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World War I was the first war where the airplane was used.The airplane was invented by the Wright Brothers in 1903, just 11 years before World War I. When the war first began, aircraft played a small role in warfare, but, by the end of the war, the air force had become an very important to all the countries involved. To begin with airplanes were used to observe enemy troop movements. By the end of the war they were used to drop bombs on troops and cities. They also had mounted machine guns that were used to shoot down other planes. One cannot talk about aviation without also mentioning airships both ridge (dirigible) and non rigid(blimps). They were used both for reconnaissance and bombings, Germany, France, and Italy all used airships.
The Germans made the most use of airships, using them mainly for bombing campaigns over Britain. Airships were often used in naval battles as well.The first use of airplanes in World War I was for reconnaissance. The airplanes would fly above the battlefield and determine the enemy’s movements and position. One of the first major contributions of airplanes in the war was at the First Battle of the Marne where Allied reconnaissance planes spotted a gap in the German lines. The Allies attacked this gap and were able to split the German armies and drive them back.As the war progressed, both sides began to use aircraft to drop bombs on enemy locations. The first planes used for bombings could only carry small bombs and were very easy to be shot down from the ground. Also in the beginning the bombs were held by hand and dropped. By the end of the war, faster long-range bombers were built that could carry a much larger weight of bombs.With more planes taking to the skies, enemy pilots began to fight each other in the air. At first, they tried throwing grenades at each other or shooting with rifles and pistols. This didn’t work very well. Pilots soon found that the best way to shoot down an enemy plane was with a mounted machine gun.
However, if the machine gun was mounted at the front of the plane, the propeller would get in the way of the bullets. One way to solve the problem was by mounting the gun on the upper wing above the propeller. The next invention was the mount or a steel plate on the propeller to deflect bullets. Finally an invention called an “interrupter” was invented by the Germans that allowed the machine gun to be synchronized with the propeller. Soon all fighter planes used this invention. With mounted machine guns, pilots often fought enemy pilots in the air. These fights in the air were called dogfights. The best of the pilots became famous and were nicknamed “aces.” One of the most famous is the german ace Manfred von Richthofen also known as the Red Baron. The use of aircraft in WWI was far less than their role in future wars. This was because at the start of the war was in 1914, was only 10 years after the first airplane had been made. At the beginning of the war, most of the sides in the war only had a few planes. Another problem with airplanes was the shortage of trained pilots.
There was also no one that had any experience in bombing or dogfight so it was all learned on the fly. Because of the untrained pilots airplanes had to be easy to fly. This is why aircraft at the time were less maneuverable, and more on being easy to fly. By the end of the war, the focus would shift more to being maneuverability, than being easy to fly. As the war went on the airplane slowly evolved into a far fighting machine. However the airplane did not have a major impact in WWI. It was not until WWII did avatation come into a major role in a conflict.
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