US Army Air Service


The SPAD XIII was designed in 1916 as a French attempt to counter the twin gun German fighters. The SPAD XIII doubled the firepower of the earlier SPADs by using two Vickers .303 machine guns with 400 rounds of ammunition for each gun. The enthusiasm of the French pilots who tested the aircraft between April and September 1917 encouraged the French government to order more than 2,000. The U.S. Air Service also began flying the SPAD XIII in March 1918 and by war's end in November 1918 the Air Service has acquired 893. Throughout 1917 and into 1918 the SPAD XIII held its own against German aircraft, but in the summer of 1918 the newly arrived Fokker D.VII outclassed it. The SPAD XIII had poor visibility and insufficient rate of climb, but it proved itself a rugged fighter with the ability to dive at high speed to escape enemy planes.

US Army Air Service SPAD XIIl


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AIRCO DH.4 Attack Plane

The Airco DH.4 was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland in 1916 and entered service with the RFC January 1917. The Airco DH.4 was a two seat biplane day bomber and was the first British two seat light day bomber to have an effective defensive armament. It became a big success and was considered to be the best single engine bomber of WWI. It had impressive reliability and performance even when fully loaded and highly popular with its crews. As usual with WWI aircraft it was fitted with a variety of engines as better types became available. Its performance was good enough German fighters had a difficult time intercepting them and did not require fighter escort. This was the same idea that de Havilland used when designing the Mosquito in WWII. By the end of the war 55 Squadron had developed tactics of flying in wedge formations, bombing on the leader's command and using massed defensive fire of the formation to fend off attacks by enemy fighters. When the US entered WWI it had virtually no aircraft and had to import or build aircraft under license. The DH.4 was manufactured under license by several companies and the first was delivered to France in May 1918 and combat operations began August 1918. US aircrew flying the DH.4 were awarded four of the six Medals of Honor awarded to American aviators. First Lieutenant Harold Ernest Goettler and Second Lieutenant Erwin R. Bleckley received posthumous awards after being killed on October 12, 1918 while dropping supplies to the Lost Battalion of the 77th Division which was cut off by German troops during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot and Gunnery Sergeant Robert G. Robinson of the USMC were awarded the Medal of Honor for beating off attacks from 12 German fighters during a bombing raid over Belgium on October 8, 1918. All in all the DH.4 equipped 13 U.S. squadrons by the end of the war. After WWI the US had a huge number of DH.4s left over. They were a major component of the USAAS for years and 60 different versions were created. It was the first tests of air to air refueling on June 25, 1923 and flew a record setting flight of 37 hours, 15 minutes on August 27-28, 1923, being refueled 16 times and setting 16 new world records for distance, speed and duration. The US used the DH.4 until 1932. DH.4s were also used for civil passenger service, mail planes, forestry patrol and aerial surveying around the world. 6,295 DH.4s were built (4,846 of them by the US). The DH.4 was armed with a forward firing synchronized Vickers machine gun and a .303 cal. Lewis guns fitted on a Scarff ring fired by the observer. It could carry a bomb load of 460 lbs. The DH.4 was also flown by Belgium, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Greece, Iran, Mexico, Nicaragua, New Zealand, South Africa, Soviet Union, Spain and Turkey. This model shows the DH.4 flown by Lieutenants Harold E. Goettler and Erwin R. Bleckley  of the 50th Aero Squadron who located the Lost Battalion. On October, 6, 1918 they flew a mission at treetop level  in which they located and pinpointed the front line traces of both the Lost Battalion and the surrounding Germans. Both men were badly wounded by ground fire. Goettler managed to fly back to Allied lines where they crash landed. Goettler was found dead in his cockpit and Bleckley died on the way to the field hospital. Their notes and maps allowed the Americans to fire more accurate artillery on the Germans and to mount a relief effort which eventually broke through to the Lost Battalion. Bleckley and Goettler were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

US Army Air Service AIRCO DH.4 Attack Plane

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Breguet BR.14 Bomber

Designed and first flown by Louis Breguet on November 21, 1916 the Breguet BR.14 was a WWI bomber and reconnaissance plane. Production began in March 1917 and the BR14 entered service shortly after. The BR.14 was a very strong two bay unequal span biplane of mixed construction. It was notable for its extensive use duralumin in the fuselage and wing structure. This allowed the airframe to be lighter than a wooden airframe of the same strength making the aircraft very fast and agile for its size. It was able to outrun many of the fighters of the time. The aircraft covering was fabric. The metal cowling over the 238.5kW Renault 12Fe engine was extensively louvered and a distinctive radiator was fitted. The original wing was modified to accommodate Michelin racks the could carry 560 lbs. of bombs and it carried a fixed 7.7 mm Vickers machinegun on the left side of the fuselage and twin Lewis guns in the observer's cockpit. The BR.14 was considered to be the one of the best aircraft of the war with over 5,500 produced and equipping at least 71 French escadrilles on the Western Front by November 1918. Production continued until 1926 with 8,000 produced. The United States Army Air Service flew over 600 BR.14s. The first American squadron to fly the Breguet operationally was the 96th Aero Squadron. During the St.Mihiel Offensive the 96th Aero performed ground attack missions and bombed rail centers. The BR.14 was widely used after the war flying with French occupation forces in Germany, putting down uprisings in Syria and Morocco. It also flew in Vietnam and in France's intervention in the Russian Civil War. The last trainer examples were not withdrawn from French military service until 1932. It also flew with Poland fighting with Russia in 1920. The Czech air arm, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Japan, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, El Salvador, Estonia, Guatemala, Japan, Lithuania, Paraguay, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Siam, Turkey, Uruguay, The Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Spain also operated the BR.14. This model shows a BR.14 B2 flying with the 96th Aero Squadron in 1918.

US Army Air Service Breguet BR.14 Bomber

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