Jan. 19, 1910. Army Signal Corps Lt. Paul Beck, flying as a passenger with Louis Paulhan in a Farman biplane, drops three two-pound sandbags in an effort to hit a target at the Los Angeles Flying Meet. This is the first bombing experiment by an Army officer.
March 2, 1910. Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois, a former military balloonist, makes his first solo flight in Army Aeroplane No. 1 (the Wright 1909 Military Flyer) at Ft. Sam Houston, Tex. Ordered to leave College Park, Md., for the winter, Foulois and a few ground crewmen arrived in Texas in February and reassembled the aircraft. Foulois taught himself to fly with correspondence help from the Wright brothers.
March 19, 1910. At Montgomery, Ala., Orville Wright opens the first Wright Flying School, on a site that will later become Maxwell Air Force Base.
March 28, 1910. Henri Fabre, an engineer who had never flown before, makes the first flight of the world’s first seaplane, as he pilots his “Canard” (Duck) from La Mede Harbor near Martigues, France. The flight covers about 1,600 feet and the aircraft reaches an altitude of seven feet.
May 25, 1910. In Dayton, Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright fly together for the first time.
July 10, 1910. Walter Brookins becomes the first airplane pilot to fly at an altitude greater than one mile. He reaches 6,234 feet in a Wright biplane over Atlantic City, N.J.
July 10, 1910. Leon Morane pushes the recognized absolute speed record to 66.181 mph in a Bleriot monoplane at Reims, France.
Aug. 20, 1910. Army Lt. Jacob Fickel fires a .30-caliber Springfield rifle at the ground while flying as a passenger in a Curtiss biplane over Sheepshead Bay Track near New York City. This is the first time a military firearm has been discharged from an airplane.
Sept. 2, 1910. Blanche Scott becomes the first American woman to solo, flying a Curtiss pusher at the Curtiss company field in Hammondsport, N.Y. She is not granted a pilot’s license, however.
Oct. 11, 1910. Former President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first Chief Executive to fly. He goes aloft as a passenger in a Wright biplane over St. Louis.
Nov. 7, 1910. Phillip O. Parmalee, in a Wright B-10 aircraft, performs the world’s first air cargo mission, flying a bolt of silk from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio, on contract for the Morehouse-Martens Co. “A Bolt From the Blue,” Air Force Magazine, May 1986.
Nov. 14, 1910. Eugene Ely, a civilian pilot takes off from a wooden platform built over the bow of the light cruiser, USS Birmingham, while it is at anchor in Hampton Roads, Va. He was flying a 50-hp Curtiss biplane and landed on Willoughby Spit.
Jan. 18, 1911. Civilian Eugene Ely, flying a Curtiss pusher, makes the first landing on a ship. He touches down on a 119-foot-long wooden platform on the stern of the cruiser USS Pennsylvania, riding at anchor in San Francisco Bay. He then takes off and flies to Selfridge Field in San Francisco.
Feb. 1, 1911. The first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the US, the Burgess and Curtis Co. (no relation to the company founded by Glenn Curtiss), of Marblehead, Mass., receives authorization from the Wright Co.
March 31, 1911. Congress makes the first appropriation for Army aeronautics, $125,000 for Fiscal Year 1912, with $25,000 to be made available immediately. Chief Signal Officer James Allen quickly orders five new aircraft at a cost of approximately $5,000 each.
April 11, 1911. The Army’s first permanent flying school is established at College Park, Md.
May 4, 1911. After a number of crashes and reconstructions leave Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 1 (the Wright 1909 Military Flyer) unfit to fly, the War Department approves restoration to its original condition and transfer to the Smithsonian Institution for permanent display.
May 8, 1911. The first Navy airplane, the amphibian A-1, is ordered from Glenn Curtiss. This date has been officially proclaimed the birthday of naval aviation.
May 10, 1911. Lt. G.E.M. Kelly, flying Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 2 (a Curtiss Model D pusher) on his pilot qualification flight, is killed as he crashes into the ground on landing at Ft. Sam Houston, Tex. He was the first student pilot to lose his life in the crash of an airplane he was piloting.
