World War I

Themes

During World War One, the role of airplanes and how they
were used changed greatly. At first planes were only used
for sport, but people started realize that not only could
airplanes be useful but they could even influence an outcome
of the war greatly. Soon the war was filled with blimps,
planes, and tethered balloons. By the end of the war, planes
became a symbol of fear, but they were not always treated
with such respect. In the time leading up to the war, the
general feeling about planes was, they were a sneaky, unfair
tactic that should not be used in warfare. During The 1899
Hague Peace Conference it was put on record that the
dropping or shooting of any projectiles or explosives from
the air during a time of war was forbidden and was
considered a crime of war. It was also decided that airplanes
could 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) Even
by the beginning of the war in 1912, the use of planes in war
was still prohibited by the War Office. Shortly thereafter this
changed, people awakened to the possibilities of air warfare.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

The world soon started to realize the effectiveness of planes
in war and how the control of the skies could influence the
outcome. Although the French were the first to have a
working, conscripting air force and to license fliers, their trust
in airplanes still was not up to par. Their lack of trust was
justified, for the planes had no armaments, too many wires,
and no reliable motor. (Villard-228) Soon all countries in the
war effort had their own little air force, built hangers, and
started to train pilots. The first bombing occurred in
November 1911. Although the first bomb was dropped by
the Italians, soon all countries were involved in bombing
raids. (Villard-229) It was followed by the first aerial
dogfight in 1912. This consisted of a primitive exchange of
pistol fire between British and German planes . (Harvey-95)
The first flying experience for the United States occurred in
1862, during the Civil War. General McClellan went into
battle against the South with a balloon corps floated by
hydrogen and pulled by four horses. (Saga-51) Literary
fiction started to breed ideas about the use of planes in
warfare. The most famous writer to explore the idea was
H.G. Wells. He wrote The War In The Air, a book about
the future in which battle is conducted with planes.

(Wohl-70). In Germany, literary fiction preceded the actual
development of warfare in the air. Rudolph Martin was a
writer who predicted that the Germans future was not on
the sea, but in the air. He also believed that further
development in aviation would kill the importance of distance
and help to lead toward the German unification of the world.

(Wohl-81) Martins novel helped to prepare the Germans
for their use of planes in the war. The fiction soon became
scientific fact. (Wohl-71) The United States, ultimately was
slower than France and Germany to develop an air force.

On March 3, 1911, Congress appropriated $125,000 to
start an air force, which consisted of five planes. The first
squadron was organized by the Americans on March 5,
1913, in Texas City. It consisted of nine planes. Although
the United States entered the war in 1917, it did not use
planes in the war at that time. (Villard-231) U.S. pilots had
little or no experience in cross-country navigation. They
did 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 of
planes in warfare, so did the Germans. Initially, the Germans
made no effort to hide their skepticism about the use of
planes in warfare. In the beginning of the war, many
Germans raised in newspaper articles and on government
committees the possibilities of warfare in the air, but the
country as a whole was not quick to initiate the effort.

(Wohl-70) This quickly changed, however, because the
development of airplanes during the war was mostly credited
to the Germans. The Germans came out with advances in
planes that outdid anything that France had to offer. Even
though France had the largest air force in the world, they
soon became second-best. No matter how hard the other
countries tried, the Germans were always one step ahead in
airplane advances. These advances were so great that even
though the Germans were outnumbered eight to one, they
still came out on top. For instance, the mounting of a
machine gun behind the propellers seemed like suicide, but
the Germans came up with the idea of a timed switch that
would allow the gun to fire in-between rotations. This made
it easier to aim and fly at the same time. Roland Garros, an
allied flier, who mounted a gun in the cockpit and put
protective plates on his propellers was trying to match the
German timed device, but it was a faulty, unsafe rip-off .

(Harvey-95) Another advancement used by the Germans
was the introduction of luminous paint so that pilot would not
fly into each other or shoot each other during night raids.

(Duke-130) The allied countries tried many times to
duplicate this and many other German inventions, but failed
each time. The Germans started putting up hangers and
domes around its boarders. They introduced more and
more types of planes. As the war went on, Germany
introduced the BI-planes and Tri-planes which made the use
of one winged planes obsolete. The more wings, the more
mobility, stability, and speed the plane had. The mobility
made it easier to evade gun fire or to maneuver better in
dogfights. The stability made these new planes handle better
in turbulence, and in reconnaissance missions the speed was
most important for escaping the enemy. These new German
planes dominated the skies and made lumber of the allies
flaming coffins (old mono-planes) The BI-plane was
considered to be the best all-around plane. It was the
favorite of the German Flying Ace, Manfred von Richthofen,
better known as the Red Baron The Red Baron was the
best pilot in the war, and was credited with shooting down
80 allied planes. He was equally respected by both sides,
and when he was shot down, his enemies held a service for
him to show how much respect they had. This show of
chivalry was not uncommon, for in the beginning of the war,
it was tradition to throw down a wreath if an enemy plane
was shot down, to show respect and honor. However when
bombing was introduced, the feeling about planes turned
from noble flying knights into fear, death from above. The
evolution of aircraft during World War One was profound
and unmatched by any other advancements in any other field
at the time. From Reconnaissance to bombing, the use of
airplanes in the war became a necessity and by the end of
the war airplanes and pilots had earned the respect they
deserved. Todays warfare relies heavily on the use of
aircraft, not only for destruction and transportation of troops
and supplies, but also for its initial use of reconnaissance.
History