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How Battles Are Fought in the Air
BY LAURENCE LA TOURETTE DRIGGS
IDICULED and Two classes of flying-machines must
be designated as the two-seater; the world. It is the eyes of other class is the light, fast fighting
machine or chasing-machine, always a It is more than that. It constitutes one-seater. the sole means of surmounting that in Zeppelins and all other gas-balloon surmountable cross - continent barrier cruisers may be disregarded. Their where the great issue is stubbornly maximum speed is but half that of the facing itself-where they shall not pass is aeroplane. "Their huge bulk affords a petrifying into an immovable bulwark. vastly larger target for gunners. ConseIt alone shall pass.
quently they are not of interest and imAn imaginative friend is needed for portance in a contest between rival air the aeroplane arm in warfare. For, forces. mark you, we cannot consult history or The fighting-machine has two essenturn to an encyclopedia for information tial characteristics—speed and destrucon this subject. Here is mankind sud tiveness. If you are piloting a slower denly presented with a new instrument machine than your enemy you cannot for seeing and killing, a new science to overtake him, but he can overtake yoube learned, requiring new devices to be your superior armament of destructiveimagined and perfected.
ness is useless to you unless you do overWe collect all the known data in the take him. world. We experiment with every sug Slower two-seaters are used for obgestion. We select the best of engine, serving, for photographing, for spotting body, propeller, and machine-gun. And artillery fire, for bomb-dropping. But then comes the question, “How are bat these machines are not relied upon to tles best fought in air?"
defend themselves against swifter enemy Neither generals nor military experts fighting-planes. An especial guard of can assist us here. It is an unexplored, fast fighting-planes accompanies these uncharted field. New possibilities are slower machines while they are engaged discovered with every combat. Hitherto in their work, for the sole purpose of established boundaries are penetrated defending them against air attack. If and left behind in every day's experi an enemy squadron is encountered, ments.
these machines turn tail and make for Secret improvements occasionally give safety. this side or that the coveted superiority Anti-aircraft guns on the earth cannot in the air. Then the ultimate capture of defend the upper skies against aircraft an aeroplane explains its secrets to the sorties with any hope of success. Vulenemy and soon the balance is re nerable parts of the aeroplane are established. Two months after we armored against penetration by malaunch our new devices we find them chine-gun or rifle bullet. Heavier guns part of the enemy's equipment.
require more time for firing. The gunTo grasp comprehensively the difficul ners must experiment with several ties and dangers of battles in the air it is smoke-shells before they can estimate essential that the capabilities and lim the altitude of the aeroplane. No rangeitations of the war aeroplanes themselves finder has yet been devised that tells be understood.
with any approximation to correctness
either the altitude or the speed of the machine so that he can approach it from approaching aeroplane.
its blind side in delivering the coup de Moving at one hundred and twenty grâce. miles an hour, the aeroplane covers one The German pilot uses the Maxim, the hundred and seventy-five feet each sec- Spandau, the Parabellum, and Lewis ond! Flying at twelve thousand feet gun; the French have adopted the elevation, the average anti-aircraft shell Hotchkiss and Lewis; the British use the will not reach it under eight seconds. Lewis and Vickers machine-gun. All During these eight seconds the aeroplane shoot a bullet approximately -30 of an has darted away fourteen hundred feet- inch in diameter, and all have the same in any direction it chooses!
rapidity of fire-about four hundred Sheer luck alone leads to a meeting shots per minute. between aeroplane and bursting shell. The synchronizing device which is Even these chance encounters rarely re now used by all the combatants to persult in such a mortal hit that the ma mit firing through the propeller orbit chine is brought to earth.
without hitting the blades was invented Experience having shown that the by a French pilot, Roland Garros. By only defense against aircraft is aircraft, a strange fatality he himself fell a both sides have developed with all their prisoner into German hands and his deingenuity the deadliest types of fighting- vice was immediately copied. aeroplanes.