May 12, 1911. Edward Nieuport sets the recognized absolute speed record of 74.415 mph in a Nieuport monoplane at Chalons, France. On June 16, he will push the speed record to 80.814 mph.
Sept. 17–Dec. 10, 1911. Calbraith Perry Rodgers, in the Wright EX biplane Vin Fiz, makes the first transcontinental flight, from Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., to Long Beach, Calif. He makes 76 stops and crashes 20 times.
Feb. 22, 1912. Jules Vedrines pushes the recognized absolute speed record past the 100 mph barrier, as he hits 100.22 mph in a Deperdussin racer at Pau, France.
Feb. 23, 1912. First official recognition of the rating “Military Aviator” appears in War Department Bulletin No. 2.
March 12, 1912. Lt. Frank P. Lahm opens the Philippine Air School at Ft. William McKinley, Philippines. Nine days later, he would make the first flight in the islands, taking off in a Wright Model B from the fort’s polo grounds. He would teach an officer and an enlisted man to fly before the arrival of the rainy season in July.
May 30, 1912. Wilbur Wright dies of typhoid fever at his home in Dayton, Ohio. He was 45.
June 5, 1912. Lt. Col. C.B. Winder of the Ohio National Guard becomes the first National Guard pilot. He was taught at the Army Aviation School.
June 7, 1912. At College Park, Md., Capt. Charles deForest Chandler becomes the first aviator to fire a machine gun from the air. He shoots a Lewis low-recoil machine gun at the ground while flying as Lt. Thomas DeWitt Milling’s passenger in the Wright Model B aircraft. The results are so promising that the aviators order 10 additional guns, but the Army Ordnance Department cannot supply them, as the Lewis gun had not yet been accepted for Army use.
June 14, 1912. Cpl. Vernon Burge becomes the Army’s first enlisted pilot.
“Enlisted Pilots,” Air Force Magazine, December 1989 (not yet online)
July 5, 1912. Army Capt. Charles deForest Chandler and Army Lt. T.D. Milling and Lt. H.H. “Hap” Arnold become the first fliers to qualify as “Military Aviators.”
Sept. 28, 1912. The first airplane crash that results in multiple fatalities occurs in College Park, Md., as Lt. Lewis C. Rockwell, flying Signal Corps Aeroplane No. 4 (a Wright Model B), attempts to glide in for a landing. The aircraft suddenly plunges to the ground, and Cpl. Frank B. Scott, who was riding as a passenger, is killed instantly. He also is the first enlisted man to die in a crash. Rockwell dies of his injuries three hours later.
Nov. 5, 1912. First artillery adjustments directed from an airplane begin at Ft. Riley, Kan., by Army Lt. H.H. “Hap” Arnold, pilot, and Lt. Follett Bradley, observer.
Nov. 27, 1912. The Army Signal Corps purchases the first of three Curtiss-F two-seat biplane flying boats.
Dec. 8, 1912. The Army’s first permanent flying installation is established at North Island, San Diego, Calif., following the arrival of the “Curtiss contingent,” which consists of Lt. Lewis H. Brereton, Lt. Joseph D. Park, Lt. Lewis E. Goddier, Lt. Harold Geiger, and Lt. Samuel H. McLeary, from College Park, Md. After the arrival of the “Wright contingent” from Texas City, Tex., in June 1913, the facility is formally designated as the Signal Corps Aviation School.
Dec. 11, 1912. A French pilot, Roland Garros, sets an altitude record of 18,406 feet in a Morane airplane at Tunis.
Feb. 11, 1913. The first bill for a separate aviation corps, H.R. 28728, is introduced in Congress by Rep. James Hay of West Virginia. It fails to pass.
March 2, 1913. First flight pay is authorized: 35 percent over base pay for officers detailed on aviation duty.
March 5, 1913. Field Order No. 1, Hq. First Aero Squadron, in the field near Texas City, Tex., states: “The First Aero Squadron is hereby organized.” The organization is provisional.
