Epilogue I: Somewhere in France

On July 2, 1918, Parr’s father received the following telegram:








That same day, Herbert Hooper sent a copy of the telegram to his sister Ella Hooper in Parkton, Maryland, with an accompanying brief note, saying: “We hope that we may yet hear something from Parr.”

Three days later, on July 5, 1918, the Hoopers received both of Parr’s letters of June 9, 1918, as well as Major Russell’s letter.

Herbert Hooper immediately wrote to the headquarters of the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., and received a response the next day from the director, W. R. Castle, Jr., outlining Red Cross procedures when a man was reported missing and noting “Germany is extremely slow in giving out prisoner reports.” Over the course of the next twelve months, Parr’s father scanned newspapers and clipped articles that might provide leads to information about Parr. He wrote to numerous offices and officials, from his congressman, to the Spanish Ambassador, to the British Home Secretary, asking for help in obtaining news of the fate of his son.

Meanwhile at Long Acre, West Ealing, Muriel Whiting had written a letter to Parr dated June 5, 1918, expressing regret at missing his last visit (which occurred while she was in Newcastle visiting her new niece and namesake, daughter of her brother Gerald); the letter was returned to her with the notation “missing.” She had sent a duplicate to another address, and the duplicate was forwarded to 1626 Bolton Street where Parr’s sister Mary received it. Mary, not realizing that Muriel had already received a returned letter, wrote Muriel on July 9, 1918, to pass on the news that Parr was missing. Muriel wrote back on July 24, 1918: “Your letter came an hour ago, and I am as glad you have written. I did know something but not enough to know whether to write to you yourself. . . . I need not tell you how distressed my parents were when I told them, and yesterday Madeline and I were arranging to go to town and make inquiries at every possible place. This we intend to do tomorrow and of course will let you know any results at once.” The following day she wrote Mary of going to Air Board Offices at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand and to the American Red Cross at 40 Grosvenor Gardens where “strangely enough they were at that moment discussing the matter in the enquiry room. A Captain Edenbrough is in charge of that part of their business and his secretary told us that she was actually engaged in showing him the enquiry about your brother which they received today from Washington.” Muriel continues “I need not say how we hope there will be some good news soon – there seems no end to the sadness now-a-days.”

Muriel’s inquiries resulted in additional information, albeit not hopeful. Lord Lucan of the British Red Cross and Order of St. John wrote her on August 14, 1918, saying

we have received one report which we beg to send on to you. It is given us by Lieut. A. J. Bateman, who was in hospital. (Home address: – 32, Sackville Street, Piccadilly) who states as follows:—

I am almost sure it was on June 16th that Lieut. Hooper was brought down in a steep spiral, and he crashed into the enemy’s lines. This was near Sorrel [sic] Chateau, south of Lassigny about 11 o’clock [sic] in the morning. It is impossible to say if he was himself hit, but it is probable he was killed in the fall. He was leading the patrol at the time of the occurrence. I was in the Patrol and saw it happen. Hooper was an American, and very popular with the Squadron. He got one or two Huns down.

We much regret to say that this account does not seem to be of a very hopeful nature, but we would ask you on no account to accept it as final till we get further confirmation, as it is the first report we have received.

Castle, of the American Red Cross, subsequently also forwarded the text of Bateman’s report to Parr’s father.

Two days later Muriel wrote directly to Bateman, and he replied a week later.

Charlton Ville



Dear Miss Whiting,

As regards your letter dated 16/8/18 I will try to tell you all I know, but of course, what with “wind up” etc; at the time my mind was more on getting away than seeing what was happening. Yes! I remember the date was the 10th June [Muriel had questioned the June 16th date in the report from Lord Lucan]. I have it in my Log Book.

He was also leading a patrol of 3 machines and he was the only one “Missing” at the end of the patrol. I do not know what happened but one second I saw him drop his bombs and next time I saw him (about 15 seconds after I suppose) he was going down in a spiral. I then saw him hit the ground and a cloud of steam came from the machine. (Most probably the radiator burst on hitting the ground and the water on the engine caused the steam.) They say he dropped his bombs just before going to attack a hun two-seater machine, but as a matter of fact my eyes are not good and I did not see the two seater personally.

As the Anti Air-craft shells were pretty bad I thought he or the machine was hit by one of them, but of course he or the machine might have been hit by the two seater (which I did not see).

As regards engine trouble, I think he would have gone down in a straight glide and not a spiral if he had it. . . .

I am sorry, but I cannot tell you anything more about it. I would not even like to express my opinion as to whether he was prisoner or not, but I sincerely hope he is.

Hoping I have explained a few things you did not know about.

Yours faithfully

Arthur Bateman

On September, 29, 1918, Muriel wrote Mary: “I am so very sorry that I have not any re-assuring news to send you after all this time. I have been hoping post after post that something would come from one or other of the sources of inquiry. But now I do not consider that I ought to delay any longer in sending you the enclosed two letters,” and she enclosed the letters from Arthur Bateman and Lord Lucan.

