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Combat Art Articles

The Last Ace

  • Published

The Last Ace painting


Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Darby Perrin
Medium: Oil and masonite
Date: 2016

In April 1917, Suggsville, Alabama, native Charles D’Olive joined the United States Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps. On 23 August 1918, after initial flight training in the U.S. and France, D’Olive joined the 93rd Aero Squadron. Less than one month later, on 13 September 1918, First Lieutenant D’Olive climbed into the cockpit of his French-built SPAD XIII pursuit aircraft to search for German aircraft.  While flying with his wingman, D’Olive engaged five German aircraft near the town of St. Benoit, France. Although outnumbered, D’Olive used his flying and gunnery skills to shoot down three German Fokker D. VII pursuit aircraft. As a result of his impressive feat, the U.S. Army awarded D’Olive the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation stated: “For extraordinary heroism in action near St. Benoit, France, September 13, 1918.

D’Olive, in conjunction with another American pilot, engaged and fought five enemy planes. Outnumbered and fighting against tremendous odds, Lt. D’Olive shot down three enemy planes and outfought the entire enemy formation.” By the end of World War I, D’Olive had scored five aerial victories. However, due to a clerical error, D’Olive did not receive official credit for his achievements until 1963, 45 years after they end of the conflict. Mr. D’Olive, then in his 60s, received official recognition as the last World War I aviator to attain the coveted status of “ace.” The 93rd Bomb Squadron can trace its lineage to the 93rd Aero Squadron, which was organized 21 August 1917, at Kelly Field, Texas. It is currently assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The 93rd Bomb Squadron flies the B-52 Stratofortress.