April 27, 1913. Pilot Robert G. Fowler and cameraman R.A. Duhem make the first flight across the Isthmus of Panama. They are arrested by Panamanian authorities upon publication in a newspaper of the story and pictures of the flight.
May 10, 1913. Aerial bombing in America was inaugurated when Didier Masson begins a series of bombing raids for Mexican Gen. Alvarado Obregon against Mexican federal gunboats in Guaymas Bay.
May 13, 1913. The first flight of the world’s first four-engine airplane, The Russian Knight, affectionately called “Le Grand,” takes place in Russia. The aircraft is designed by Igor I. Sikorsky.
May 30, 1913. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology begins teaching aerodynamics.
June 13, 1913. The first Navy aviator is killed as Ens. W.D. Billingsley, piloting the Curtiss B-2 seaplane at 1,600 feet over water near Annapolis, Md., is thrown from the airplane and falls to his death. Lt. John Towers, riding as a passenger, is also unseated but clings to the airplane, falling with it to the water, and receives serious injuries.
June 21, 1913. Eighteen-year-old Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick becomes the first woman to make a parachute jump in the US. Her 1,000-foot leap takes place over Los Angeles.
July 19, 1913. In the skies over Seattle, Wash., Milton J. Bryant begins a new form of advertising— skywriting.
Aug. 27, 1913. Lt. Petr Nikolaevich Nesterov of the Imperial Russian Army performs history’s first inside loop while flying a Nieuport Type IV over Kiev.
Nov. 30, 1913. In late November or early December, the first known aerial combat takes place over Naco, Mexico, between Phil Rader, flying for Gen. Victoriano Huerta, and Dean Ivan Lamb, with Venustiano Carranza. Details are unknown, except that a dozen pistol shots are exchanged.
Jan. 1, 1914. America’s first regularly scheduled airline starts operation across Tampa Bay between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla., with one Benoist flying boat. It lasts three months.
Jan. 20, 1914. The Navy’s aviation unit from Annapolis, Md., arrives at Pensacola, Fla., to set up a flying school.
Feb. 24, 1914. In the wake of a rash of accidents, an Army investigative board condemns all pusher-type airplanes.
April 25, 1914. Navy Lt. (j.g.) P.N.L. Bellinger, flying a Curtiss AB-3 flying boat from the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-23), makes the first US operational air sortie against another country when he searches for sea mines during the Veracruz incident.
May 5, 1914. A patent is issued for hinged inset trailing-edge ailerons.
July 18, 1914. The Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps is created by Congress. Sixty officers and students and 260 enlisted men are authorized.
Aug. 25, 1914. Stephan Banic, a coal miner in Greenville, Pa., is issued a patent for a workable parachute design.
Aug. 26, 1914. Staff Capt. Petr Nikolaevich Nesterov records the first aerial ramming in combat during World War I.
Dec. 1–16, 1914. Two-way air-to-ground radio communication is demonstrated in a Burgess-Wright biplane by Army Signal Corps Lt. H.A. Dargue, pilot, and Lt. J.O. Mauborgne over Manila, Philippines.
Jan. 19–20, 1915. Germany launches the first zeppelin bombing raids on England. One airship, the L.6, turns back, but two others, the L.3 and L.4, drop their bombs on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.
March 3, 1915. Congress approves the act establishing the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. NACA is to “supervise and direct the scientific study of flight with a view to [its] practical solution.” The committee, initially given a budget of $5,000, will evolve into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
April 1, 1915. French Lt. Roland Garros shoots down a German Albatros two-seater with a Hotchkiss machine gun fixed on the nose of his Morane-Saulnier Type L monoplane. The airplane’s propeller is fitted with wedge-shaped steel deflector plates that protect the blades from damage as the rounds pass through the propeller arc.
Nov. 5, 1915. Lt. Cmdr. Henry C. Mustin, in an AB-2 flying boat, makes the first airplane catapult launching from a vessel, USS North Carolina, in Pensacola Bay, Fla.
Dec. 11, 1915. The first foreign students—four Portuguese Army officers—to enter a US flying training program report to the Signal Corps Aviation School at San Diego.
