The War in the Air (WW I)
World War I provided a great stimulus to the production and military use of aircraft, including the aeroplane and airship, or dirigible balloon, and the tethered balloon, the evolution of air warfare, and the tethered balloon. Aircraft were used for two principal purposes: observation and bombing. For observation of stationary battlefronts extensive use was made by both belligerents of small tethered balloons; for scouting at sea, dirigible balloons were extensively used, and aeroplanes were used for scouting coastal waters. In connection with military operations on land, aeroplanes were used to observe the disposition of the troops and defences of the enemy and for bombing the enemy's lines or troops in action. A special feature of the war was the raids conducted by means of dirigibles or aeroplanes on important enemy centres far removed from the battlefront.
The first German aeroplane raid on Paris took place on August 30, 1914; and the first German air raid on England was on Dover on December 21, 1914. During 1915 and 1916 the German type of dirigible known as the zeppelin raided eastern England and London 60 times. The first German aeroplane raid on London took place on November 28, 1916, and such raids were frequent during the remainder of the war. The object of the German raids on England was to bring about withdrawal of British planes from the western front for the defence of the homeland; to handicap British industry; and to destroy the morale of the civilian population. The raids caused much loss of life and damage to property but accomplished little of military value.
From the middle of 1915 aerial combats between planes or squadrons of planes of the belligerents were common. The Germans had superiority in the air on the western front from about October 1915 to July 1916, when the supremacy passed to the British. Allied supremacy gradually increased thereafter and with the entrance of the United States into the war became overwhelming. In April 1918 the United States had three air squadrons at the front; by November 1918 it had 45 squadrons comprising nearly 800 planes and more than 1,200 officers. The total personnel of the American air service increased from about 1,200 at the outbreak of the war to nearly 200,000 at the end. Among the noted aeroplane fighters, or aces, were the American Eddie Rickenbacker, the Canadian William Avery Bishop, and the German Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
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The War in the Air (WW I)
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