Originally Published: June 17, 2018 6:05 a.m.
To coincide with the opening of the Sharlot Hall Museum’s World War I exhibit on March 24, it is fitting that we revisit the heroic saga of a remarkable young man, one of Prescott’s well-loved sons, whose shining light was extinguished on Sept. 15, 1918, in the skies over France.
While on duty as a pilot with the 147th Aero Squadron of the American Expeditionary Force, Lt. Ernest Love, flying his Spad XIII, was shot down over Tronville, France. A French priest rescued the mortally wounded pilot, who died the following day and was buried in the Tronville Church Cemetery. Red Cross records state that he suffered a shattered left knee, injury to his left hand and forearm and hemorrhages, but when his body was disinterred for its voyage to Arlington National Cemetery, it was noted that both of his legs had been shattered. Love was reinterred at Arlington on June 30, 1921, with the following gravestone inscription, “If I am to give my life for this cause, I am satisfied. There is no way I would rather go than serving my Country.”
Ernest Alexander Love was an exceptional young man whose star began to shine at an early age. He was musically inclined and developed a love for acting beginning in the first grade when he was cast as George Washington in a school play. He was a good and popular student, a member of the Prescott High School football team, named to the All State Inter-School Football team. He was president of the senior class, and an active member of the Boy Scouts of America.
He was accepted to Stanford University to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering but left in his junior year to enroll in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the Presidio in San Francisco, choosing to go into the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps with 14 other young men. Of the 15, only Love qualified for pilot training. He received primary flight training in San Diego, advanced flight training in Issoudun, France, and aerial gunnery training in Italy.
There is an accurate record of his actions during this time as he wrote to his parents and others, detailing his experiences during training, his travels, and his flights over France, illustrated with drawings and photos of the planes he flew. The letters are dated from Feb. 26, 1917, to Sept. 12, 1918, three days before his death. The letters to his parents begin “My Dear Mother and Father,” and end with “Lots of Love.” His parents were not notified of his death until February 1919; this was the loss of their third child, as they had lost two sons in infancy. Their family home still exists and is located at 515 E. Sheldon Street.
Ernest flew 22 combat missions in seven weeks and although a victory claim was never filed, a former Commander wrote of the downing of a German Rumpler by Lieutenants Love and Meissner and it is noted in History of Operations, 147 Aero Squadron for Sept. 14, 1918, “On the patrol of 6h... Lieutenants Meissner and Love encountered two enemy aircraft coming west in the Region of Jonville at 2000 Metres. At 7h over Harville they attacked one of the enemy aircraft and fired several bursts but could not observe effect. They then attacked the second and after several bursts observed tracers (bullets) entering fuselage. Observed another enemy aircraft, type Rumpler, coming west over Hennemont. Fired several bursts into E. A. and observed tracers entering cockpit. Enemy last seen in steep dive. On returning to our lines Lieutenant Love encountered five Halberstadt biplanes. He engaged same and fired several bursts without being able to note effect. Being alone and nearly out of gasoline he had to retire.” This event was immortalized in the song ‘Wings of Liberty’ by Dixie Wadlington Matthie. Ernest is listed on a 1918 Squadron Report in the esteemed company of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker and Lt. Frank Luke, namesake of Luke Air Force Base. It is appropriate that Prescott Municipal Airport is named Ernest A. Love Field.
The Sharlot Hall Museum Library & Archives houses the Ernest A. Love Collection. After viewing the SHM World War I exhibit where you can view Ernest’s identification bracelet, please visit the Archives to examine this unique collection. It includes personal records, correspondence, photographs and details relating to Love’s death and posthumous awards for bravery signed by French President Raymond Poincare, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, and President Woodrow Wilson.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to email@example.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 2, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or assistance with photo requests.