David Putnam attended Harvard before joining the French Air Service in 1917. After serving with the Lafayette Flying Corps, he joined the United States Air Service in June of 1918. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor and posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Putnam's SPAD S.XIII was shot down by German ace Georg von Hantelmann. At the time of his death, Putnam was the American "Ace of Aces." Thought to have shot down more than 30 enemy aircraft during the war, many of his victories were deep within German territory and were never confirmed.
"By his spirit and disregard for danger, he has shown himself to be a pilot of the highest order. He recently attacked a patrol of nine enemy planes and shot down one of them. The next day, during the course of a protection mission, he resolutely attacked a patrol of eight enemy planes and shot down two of his adversaries, reporting therewith, his 5th and 6th victories.
Three citations." Médaille Militaire citation Légion d'Honneur "An admirable and devoted pilot of exemplary endurance, will and courage. With his escadrille for only six months, he has revealed himself to be an exceptional pilot of skill and competency beyond compare. Untiring, seeks every occasion for combat, pushes his boldness to the limit, and has the initiative to attack the enemy 20 kilometers inside the lines. In less than a month, has officially shot down six enemy planes bringing to nine the number of his victories. Already cited twice in orders." Legion d'Honneur citation