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Army aviator honored with Distinguished Flying Cross — 99 years after his heroic actions

June 16, 2017 (Photo Credit: Spc. Trevor Wiegel/Army)
The Army this week posthumously awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross to the first U.S. aviation casualty in World War I, according to an Army news release.

Capt. James Miller, one of the first aviators in the U.S. military, took command of the 95th Pursuit Squadron in February 1918 in France. The pilots in this squadron were the first American-trained pilots to fight in World War I.

Miller and a fellow pilot flew into enemy territory a month later and fought off two German aircraft, according to the release. The other pilot experienced trouble with his machine gun and had to leave Miller to fight on his own.

DFC James Miller aviator
Army Capt. James E. Miller served as a pilot during World War I and was the first combat aviation casualty of the war.
Photo Credit: Courtesy photo

The Distinguished Flying Cross citation said Miller “fearlessly” exposed himself to the enemy “until his own aircraft was severely damaged and downed behind the German lines.”

The captain succumbed to his injuries.

Miller was honored at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia on Wednesday as part of the Army’s 242nd birthday celebration.

Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer presented the award to Miller’s great-grandson, Byron Derringer.

“We're very proud today to have some of the descendants from James Miller's family here and able to represent him and a lineage of what he achieved on those battlefields as the first individual who gave his life in that war in aviation," Speer said at the event. 

Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.  
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