Tag Archives: World War I

1 November 1918

Sous-Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck. (Agence Meurisse)

1 November 1918: At 2:20 p.m., Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck, Escadrille 103,  Aéronautique Militaire, shot down a Luftstreitkräfte Halberstadt C, east of Vouziers, France. Gefreiter W. Schmidt of Flieger-Abteilung 297b, was killed.

This was the 75th confirmed enemy aircraft that Fonck had destroyed. (As many as 52 aircraft claimed by Fonck, including another Halberstadt C over Semuy, fifteen minutes later, were not confirmed.) Lieutenant Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I.¹

Lieutenant René Fonck with a SPAD S.XVII, 1918. (Photo SHD section Air de Vincennes transmise par Jon Guttman)

The chasseur flown by René Fonck on this date was a Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XVII, Nº. 682. The S.XVII was an improved S.XIII, with stronger wings and fuselage, additional bracing wires and a more powerful engine. More closely-spaced longerons gave the fuselage a more circular cross-section, and gave the airplane a bulkier appearance. The S.XVII had the same length, wing span and height as the S.XIII, but was heavier. Its empty weight was 687 kilograms (1,515 pounds) and the gross weight was 942 kilograms (2,077 pounds).

The S.XVII was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.265 cubic inch displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single-overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine. This was a right-hand-tractor, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1, and was rated at 300 cheval vapeur (296 horsepower) at 2,100 r.p.m. The Hispano-Suiza 8Fb was 1.32 meters (4.33 feet) long, 0.89 meters (2.92 feet) wide and 0.88 meters (2.89 feet) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (flyingmachines.ru)

The S.XVII had a maximum speed of 221 kilometers per hour (137 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). It could climb to 2,000 meters in 5 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 8 minutes, 20 seconds. Its ceiling was 7,175 meters (23,540 feet).

Armament consisted of two water-cooled, fixed Vickers 7.7 mm (.303 British) machine guns above the engine, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The guns’ water jackets were left empty.

The SPAD S.XVIIs were delivered to Escadrille 103 in June 1918. It is believed that 20 were built.

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (aviafrance)

Paul-René Fonck was born 27 March 1894 at Salcy-de Meurthe, the first of three children of Victor Felicien Fonck, a carpenter, and Marie Julie Simon Fonck. His father was killed in an accident when he was four years old, leaving Mme Fonck to raise Paul-René and his two sisters. He was sent to an uncle who placed him in a religious boarding school in Nancy. He was a good student. After six years, he returned to live with his mother and finshed his education in a public school.

At the beginning of World War I, Fonck joined the French Army. he was assigned to an engineering regiment, building roads and bridges, and digging trenches. In February 1915 Corporal Fonck was transferred to flight school at St. Cyr. He received his military pilot rating 15 May 1915. He was initially ordered to Escadrille C47, an observation squadron, where he flew the Caudron G.4.

In 1917, Fonck was transferred to Escadrille 103. He flew the SPAD S.VII, S.XII, S.XIII and the S.XVII.

For his military service during World War I, René Paul Fonck was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 28 Palmes, Croix de Guerre (Belgium); and Great Britain awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Cross and Military Medal.

He died in Paris 23 June 1953. He was buried at the Saulcy-sur-Meurthe Cemetery, near the place of his birth.

René Fonck with a SPAD S.XII Canon fighter. The stork painted on the fuselage is the insignia of Escadrille 103, “Les Cignones.” (Historic Wings)

¹ Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Luftstreitkräfte, had 80 confirmed victories and was the leading fighter ace of World War I. Captain (Acting Major) William George Barker, Royal Air Force, is credited with 50. Count Maggiore Francesco Baracca, of Italy’s Corpo Aeronautico Militare was officially credited with 34 before being killed 18 June 1918. Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, shot down 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. Alexander Alexandrovich Kazakov was the leading ace of Imperial Russia with 20 confirmed victories (another 12 were not officially credited).

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 October 1918

Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)
Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)

27 October 1918:

MAUGHAN, RUSSELL L.