March 15, 1916. The First Aero Squadron begins operations with Gen. John J. Pershing in a punitive expedition against Mexico and Pancho Villa.
March 21, 1916. The French government authorizes the formation of the Escadrille Americaine. The unit, made up of American volunteer pilots, is later renamed the Lafayette Escadrille.
June 18, 1916. H. Clyde Balsey of the Lafayette Escadrille is shot down near Verdun, France, the first American-born aviator shot down in World War I.
Aug. 16, 1916. While flying an ungainly Caudron G.4 bomber, French Lt. René Fonck, who later gains a reputation for using minimal ammunition, scores one of his first aerial victories without firing a shot. Attacking a Rumpler C.I, Fonck maneuvers around the German pilot, forcing him to fly lower and lower, until he must land behind French lines.
Sept. 2, 1916. Airplane-to-airplane radio is demonstrated at North Island, Calif., when radiotelegraph messages are sent and receives a distance of about two miles between the airplanes of Lt. W.A. Robertson and A.D. Smith and Lt. H.A. Dargue and Capt. C.C. Culver.
Feb. 28, 1917. For the first time in the US, the human voice is transmitted by radiotelephone from an airplane to the ground at San Diego.
April 30, 1917. Maj. William H. “Billy” Mitchell becomes the first American Army officer to fly over the German lines.
May 26, 1917. Maj. T.F. Dodd, Army Signal Corps, is appointed aviation officer on the staff of commander in chief, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), the beginning of an overseas organization of the Aviation Section.
June 5, 1917. The first US military air unit sent to Europe in World War I, the 1st Aeronautic Detachment, arrives in Pauillac, France.
June 26, 1917. In a concentration of German airpower, the first Jagdgeschwader (fighter wing) is formed. With suitable transportation and tents for aircraft, the Jagdgeschwader concept is a flexible combat organization with four squadrons that is able to quickly relocate along the front as required. JG 1 is commanded by Major (Capt.) Manfred von Richthofen. Three more Jagdgeschwaders —which would be nicknamed “flying circuses”—are formed before the Armistice.
July 20, 1917. The War Department designates a site near Shiloh Valley Township, Ill., to be the location of Scott Field. Named after Cpl. Frank S. Scott, it was and still is the only US Air Force base to be named for an enlisted man.
Aug. 13, 1917. The First Aero Squadron sails for Europe under command of Maj. Ralph Royce, the first squadron to report for flying duty in the AEF.
Oct. 18, 1917. McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio, is established. This field will be the center of military aviation research and development in the United States for the next decade.
Nov. 27, 1917. Brig. Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois takes over as chief of the Air Service for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Europe. He replaces Brig. Gen. William L. Kenly.
Nov. 30, 1917. The Vickers Vimy heavy bomber makes its first flight at Joyce Green, England. Capable of carrying 2,000 pounds of bombs and with a range of 900 miles, the Vimy is designed to bomb Germany from England, making it the first true strategic bomber. The type did not enter service until October 1918, but the Vimy would be the Royal Air Force’s front-line bomber until the late 1920s. It would serve in training roles until 1931.
Jan. 19, 1918. The US School of Aviation Medicine begins operations at Hazelhurst Field, Mineola, N.Y.
Jan. 23, 1918. The first ascent by an AEF balloon is made at the balloon school in Cuperly, France.
Feb. 5, 1918. While flying as a substitute gunner with a French squadron, Lt. Stephen W. Thompson becomes the first American to record an aerial victory while in a US uniform. He shoots down a German Albatros D.III.
Feb. 18, 1918. The first American fighter unit proper, the 95th Aero Squadron, arrives in France.
Feb. 23, 1918. The 2nd Balloon Company moves to the front lines near Toul, France, and begins operations. It is the first of 37 American balloon companies that will see action—three at Chateau Thierry, 15 at St. Mihiel, and 19 in the Meuse Argonne area—in World War I.
Feb. 28, 1918. Regulation of the airways begins with an order by President Woodrow Wilson requiring licenses for civilian pilots or owners. More than 800 licenses are issued.
