SPAD XIII was shot down by Luftstreitkräfte ace Georg von Hantelmann of Jasta 15 on 18 September 1918. Wehner, who fell behind enemy lines, was taken to a German hospital where he died a short time later from his injuries. His body was recovered and buried in an American cemetery in Europe after the war, but it was reinterred in his hometown of Everett, Massachusetts in 1921.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, America's second highest award for combat valor, twice.[2]

Honors and awards

Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Joseph Frank Wehner, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Rouvres, France, September 15, 1918. While on a mission First Lieutenant Wehner found an enemy patrol of eight machines attacking a single American observation machine. He immediately attacked, destroying one and forcing another down out of control, his own plane being badly damaged by enemy machine-gun fire. He managed to convey the American plane to safety.[3]

Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) with Oak Leaf Cluster The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Joseph Frank Wehner, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Mangiennes and Reville, France, September 16, 1918. Amid terrific antiaircraft and ground machine-gun fire First Lieutenant Wehner descended, attacked, and destroyed two enemy balloons. One of these balloons was destroyed in flames after it had been hauled to the ground and was resting in its bed.[3]

See also


  1. American Aces of World War I. p. 72.
  2. "Joseph Wehner". Archived from the original on 30 January 2020.
  3. General Orders No. 138, W.D., 1918, Retrieved on 25 June 2010.


  • American Aces of World War I. Norman Franks, Harry Dempsey. Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84176-375-6, ISBN 978-1-84176-375-0.
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