Airplane Warfare During World War I

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. 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 German?s future

was not on the sea, but in the air. He also believed that

further development in aviation would kill the importance of

diezce and help to lead toward the German unification of

the world. (Wohl-81) Martin?s 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