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.
Puttees that wrapped around the leg replaced canvas leggings during WWI. They were made of wool strips about eight feet long and several inches wide.