LTC Charles R. Blake was born on 8 November 1897 in Westerly, Rhode Island and was a 1916 graduate of Westerly High School. He was the star on the high school football team and took part in the school plays during his sophomore, junior and senior years. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army, American Ambulance Service, and the American Expeditionary Force which sailed for France in January 1917.
Charles enlisted in the Lafayette Flying Corps – French Aviation on 4 June 1917. He was one of 110 American pilots who served with the French aviators prior to the United States entering World War I on 17 April 1918. These volunteers were among the first Americans to go to the aid of France. After attending French aviation schools from 19 July 1917 to 8 March 1918, he then went to complete a French bombing school at Sacy-Le-Grand and was sent to the Escadrille Breguet in March 1918. After being commissioned a First Lieutenant in the United States Army on 17 March 1918, he was attached to his former unit (Lafayette Flying Corps – French Aviation) and reassigned to Escadrille where he made 37 official bombing raids, covering the whole front between Arras and Chateau-Thierry, France.
On 9 August 1918, 1LT Blake had a very close call. On a bombing raid, he became separated from his formation and continued alone to complete his mission, dropping his bombs from an altitude of 1500 meters. As he started to return home, he was attacked by five German Fokkers. His observer, Lieutenant Earl Porter, was shot through the jaw and the neck in one of the first bursts of fire; but he very bravely continued to defend their Breguet, which enabled 1LT Blake to bring his plane back to our lines, almost shot to pieces by German bullets. For this feat, both 1LT Blake and LT Porter received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix De Guerre with palm and star from the French Army.
Citation – Distinguished Service Cross
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to First Lieutenant Charles Raymond Blake, U.S. Army, Pilot, 7th Aviation Instruction Center, French Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Lassigny, France, 9 August 1918. First Lieutenant Blake and Second Lieutenant Earle W. Porter, observer, while on a combat bombing and reconnaissance flight at a low altitude far beyond the enemy lines, was attacked by five German battle planes. His observer was wounded at the beginning of the combat, but he maneuvered his plane so skillfully that the observer was able to shoot down one of their adversaries. By more skillful maneuvering, he enabled his observer to fight off the remaining plane and return safely to friendly territory.
After World War 1, Charles Blake entered Rhode Island State College (RISC) with the class of 1923 where he participated in the Army ROTC Program and the Theta Chi Fraternity. On 10 March 1930, he joined the Rhode Island State Police (RISP), graduating from the Training Program in June 1930. Trooper Charles Blake received additional training with the first National Police Training School conducted by the FBI in Washington, DC. During his service with the RISP, Sgt. Charles Blake studied Crime Photography with the Boston Massachusetts Police Department.
He continued his military service as a member of the U.S. Army Air Service Reserve and was promoted to Major. He volunteered for active duty at the beginning of World War II, serving under the command of Colonel Bill Donovan, Director, Office of Strategic Services (OSS), an intelligence agency formed during World War II which was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Blake was retired from the United States Air Force and the Rhode Island State Police on 5 September 1945. He died on 9 May 1958 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Blake was a son of Rhode Island State College, and he provided a lifetime of selfless service to the State of Rhode Island and our nation.