Just 11 years after the innovation of airplanes by the Wright Brothers, World War I broke out in 1914. In the beginning, tanks and trench warfare were more prominent and fighter planes did not play a major role in the war. However, in the latter half of World War I, fighter planes formed an integral part of the military.
Scrutiny of Enemies
Initially, the planes were not so much for direct combat as they were for scrutiny of enemies. Each side would send out airplanes to circle around the enemy bases, hoping to find out where their enemies were headed. For instance, in the First Battle of the Marne, Allied forces were able to use planes to discover an opening in German lines. This prompted them to launch a strategic attack and push the German forces back.
The war became more brutal as it dragged on. Both sides used fighter planes to conduct air raids on enemy grounds. At first, the planes were only capable of carrying small bombs and were easily shot down. However, long-range fighter planes were soon developed to carry a much bigger load of bombs. The air raids became more intense, increasing casualties on the ground.
Fighter Planes Exchanging Fire
Once fighter planes were commonly used in war, pilots from opposing sides began to shoot at each other. When traditional methods like grenade attacks and rifle shooting from planes were ineffective, an invention was made by the Germans known as the “interrupter”. This refers to a machine gun attached to the fighter plane, designed to harmonize with the propeller such that it would not disrupt the way of the bullets.
As interrupters became mainstream in World War I, pilots in fighter planes would attempt to shoot down enemy planes in battles known as “dogfights”. Those who were particularly successful at shooting opponents down were famously known as “aces”.
Interesting Facts about Aircraft in World War I
Here are some interesting facts about aircraft in World War I:
- The most famous of the “aces” was German fighter pilot Manfred Von Richthofen. He was credited with shooting down as many as 80 enemy planes, the highest number in World War I. He was respected by both citizens in Germany and his enemies abroad. Richthofen eventually died due to a bullet wound in his heart shortly before the war ended.
- As planes employed in World War I were old models with modifications from the original invention by the Wright Brothers, they were no match for the speed fighter planes travel at today. The fastest fighter planes in World War I flew at around 100 miles per hour, while the fastest fighter jet today can travel at over 2000 miles per hour.
- Germans famously named their airships Zeppelin after the creator Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
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