Upon the fall of Antwerp a number of The Germans have three types of this the Lewis machine-guns were found by speedy fighting-machine—the Fokker, the Germans in the Lewis factory near the Walvet, and the Albatros. The that city. One facetious Teuton thereFrench and American pilots have met upon wrote a letter to Colonel Lewis, these machines with the Nieuport and telling him they liked the gun very the Spad. The British have produced much, but they intended to add to it the Bristol Bullet, the Sopwith, and the some improvements, which they did Vickers Scout.
including the firing of exploding bullets These machines are all similar in gen therefrom, which violated their agreeeral appearance, but differ greatly in ment of The Hague Convention of 1899. various details. The German Mercedes Kiffen Rockwell, an American aviator of engine is concededly the most reliable the Lafayette Escadrille, was killed by motor known to aviation. The German one of these exploding bullets. Balsley, aeroplanes, as a rule, show better work another American pilot, who is still in a manship and will stand more strain than Paris hospital, had taken from his body those of the Allies.
ten pieces of another exploding bullet, One, two, or three rapid-fire guns are
which he is carefully preserving as firstmounted on each of these fighting- hand evidence of this frightfulness. machines. Usually they are fastened A maximum speed of one hundred and rigidly alongside the engine, pointing thirty miles per hour is attained by these dead ahead through the revolving pro- fighting-planes. They can climb at the peller. Often they are mounted on the rate of one thousand feet per minute. top plane where they shoot over the top Landing speed, or the minimum headof the propeller.
way with which these speedy planes can The latest German Albatros is the be kept under control, is approximately quickest and deadliest fighting-aeroplane one hundred miles an hour. If one imagyet devised. It mounts three rapid-fire ines running upon a rough field in an guns so pointed as to converge the bul- automobile at such terrific speed, he can lets fifty meters ahead of the machine. judge of the difficulty in safely landing Fired simultaneously when the aero
these swift aeroplanes. In fact, the plane is headed straight at the enemy aeroplane is far more fragile and toppilot, these guns cut a cone-shaped zone heavy than the automobile. of fire with deadly effectiveness.
The commanding officer of one of It is essential that the fighting pilot the largest flying fields in Europe told learn the character and location of this
few months ago that he had but armament on each type of enemy one pilot in his Escadrille who could
VOL. CXXXVI.-No. 813.--53
land at night in one of these fast scouts when the military results of such method without breakage. Only the most skilled are analyzed. "Chasing-machines" or of the airmen are intrusted with them. fighting-aeroplanes have no other func
So the maximum speed in the air is tion over the enemy's lines than fighting. limited by the minimum landing speed. They are the lightest, swiftest, and Until a new device is perfected whereby quickest climbing machines in the serlanding can be made safer, cannot vice. They cannot carry bombs or obexpect faster fighting-machines than servers. To do so would reduce their those of to-day.
speed and make them easy prey to the Flying was introduced to the world as faster planes of the enemy. a thrilling sport. England, France, and For them to seek a combat over the America find it difficult to employ this enemy's lines, then, not only increases weapon in warfare except in a sports the risk of loss, but may drop the exmanlike manner. Our far-seeing enemy, pensively trained pilot a prisoner and however, quickly abandoned this prin- the machine a valuable prize of “new ciple.
features” into the enemy's hands. If Much has been made by the Allied newly designed aeroplanes are not flown airmen over the German reluctance to over the enemy's territory the chance of venture into enemy territory to offer their falling into the enemy's hands where an air attack. Statements appear fre their secrets are disclosed will be remote quently in the press to the effect that the indeed. So the apparent cowardice of Allies have the supremacy of the air; the German pilots may, after all, be betthat we have to seek out the German ter military strategy than our own “free aeroplanes far into their territory; that lance” style of adventurous combat. they never venture over our lines except The second charge of unsportsmanlike for bomb-dropping at night or a well conduct brought against the German guarded reconnaissance by day; that pilot lies in his refusal to accept combat their fighting-planes never give battle upon equal terms. So many instances of unless they are overpowering in num this are seen that our pilots are inflamed bers; that when they do attack they to an impulsive contempt of their adversweep down out of the clouds, fire one saries and recklessly dive upon overvolley and dive on down to safety, refus whelming odds. If successful, this braving further combat.
