During World War One, the role of airplanes and how theywere used changed greatly. At first planes were only usedfor sport, but people started realize that not only couldairplanes be useful but they could even influence an outcomeof the war greatly. Soon the war was filled with blimps,planes, and tethered balloons. By the end of the war, planesbecame a symbol of fear, but they were not always treatedwith such respect. In the time leading up to the war, thegeneral feeling about planes was, they were a sneaky, unfairtactic that should not be used in warfare. During The 1899Hague Peace Conference it was put on record that thedropping or shooting of any projectiles or explosives fromthe air during a time of war was forbidden and wasconsidered a crime of war.
It was also decided that airplanescould only be used for reconnaissance or spying missions. (Villard-227) The airplane may be all very well for sport,but for the army it is useless (Quoted in Villard-227) Evenby the beginning of the war in 1912, the use of planes in warwas still prohibited by the War Office. Shortly thereafter thischanged, people awakened to the possibilities of air warfare. The world soon started to realize the effectiveness of planesin war and how the control of the skies could influence theoutcome.
Although the French were the first to have aworking, conscripting air force and to license fliers, their trustin airplanes still was not up to par. Their lack of trust wasjustified, for the planes had no armaments, too many wires,and no reliable motor. (Villard-228) Soon all countries in thewar effort had their own little air force, built hangers, andstarted to train pilots. The first bombing occurred inNovember 1911.
Although the first bomb was dropped bythe Italians, soon all countries were involved in bombingraids. (Villard-229) It was followed by the first aerialdogfight in 1912. This consisted of a primitive exchange ofpistol fire between British and German planes . (Harvey-95)The first flying experience for the United States occurred in1862, during the Civil War.
General McClellan went intobattle against the South with a balloon corps floated byhydrogen and pulled by four horses. (Saga-51) Literaryfiction started to breed ideas about the use of planes inwarfare. The most famous writer to explore the idea wasH. G. Wells. He wrote The War In The Air, a book aboutthe future in which battle is conducted with planes.
(Wohl-70). In Germany, literary fiction preceded the actualdevelopment of warfare in the air. Rudolph Martin was awriter who predicted that the Germans future was not onthe sea, but in the air. He also believed that furtherdevelopment in aviation would kill the importance of distanceand help to lead toward the German unification of the world. (Wohl-81) Martins novel helped to prepare the Germansfor their use of planes in the war.
The fiction soon becamescientific fact. (Wohl-71) The United States, ultimately wasslower than France and Germany to develop an air force. On March 3, 1911, Congress appropriated $125,000 tostart an air force, which consisted of five planes. The firstsquadron was organized by the Americans on March 5,1913, in Texas City. It consisted of nine planes. Althoughthe United States entered the war in 1917, it did not useplanes in the war at that time.
(Villard-231) U. S. pilots hadlittle or no experience in cross-country navigation. Theydid not have good maps and sometimes they became lost,ran out of fuel and would have to land behind enemy lines. (Villard-233) As the Americans advanced in the use ofplanes in warfare, so did the Germans.
Initially, the Germansmade no effort to hide their skepticism about the use ofplanes in warfare. In the beginning of the war, manyGermans raised in newspaper articles and on governmentcommittees the possibilities of warfare in the air, but thecountry as a whole was not quick to initiate the effort. (Wohl-70) This quickly changed, however, because thedevelopment of airplanes during the war was mostly creditedto the Germans. The Germans came out with advances inplanes that outdid anything that France had to offer. Eventhough France had the largest air force in the world, theysoon became second-best.
No matter how hard the othercountries tried, the Germans were always one step ahead inairplane advances. These advances were so great that eventhough the Germans were outnumbered eight to one, theystill came out on top. For instance, the mounting of amachine gun behind the propellers seemed like suicide, butthe Germans came up with the idea of a timed switch thatwould allow the gun to fire in-between rotations. This madeit easier to aim and fly at the same time. Roland Garros, anallied flier, who mounted a gun in the cockpit and putprotective plates on his propellers was trying to match theGerman timed device, but it was a faulty, unsafe rip-off . (Harvey-95) Another advancement used by the Germanswas the introduction of luminous paint so that pilot would notfly into each other or shoot each other during night raids.
(Duke-130) The allied countries tried many times toduplicate this and many other German inventions, but failedeach time. The Germans started putting up hangers anddomes around its boarders. They introduced more andmore types of planes. As the war went on, Germanyintroduced the BI-planes and Tri-planes which made the useof one winged planes obsolete.
The more wings, the moremobility, stability, and speed the plane had. The mobilitymade it easier to evade gun fire or to maneuver better indogfights. The stability made these new planes handle betterin turbulence, and in reconnaissance missions the speed wasmost important for escaping the enemy. These new Germanplanes dominated the skies and made lumber of the alliesflaming coffins (old mono-planes) The BI-plane wasconsidered to be the best all-around plane. It was thefavorite of the German Flying Ace, Manfred von Richthofen,better known as the Red Baron The Red Baron was thebest pilot in the war, and was credited with shooting down80 allied planes.
He was equally respected by both sides,and when he was shot down, his enemies held a service forhim to show how much respect they had. This show ofchivalry was not uncommon, for in the beginning of the war,it was tradition to throw down a wreath if an enemy planewas shot down, to show respect and honor. However whenbombing was introduced, the feeling about planes turnedfrom noble flying knights into fear, death from above. Theevolution of aircraft during World War One was profoundand unmatched by any other advancements in any other fieldat the time. From Reconnaissance to bombing, the use ofairplanes in the war became a necessity and by the end ofthe war airplanes and pilots had earned the respect theydeserved.
Todays warfare relies heavily on the use ofaircraft, not only for destruction and transportation of troopsand supplies, but also for its initial use of reconnaissance. History