Who's Who - Frank Baylies

Frank Baylies Frank Leamon Bayliss (1895-1918) achieved 12 victories as an American air ace serving with the French Air Service during World War I.

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on 23 September 1895 Baylies was inspired to enlist with the U.S. Ambulance Section in New York in 1916 when aged 20 after hearing a returning minister speak of the work of the ambulance service on the Western Front.

Posted to France in March 1916 Baylies spent the remainder of the year in European trenches serving with the U.S. Ambulance Section, seeing action at Verdun, the Somme, the Argonne and - for three months - Serbia.  For his bravery while under fire Baylies was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Leaping at the opportunity presented to him in May 1917 to escape the rat-infested trenches for a career with the French Air Service, Baylies emerging as a trained pilot on 20 September 1917.  He was assigned first to Spa73 in mid-November and then to Spa3 as a Sergeant a month later.

Baylies opened his aerial 'kill' score on 18 February 1918 by bringing down a German two-seater north of Forges.  Between this date and 31 May 1918 he amassed 12 air victories, all while flying SPAD aircraft with Spa3.  During the early part of 1918 Baylies was offered a commission with the U.S. Air Service - now that America had entered the war - but declined, choosing to remain with the French Air Service.  In the event he did transfer in May as a 2nd Lieutenant although he nevertheless remained with Spa3.

At one stage Baylies had written that when flying his aircraft "one sails serenely and majestically... way up in the sunlight and clouds, giving hardly a thought to the terrible fight that is raging below, with a wonderful feeling of safety and security".

The reality was that the fatality rate among airmen was formidably high and on 17 June 1918 Baylies was shot down and killed near Rollet (where he was initially buried) by a Fokker Triplane from German squadron Jasta 19, one of four aircraft from Jasta 19 that Baylies engaged that day.

Following his crash-landing a German airmen flew over Allied lines to drop a note confirming his death and subsequent burial with full military honours.  Aged just 22 at his death Baylies' body was exhumed in 1927 and reburied in Paris.  Aside from his 12 confirmed kills Baylies was believed to have scored a further eight unconfirmed victories.

The "Blue Max" was a reference to the prestigious German Pour le Merite medal.

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