ery is hailed with satisfaction by press We are hasty if we assume such
and people. If the "overwhelming odds charges prove cowardice, or even weak- naturally overwhelm, melancholy referness, in the German Air Service. Flying ence to one more missing aviator is reand fighting have never been regarded by corded in our official reports. the German military as a sporting propo
The method of Fokker attack is to lie sition. They are part of a carefully scru in wait, singly or in groups above the tinized program of “military efficiency.' clouds, until an enemy aeroplane is
The “star” German airman, Boelke, within striking distance below. Then who had forty-five air victories to his the attack is launched by an almost credit, and who did much to establish vertical dive upon the helpless victim. the present program of air tactics for his The Fokker's speed is augmented by service, stated in a letter to his mother: gravity, and the enemy plane has no
“It has been said that German airmen chance of escaping by retreat. At fifty never fly over hostile lines. As regards to one hundred yards distance the Fokchasing-machines, that is true; but it ker pours in a stream of bullets from two should be remembered, first, that our machine-guns. Passing under the ennew Fokkers have some features which emy, the Fokker swoops on down to his we ought to keep to ourselves; and, flying-field without regard to whether or second, that our object is only to prevent not he has disabled him. He abandons hostile aeroplanes from carrying out the field, once he has executed his diving their observations. It is for these rea attack. sons that we prefer to wait for them By these tactics the individual Fokker where we expect to meet them.”
rolls up record scores of victories with This is an illuminating statement
little risk to himself. Incidentally, very
few machines are built strong enough to a vanquisher of his opponents. He, too, endure the structural strain of this was finally brought down in October, favorite dive of the Fokker. The wind 1916, by Captain Ball, a British Aying pressure against the planes and structure officer, after having forty-five victories is tremendous. Probably the French to his credit. To-day Baron Nieuport single-seater is the only other Richthofen, leader of the traveling chaser-machine stanch enough to per circus" squadron, in his small Albatros, mit similar “stunts.'
has the world record” of sixty-two The German Walvet single-seater is a enemy aeroplanes. He was wounded in new fighting-aeroplane which during the an air battle last June, according to the summer of 1917 has divided the responsi- Berliner Zeitung, and has not since apbility of defending the German skies peared at the front. with the Albatros and the Fokker. It Such individual methods and sucalso mounts two Maxim machine-guns cesses are soon adopted in the German which shoot through the propeller. Air Service as standard tactics. So the
Accurate descriptions of this machine Immelman way is the present Fokker are not available, for up to the present system. Boelke tactics gave birth to the time not one of this type has been capt group system, now inseparable from ured intact by the Allies. With the com Germanic air attacks. Von Richthofen's ing of the Walvet another new system of successes with his traveling circus introGerman air tactics was disclosed to the duced the custom of camouflage in the Allied airmen.
German Air Service--painting the maThe Walvets are like the Fokkers, chine such colors as tend to make it instrictly a chasing-machine, though lighter visible or indistinguishable. and faster. Like the Italian policemen, Lieutenant Schaefer, who had a record they always stalk for their prey in pairs. of thirty enemy machines when he was When a single adversary is discovered finally killed on June 17th last, estab(usually it is a slow-going two-seater en lished the Walvet tactics. He invariably gaged in reconnaissance and photo went in himself for the fight, leaving his graphing flight) the two Walvets dart companion to sit above him to guard upon their victim. One engages in the against a surprise attack. actual combat which ensues; the other Boelke once said to an American instays aloft at a safe distance, ready to terviewer: “The great principle of the give the alarm if help approaches. If, as German aviator is to operate with the sometimes happens, the first is van minimum of risk. The English seem to quished, the twin does not wait to renew consider war in the air as, above all else, the conflict, but darts away to his aero a sport; while the French, with a rare drome in safety. Always flying and and courageous fatalism, fly and fight fighting in groups, the German airmen not for pleasure, but with a consecrated adhere strictly to previous orders. If ardor for their duty." their system of fighting be bad it is dis The British have, in accordance with continued as a system, but the individual their time-honored slogan, “Every EngGerman pilot does not take the liberty lishman is expected to do his duty, of violating his orders.
