The first military aeroplane pilot in the United States was Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge. He was killed in a 1908 plane crash when Orville Wright lost control of their aeroplane at an altitude of 75 feet.
First use of aircraft in war was in 1911 when an Italian pilot took off from Libya to observe Turkish army lines during the Italo-Turkish War. The first dropping of a bomb from an aircraft in combat, happened on November 1, 1911 during the same conflict.
Corporal Frank S. Scott of the United States Army became the first enlisted man to die in an airplane crash on September 28, 1912. He and pilot Lt. Lewis C. Rockwell were killed in the crash of an Army Wright Model B at College Park, Maryland.
The first bombing expedition took place in early October 1914 at the start of World War One when British planes, taking off from Dunkirk, bombed Cologne railway station and destroy Germany’s latest Zeppelin in its shed at Düsseldorf.
The first aerial raid on England took place on the night of January 19-20, 1915. Two Zeppelins, L 3 and L 4 dropped their bombs on Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, King’s Lynn and the surrounding villages, killing four and injuring 16. Material damage was estimated at £7,740.
|British First World War poster of a Zeppelin above London at night|
During 1915 single-seater planes acquired a machine gun, cunningly synchronised to fire between the blades of the revolving propeller.
Leutnant Kurt Wintgens became the first military fighter pilot to score a victory over an opposing aircraft on July 1, 1915. He was flying the synchronized machine-gun armed fighter plane, the Fokker M.5K/MG Eindecker. At 18:00 that evening he engaged a French Morane-Saulnier Type L “Parasol” two-seater., which was flown by one Capitaine Paul du Peuty, with Sous-Lieutenant de Boutiny as the observer. After a few minutes of combat with the Fokker, de Peuty was wounded in the lower right leg and shortly thereafter the Eindecker likewise wounded de Boutiny in the leg. Despite their injuries, the French aircrew landed their Morane Parasol safely, in friendly territory.
|The actual aircraft used by Wintgens in his pioneering aerial engagement, his Fokker M.5K/MG|
The first U.S. air combat mission begun on March 19, 1916, when eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes of the First Aero Squadron took off from Columbus, New Mexico. They were on a support mission for the 7,000 U.S. troops under the command of General Pershing who had invaded Mexico to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. The First Aero Squadron had been organized a year and a half eatlier after the outbreak of World War I.
When Stephen W. Thompson shot down a German Albatros D.III fighter on February 5, 1918, he became the first member of the United States military to shoot down an enemy aircraft. The uniform that Thompson was wearing when he shot down the plane is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.
|Stephen Thompson in the uniform he was wearing on Feb. 5, 1918. By Stephen W. Thompson – Wikipedia Commons|
The most effective World War I fighter pilot was Manfred von Richthofen, known from the color of his plane as the Red Baron. Before being killed in action in 1918, he shot down 79 British and one Belgian aircraft.
The world’s first jet fighter, the German Messerschmitt Me 262, was brought into service in World War II in April 1944, too late to alter the course of the war. With a top speed of 540mph it was faster than any Allied fighter — and even in its short life its pilots claimed 542 ‘kills’.
The World War II Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was the world’s first, and only, mass produced, rocket-powered aircraft fighter. After the war, its designer, Alexander Lippisch, helped take more than 1,500 Nazi scientists to work for the U.S. government,
One of the first aircraft to be fitted with an ejection seat was the German Heinkel He 280 prototype jet fighter. While testing the He 280 during World War II, German pilot Helmut Schenk became the first person to use an ejection seat to make an emergency escape from an aircraft on January 13, 1942.
World War II fighter pilots in the South Pacific armed their airplanes while stationed with .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measuring 27 feet before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, he went through “the whole 9 yards”, hence the term.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the creation of the United States Air Force Academy on April 1, 1954. The youngest of the five United States service academies, its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado.
As part of Operation Linebacker II during the Vietnam War, 120 American B-52 Stratofortress bombers attacked Hanoi, including 78 launched from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on December 26, 1972, the largest single combat launch in Strategic Air Command history.