Louis Bennett, Jr.

Wheeling Intelligencer
August 29, 1918

Louis Bennett, Wheeling Air Fighter, Missing In Action

News Of The Tragic Mishap On The French Fighting Front Comes In A Cablegram To Johnson C. M'Kinley, Brother-In-Law Of The Aviator - Hope Expressed That Young Bennett Was Not Dashed To Death, And Is Prisoner In The Hands Of The Germans

Louis Bennett II., West Virginia's foremost war flyer, has fallen in action on the British-German fighting front in Picardy. He has been officially reported as "missing in action" since August 24, by the British air ministry, and the news reached relatives in Wheeling yesterday morning in the following cablegram from the British authorities:

"Lieutenant Louis Bennett, of the Fortieth Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, has been missing since going into action August 24th."

Whether young Bennett was killed while bravely fighting over the German lines, or disabled and compelled to land, resulted in his being taken prisoner, is not yet known.

The cablegram telling of the distressing occurrence came to Mr. Johnson C. McKinley, a brother-in- law of Lieutenant Bennett, whose wife was formerly Miss Bennett, and with whom the aviator made his home while residing here. Mr. McKinley left at once for Washington to make every possible effort to ascertain the fate of the missing aviator.

Lieutenant Bennett enlisted in the British aerial service only after his inability to have his services accepted by his own country.

The message yesterday came as a bolt from the clear sky, and the entire community was shocked to learn that the young West Virginian is reported missing and probably killed.

Lieutenant Louis Bennett, it will be remembered, came to this city several years ago from Weston and was the founder of the West Virginia aviation school, which was so successfully carried out last summer on the big aviation field at Beech Bottom. He was 24 years old and the son of the late Louis Bennett, Sr., of Weston. He was widely known all over the state and had a host of friends.

In the month of May, 1917, Mr. Bennett, with the aid of Mr. McKinley and a number of other West Virginians, established the Beech Bottom training school, the result of which was that twenty-two men were made aviators for the United States government.

Following the training given the boys at Beech Bottom, Mr. Bennett went to Princeton university, where he was given further training as an aviator in the Princeton flying school. He graduated with high honors and was a registered aviator, ready to do his bit for his country.

Following a number of attempts to enter the military service of this country and failing, owing to several minor reasons, he applied to the British flying corps in Canada, and was admitted as an aviator and after a brief training in Canada was sent overseas.

In a number of letter written home Lieutenant Bennett told of flying over the battle lines and how he had many narrow escapes from accident. In his letters written home he told of first going into action over the battle lines on July 23, and each day after that making trips over "No Man's Land" and into the land of the enemy. He also told in his letters of having many fights with the Germans, and how he had narrowly escaped death several times.

Louis Bennett became known all over the country as a result of the successful aviation school at Beech Bottom and made many personal friends of noted aviators, many of whom have made the supreme sacrifice in the great fight for freedom. He was a personal friend of Lieut. William Thaw, of Pittsburgh, who was killed recently and several others who have given their lives.

His name was mentioned by everyone in the state as the pioneer West Virginian to enter into the training of men for aviation for this country, and everyone knew him.

Lieut. Bennett was among the many aviators flying over the great armies in the big battles. It is thought that while engaged with a German plane, he was probably wounded and compelled to land, which means that he is either a prisoners [sic] or has given his life.

Louis Bennett, Sr., was also one of the most widely known citizens of the state. In 1908 he was the democratic candidate for the governorship, but was defeated. He was always active politically, and was prominently identified in the work of the Democratic party. He died a few weeks ago.

Mrs. J. C. McKinley is a sister of Lieut. Bennett. Mr. McKinley has gone to Washington to make an investigation through the United States war department and through the British ambassador to learn the whereabouts of the missing soldier if he is alive. A cablegram was immediately forwarded to the British authorities in an effort to learn more details.

Military and Wartime