consistently refused to award the perSuch systems are evidently recom sonal victories of their airmen with the mended and introduced by the “star' popular acclaim that attends this specair-fighter himself. For instance, there tacular appeal to public imagination and have been three German pilots whose favoritism. England neither publishes records are outstanding. Immelman,
Immelman, the individual victories of her distinthe first to attain fame, was engaged in guished aces nor honors them with the daily raids over Paris during the coveted medals, as is done in both first months of the war. He brought France and Germany. As long as other down a total of seventeen enemy aero
British warriors are doing their duty as planes before he himself was shot down efficiently, even if in less spectacular on June 18, 1916. Captain Boelke, at manner, blunt English justice does not the zenith of his daring career, stood yield to popular clamor for the names above Immelman, both in tactics and as and records of her air gladiators.
Through aviation channels, however, value of the aeroplane, the pilot, and his come fairly accurate reports of the schooling is computed. British airmen, and the record is held by On the other hand, flying stunts forCapt. William A. Bishop, a Canadian, merly discouraged are now diligently who has shot down forty-five German taught the pilots. Looping-the-loop, aeroplanes.
side-slipping, and the deadly tail-spin The famous Captain Guynemer of are resorted to in every-day conflicts the French Flying Corps had thirty to between fighting-machines. Standing up his credit on March 12, 1917; thirty-four on the tail and firing upward through the on March 17th, forty-three on June ist, floor of the enemy craft above was a and fifty-two on August roth. He was favorite method of attack practised by killed September with last, and fell into the French pilot Guynemer. the enemy lines.
Marvelous progress has been made Adjutant Lufberry of Wallingford, during these years of war, both in the Connecticut, flying in the American art of building and flying aeroplanes, and Lafayette Escadrille, has the leading in the science of aerial strategy. Many American score of fifteen enemy ma years of peace would have been required chines. Captain Barraca, Italian ace, to advance the flying-machine to its has twenty-six.
present position. In distinct contrast with the methodi At the outbreak of the war I witnessed cal German strategy, the Allied Air Scouts the daily raids over Paris of the celehave been directed while in the air al brated Immelman. A French aeroplane most entirely by their own superior wits. sailed after him, shooting at him with The daily patrol goes aloft for its shift of revolver and rifle. No other armament “ceiling work." An individual pilot of was carried at that period. Here foe unquestioned bravery spots in the dis first faced foe in aeroplanes. Both sat tance a German squadron approaching. up late that night devising means of On he dashes regardless of the enormous supremacy. So scornful was the German odds against him. In his eagerness to raider of gun-fire from below or pistol"get a Boche” he disregards his value as shots from defending aeroplanes above, a fighting unit. It is the custom to call that he would drop into Paris streets a one French or English pilot the equal of brief note tucked away in a sack of two of the Huns. He will take on ten sand, informing his enemies that he to one to make a record!
would return to-morrow at five o'clock Unfortunately, the official reports of with more bombs.
with more bombs. And return he did losses vary so greatly that no definite score on five consecutive afternoons! can be compiled to indicate the results As long as both sides are equipped of such different methods of air fighting. with aeroplanes of equal speed and equal Thus the British report for May, 1917, destructiveness the victory must hang announced a total of 713 aeroplanes shot upon superior strategy or overwhelming down in that month, of which
numbers. But once the enemy's fightGerman and 271 of the Allies. The offi ing-machines are swept from the skies, cial German report for the same month their slower aeroplanes will not dare to gave a total of only 341, of which 79 appear, while ours may carry on their were German and 262 of the Allies! observations and bombing raids unop
Sobered by the relentless and un posed. scrupulous German air-fighters, our pi Here, then, is America's opportunity! lots are now losing much of their former Contemptuously ignoring German sporting habits, and are gradually adopt- methods has been a costly blunder of our ing caution. Accustomed to the tactics allies. Rather to the opposite extreme of their enemy, they are organizing to should we go, imitating shamelessly meet him at his own game.
every point of value possessed by the And the knight-errant who, single- enemy, whether in machine construction handed, attacks a dozen enemy fighters, or in air tactics. We can begin where is no longer being praised by his com they have arrived. At an equality there, manding officer. A foolish risk in the any improvements we add will advance air service is a costly blunder, when the us so much toward superiority.