Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Remember a Veteran: Lt. David Ker, 1st Aero Squadron, AEF

On the eve of his first battle, Lt. David Ker, 1st Aero Squadron, AEF, a Columbia University student who dropped out of college to fight in World War I, sent a letter to his mother the day before the attack on Saint Mihiel in France. While some troops consider it bad luck to write an " in case I die... " letter, he wanted his mother, his sister (Elizabeth ) and his fiancee ( Mary ) to keep their spirits up, no matter the outcome.

Lt David Ker, 1893–1918

11 September 1918

Dear Mother

Tomorrow the first totally American drive commences, and it gives me inexpressible joy and pride to know that I shall be present to do my share. he plan of attack has been carefully worked out, and every precaution taken to ensure the success of the big undertaking.  I have just returned from a visit to some of the troops, who are to make the attack, and I am so proud to be a member of an army such as ours, that I am at a loo to express what I feel.

The rugged and heavily wooded character of the country makes the task which we face extremely difficult, and the losses are almost certain to be considerable.  Success, however, will mean so much that almost any price would be cheap to pay for it.  Should I go under, therefore, I want you to know that I went without any terror of death, and that my chief worry is the grief my death will bring to those so dear to me.

Since having found myself and Mary, there has been much to make life sweet and glorious, but death, while distasteful, is in no way terrible.

I feel wonderfully strong to do my share well, and, for my sake, you must try to drown your sorrow in the pride and satisfaction, the knowledge that I died well in so clean a cause, as is ours, should bring you. Remember how proud I have always been of your superb pluck, keep Elizabeth's future in mind, and don't permit my death to bow your head.

My personal belongings will all be sent to you. Your good taste will tell you which to send to Mary.

May God bless and keep you, dear heart, and be kind to little Elizabeth, and those others I love so well.


The end.

Chapel and Memorial to the Fallen of St. Mihiel

The next day, Lt Ker was among the 7,000 Americans who died in the assault on the St. Mihiel Salient.
Sources AARP Magazine and War Letters compiled by Andrew Carroll


  1. He was 1st Aero Squadron but it seems he died in the assault in the salient. Was he flying, or was he on the ground, as a liaison officer possibly, or a wireless link to the artillery spotters?

    1. Sloan's Wings of Honor has him as KIA and 1st Aero was an observation squadron, so we'll presume he was in the air?

    2. He was the observer in a plane flown by Lt. Harry S Aldrich which was shot down by 5 German planes as it crossed allied lines and crashed in flames after the gas tank exploded. Lt Aldrich miraculously survived.