March 11, 1918. Lt. Paul Baer becomes the first AEF Air Service member awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
March 12, 1918. Capt. Phelps Collins of Alpena, Mich., becomes the first member of the Air Service to lose his life on a combat mission. Collins, a pilot with the 103rd Aero Squadron, was on a combat patrol near Paris, when for some unknown reason, his SPAD XIII crashed to Earth in a high speed dive from high altitude.
March 19, 1918. The 94th Aero Squadron makes the first US operational flights across the front lines in France.
April 1, 1918. Britain takes the historic step of creating the world’s first formally recognized, independent air arm, with its own governmental ministry, and its own uniform and rank structure. The Royal Air Force is formed as an amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Maj. Gen. Hugh Trenchard is named as the first RAF chief of staff.
April 11, 1918. The first US patrol over enemy lines by an observation squadron in World War I is made by I Corps Observation Squadron, 1st Observation Group, equipped with SPAD biplanes.
April 14, 1918. Army Lt. Alan Winslow and Lt. Douglas Campbell, flying Nieuport 28s of the 94th Aero Squadron, down two German fighters in a 10-minute battle. Winslow is the first pilot in the American sector of the front to down an airplane; Campbell is the first US-trained pilot to score a victory.
April 21, 1918. Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron,” is shot down in action over France by Capt. A. Roy Brown, a Canadian. The German ace, killed in the battle, had 80 aerial victories.
May 7, 1918. Flying a Nieuport 28, Army 1st Lt. Edward V. Rickenbacker, who would go on to be the leading American ace of World War I, records his first solo victory, downing a German Pfalz. Flying with the 94th Aero Squadron, he had recorded a half victory, his first, on April 29.
May 9, 1918. French ace René Fonck records six aerial victories in one day. During the first mission, Capitaine Fonck, flying a SPAD XIII, shoots down a German reconnaissance aircraft and its two fighter escorts in three minutes. An hour and a half later, Capitaine Fonck dispatches a German two-seat observation aircraft and is then attacked by nine other enemy aircraft. He gets behind them and shoots down the trail aircraft. As the remaining aircraft try to force him to fly over German lines, he shoots down another aircraft and returns to base. He goes on to be the leading Allied ace of World War I and the leading French ace of all time with 75 confirmed victories.
May 15, 1918. The Aviation Section of the Signal Corps begins regular airmail service from Washington, D.C., to New York City.
“The Day the Airmail Started,” Air Force Magazine, December 1989 (not yet online)
May 20, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson signs the Overman Act, which, mostly as a result of the monumental problems the US faced in gearing up aircraft production for World War I, transfers the Aviation Section from the Signal Corps to two agencies under the Secretary of War—the Bureau of Aircraft Production and the Division of Military Aeronautics, which constitutes the US Air Service. Maj. Gen. William L. Kenly is named as the Air Service’s director of Military Aeronautics.
May 20, 1918. The Division of Military Aeronautics is established, with Maj. Gen. William L. Kenly as director.
May 24, 1918. US Army Air Service is organized.
May 27, 1918. Flying a Sopwith Triplane, Ensign Robert A. Little is shot down and killed while attempting to destroy a German Gotha IV bomber over Noeux, France. Ensign Little, who flew with the Royal Navy Flying Service, had recorded 47 confirmed victories, making him the highest scoring Australian ace of all time.
June 12, 1918. The 96th Aero Squadron bombs the Dommary-Baroncourt railway yards in France in the first daylight bombing raid carried out by the AEF.
June 19, 1918. Royal Air Force Capt. William “Billy” Bishop, flying an S.E.5a, records his seventy-second and final aerial victory, shooting down a German LVG two-seat observation aircraft over Neuve Egilse, France. Captain Bishop, a Canadian flying with the newly formed Royal Air Force, is the leading Canadian ace of all time.
July 6, 1918. The first US observation balloon of World War I is shot down north of the village of Villers sur Marne, France. The French built balloon is manned by members of the 2nd Balloon Co. who both escape safely after the attack by a German pilot flying an Albatros.