The same month, Herbert Hooper received a letter from an S. Halstead of the Bureau of Prisoners’ Relief, a division of the Red Cross authorized to assist American prisoners of war reporting “[we] have received a postal from the Central Prisoners’ [sic] of War Committee, 4 Thurloe Place, S.W.7, London, England, stating that their office has no information with reference to Lieutenant Parr Hooper. This officer has not been reported to them, a prisoner of war.” Not long thereafter, Herbert Hooper wrote Major Russell, hoping for more details, inquiring about the disposition of Parr’s personal effects, and “now that the Allies have regained so much territory in France perhaps if he had been killed his grave could now be located.”

In early 1919, Parr’s Cornell classmate and friend Fred Wipperman, now in the 311th Engineers in France, evidently made an official inquiry regarding Parr to the Grave Registration Service in Paris; an effort was made to match a grave to the name inquired about, but the “match” was for an “Elwood H. Holper.” Wip forwarded the form reply to Parr’s father.

In June of 1919, Parr’s father received a form letter, and then a letter and telegram from the Adjutant General of the War Department informing him that, given the time elapsed, Parr was being officially moved from the “missing” category to “killed in action.”

Later that year, Herbert Hooper wrote to the Central Records Bureau in Berlin (Zentralnachweiseamt für Kriegerverluste und Kriegergräber) asking for assistance. An initial response from Berlin from November of 1919 reported no record of Parr Hooper, but promised a fuller inquiry if provided the type of plane Parr was flying. A subsequent reply dated 26 September 1922 reports: “In Beantwortung der verschiedenen Anfragen teilt die Fliegerstelle des Zentralnachweiseamts mit, dass die auf umfangreichster Grundlage angestellten Nachforschungen nichts über die näheren Umstände des am 10.6.18 bei Bessou-Sur-Metz [sic] auf S.E.5 Apparat erfolgten Abschusses Ihres Sohnes . . . in Erfahrung gebracht werden konnte. Bei Gräber- und Nachlassstelle liegen keinerlei Meldungen vor.” (“In response to various inquiries the Pilots’ Office of the Central Records Bureau reports that extensive and thorough investigations brought to light nothing regarding the precise circumstances of your son’s being shot down in an S.E.5 on June 10, 1918, near Bessou-Sur-Metz. There are no reports at the Office for Graves and Personal Effects.”)

Around the time Parr’s father wrote to Berlin, he also contacted Captain Frederick William Zinn, an aviator who had been charged with locating the graves of American pilots. Zinn’s reply reads, in part:

Briefly, the German Central Records Office have no record of your sons [sic] name appearing on any list of aviators shot down. However, German records show that on the date you [sic] son was missing, they shot down an S.E.5a type of machine (same as he was flying) at Ressons-Sur-Matz, occupant unidentified. They do not state that he was killed, but from the fact that he was unidentified, it cannot [Zinn’s crossing out, or Hooper’s?] be taken but as proof of his death. . . . On my return from Berlin, I intended to visit the locality and make a search in person, but was not able to do so. . . . I would suggest that you write the American Grave Registration Service, Paris, France. 

An annotation written on Zinn’s letter indicates that Herbert Hooper wrote the GRS on December 21, 1919; no reply is extant.

In the end, Parr’s family knew only that he was somewhere in France.

Post script

 In 1998, Norman Franks, Frank Bailey, and Rick Duiven published The Jasta War Chronology: A Complete Listing of Claims and Losses, August 1916–November 1918. Under the date June 10, 1918 an entry indicates that Gefr[eiter] W Laabs of Jadgstaffel (squadron) 13 shot down S.E.5 C9626 flown by Lt. P Hooper in the vicinity of Sorel Château. In his 2005 book on Jagdgeschwader II (a German fighter unit made up of squadrons 12, 13, 15, and 19), Greg VanWyngarden further identifies the German pilot as Willi or Wilhelm Laabs.491 Neither book provides specific documentation, but the claim that Laabs shot down Hooper can be corroborated by an entry in the list of “Abschüsse feindlicher Flugzeuge und Ballone im Juni 1918” published in the August 8, 1918, issue of the Nachrichtenblatt der Luftstreitkräfte; this, or source material for this publication, may have provided Zinn with his information. On p. 364, under the date June 10, 1918, an S.E.5 is listed as having been shot down by Gefr. Willy Laabs; no other S.E.5s are listed as shot down on that day.492

In an article about Jagdgeschwader II from 1994, Richard Duiven notes that the squadrons of Jagdgeschwader II initially flew “a mixed bag of Albatros D.V and D.Va, Pfalz D.III and Fokker Dr.I aircraft,” but that by June of 1918, they were also flying the newer Fokker D.VII.493 All of these were single-seater fighter planes. Laabs was almost certainly flying a single-seater. What then of the two-seater that Arthur Bateman mentions? Germany had several machine gun equipped two-seater planes such as the Halberstadt CL.II and the Hannover CL.II that were used to escort reconnaissance aircraft and for ground attack missions; it may have been one of these that Parr was reported as going after once he had dropped his bombs. Given the sketchy historical documentation, it seems reasonable to argue that Laabs was the pilot responsible for shooting Parr down. But it is also possible, as Bateman opines, that Parr was hit either by anti-aircraft fire, perhaps from the battery near the wood in the vicinity of Château de Sorel, or by someone in an otherwise unidentified two-seater.