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Crazy Stunts of World War Aces Gave the Germans Their Big Idea
Crazy Stunts of World War Aces Gave the Germans Their Big Idea
The Kingston Daily Freeman - Wednesday, June 5, 1940
Published by Scott
19 July 2007
Crazy Stunts of World War Aces Gave the Germans Their Big Idea

Crazy Stunts Of World War Aces Gave The Germans Their Big Idea
By MORGAN M. BEATTY

AP Feature Service Writer

Washington—The World War snatched aviation out of its cradle and sent it into the front lines.
That it performed valuable service was surprising; that it foreshadowed a new course for all warfare is a marvel of military history.
German aviation entered the World War with two strikes on the Allies. Germany had had the foresight to standardize production of planes and motors. They had zeppelins, too. So the Entente shot 600 standardized craft up to the front lines against the Allies' heterogenous [sic] 600-odd — many of them unfit for sustained flight. Pilots called them Christmas trees.
Right at the start things happened. Rival pilots quit waving at each other on observation missions. A German flier bombed Paris, killed a few people. A British flier downed a German with a well-aimed pair of field glasses. Bombers dropped their missiles by aiming along two nails in the fuselage. Fighters went up to ward off bombers. Bombers called for protective fighters. And finally came the dog-fight you read about.

Dog-Fights in Design

Dog-fights of the air brought dog-fights of designers. In the end, the World War years wrote the most fantastic chapter of aviation.
National heros [sic] rocketed into fame. Their feats stressed air fighting, ranked bombing and photography and observation as ordinary stuff.
Among the heroes was America's Frank Luke Jr. The deadly mortar fire around the German balloon lines fascinated Frank. So he specialized in strafing balloons.
"You ought to see the fireworks around those balloons," he said. "The Huns have a short mortar gun, shoots up a string of flaming balls—like a string of onions. I went back twice against the last one, just to get 'em to send up another shower. Looks like Fourth of July flower pots. Mighty purty!"
Luke's was a blazing, glorious end. He had just strafed down three enemy baloons [sic] in the dusk and downed two enemy planes. In the getaway he caught a bullet in the shoulder, fell behind the German lines. As he came down he killed German soldiers from his plane. And when cornered, he yanked out his pistol, shot six to death.
Then, after 21 victories in 17 days, they got him.
Luke's is typical of the career of World War aces — reckless, heedless, fearless, and most tragic of all, plain wasteful. These youths between 19 and 23 wasted their planes, and their precious lives. Only a few Richthofens, Foncks, Rickenbackers — cool fighters conserved their planes and their genius for tomorrow.

Guns Fire Through Props

From the day the Germans introduced the deadly Fokker, its machine gun synchronized with the propeller, it was nip and tuck. At the end the Allies were leading. But the Germans took the heavier toll in lives, and the Richthofen Flying Circus provided the forerunners of today's great V-shaped air squadrons.
In all the confusion, it was not unnatural that America should promise 15,000 planes to the Allies, deliver a pitiful handful; that near scandals should rack industries and governments. Beyond the glorious record of our air aces, our sole important contribution was the Liberty motor.
The World War proved three things about military aviation:
  1. Early airplanes were swell machines for dropping oranges on targets at state fairs.
  2. Fliers graduated faster than the captains of industry and the designers.
  3. Wars of the future would be different, largely because the airplane was capable of vast improvement.
But despite aviation's record in the World War, the great powers almost ignored it for 20 years—with a single exception. German military genius, has since led the world right down to this moment.
But that's another story.

The Kingston Daily Freeman - Wednesday, June 5, 1940



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