FRANK LEAMAN BAYLIES – For the first eleven days of November Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at neglected figures of World War One, ending on Veterans Day. Frank Leaman Baylies tried to serve as a pilot in the U.S. Army but was rejected for supposedly poor vision, so in May 1917 he enlisted in the French flying corps instead.
Baylies flew with Escadrille 73 as the 13th man in the unit, flying a plane numbered 13. Frank philosophically shrugged off superstition, feeling lucky to be flying at all after being rejected by his home country’s air corps. In December of 1917 he was transferred to Escadrille 3, and really found his niche flying a Spad.
On February 19th, 1918 Baylies got his first verified kill, ultimately notching a total of 12 plus one more possible by May 31st. March 28th saw Frank shot down over No Man’s Land. After landing his crippled aircraft Baylies grabbed the altimeter and time-piece from the plane before scrambling toward the French trenches. The pilot was pursued by German soldiers but made it safely to the French lines.
Baylies was in the unusual position of holding a Commission as an American Officer but flying with a French Unit. On June 17th, 1918, Frank Leaman Baylies and his wingmen became entangled with a squadron of German Fokker Tri-Planes. Baylies was shot down and killed. One wingman was also shot down but survived while the other managed to retreat to safety.
Frank Baylies was awarded the Legion of Honour, the Medaille Militaire and the Croix de Guerre with seven palms.
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