There has been remarkably little coverage of the early years of US military aviation, making this a most welcome new book. The author follows the development of US aviation from the captive balloons of the Civil War, through WWI and into the post war years of pioneering – Highly Recommended
NAME: Strike From The Air, The Early Years Of The US Air Forces FILE: R3232 AUTHOR: Terry C Treadwell PUBLISHER: Air World, Pen & Sword BINDING: hard back PRICE: £25.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: WWI, World War I, World War 1, First World War, post WWI, aviation, air war, pilots, aircraft, technology, manufacturing, US military aviation, pioneering, foreign-built aircraft ISBN: 1-52677-645-6 PAGES: 320 IMAGE: B3232.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y4rknukc LINKS: DESCRIPTION: There has been remarkably little coverage of the early years of US military aviation, making this a most welcome new book. The author follows the development of US aviation from the captive balloons of the Civil War, through WWI and into the post war years of pioneering – Highly Recommended
The US enjoyed a somewhat erratic progress in its early years of aviation. The combatants during the American Civil War made use of balloons. The Union forces employed mobile units that carried deflated balloons from battlefield to battlefield, filled the envelopes as required, and then operated the balloons as captive observation platforms to follow enemy moves and direct artillery.
It was at this time that Royal Navy observers were given the experience of using captive balloons for gunnery direction, prompting early RN interest in practical military aviation, using balloons in South Africa to direct naval guns landed in support of the British Army. The Royal Navy then experimented with man-carrying kites, having found that captive balloons were not practical for shipboard use. From the captive balloons, the RN followed and supported the American pioneer Cody as he developed his motorized kite which was the first recorded flight in Britain of a powered heavier-than-air machine in 1908. In 1911 the RN established the first military flying school and fielded armed aircraft from the start of WWI.
In the US, development was slow from the captive balloons of the Civil War. The Wright Brothers may have recorded the first controlled flight of a powered aircraft in 1903 with many competitors following then, but the US military was slow to expand its modest aviation capabilities. Aircraft were used in tracking Pancho Villa and an aircraft attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing US citizens. The US Navy also experimented with aircraft launched from ships, but all on a very modest scale.
When WWI broke out in Europe, aircraft were rapidly employed by both sides. The Germans had a head start with rigid airships and the Royal Navy had a head start with flying weapons systems, having successfully launched the first torpedo from an aircraft just weeks before the outbreak of war. RNAS aircraft were used from the start to attack enemy aircraft with bombs and guns and to carry out raids on German military port facilities. The British Army initially regarded aircraft as light scouting platforms, but soon had to start equipping its aircraft with weapons, following the RN lead and responding to German fighter aircraft and bombers.
However, the US military was still very unprepared when joining the war in its final year, depending on equipment provided by France and Britain, including combat aircraft. In the Polish/Russian war at the end of WWI, US pilots flew German aircraft. The years immediately following were not much improved, although the US aviation industry was starting up and expanding with an increasingly competent and pioneering selection of designs.