First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army
Pilot, 139th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces
Citation:
Distinguished Service Cross

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Air Service) Russell L. Maughan, United States Army Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 138th Aero Squadron, U.S. Army Air Service, A.E.F., near Sommerance, France, 27 October 1918. Accompanied by two other planes, Lieutenant Maughan was patrolling our lines, when he saw slightly below him an enemy plane (Fokker type). When he started an attack upon it he was attacked from behind by four more of the enemy. By several well-directed shots he sent one of his opponents to the earth, and, although the forces of the enemy were again increased by seven planes, he so skillfully maneuvered that he was able to escape toward his lines. While returning he attacked and brought down an enemy plane which was diving on our trenches.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 46 (1919), Amended Supplement 1
Action Date: October 27, 1918
Officers of the 139th Aero Squadron, at Belrain Aerodrome, France, November 1918. 1st Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan is at the center of the photograph, kneeling, in the second row. (U.S. Air Force)
Officers of the 139th Aero Squadron, at Belrain Aerodrome, France, November 1918. 1st Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan is at the center of the photograph, kneeling, in the second row. (U.S. Air Force)

Maughan is credited with four enemy aircraft destroyed while flying a SPAD S.XIII C.I fighter.

Russell Lowell Maughan was born at Logan, Utah, 28 March 1893. He was the sixth of eight children of Peter Weston Maughan, an accountant, and Mary Lucinda Naef Maughan. He attended Utah Agricultural College in Logan and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1917.

Maughan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 28 May 1917. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 8 January 1918. This commission was vacated 10 September 1920 and he was appointed a first lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

On 14 August 1919, Maughan married Miss Ila May Fisher at Logan, Utah. They would have three children, but divorced sometime after 1940. His son, Russell L. Maughan, Jr., would become an cadet at the United States Military Academy (West Point) and be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Following the War, Lieutenant Maughan became a test pilot at McCook Field, Ohio. In 1921, he was reassigned to the 91st Observation Squadron, based at the Presidio of San Francisco.

On 14 October 1922, Rusell Maughan won the Pulitzer Trophy Race at Selfridge Field, near Mount Clemens, Michigan, before a crowd of 200,000 spectators. He set two World Speed Record during the race with his Curtiss R-6: 330.41 kilometers per hour (205.31 miles per hour) over a distance of 100 kilometers,¹ and 331.46 kilometers per hour (205.96 miles per hour) over a distance of 200 kilometers).² On 29 March 1923, he set another World Speed Record, 380.75 kilometers per hour (236.587 miles per hour),³ again flying a Curtiss R-6.

Major General Mason Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, with Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, 8 July 1924. (Library of Congress)

On 23 June 1924, Lieutenant Maughan flew a Curtiss PW-8 Hawk from Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York, to the Presidio of San Francisco on the west coast of California, in an elapsed time of 21 hours, 47 minutes including refueling stops enroute. This was the “Dawn-to-Dusk Flight.” For this transcontinental flight, Maughan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On 1 October 1930, Maughan was promoted to captain. He served in the Philippine Islands from 1930 to 1935, acting as an advisor to the government until 1932. From 1932 to 1935, he served as the post operations officer. He and his family lived in Manila. They returned to the United States aboard SS Columbus, a Norddeutscher Lloyd passenger liner, arriving at New York City from Southampton, 18 August 1935.

Captain Maughan served as an aviation advisor to the governor general of the Philippine Islands, from 1935 to 1939. On 16 June 1936, Captain Maughan was promoted to major (temporary). That rank was made permanent 12 June 1939. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel, 11 March 1940. Just prior to World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Maughan was sent on a survey tour to identify suitable locations for airfields in Greenland.

During World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Maughan commanded the 60th Troop Carrier Group, a Douglas C-47 unit, 1941–42, and then, with the rank of colonel, he commanded the 51st Troop Carrier Wing during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.

On 25 October 1946, Colonel Maughan married Lois Rae Roylance at Las Vegas, Nevada. She was 21 years his junior. They lived in Portland, Oregon.

