Arthur Brooks, Last American World War I Fighter-Pilot Ace

SUMMIT, N.J. - Arthur Raymond Brooks, a World War I ace who shot down six planes and whose fighter is on display at the Smithsonian Institution, died this week at his home. He was 95.

Brooks was the last surviving American ace from the war, said retired Army Col. J. Duncan Campbell of Harrisburg, Pa., a World War I aviation expert.

"Fine old gentleman," said Campbell, author of the book "Aviation Badges of the United States Army," which covered the period from 1913 through 1946. "He was very alert, even in his 90s."

Brooks' health began to fail after a recent fall, friends said. He died Wednesday night, according to Brough Funeral Home.

Brooks worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey for decades after World War I, developing electronic air-navigation and communications systems.

"It is normal and natural for me to fly . . .," Brooks said in an interview last year. "It's as natural as breathing air."

He graduated as valedictorian from Framingham Academy and High School in Massachusetts in 1913, and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1917.

He flew into battle for the first time in the summer of 1918.

During the 1990 interview, Brooks recalled being able to see the facial hair of a German pilot with whom he was locked in a dogfight.

"I was trying to ram him," Brooks said. "He was a splendid young man and he dodged me."

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Silver Medal of the City of Paris.

Brooks shot down six German Fokkers during the war, according to the American Fighter Aces Association in Mesa, Ariz.

His Spad XIII biplane was restored and is on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

A funeral Mass was scheduled for Monday. He was to be buried Tuesday in a family plot in North Framingham, Mass.

Brooks' only known survivor is a nephew.