John A. Karch was a 27-year-old teacher from Mt. Vernon, Illinois, when the enlisted in the U.S. Army on 12 December 1917. He attended the U.S. School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, as a cadet pilot and graduated on 4 May 1918. He arrived at Rich Field, Waco, Texas, for flight training on 3 June 1918. He flew biplanes and the Curtis JN-4D Jenny. Shortly after the end of WWI on 11 November 1918, he was discharged from the Army Air Service.
His olive drab wool tunic-style coat is similar to the British uniform of the same period. It has a stand-up collar and plastic buttons.