Sept. 18, 1918: U.S. Army Flight Cmdr. Sumner Sewall of Bath, serving with the 95th Aero Squadron, shoots down the last of five enemy fighter planes over which he achieved victory in less than four months in World War I, earning the status of fighter ace.

Writing home to his mother in July from France, Sewall (1897-1965) described his recent air combat experience.

“We were patrolling about over the lines in a big formation of ten planes when we sighted a formation of six Boche (German) machines about five kilometers inside their lines,” he writes. “Well we dived on them and attacked. I wish you could have seen the mess that followed. Sixteen planes just rushing around upside down and on their ear some climbing and others diving. Black crosses” – a reference to the emblem on the Germans’ planes – “would go swirling around. Really it was the darndest stew I have ever seen.”

Sewall sometimes was on the receiving end of bullets. In late September, after the St.-Mihiel offensive, fellow pilot Lance Holden writes a letter home, citing the high percentage of casualties among pilots. He mentions that Sewall was shot down with his gas tank on fire.

Sewall spends several years in the Maine Legislature in the 1930s, then later is elected Maine’s governor, serving from 1941 to 1945. His tenure in office coincided with U.S. participation in World War II.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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