Letters Home from a WWI Seaplane Test Mechanic


Eric Ehrke

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Arthur Ehrke’s Life and Death on the Wings of Aeroplanes

This is the true story about Arthur Ehrke, a US Navy chief mechanic who test flew America’s first seaplanes at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia’s Naval Yards during and after WWI. An avid writer, his letters home provide a rare glimpse of daily life during a gentler time when the written word was the only way to communicate. Arthur enlisted when he turned eighteen, trained at the Great Lakes Naval Station, and quickly rose through the ranks to become the lead mechanic at the Navy’s first seaplane factory. As fate would have it in the summer of 1918, the Spanish Influenza was about to devastate the world and hasten the end of the war. Arthur frequently mentioned the Spanish Influenza and walked on wings to repair his machines—his terms before his untimely death during a test flight a year later. This story is also about a Gold Star family, who loved Arthur and had to carry on.