Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air

Overview

From the outset, our understanding of aviation in World War I has been tangled in myth and legend. The airplane was not a decisive weapon in the conflict, yet virtually every hero to emerge from the war was involved with aviation. After three-quarters of a century, the image of gallant knights of the air, locked in single combat high above the trenches, still captures the imagination. Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air, published to document a new permanent gallery of the same name at the National Air ...
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Overview

From the outset, our understanding of aviation in World War I has been tangled in myth and legend. The airplane was not a decisive weapon in the conflict, yet virtually every hero to emerge from the war was involved with aviation. After three-quarters of a century, the image of gallant knights of the air, locked in single combat high above the trenches, still captures the imagination. Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air, published to document a new permanent gallery of the same name at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, contrasts the romantic myth of gallant combat in the sky with the grim reality faced by the aviators who fought and died during the war. It provides an accurate picture of aviation's role in the war and examines the interplay between perception and reality in history. From the earliest battles to the final offensive of 1918, military leaders tried to integrate the airplane into their strategy to win the ground war. After aircraft had proved successful as observation platforms at the battles of the Marne and Tannenberg in 1914, the combatants continued to use them to reconnoiter enemy positions before launching attacks, to direct artillery fire, and to attack enemy troops. Aircraft were also used to bomb metropolitan areas in an attempt to destroy public morale. But despite its widespread application, air power was often misused and its effects were inconclusive. Nevertheless, government ministries and the press singled out fighter pilots, the most visible representatives of the air war, as marketable heroes. By the end of World War I, the aces (fighter pilots who had shot down substantial numbers of enemy aircraft) had become celebrities, even though their aerial triumphs had little noticeable effect on the course of the ground war. World War I changed the nature of warfare and the world's social and political order. In the years immediately after the war, policy planners and decision makers made the war's
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295972169
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.54 (w) x 10.99 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface 7
Acknowledgments 8
Constructing the Memory of Aerial Combat in World War I 11
I Remembering the Great War in the Air 18
II An Illusion of Glory: The Origins of the Fighter Ace Legend 30
III Ground to Air 42
IV A Hostile Environment 74
V Producing Aircraft in a Global War 84
VI Strategic Bombing: A New Kind of Warfare 104
VII Fear and Faith: The Air War's Long Shadow 124
Glossary 136
Bibliographic Guide 138
Appendix 141
Index 142
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