LTC Robert Scott Lytle Sr.
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
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Awarded for actions during the World War I
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Captain Robert S. Lytle, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of Squadron C, FIRST Marine Aviation Force, at the Front in bombing raids into enemy territory. On 2 October 1918, when word was received that a body of French troops had been cut off from supplies for two days by the enemy, and it was decided to feed them by aeroplane, Captain Lytle flew over the besieged troops at an altitude of only one hundred feet and dropped food where these troops could get it. This performance as repeated four times, each time under heavy fire from rifles, machine guns and artillery on the ground. On 14 October 1918, while leading a raid of seven planes near Pittham, Belgium, his plane and one other became separated from their formation on account of motor trouble, and were attacked by twelve enemy scout planes. Captain Lytle shot down one of the enemy planes, and before his motor quit entirely, landed under fire in the Belgian front line trenches.
General Orders: Authority: Navy Book of Distinguished Service (Stringer)
Action Date: October 2 & 14, 1918
Service: Marine Corps
Company: Squadron C
Division: 1st Marine Aviation Force
Some of the earliest recorded food-dropping missions were flown 1-2 October by Capt Francis P. Mulcahy, Capt Robert S. Lytle, and Lt Frank Nelms. A French regiment in an isolated salient had been without food for several days when the three DH-4s were loaded with canned goods and bread and flown over four times at an altitude of 100 feet in the face of German heavy machine gun, rifle, and artillery fire. The three pilots were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal;7 the Navy Cross went to their observers, GySgts Archie Paschal, Amil Wiman, and Thomas L. McCullough.
Just how many planes the Marines shot down in World War I will never be known. Several earlier accounts mention 12, but that is obviously high. Official records as listed in the Day Wing log show only four: one by Mulcahy and his observer, McCullough, on 29 September; the other three by Lt Ralph Talbot and Cpt Robert Guy Robinson (see below). This is low. Capt Lytle and GySgt Wiman received the DSM for knocking down a plane on 14 October-the records disagree on whether this one was in addition to Talbot's two on that date, or whether one of Talbot's should have been credited to them. A certificate signed by Maj B. S. Wemp RAF, commanding Squadron 218, credits Lt Everett Brewer aiul Sgt Harry Wershiner with one Fokker and probably another on 28 September. Maj Wemp credited the Americans with only these two planes while serving with his squadron during this period, but he added:
''Lieuts. Mulcahy, Brewer, Lytle, Talbot and Nelms and the late Lieut. Barr, with N.C.O. observers, have done wonderful work in this push during the past week, and when the time comes for those now here to leave the Squadron, I can assure you I will hate to part with their services."8 But shooting down enemy planes was not the mission of the DH bombers the Marines flew, either on their own or with Squadrons 217 and 218-and they flew no other planes excepting a few missions with RAF Squadron 213 in "hot," single-seater Sopwith Camel "scouts." The Marines were supposed to do the day bombing for the Northern Bombing Group and, when they eventually got their planes, that is what they did, although their original targets, the submarine pens, had by then lost their value.
Talbot and Robinson were awarded the Medal of Honor. On 8 October while flying with Squadron 218 their plane was attacked by nine enemy, and they shot down one of them. Six days later on the Thielt raid they were attacked by 12 German planes. They shot down one of those as Robinson was drilled through the elbow. They returned to the fight until Robinson was shot twice more in the stomach and once in the hip. Nevertheless, Talbot continued the attack, knocking down the nearest enemy scout with his forward guns, then flew across the enemy lines at 50 feet.
Robinson survived his "probably fatal" wounds; Talbot was killed 25 October in a crash. His observer on this occasion, Lt Colgate W. Darden, Jr., was thrown clear and survived, to become Governor of Virginia (1942-46) and president of the University of Virginia (in June 1947).
The first Marine aviator to lose his life as a result of enemy action was Lt Chapin C. Barr, who died 29 September of a severe leg wound that severed an artery. On 22 October Lt Harvey C. Norman and Lt Caleb W. Taylor, flying a DH-9, were shot down and killed on the Bruges-Ghent Canal. Three officers and 13 enlisted men died of influenza, including the highly esteemed CO of Squadron 9, Maj Roben. Three flyers were wounded: Lt Everett Brewer and GySgts Harry Wershiner and Robinson.
Although the Marines were just beginning to get into the fight when the Armistice was declared, their record was one to be proud of. The tradition of combat readiness was an old one; when they called on the Marines they packed up and went. Whatever the shortcomings, these were shared by all American aviation, and were not the making of the men who flew the planes at the front.
Peter Hord of Stafford County, Va. died in Rockingham County, Virginia. It is claimed that he lost a leg and an eye in the Revelutionary War.
RECORDED in APPLICATION FOR MEMBERSHIP Sons of American Revolution for Homer Dwight Hord, 6 July 1909.