History of the American Aviator – Part 3 – Born of War
For nearly a decade after The Wright Brothers took to flight, they lead the way in innovation and design with others like Glenn Curtiss, Eugene Ely, Lyman Gilmore Jr, Samuel Langley, Thomas
Selfridge, William Boeing, and others. With waxing conflict in Europe fueling high profile interests of the British War Office, and later the U.S. War Department, the orders for working models began to pick up.
Experience being the best teacher, pilots and engineers developed more specialized types of aeroplanes, including fighters and bombers – Giving wings to warriors. World War 1 was the first time aircraft were widely used in war. Some notable Ace fighter pilots include:
Frederick Libby (1891-1970) – First American Flying ace. He later founded Western Airlines.
James Norman Hall (1887-1951) – Born in Iowa, he flew for France and the U.S.
Frank Luke, Jr. (1897-1918) – First airman to receive the Medal of Honor
Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (1890-1970) – The most successful U.S. Ace in WW1. Longtime head of Eastern Air Lines.
“The day has passed when armies on the ground or navies on the sea can be the arbiter of a nation’s destiny in war. The main power of defense and the power of initiative against an enemy has passed to the air.” (Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, November 1918)
At the outset of World War I, Orville Wright notes to a friend that, “The Aeroplane has made war so terrible that I do not believe any country will again care to start a war.”