THE WAR IN THE AIR
 THE air service became, as soon as the armies dug underground, the most important factor in the war. The aėroplane
became the eyes of the army. On it the artillery fire entirely depended at all times. Upon it the army must
rely for knowledge of the existence and whereabouts of any assault. The all important portion of the air
service was, therefore, its least dramatic and the one about which least has been said. The observation of the
enemy's batteries and lines was undertaken partly by observation balloons, anchored within the Allied lines,
and able to see with accuracy all of the smaller and nearer enemy artillery. The larger enemy guns, located,
of course, several miles away, were ferreted out by the slow, heavy aėroplanes, carrying at least the pilot
and his observer, and equipped with camera and wireless. This branch of the service was the fundamental
factor, and performed what the British called "ceiling work." On it almost every phase of the combat depended.
Another phase of air work was the bombardment of enemy territory. Munition factories, railroad junctions,
railroad yards far in the rear of the lines were commonly the targets, and a few well-directed bombs might do
enough damage, it was thought, to prevent some movement at the front; might interfere with a stream of
supplies or with the manufacture of munitions long enough to be of some consequence. It is not yet proved,
however, that the
bom-  bardment from the air, undertaken by both sides, had any material effect upon military events.
The last phase of aviation, the most dramatic and most popular, was, from the point of view of the larger
aspects of warfare, the least important. This was the aviation of combat. Its purpose was to protect the
balloons and the observation planes of the Allies while they were obtaining the data upon which the conduct of
the war depended. This made essential attacks upon German aėroplanes which were attempting to destroy the
Allied balloons or observation planes. Another phase was naturally an attempt to destroy the German balloons
and observation planes and often led to combats in the air with the German fighting machines sent out to
protect their own observers. This work was always dangerous in the extreme and not infrequently important,
though it is not yet demonstrated that either the Germans or Allies succeeded in getting control of the air
for more than a very brief period or that any of the military victories was the direct result of the fighting
in the air. Probably no military event of any consequence took place which did not have vital connection with
the air service, but it is probable that the great successes were not due to any one arm of the air service.
During the last two years of the war extraordinary developments were in progress which might have resulted,
had the war lasted longer, in great transformations of warfare itself. The aėroplane began to take a direct
part in the fighting on the ground. Fighting planes did occasionally annihilate a German division marching to
the trenches, or was able to rake a trench with machine gun fire from the air and thus remove the obstacle
facing the Allied troops. The great gun batteries located far behind the lines were particularly vulnerable.
In the great offensive of 1918 whole squadrons of aėroplanes
 fought battles in the air, when hundreds of planes charged each other, laid down barrages of machine gun fire,
and even attempted concerted assaults upon large masses of troops, advancing across open ground. Of course,
the aėroplane, armed only with a machine gun, could never assault with success prepared trenches or dugouts,
but once the troops left their defenses and started to charge across the open, unprotected by artillery, a
single aėroplane might do great damage. Columns advancing to the support of the front trenches were also
splendid targets for the aviators. The daring of some men was extreme. Garros, one of the first great French
aviators, bombed trains, troops, supply depots, from a distance of only one hundred feet above them.
SKETCH FOR LONDON GRAPHIC OF AĖROPLANE ATTACK IN RAIN STORM ON
GERMAN TRENCHES. DECEMBER, 1917.
As the war went on, changes in the structure of the aėroplanes
 were no less remarkable than the increase in the skill of the pilots. Before the war the machines had been
barely dependable, had lacked strength and stability, but as the war went on nearly all desirable qualities
were developed, and in addition, motors were created capable of carrying heavy weights over great distances
and planes were built able to fly in heavy winds or storms. Mechanics learned how to mend the machines while
in the air, even repairing the engine itself. Hospital aėroplanes were created and minor operations were
sometimes performed in flight. So great was the stability of the planes at the end of the war that part of the
machine could be blown away by a shell and the machine would still fly. Bishop, the British aviator, landed
with his machine in flames and escaped unhurt, largely because of his confidence that, although the machine
was doomed, he would be able to control it long enough to reach the earth.
The real interest of the war centered in these fighting planes. They developed a speed of one hundred and
thirty miles an hour, would climb into the air at the rate of one thousand feet a minute, and some carried as
many as three rapid fire guns, able to fire four hundred shots a minute. Many great aces were developed on
both sides, but although numerous personal exploits are extremely interesting to study, the general tactics of
aviation as a whole are really of more consequence in the history of the war.