July 14, 1918. Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of former President Theodore Roosevelt and a pilot with the 95th Aero Squadron, is shot down behind German lines. Roosevelt’s Nieuport 28 crashes at Chamery, France, near Coulonges en Tardenois, and his body is buried by the Germans near the crash site. A cross is fashioned from wooden parts of the aircraft.
July 26, 1918. After shooting down a German aircraft, Maj. Edward “Mick” Mannock, the Royal Air Force’s all time leading ace, is hit by ground fire that causes his fuel tank to explode. His S.E. 5a aircraft dives into the ground and he is killed. He is posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valor. Major Mannock is generally given credit for 73 aerial victories, although several sources put his total lower.
Aug. 2, 1918. The 135th Corps Observation Squadron makes its first wartime patrol in US-assembled DH-4s powered by American-made Liberty engines.
Aug. 21, 1918. Over Pola Harbor, Austria, five Austrian Albatros fighters and two seaplanes jump five US Navy aircraft. Three of the Americans are forced out of the fight, leaving an enlisted pilot, Charles Hammann, and Ensign George Ludlow, both flying Macchi M-5 seaplanes. Ludlow shoots down one enemy, but is forced down only five miles from the harbor. Hammann lands in the 15-foot swell and picks up Ludlow. Hammann’s aircraft, which had been damaged, cartwheels on landing back at his base at Porto Corsini, Italy, but both aviators are rescued. Less than 10 months later, now-Ensign Hamman is killed, ironically in an M-5, while evaluating foreign aircraft at Hampton Roads, Va. He is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1920, the only World War I Naval officer so honored.
Sept. 7, 1918. The first US demonstration of troop transport by air occurs when several airplanes carry 18 enlisted men from Chanute Field, Ill., to Champaign, Ill.
Sept. 12, 1918. Army Lt. Frank Luke shoots down his first enemy observation balloon. By the time he is killed 17 days later, he has shot down nearly 16 balloons and airplanes. In his last mission, near Murvaux, France, he shoots down three observation balloons but comes under attack by eight German pilots and from ground batteries. Severely wounded, he makes a strafing pass on some enemy ground troops before making a forced landing. Surrounded, he defends himself with his automatic pistol until he is killed by enemy troops. He is posthumously awarded (Sept. 29, 1918) the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Sept. 12–16, 1918. The largest air fleet ever committed to battle establishes the Air Service as a fighting command in the St. Mihiel offensive.
Sept. 24, 1918. Lt. (j.g.) David S. Ingalls, USN, shoots down his fifth enemy airplane to become the Navy’s first ace.
Sept. 25, 1918. Army Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker of the 94th Aero Squadron attacks seven enemy aircraft, shooting down two of them near Billy, France. For this, he later receives the first Medal of Honor (Sept. 25, 1918) given for air activity.
Valor: Courage, Heroism, Valor
Oct. 2, 1918. The first test flight of the Kettering Aerial Torpedo is carried out at Dayton, Ohio. Nicknamed “Bug,” the Aerial Torpedo is the world’s first guided missile and is a precursor to modern day cruise missiles.
Oct. 6, 1918. Army 2nd Lt. Harold E. Goettler (pilot) and 2nd Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley (observer) are killed by ground fire while attempting to drop supplies to a battalion of the Army’s 77th Division, which has been cut off in the Argonne Forest near Binarville, France. Even though they were subjected to heavy ground fire on their first attempt, they flew at a lower altitude on the second trip to get the packages more precisely on the designated spot. The duo is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.
Oct. 12, 1918. The first night air pursuit operation by American pilots is flown by members of the 185th Pursuit Squadron in France.
Oct. 14, 1918. After dropping a ton of bombs against the rail yards at Thielt, Belgium, seven US Marine Corps deHavilland DH-4s are attacked by a dozen German fighters. Cpl. Robert Guy Robinson, a rear gunner, downs a Fokker D.VII, but is severely wounded and his gun jams. After clearing the gun, Robinson and his pilot, 2d Lt. Ralph Talbot rejoin the fight. Robinson sustains a dozen more wounds while Talbot uses the aircraft’s forward gun to down a Fokker and a Pfalz. He then dives, heads toward Allied lines at barely 50 feet, and lands near a field hospital just over the Belgian lines where doctors save Robinson’s life. They are later awarded the Medal of Honor, the only Marines so honored in World War I.
