Coming full circle
By Joel Estes, 307th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 22, 2018
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- On October 18, 1918, Lt. Charles Rudolph d’Olive, shot down his final enemy aircraft as a member of the 93rd Aero Squadron, the predecessor of today’s 93rd Bomb Squadron. The victory, his fifth in only two months, was completed in a French SPAD S.XIII bi-plane. It earned him the title of ace, and with it, a permanent place in the unit’s history.
Nearly a century later, the 93rd BS honored his legacy by giving his daughter, Susan d’Olive Mozena, a flight in a B-52 Stratofortress, September 21, 2018. Although it is her first flight with the 93rd BS, Mozena is no stranger to the Reserve Citizen Airmen of the unit, having offered them access to family historical records during previous visits.
“I would have never dreamed this would happen and it is such an honor,” said Mozena. “Every time I come to the 93rd it’s like coming home.”
Today, Charles d’Olive’s name is legendary within the 93rd Bomb Squadron for his exploits over the skies of France during World War I. But even as late as 1916, the Alabama native could hardly have known he would achieve such status. At the time, the war in Europe had been raging for three years and many Americans viewed it as something to be avoided.
But when the U.S. finally entered the conflict in 1917, d’Olive quickly left behind civilian life and enlisted with the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
“His family was so proud of him,” said Mozena. “He didn’t have a second thought about what he needed to do. He just gave it his all.”
As a member of the first class of pilots trained for WWI, d’Olive gained his commission after soloing at Chanute Field in May 1917. Eight weeks later, he was on his way to France to fight the German army.
Mozena would go there almost 50 years later as a foreign exchange student in 1966. It was during this time she saw first-hand the contribution her father’s generation had made. The efforts of d’Olive and other American troops like him, helped to shorten a war that had decimated much the younger population in France.
“They had lost an entire generation to the war,” said Susan. “It was a devastating time for the French.”
According to unit history, d’Olive joined the 93rd Aero Squadron near Vaucouleurs, France in August 1918. One month later, he achieved the first recorded aerial victory for the young unit, downing a German Fokker D.VII, near Vieville-en-Haye ,September 12, 1918.
The very next day, d’Olive achieved one of his greatest exploits of the war. During a sortie on September 13, he and another pilot from his unit suddenly found themselves sharing airspace with five German fighters. Against tremendous odds, they engaged the enemy aircraft. In the ensuing dogfight, d’Olive out-fought the entire enemy formation and downed three of their planes. For extraordinary heroism in action during this encounter, he was awarded the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross.
d’Olive would record one final victory in October 1918, making him an ace less than a month before a formal peace treaty was signed, effectively ending the war. He left the military shortly after hostilities ceased, slipping quietly back into civilian life.
Though d-Olive’s military career had ended, his feats above Europe had firmly entrenched his legacy with the Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 93rd BS.
“To be able to speak with Susan and her family about the roots of the 93rd Bomb Squadron’s heritage is humbling and exciting at the same time,” said Lt. Col. Chris Chandler, 93rd BS director of operations. “Each time she comes to visit, we realize how privileged we are to have this link to our past.”