50th ATKS honors heritage
By Senior Airman Ashley Maldonado, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 29, 2018
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Six 50th Attack Squadron Airmen traveled to Wichita, Kansas, Oct. 6, 2018, to attend the 100 year anniversary of the 2nd Lt. Erwin Bleckley's Medal of Honor flight.
Bleckley was a forward observer assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron during WWI. Sacrificing his own life to save the approximately 500 men of the Lost Battalion in Meuse-Argonne, France, Bleckley Day is now observed annually on the day of his last flight, Oct. 6, 1918.
“It was to celebrate the life and sacrifice of Erwin Bleckley, who was a hometown hero for Wichita,” said Airman 1st Class Christopher. “Erwin Bleckley was one of the first Medal of Honor recipients from Wichita. He was a member of the Kansas National Guard, and he originally commissioned to be an artillery officer. Then he ended up flying.”
Due to Bleckley being a Wichita native, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the WWI Commission recognized Bleckley’s historic flight.
“Their mission that day was to find the Lost Battalion, which was over 500 American troops that were stuck in the Argonne forest,” said Christopher. “They were trying to locate them and drop supplies to them on the ground. The first time they flew out there, their plane got shot up, and it wasn't serviceable after that. They actually went out and used another crew member’s aircraft to fly out again. They flew lower and slower to try to find them and drop supplies.”
Christopher believes there were 194 men who returned home alive because of Bleckley’s actions that day.
“Erwin Bleckley was a forward observer, so basically the eyes in the sky from aircraft, and that’s similar to what we do now with unmanned drones and unmanned aircraft” said Christopher. “So we’re usually out there kind of doing the same thing, looking out for the guys in the ground. That’s what we’re there for.”
Christopher went on to say how cool it was to see so many people come out to remember a man over hundred years after he passed away. Some of the Bleckley family was in attendance, and everyone who came was there to commemorate a man who did everything he could for his brothers in arms.
“We’ll make the delivery, or we’ll die in the attempt,” said Bleckley.