Known as the 'The Man Who Would Not Die'-------'Lucky' Herschel McKee
was known as the 'The Man Who Would Not Die', I give you 'Lucky' Herschel McKee
We know from these pages what happens if you tempt fate.....fate usually notices and arranges a suitably unpleasant demise.
But there can be few people who have blown raspberries at the Grim Reaper with quite such frequency without instantly terminal consequences. 'Lucky' Herschel McKee
was a barnstormer, war hero, test pilot, motor racer and a scoundrel!
Born on the 19th November 1897, in Indianapolis, USA, McKee was a student at Emmerich Manual Training High School when war broke out in Europe in 1914.
left school in 1917 and took a job in the passbook department of the old National City Bank
But the routine of the bank bored Herschel and in March of that year he left Indianapolis to go and work for the Colt Arms Company in Providence, R.I..
In need of further excitement by October he
had left Colt and joined the French Foreign Legion
in New York and was on his
way to France to fight in the Great War.
trained with the Foreign Legion in the Algerian Desert before seeing service at the front in the Third Battle of Champagne (17-20 April 1917) as a machine gunner.
contracted catching a virulent form of pneumonia and was given the last rites however he
survived, something he
was going to make a habit of.
He not only survived but made application to join the Lafayette Flying Corps.
was accepted and assigned to Escadrille No. 314, a group made up of a few Americans, many French, and about 60 Russians.
quickly learned to fly the three aircraft utilised by the French at the time: the Bleriot, primarily a trainer; the Nieuport, used for training and combat; and the Spad, the hottest Allied pursuit ship of the era.
"It flew just like a streamlined brick," McKee
said of the Spad, but within a few months, McKee
had claimed 12 kills in action with the Germans.
was wounded in the right arm by machine gun fire, but managed to return to his
base for treatment but on Feb. 6th, 1918, his
plane was brought down by a burst of shrapnel as he
flew over the German lines.
The plane crashed in flames so heavily that the US War Department
parents that he
had been killed in action.
However, as you probably already guessed, this was not the case and he was captured by the Germans, who placed him in a barn that served as a makeshift hospital until his wounds healed.
They then transferred him to the prison camp at Bastatt Baden where, before long, he
escaped during a change of the guard, and fled to Switzerland, rejoining his
unit shortly after the armistice.