Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 18, 2010 - 06:14pm PT
The first dogfight in history occurred in November, 1913.
It was during the Mexican Revolution.
General Huerta had hired San Francisco newspaperman, Phil Rader, as a mercenary pilot to drop bombs on the forces of General Carranza.
Carranza had hired another American mercenary, Dean Ivan Lamb, to fly up and find him (in a Curtis model D pusher).
When they met in the mexican skies Rader fired his revolver first, but Lamb thought that Rader was just trying to scare him off without hitting him so he did the same.
They made several passes.
Reloading with one hand was the biggest problem.
A half decade later they both flew in WW1 and became friends, joking about their meeting.
Lamb had an interesting life.
He worked on the Panama Canal, served with the British Flying Corps, founded the Honduran Air Force, fought in numerous latin revolutions, was indicted for jewel theft, testified at Alger Hiss's espionage trial, and served as intelligence officer for the Flying Tigers.
More than a century before the first dogfight Britain sent a new Governor to New South Wales.
Something of a martinet, he didn't hit it off with his officers. He accused them of being corrupt and running a rum trafficking ring.
He was absolutely right.
However, that didn't stop them from surrounding his house with hundreds of soldiers and taking him into custody for over a year.
Eventually at least some of the mutineers were convicted.
But it was all so familiar.
You see the Governor of New South Wales had near twenty years earlier commanded a ship.
The ship was The Bounty and his name was William Bligh.
Bligh? Don't confuse Bligh with Charles Laughton or Trevor Howard. Bligh was one of the more humane officers in the Royal Navy and one bad ass navigator and sailor to boot. If you haven't already, check out The Bounty by Caroline Alexandr. A very good book.
Sergeant-Major Jillings was the first British soldier to be wounded in WWI and the first to be wounded in an airplane in any war, according to James McCudden. This while shooting down a German airplane, with a rifle, on Aug. 22, 1914.
According to wikipedia:
The first aircraft brought down by another was an Austrian reconnaissance rammed on 8 September 1914, by Russian pilot Pyotr Nesterov in Galicia in the Eastern Front (both planes crashed as the result of the attack killing all occupants).
On October 5th 1914, French pilot Louis Quenault opened fire on a German aircraft with a machine gun. Quenault reported history's first air to air kill.
Roland Garros of tennis stadium fame, was the first to shoot down an opponent by firing through the propeller.
Gary is right about Bligh being warm and cuddly compared to many English captains. His misfortune was getting a crew of scalliwags. Interesting that the mutineers' descendants became a bunch of pederasts. Maybe there's a genetic disposition to disrespect for lawful authority and deeper perversions?
But the character of Skinner, the black pilot, was not a politically correct invention.
A generation before the Tuskeegee airmen there was Eugene Bullard.
An african-american who traveled to France in the early twentieth century and became a professional prizefighter. He truly loved France, in part because black men were treated better there than in the US.
He joined the French Foreign Legion in 1914 and went to war, quickly distinguishing himself as a crack machine gunner.
In 1916 he joined the Lafayette Escadrille and learned to fly before the US entered the war.
The special features on the dvd have a thing on him that claims he shot down two Fokkers, but my book says one kill and one probable kill, which is probably more accurate.
Regardless, Bullard was the first african-american fighter pilot, and the only black pilot in WW1.
He truly loved France, in part because black men were treated better there than in the US.
Harold L. Olmsted, Harvard class of '08, Harvard Man of the Year 1966, told us that US WWI fighter pilots were quarantined in Vestal NY on their return from the war because it was feared they would be fatally attractive to women.