The Last WWI Pilot from Wyoming

As a young man, Herman Kreuger dreamt of being

image-238

Photo accompanied the article “WWI flying ace talks with pilots on Italian team”, Billings Gazette August 25, 1988. A copy of this article is filed with Kreuger’s oral history interview at the WSA. It is interesting to note that “ace” was blacked out on the copy in the file.

a pilot.  During World War One, he got
his wish – serving in the U.S. Aviation Service piloting Italian bombers in northern Italy.

 

Herman was born on April 5, 1894 in Bern, Kansas.  His father worked for company prospecting for coal and moved his family from Nebraska to Wyoming in 1885.  Herman’s mother “figured that Wyoming wasn’t much of a place to raise a family.”  Moreover, “there was nothing except rattlesnakes and long horned cattle and cowboys.”  

Given this rather glum outlook, it is not surprising that the family eventually returned to Nebraska.  After graduating from school, Herman earned a living as a teacher.

In the early 1900s, airplanes were a novelty.  Herman was so fascinated by the romance of flying that he built a glider in 1910.  It crashed shortly after takeoff but he was not seriously injured.  “It turned out that it wasn’t very comfortable and my mother put a stop to that foolishness after the first flight,” he said.

Prior to America’s entry in World War One, Herman was working at an army camp near San Antonio, where he was mesmerized watching airplanes flying into and out of the nearby field.  Following America’s declaration of war, he enlisted in reserve officer training but later opted for artillery and then aviation.  

caproni_ca5

The final version of the Caproni aircraft used during WWI. Krueger probably would have flown one of these later iterations. Photo from Wikipedia

 

After his training in Austin, he was shipped to France and then was finally assigned to the First Aerial Squadron in Italy where he flew Capronis, an Italian bomber.  His initial responsibility was to train other pilots.  A fellow pilot in his squadron was future New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

In 1918, Herman was sent into combat, flying missions against Austrian forces near Padua in northern Italy.  It was not without danger.  The large plane with a four-man crew (Herman and three Italians) was an easy target.  One occasion, after returning to base, Herman and his crew discovered 67 bullet holes in their plane.  

Herman flew numerous aerial missions during the last five months of the war.  For his efforts he was decorated with the Italian War Cross.

sub-neg-1172-22nd-wy-legislature-house-1933-krueger

Krueger’s 1933 Wyoming House of Representatives portrait. (WSA Sub Neg 1172)

After the war, Herman moved to Wyoming, where he filed for a homestead and operated a car and farm-tractor dealership near Garland.  He married his wife Celia Gordon in 1925 in Deer Lodge, Montana, and served many years as a Wyoming state representative from Park County. In 1937, he was selected as Speaker of the House.

Herman Kreuger died in August 1991 at the age of 97.  He was the last World War One pilot from Wyoming.

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist

 

 


Additional Resources

  • OH-905, Herman Kreuger oral history audio and transcript, 1983, Wyoming State Archives
  • Herman Fred Krueger Find A Grave memorial
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