Oct. 21, 1918. A 10-month old homing pigeon is pulled from a front line dugout at Grandpre, France, during the Meuse Argonne offensive, and important information for headquarters is stuck in a message tube attached to his leg. The bird is released and heads for headquarters at Rampont, a distance of 25 miles. A shell explodes near the pigeon and the concussion tosses him up and then down. He struggles on and arrives at Rampont approximately 25 minutes later. The bird had been wounded by a machine gun bullet, bits of shrapnel had torn into his body, and his right leg was missing. However, the message tube was still intact, hanging by the ligaments of the torn leg. The pigeon becomes a war hero and is named “John Silver,” after the one legged pirate in Robert L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island. He will be retired from active service in 1921, and will then be assigned to mascot duty for the 11th Signal Company at Schofield Barracks, Honolulu, Hawaii. He will die on Dec. 6, 1935.
Oct. 30, 1918. Flying a Spad VII, Army Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker, “America’s Ace of Aces,” records his last two aerial victories, an observation balloon and a Fokker D.7, over France. Rickenbacker, who finishes the war with 26 victories (24.33 victories using later counting rules), records 12.83 confirmed victories in the month of October alone.
Nov. 7, 1918. Robert H. Goddard demonstrates tube-launched solid-propellant rockets at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Nov. 10, 1918. The Air Service records its last two aerial victories of World War I, as Maj. Maxwell Kirby of the 94th Aero Squadron tallies the last solo (and his only) “kill,” and two crews from the 104th Observation Squadron team up for the other victory.
Nov. 11, 1918. World War I, the “war to end all wars,” comes to an end at 11 a.m. The armistice had been signed in a railcar in the forest of Compiegne, France, at 5 a.m. local by Mattias Erzberger, head of the German Catholic Centrists for the Central Powers, and by Marshall Ferdinand Foch for the Allied Powers. At that time, the US had 45 squadrons (of which 38 had been involved in combat) consisting of 767 pilots, 481 observers, and 23 aerial gunners, on the front in France. There were also 37 balloon companies.
Dec. 4–22, 1918. Under the command of Maj. Albert D. Smith, four JN-4s fly from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla., to complete the Army’s first transcontinental flight. Only Smith’s airplane manages to make the entire trip.
Jan. 24, 1919. Army Air Service pilot 1st Lt. Temple M. Joyce makes 300 consecutive loops in a Morane fighter at Issoudun, France.
April 28, 1919. The first successful test jump with a free fall parachute is made by Leslie Irving at McCook Field, Ohio. He uses the prototype Model AA parachute as he jumps from a USD-9 (the US built version of the British deHavilland DH-9), piloted by Floyd Smith.
May 16–27, 1919. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Albert C. “Putty” Read and a crew of five fly from Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, to Lisbon, Portugal, via the Azores, in the Curtiss NC-4 flying boat, spending 53 hours, 58 minutes aloft. This is the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by air. Two other NC-4s start the trip but do not complete it.
June 1, 1919. In response to a request from the San Francisco District Forester, the first organized and sustained aerial forest fire patrol is initiated from Rockwell Field, Calif., using Curtiss JN-4D and JN-6H planes.
June 14–15, 1919. Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown of the United Kingdom make the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic in 16 hours, 12 minutes.
July 24–Nov. 9, 1919. An Army Air Service crew makes the first flight around the periphery of the United States. Taking off from Bolling Field, D.C., in a Martin MB-1 bomber, the crew flies counterclockwise, and since time and speed were not factors, proceeds leisurely across the northern states, down the Pacific coast, eastward along the Mexican border and then arriving back at Bolling. The total distance of roughly 10,000 miles was flown in 114 hours and 45 minutes.
Sept. 1, 1919. Dive bombing is demonstrated at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
Oct. 30, 1919. The reversible-pitch propeller is tested for the first time at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio.