|Co-Pilot Lt. James Bahl and Lt. Coleman DeWitt|
During the Battle of Vittorio Veneto on 27 October 1918, Lt. Coleman DeWitt, 25, and his crew were attacked by five Austro-Hungarian Aviatik D.I pursuit planes while returning from a bombing mission. Instead of avoiding the battle by landing their lumbering aircraft, Coleman, first pilot on a Caproni Ca.3, chose to fight. According to observers of the episode: "Two of the enemy planes were shot down, thanks to the accurate aim of the encircled aircraft which continued to fight, even when it broke out in flames until, trapped and overcome by the powerful group of enemy planes, it fell and the entire crew perished in the accomplishment of their daring action,'' the invitation reads.
|Caproni Ca.3 Like That Flown by Lt. DeWitt|
The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was the final action fought on the Italian front. The Italian victory led to the Austro-Hungarian surrender. DeWitt's body was sent to New Jersey three years later. A funeral was held on 3 July 1921, attended by Fiorello La Guardia, who had been Coleman's commander and later became New York's mayor. Coleman was posthumously awarded the Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare (gold medal for bravery), Italy's highest award, assigned to just 23 airmen in the war. He is honored with his own room in the Vittorio Veneto war museum.
Sources: Freerepublic.com and Historynet.com