Colonel Maughan later commanded Lemoore Army Airfield, California, and Portland Air Force Base, Oregon.

Maughan was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, 30 November 1947, at the U.S. Army Hospital at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He died at the U.S. Air Force Hospital, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, 21 April 1958, at the age of 65 years. He was buried at the Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Utah.

SPAD S.XIII at Air Service Production Center No. 2, Romorantin Aerodrome, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)

The Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.1 was a single-seat, single-engine, two-bay biplane designed by Technical Director Louis Béchéreau. The chasseur was first flown by René Pierre Marie Dorme, 4 April 1917. It was constructed of a wooden framework and covered with doped fabric. Sheet metal panels covered the engine and cockpit.

The SPAD S.XIII was 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters) long with the wings having an equal span of 26 feet, 3¾ inches (8.020 meters). It had an overall height of 7 feet, 6½ inches (2.299 meters). The total wing area was 227 square feet (21.089 square meters). The wings each had a chord of 4 feet, 7-1/8 inches (1.400 meters) with 0° dihedral and 1¼° stagger. The vertical gap between the upper and lower wings was 3 feet, 10½ inches (1.181 meters). The upper wing had a 1½° angle of incidence; the lower wing had 1° angle of incidence. There were ailerons on the upper wing only. They had a span of 7 feet, 3½ inches (2.222 meters) and chord of 1 foot, 7½ inches (0.495 meters). The horizontal stabilizer span was 10 feet, 2 inches (3,099 meters. Its maximum chord was 1 foot, 8¾ inches (0.527 meters). The vertical fin height was 2 feet, 7/8-inch (0.876 meters) and it was 3 feet, 11¼ inches (1.200 meters) long at the base. The rudder was 3 feet, 10-5/8 inches (1.184 meters) high with a maximum chord of 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).

The airplane had fixed wheeled landing gear which used rubber cords (bungie cords) for shock absorption. The wheel track was 4 feet, 10¾ inches (1.492 meters). A fixed skid was used at the tail.

The the S.XIII had an empty weight of 1,464 pounds (663 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 1,863 pounds (845 kilograms).

The SPAD S.XIII C.1 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 11.762 liter (717.769-cubic-inch-displacement) left-hand tractor ⁴ Hispano-Suiza 8B single-overhead-cam 90° V-8 engine, with a 5.3:1 compression ratio. The engine drove a fixed-pitch two-bladed laminated wood propeller through a 0.75:1 gear reduction. The Hispano-Suiza 8B was rated at 235 cheval vapeur (231.8 horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m. It was 1.36 meters (4 feet, 5.5 inches) long, 0.86 meters (2 feet, 9.9 inches) wide, and 0.90 meters (2 feet, 11.4 inches) high. It weighed 236 kilograms (520.3 pounds).
The SPAD’s main fuel tank was behind the engine, with a gravity feed supply tank in the upper wing. The total fuel total capacity was about 30 gallons (114 liters). This was sufficient for two hours endurance at full throttle at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), including climb.
The SPAD XIII had a maximum speed at Sea Level of 131.5 mph (211.6 kilometers per hour) at 2,300 rpm; and 105 mph (169 kilometers per hour) at its service ceiling of 18,400 feet (5,608 meters), at 2,060 r.p.m. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).
The fighter was armed with two fixed, water-cooled, .303-caliber Vickers machine guns, or two air-cooled .30-caliber Marlin M1917 or M1918 aircraft machine guns, with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.
According to a report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
“. . .the SPAD XIII had the most favorable power loading of any of the aircraft considered and a high (for its day) wing loading. These characteristics coupled with a relatively low zero-lift drag coefficient and low drag area gave the SPAD the highest speed of any of the aircraft listed in the table. As shown by the data in figure 2.18, the climb characteristics of the SPAD were bettered only by three of the Fokker aircraft.”

A total of 8,742 S.XIII C.1 fighters were built by nine different manufacturers. Only one, Société Kellner Frères Constructeurs serial number 4377, the oldest existing original airplane, is in flyable condition. It is in the collection of the Memorial-Flight Association at L’aérodrome de La Ferté-Alais (LFFQ)

SPAD S.XIII C.1 serial number 7689, Smith IV, after restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
The same type fighter flown by Lt. Maughan on 27 October 1918, this is SPAD S.XIII C.1 serial number 7689, Smith IV, after restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15195

² FAI Record File Number 15196

³ FAI Record File Number 15194

⁴ The propeller rotates clock-wise, as seen from the front of the airplane.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 October 1918

Wing Commander William George Barker, VC, DSO and Bar, MC and two Bars, Royal Air Force, Angleterre, 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)
Wing Commander William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, England, 1918. (Swaine / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada / PA-122516)

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 09.15.01Air Ministry,

30th November, 1918.

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers of the Royal Air Force, in recognition of bravery of the highest possible order :—

     Capt. (A./Major) William George Barker, D.S.O., M.C., No. 201 Sqn., R.A. Force.

     On the morning of 27th October, 1918, this officer observed an enemy two-seater over Fôret de Mormal. He attacked this machine, and after a short burst it broke up in the air. At the same time a Fokker biplane attacked him, and he was wounded in the right thigh, but managed despite this, to shoot down the enemy aeroplane in flames.

     He then found himself in the middle of a large formation of Fokkers, who attacked him from all directions; and was again severely wounded in the left thigh, but succeeded in driving down two of the enemy in a spin.

     He lost consciousness after this, and his machine fell out of control. On recovery he found himself being again attacked heavily by a large formation, and singling out one machine, he deliberately charged and drove it down in flames.

     During this fight his left elbow was shattered and he again fainted, on on regaining consciousness he found himself still being attacked, but, notwithstanding that he was now severely wounded in both legs and his left arm shattered, he dived on the nearest machine and shot it down in flames.

     Being greatly exhausted, he dived out of the fight to regain our lines, but was met with another formation, which attacked and endeavoured to cut him off, but after a hard fight he succeeded in breaking up this formation and reached our lines, where he crashed on landing.

     This combat, in which Major Barker destroyed four enemy machines (three of them in flames), brought his total successes up to fifty enemy machines destroyed, and is a notable example of the exceptional bravery and disregard of danger which this very gallant officer has always displayed throughout his distinguished career.

     Major Barker was awarded the Military Cross on 10th January, 1917; first Bar on 18th July, 1917; the Distinguished Service Order on 18th February, 1918; second Bar to Military Cross on 16th September, 1918; and Bar to Distinguished Service Order on 2nd November, 1918.

The London Gazette, Second Supplement to The London Gazette of FRIDAY, the 29th of NOVEMBER 1918, Number 31042 at Pages 14203, 14204

The Victoria Cross was presented to Major Barker at Buckingham Palace, 1 March 1919. Still recovering from his wounds, Barker could only walk a few paces to receive the medal.

Lieutenant Colonel William George Barker, VC, DSO with Bar, MC with 2 Bars, Croix de Guerre with his Sopwith Camel F.1. (Library and Archives Canada)
Major William George Barker, D.S.O., M.C. and Bar, and his Sopwith Camel F.1, B.6316. The airplane is carrying the markings of No. 139 Squadron, which Barker commanded from July to October 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)

William George Barker is Canada’s most highly-decorated military serviceman. He was born 3 November 1894 at Dauphin, in the Parkland Region of Manitoba, Canada, and was the first of nine children of George William John Barker, a farmer, and Jane Victoria Alguire Barker.

At the opening of World War I, Barker, having previously served with the 32nd Manitoba Horse, enlisted as a trooper with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was trained as a machine gunner and sent to Europe with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His unit fought in the 3rd Battle of Ypres. In early 1917, Barker volunteered as a gunner in the Royal Flying Corps, and after training, was commissioned a second lieutenant. He flew as an observer and gunner aboard a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2. He shot down at least two enemy aircraft, and was instrumental in calling artillery fire on massed enemy troops. He and his pilot were awarded the Military Cross.

From December 1916 to February 1917, Lieutenant Barker went through pilot training in England. It is reported that he soloed after less than one hour of instruction. After qualifying as a pilot, he returned to the Continent, serving with No. 15 Squadron. In May 1917, he was promoted to the rank of captain and placed in command of one of the squadron’s flights. During this period, Captain Barker was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross (a second award). Barker was wounded in August 1917 and was returned to England to recuperate, then spent some time as a flight instructor. He returned to France in October.

Captain Barker was transferred to 28 Squadron and assigned a Sopwith Camel F.1, B.6313. The squadron was sent to Italy, where Hawker engaged in attacking balloons and enemy facilities. He was promoted to major and awarded the Distinguished Service Order and a second Bar to his Military Cross (a third award).

William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, 1919. (Toronto Star)
William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, 1919. (Toronto Star)

Barker was very seriously wounded in the battle in which he earned the Victoria Cross. In addition to the decorations of the United Kingdom, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre of France, and Italy’s Medaglia d’Argento al Valore Militare.

Barker flew more than 900 hours in combat during World War I. He is officially credited with destroying 50 enemy aircraft, including 9 balloons. All but the last four enemy airplanes were destroyed while flying B.6313, his personal Sopwith Camel.

Returning to Canada at the end of the War, he and fellow Canadian ace Billy Bishop formed Bishop-Barker Company, Ltd., and then Bishop-Barker Aeroplanes, flying charters, aircraft sales and maintenance.

William Barker married Miss Jean Bruce Kilbourn Smith, 1 June 1921, at Grace Church on-the-Hill, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They had one daughter, Jean Antoinette Barker.

Billy Barker returned to military service with the newly-formed Canadian Air Force and was commissioned a wing commander. He was assigned to command Camp Borden Air Station. In 1924, he was assigned as Acting Director, the highest position in the C.A.F., until the creation of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Barker was then assigned as a liaison officer to the Royal Air Force. He attended the Royal Air Force Staff College from May 1925 to March 1926. Barker resigned from the R.C.A.F. in 1926, refusing to serve under an officer he did not respect.

After leaving the military service, Barker worked at several positions, including the first president of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. In 1930, he joined Fairchild Aircraft as a vice-president.

On 12 March 1930, while demonstrating a Fairchild KR-21 at Rockcliffe Air Station near Ottawa, Ontario, the airplane went out of control and crashed onto the ice-bound Ottawa River. William George Barker was killed. He was just 35 years old.

Following a state funeral, the body of Wing Commander William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Canadian Air Force, was interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. More than 50,000 people lined the streets leading to the cemetery.

William George Barker Memorial at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Ontario War Memorials)
William George Barker Memorial at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Ontario War Memorials)
Sopwith Camel F.1. (Royal Air Force)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394. (Royal Air Force)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394 © Imperial War Museum (Q 63822)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394 © Imperial War Museum (Q 63822)

The Sopwith Camel F.1 was a British single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, produced by the Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Canbury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The airplane was constructed of a wooden framework, with the forward fuselage being covered with aluminum panels and plywood, while the aft fuselage, wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric.

The length of the Camel F.1 varied from 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters) to 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters), depending on which engine was installed. Both upper and lower wings had a span of 28 feet, 0 inches (8.534 meters) and chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters). They were separated vertically by 5 feet (1.524 meters) at the fuselage. The upper wing had 0° dihedral, while the lower wing had 5° dihedral and was staggered 1 foot, 6 inches (0.457 meters) behind the upper wing. The single-bay wings were braced with airfoil-shaped streamline wires. The overall height of the Camel also varied with the engine, from 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) to 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters).

Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I
Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I (Unattributed)

The heaviest Camel F.1 variant used the Le Rhône 180 h.p. engine. It had an empty weight of 1,048 pounds (475 kilograms). Its gross weight of 1,567 pounds (711 kilograms). The lightest was equipped with the Gnôme Monosoupape 100 horsepower engine, with weights of 882 pounds (400 kilograms) and 1,387 pounds (629 kilograms), respectively.

The first Camel was powered by an air-cooled 15.268 liter (931.72 cubic inches) Société Clerget-Blin et Cie Clerget Type 9 nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 110 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. and drove a wooden two-bladed propeller. Eight different rotary engines¹ from four manufacturers, ranging from 100 to 180 horsepower, were used in the type.

The best performance came with the Bentley B.R.1 engine (5.7:1 compression ratio). This variant had a maximum speed of 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 114.5 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). It could climb to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) in 4 minutes, 35 seconds; to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in 8 minutes, 10 seconds; and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in 15 minutes, 55 seconds. It had a service ceiling of 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Two other Camel variants could reach 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).

Sopwith Camel F.1 N6254, right profile. (NASA)
Sopwith Camel F.1 N6254, right profile. (NASA)

The Bentley B.R.1 rotary engine was designed by Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, Royal Naval Air Service (later, Captain, Royal Air Force), based on the Clerget Type 9, but with major improvements. It used aluminum cylinders shrunk on to steel liners, with aluminum pistons. The Bentley B.R.1 (originally named the Admiralty Rotary, A.R.1, as it was intended for use by the Royal Navy) was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 17.304 liter (1,055.9 cubic inches) nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 150 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m. The B.R.1 was 1.110 meters (3 feet, 7.7 inches) long, 1.070 meters (3 feet, 6.125 inches) in diameter and weighed 184 kilograms (406 pounds.) The engine was manufactured by Humber, Ltd., Coventry, England.

The Camel was armed with two fixed, forward-firing .303-caliber Vickers machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller. These guns were modified for air cooling. Some night fighter variants substituted Lewis machine guns mounted above the upper wing for the Vickers guns. Four 25 pound (11.3 kilogram) bombs could be carried on racks under the fuselage.

The Sopwith Camel was a difficult airplane to fly. Most of its weight was concentrated far forward, making it unstable, but, at the same time making the fighter highly maneuverable. The rotary engine, with so much of its mass in rotation, caused a torque effect that rolled the airplane to the right to a much greater degree than in airplanes equipped with radial or V-type engines. A skilled pilot could use this to his advantage, but many Camels ended upside down while taking off.

Major William G. Barker, RAF, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives of Canada)
Major William G. Barker, D.S.O., M.C. and Bar, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives of Canada)

Twelve manufacturers² produced 5,490 Sopwith Camels between 1916 and 1920. By the end of World War I, it was becoming outclassed by newer aircraft, however it was the single most successful fighter of the war, shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft.

One single fighter, Major William Barker’s Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Camel F.1 B.6313, shot down 46 enemy aircraft, more than any other fighter in history. According to an article by Bob Pearson in “History in Illustration” (http://www.cbrnp.com/profiles/quarter1/barkers-camel.htm), between 2 October 1917 and 29 September 1918, Barker flew 379 hours, 10 minutes in this airplane.

It is believed that only seven Sopwith Camels still exist.

¹Humber, Ltd., Bentley B.R.1 150 h.p., B.R.1 (5.7:1 c.r.); Clerget 9B, 130 h.p.; Clerget 9Bf, 130 h.p. (long stroke); Gnôme Monosoupape, 100 h.p.; Gnôme Monosoupape, 150 h.p.; Le Rhône, 110 h.p.; and Le Rhône 180 h.p.

²Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Kingston-on-Thames; Boulton and Paul, Ltd., Norwich; British Caudron Co., London; Clayton and Shuttleworth, Ltd., Lincoln; Hooper and Co., Ltd., London; March, Jones and Cribb, Ltd., Leeds; Nieuport and General Aircraft Co., Ltd., London; Ruston, Proctor and Co., Ltd., Lincoln; Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd.; Portholme Aerodrome Ltd., Huntingdon; Wm. Beardmore & Co., Ltd., Glasgow; Pegler & Co., Ltd., Doncaster.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 October 1918

Harold Ernest Goettler (National Museum of the United States Air Force)
First Lieutenant Harold Ernest Goettler, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army. (Portrait by Edward Frederick Foley, New York, 1918/National Museum of the United States Air Force)

6 October 1918: During the Meuse-Argonne offensive of World War I, approximately 554 soldiers of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division advanced into the Argonne Forest with a French division on their left flank and the American 92nd Division to the left. They moved quickly, unaware that the flanking units were held up. Soon, they were far ahead of the Allied advance and became cut off behind the German lines. With higher ground to all sides, the elements of the 307th and 308th Infantry Regiments and 306th Machine Gun Battalion came under heavy attack by enemy infantry and artillery.

With their communications cut off, they were soon low on food and ammunition. The only water available was a nearby stream that was protected by German gunfire.

Major General Robert Alexander, commanding the 77th Division, requested that the 50th Aero Squadron, based at Remicourt, attempt to locate the cut-off unit and resupply them by air. Among the officers of the 50th participating in the search were First Lieutenant Harold Ernest (“Dad”) Goettler, the 1st Flight commander, and Second Lieutenant Erwin Russell Bleckley, flying an American-built Liberty-engined DH-4. On their first flight they flew their own aircraft, squadron number 2. Later in the day, after #2 developed engine trouble, they used another crew’s #6.

Medal of Honor

Harold Ernest Goettler

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, pilot, U.S. Air Service, 50th Aero Squadron, Air Service.

Place and date: Near Binarville, France, October 6, 1918.

Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Born: July 21, 1890, Chicago, Ill.

G.O. No.: 56, W.D., 1922.

Citation: 1st. Lt. Goettler, with his observer, 2d Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley, 130th Field Artillery, left the airdrome late in the afternoon on their second trip to drop supplies to a battalion of the 77th Division which had been cut off by the enemy in the Argonne Forest. Having been subjected on the first trip to violent fire from the enemy, they attempted on the second trip to come still lower in order to get the packages even more precisely on the designated spot. In the course of this mission the plane was brought down by enemy rifle and machinegun fire from the ground, resulting in the instant death of 1st. Lt. Goettler. In attempting and performing this mission 1st. Lt. Goettler showed the highest possible contempt of personal danger, devotion to duty, courage and valor.

*************

Bleckley (National Museum of the United States Air Force)
Private Erwin Russell Bleckley, Battery F, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Kansas National Guard, circa June 1917. Private Bleckley was commissioned a second lieutenant on 5 July 1917. (National Museum of the United States Air Force)

Medal of Honor

Erwin Russell Bleckley

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, 130th Field Artillery, observer 50th Aero Squadron, Air Service.

Place and date: Near Binarville, France, October 6, 1918.

Entered service at: Wichita, Kans. Birth: Wichita, Kans.

G.O. No.: 56, W.D., 1922.

Citation: 2d Lt. Bleckley, with his pilot, 1st Lt. Harold E. Goettler, Air Service, left the airdrome late in the afternoon on their second trip to drop supplies to a battalion of the 77th Division, which had been cut off by the enemy in the Argonne Forest. Having been subjected on the first trip to violent fire from the enemy, they attempted on the second trip to come still lower in order to get the packages even more precisely on the designated spot. In the course of his mission the plane was brought down by enemy rifle and machinegun fire from the ground, resulting in fatal wounds to 2d Lt. Bleckley, who died before he could be taken to a hospital. In attempting and performing this mission 2d Lt. Bleckley showed the highest possible contempt of personal danger, devotion to duty, courage, and valor.

Bleckley (National Museum of the United States Air Force)
Second Lieutenant Erwin Russell Bleckley, assigned as an artillery observer with the 50th Aero Squadron, mans the two .30-caliber M1918 Lewis machine guns of a DH-4, 1918. (National Museum of the United States Air Force)

“The Lost Battalion” was finally relieved on the afternoon of 8 October. Of the estimated 554 soldiers who entered the forest on 2 October, approximately 197 were killed and 150 were either missing or captured.