As always, German tactics reasoned out logically what was to be done and then proceeded to keep the individual
within bounds. At first the Allies charged the Germans with cowardice because their aviators kept for the most
part over their own lines, but the great German aces explained that if a German plane fell within their own
lines the Allies learned none of the German secrets of construction. The object of the fighting planes in any
case was to prevent Allied observation and to protect German balloons and
 observers. This could always be done within the German lines. It was therefore foolhardy to venture beyond
them. Immelmann developed first among the Germans a method of attack upon an enemy plane which combined the
maximum chances of success with the minimum danger. The aėroplanes were at first not armed at all and then
carried guns which shot only between the blades of the propellers, straight in front of the machine. Let the
aviator keep above, behind, below, or at either side of his adversary and he was perfectly safe. Immelmann,
therefore, cruised around at high altitudes, preferably in the clouds; when an Allied plane appeared, he
waited until it passed beneath him. He then shot straight down upon it, carried by the force of gravity at a
terrific speed and intending to pass just behind it. When almost upon the enemy
 he fired as many shots as he could, and was then carried by the speed of his own flight below and beyond his
enemy, protected from his enemy's fire, partly by his position and then, as he passed in front of him, by his
speed. He would never wait to see whether the enemy fell or not, nor attempt to reengage him. To do that was
to fight at a disadvantage.
COOPERATIVE ATTACK BY FRENCH TANKS AND AEROPLANES IN COMBINED
FORMATIONS IN ONE OF THE LAST ACTIONS OF THE WAR.
Boelke, another great German ace, pointed out the advantage of fighting in pairs and later in squadrons.
Several German planes would engage a smaller number of Allied planes, but preferably a single plane. This
increased the chances of their success and diminished the danger. Commonly, if outnumbered, the Germans turned
tail and fled. They did not propose to take risks; the pilot and machine were too valuable to be lost in such
fashion. Richthofen, perhaps the greatest of the German aviators, invented camouflage in the air and developed
maneuvering by a squadron of aėroplanes. His favored method was to attack in long file, he himself heading the
tango circus as it was called. He scorned concealment in his own case, however, and painted his machine bright
red so that it might always be known.
One of the most successful French aviators was Fonck, who destroyed ten German planes without himself being
scratched. On May 9, 1918, he went up alone, as Allied machines frequently did, to meet three German planes,
each carrying two men, and, therefore, more than doubly dangerous. Two he destroyed in ten seconds and the
third five minutes later. That afternoon, he met five German planes in formation, dove into them from above,
and sent down three, the remainder escaping. The whole six had been shot down with an average of six
cartridges per plane. Bishop, the Canadian aviator, was ordered to return to England to take charge of
instruction and went out for a last trip across the lines. He was gone twelve minutes and brought down five
 planes. The true secret of success in the case of these exceptional men was primarily deadly marksmanship.
Their skill as aviators was apparently a secondary consideration, although none of the tricks in flying was
without its value and sometimes meant the difference between destruction and safety. Their coolness,
confidence, and self-control under all circumstances were the great qualities which accounted both for their
marksmanship and for their ability to fly.
The greatest of aviators, however, typifies the Allied methods and, as well, the romance of the war. Guynemer,
a young Frenchman, physically rejected by all sections of the service more than once, only twenty-three years
old when he died, exemplified the reckless courage and daring of the Allied tactics in the air. He courted
rather than avoided danger, gloried in risks, preferred to fight several German planes at once, and commonly
returned from a trip with his clothing and plane riddled with bullets. His favorite method of attack was to
approach his adversary from below, perform the difficult tail spin, which stood his plane on its tail,
immediately below his adversary, and bring him down with a stream of bullets through the bottom of his
No single character of the war so attracted the admiration of the French people. He seemed to them to embody
all that quality of French youth most precious to preserve. They seemed to say of him, "Here is the pattern of
the young men of France; look upon it, and copy it: it is the best; it is France." While everything about him
was burning truth, it seemed as if the truth was already legend. The subtle perfume of mysticism appeared to
hang about him. He died in combat, September 11, 1917. The official citation read: "Like a legendary hero
fallen in the full measure of glory after three years of ardent combat, he will remain the purest symbol of
the qualities of the race: indomitable tenacity, fierce
 energy, sublime courage. Animated by the most unshakable faith in victory, he bequeathes to the French soldier
an imperishable remembrance which will exalt the spirit of sacrifice and stir to the noblest emulation."
One of his intimate friends wrote: "I have known his intrepidity, his tenacity, his fascination. Duty of
combat was for him a religion. He had an iron will. He was upright as a sword, pure as a diamond, and utterly
absorbed in the struggle which he carried on to the detriment of a constitution already frail. . . . He was of
a finer essence than ourselves, inspired with a sacred fire which passed our understanding. He fell amidst
forty enemy aėroplanes, of which he had brought down one, one arm was broken, a ball was in his head, and a
smile was on his lips."
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