Like all of the combatants in the First World War, the American military had to cope with an entirely new military technology – powered flight. Only a decade after the world’s first powered flight in 1903, Europe’s leading powers took the new aircraft to war, and by 1918 aviation technology had advanced so far that the first trans-Atlantic flight took place in the following year.
The book takes us from the very earliest days of American military aviation, through the First World War and ends with the story of American volunteers fighting for the newly independent Poland. A key theme for much of the book is the American struggle to catch up with military technology – despite having had the Wright Brothers flight in the US, European aircraft had advanced rapidly under the pressure of war, and the majority of US designs proved to be outdated by April 1917. The US also struggled to create a viable combat air service, although a number of units did enter combat during 1918, and we follow their experiences in some detail.
The book covers both Army and Navy aviation. This is a good decision, as the Navy was more succesful at getting it American built aircraft into service in Europe, in particular an impressive variety of Curtiss flying boats. These were based in Britain, Ireland and France, and helped escort convoys as well as taking part in the campaign to catch the U-boats as they crossed the North Sea.
Chapter titles would have been useful – the chapters do have clear topics, and it would be handy to be able to find them more easily. Otherwise this is a very readable account of the early days of American military aviation, including the careers of American fliers in British and French service (most famously with the French Lafayette Escadrille). Of the eleven chapters the first two look at the very earliest days of American flight and the early exploits of their new air services before the entry into the war and the last looks at the Polish period, while all of the rest focus on the American involvement in the First World War.
Chapters – Eleven numbered
Author: Terry C. Treadwell
Edition: Hard Cover
Publisher: Air World