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A Soldier Writes To The Mother Of His Fallen Enemy

Subdeacon Joe

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German Soldier Writes Mother of W.Va. Soldier He Killed During WWI a Letter


had an opportunity to admire the keenness and bravery of your son; for this reason I should like to give you the following short description [of Louis’s final battle]. . . . I had been up several hours observing, and was at a height of 1000 meters. Over the enemy’s front circled continuously two hostile airplanes. . . . I immediately gave the command to my men below to haul in my balloon. . . . When still about 300 meters high, I saw [another] German balloon . . . plunge to earth burning. At the same moment I saw the hostile flyer (Louis) come toward my balloon at terrific speed, and immediately the defensive fire of my heavy machine rifles below and of the anti-aircraft guns began; but the hostile aviator did not concern himself about that. . . . [He] opened fire on me. . . . I saw the gleaming fire of the missiles flying toward me, but fortunately was not hit. The hostile machine was shot into flames by the fire of my machine guns. The enemy aviator tried to spring from the aeroplane before the latter plunged to the ground and burned completely.”


“I hope that the foregoing lines, a memorial to your son, will be received by you living—he was my bravest enemy. Honor to his memory. With respect, Emil Merkelbach”

Merkelbach ordered the ambulance corps to attend to the “brave and severely wounded enemy.” Louis was unconscious and severely burned. Both of his legs were broken, and he had a bullet wound in his head. He died just hours later in a German field hospital on August 24, 1918. The Germans buried him with military honors in an unmarked grave.


Man stands with bowed head and hat in hand in front of a cross

Louis Bennett Jr.’s unmarked grave in Wavrin, France, around 1919. The identity of the man standing next to the grave is unknown.



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