In addition to the Medals of Honor awarded to Lieutenants Goettler and Bleckley, four officers and enlisted men received the Medal. Twenty-eight others were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

A Boeing-built DH-4M assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron, 1918. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
An American-built DH-4 assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron, 1918 The position of the pilot’s cockpit identifies this airplane as the original DH-4 variant. The airplane’s manufacturer and serial number are unknown, but the squadron number 23 is painted on the underside of the lower right wing. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The Airco DH.4 was a very successful airplane of World War I, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. The DH.4 (DH-4 in American service) was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The fuselage and wings were constructed of wood and covered with doped-fabric. The airplane was produced by several manufacturers in Europe and the United States. The DH-4 was 30 feet, 5 inches (9.271 meters) long with a wingspan of 42 feet, 8 inches (13.005 meters) and height of 10 feet, 6 inches (3.200 meters). The DH-4 had an empty weight of 2,391 pounds, (1,085 kilograms) and gross weight of 4,297 pounds (1,949 kilograms). Fuel capacity was 67 gallons (254 liters).

Army Air Service DH-4s were powered by Liberty 12 aircraft engines in place of the Rolls-Royce Eagle VII V-12 of the British-built DH.4 version. The L-12 was water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.34-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter), single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine. It produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and it turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 67.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 27.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 41.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms).

Major Henry H. Arnold standing beside the first Liberty 12 aircraft engine turned out for war use. "Hap" Arnold would later hold the 5-star rank of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Major Henry Harley Arnold standing beside the first Liberty 12 aircraft engine turned out for war use. “Hap” Arnold would later hold the 5-star rank of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

The Liberty 12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and the Packard Motor Car Company. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

The DH-4 had a maximum speed of 124 miles per hour (200 kilometers per hour), service ceiling of 19,600 feet (5,974 meters) and range of 400 miles (644 kilometers).

Many DH-4s were rebuilt as DH-4Bs. These can be identified by the relocated pilot’s cockpit, which was moved aft, closer to the observer’s position. The an enlarged fuel tank was place ahead of the pilot’s cockpit. Following World War II, many were rebuilt with tubular metal frames for the fuselage, replacing the original wooden structure. These aircraft were redesignated DH-4M.

The prototype American DH-4, Dayton-Wright-built airplane, is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Aviation and Space Museum.

This Boeing-built DH-4M-1, serial number 32364, was assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron. The units Dutch Girl insignia is painted on teh fuselage along with teh squadron number, 10. The name of the person standing by the airplane is not known. (U.S. Air Force)
This DH-4, serial number 32364, was assigned to the 50th Aero Squadron. The unit’s Dutch Girl insignia is painted on the fuselage along with the squadron number, 10. The name of the person standing by the airplane is not known. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 October 1914

Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault. (Unattributed)
Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault. (Unattributed)

5 October 1914: The first aerial combat between two airplanes took place during World War I over Jonchery, Reims, France.

A French Voisin III biplane of Escadrille VB24, flown by Sergeant Joseph Frantz with observer Corporal Louis Quénault, engaged a German Aviatik B.II flown by Oberleutnant Fritz von Zangen and Sergeant Wilhelm Schlichting of FFA 18.

Voisin III. (Unattributed)
Voisin III. (Unattributed)

The Voisin was armed with a Hotchkiss M1909 8mm machine gun. Corporal Quénault fired two 48-round magazines at the German airplane, whose crew returned fire with rifles. Quénault’s machine gun jammed and he continued to fire on the Aviatik with a rifle.

The German airplane crashed and von Zangen and Schlichting were killed.

This was the first air-to-air kill in the history of warfare.

Aviatik B.II
Aviatik B.II No. B 558/15, Hangest-en-Santerre, France, circa 1915. (Unattributed)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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