World War I Pilot Jerry Myron Bacon
Airplanes, invented by the Wright Brothers in 1903, were considered novelties as World War I began in 1914, but they rapidly became deadly combat weapons.
Airplanes were initially used for reconnaissance, and pilots from both sides respected each other as fellow “knights of the air,” flying chivalrously above the killing fields. But as their countrymen were dying in trenches, hatreds arose. Airmen started throwing things at enemy aircraft, like the German who threw a brick through his adversary’s cloth wings. Soon the fliers were arming themselves with pistols and rifles. Eventually, machine guns were synchronized to shoot through the propellers – giving rise to the aerial-dogfight.
There was a young man from Grand Forks named Jerry Myron Bacon who went to Canada to help in the fight against Germany before the U.S. entered the war. A student at UND in 1914, J.M. Bacon had a “desire to fly, an itch to get into combat with Germans, and a zest for living.” Taking note of the “war fever in Canada,” Bacon overcame obstacles to join the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto, taking flight training in 1917.
Becoming an instructor of “Aviation and . . .Gunnery,” Bacon was sent home on furlough to visit his parents on this date in 1918, just before going overseas. Stationed in Belgium with the 84th Fighter Squadron, Bacon soon engaged in aerial-combat. He learned quickly to keep the sun behind him dogfights; to “fire only at close range;” to attack from behind; and to establish a line of retreat when needed.
On one occasion, with his plane shot full of holes, he crash-landed near Scottish infantry who rescued him from the wreckage with only bruises.
On November 10th, Bacon was on patrol when his group of five fighter planes met four German aircraft. In a “pretty hot” dogfight at 7,000 feet, one enemy went into a “spin and a dive” and Bacon went after him, putting “about 200 rounds into him.” It became Bacon’s fourth victory.
At the end of the war, Lieutenant Bacon came home safely, just shy of being an ace, which required 5 victories. However, some contended he was an ace, having also destroyed two observation balloons.
He opened a flying school and later trained U.S. aviators in World War II. Jerry Myron Bacon died in 1952 at age 58, remembered as N.D.’s most-accomplished WW I aviator.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.
Sources: “Visited Here,” Grand Forks Herald, July 6, 1918, p. 8.
“Local Man A Favorite With Flight Students,” Grand Forks Herald, October 29, 1943, p. 10.
“Myron Bacon Safe, Is Word,” Grand Forks Herald, December 8, 1918, p. 8.
“Bacon Services to be Held Today in Forks,” Bismarck Tribune, July 1, 1952, p. 3.
“Lieutenant Bacon Gets Promotion,” Grand Forks Herald, June 13, 1918, p. 5.
“Jerry Myron Bacon,” in Quarterly Journal of the University of North Dakota, Vol. 10, No. 1 (October, 1919), p. 228.
“Enjoys Royal Flying Corps Aviation Duty,” Grand Forks Herald, December 29, 1917, p. 4.
Oswald Boelcke, “Eight Rules Of Air Combat;” and “Knights of the Air,” displays at National World War I Museum, Kansas City, MO, notes in possession of the author.