Research Paper: Flight and Its Impact

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Military -- Flight and its Impact on the U.S. Military

Though military use of flight was slow in the earliest days of 20th Century America, Post-World War IU.S. military involvements rapidly accelerated the development of flight, revolutionizing warfare. Initially a matter of curiosity during the Wright Brothers' historic flight, aviation gradually gained ground in the mindset of the U.S. Military. As a result, during the 20th Century and particularly in the course of each war in which the United States participated, aviation became a vital factor in America's supremacy over the globe and Space.

Though military use of flight was slow in the earliest days of 20th Century America, Post-World War IU.S. military involvements rapidly accelerated the development of flight, revolutionizing warfare. In the earliest years of the 20th Century, the military was barely interested in flight. Military observers were on hand for the Wright brothers' first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, NC in December 1903[footnoteRef:1]; however, the military did not invest in flight at that time and the Wright brothers' project was not supported by the U.S. War Department.[footnoteRef:2] the "Wright Flyer," constructed of spruce, ash, muslin and piano wire, made aviation history when this first successful heavier-than-air craft stayed aloft for approximately 12 seconds and traveled approximately 120 yards.[footnoteRef:3] Despite the U.S. Military's initial reluctance to invest in flight, interest in the possible military uses of flight grew and by 1908, the U.S. Army's Signal Corps established an Aeronautical Division created to oversee testing of "dirigibles, balloons and airplanes" for which the U.S. government had already contracted.[footnoteRef:4] Initially operating on a shoestring budget, the Aeronautical Division was finally given major funding by the U.S. Congress in 1912,[footnoteRef:5] and dealt with aircraft manufacturers such as the newly-formed Lockheed Company.[footnoteRef:6] U.S. governmental and military interest and investment in aviation continued to grow very slowly, including the establishment of the 1st Aero Squadron in 1913, until Congress' July 18, 1914 statutory recognition and funding of army aviation.[footnoteRef:7] the legislation was timely, as World War I broke out merely 10 days later.[footnoteRef:8] [1: John Cooper, Jr. Pivotal Decades: The United States, 1900-1920. New York, NY W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1990, p. 13.] [2: Ibid.] [3 R.G. Grant. Flight: The Complete History. New York, NY: DK Publishing, 2007, p. 28.] [4: Tom D. Crouch. Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age. New York, NY W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004, p. 4.] [5: Ibid.] [6: Ibid., p. 14.] [7: Chester G. Hearn. Air Force: An Illustrated History: The U.S. Air Force from the 1910s to the 21st Century. Minneapolis, MN: Zenith Press, 2008, p. 22.] [8: Ibid.]

In September of 1914, the 1st Aero Squadron was reorganized and consisted of 16 officers, 77 enlisted men and 8 Curtiss JN "Jenny" airplanes.[footnoteRef:9] Realizing that their forces paled in comparison to the aviation might of the enemy, the 1st Aero Squadron requested funding for additional planes and a Congress awakening to the dangers of enemy aviation and possibilities of our own well-equipped aviation forces allotted a whopping $13,282,000.00 for "aeronautical development" in 1916.[footnoteRef:10] Unfortunately, the 1st Aero Squadron was ill-prepared to effectively use the funding for building a sufficient number of planes and training a sufficient number of pilots prior to our entry into World War I on April 16, 1917. Consequently, the Squadron was forced to chiefly rely on French and British planes during World War I.[footnoteRef:11] Nevertheless, development and construction of new aircraft began ramping up in this decade, with the establishment of such notable and enduring aircraft manufacturers as Boeing.[footnoteRef:12] Furthermore, by the end of World War I in November of 1919, our "air force" had evolved into the "Air Service," with nearly 200 aero squadrons with supporting personnel, supplies and construction units.[footnoteRef:13] This Army Air Service tentatively began using aviation for attacks, carrying messages and transport of able and wounded troops. [9: Ibid.] [10: Ibid., p. 23.] [11: Ibid., pp. 25-6.] [12: Crouch, pp. 183-4.] [13: James McCarthy. Air Force (U.S. Military Series). Andrews AFB, MD: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc., 2002, pp. 17-19.]

After World War I, air forces of all countries including the U.S. were "wound down."[footnoteRef:14] However, the country's interest in aviation was ignited and the 1920's and 1930's became a "Golden Age" of aviation,[footnoteRef:15] with understandably accelerated military interest in flight between World Wars I and II. Aircraft developers and manufacturers continued to spring up, perhaps the most notable being the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1921.[footnoteRef:16] With significantly increased focus and funding, the developments in aviation began to multiply. By 1920, commercial flights were viable.[footnoteRef:17] in addition, the Army Air Corps was established in 1924. In 1926, Robert H. Goddard succeeded in the first flight of a rocket fueled by liquid.[footnoteRef:18] in 1927, Charles a. Lindbergh achieved the first nonstop solo trans-Atlantic flight.[footnoteRef:19] the jet engine was invented in 1930.[footnoteRef:20] in 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.[footnoteRef:21] 1933 saw the advent of the first modern airliner, the Boeing 247.[footnoteRef:22] Finally, and monumentally for military purposes, the first completely jet-propelled aircraft -- a German aircraft -- took off on August 27, 1939, merely 4 days before the commencement of World War II.[footnoteRef:23] in the interim between the end of World War I in 1919 and the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941, the "Air Service" evolved into the "Army Air Corps."[footnoteRef:24] Fortunately, by the United States' entry into World War II in 1941, U.S. aviation developments had succeeded to the point at which our Army Air Corps had a well-developed doctrine, the support of a thriving aircraft industry, the ability to rapidly expand as needed, and the capability to operate worldwide.[footnoteRef:25] [14: Hearn, p. 107.] [15: Ibid.] [16: Robert Jackson. The Encyclopedia of Aircraft. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2004, p. 84.] [17: Christopher Chant. The World's Greatest Aircraft. New York, NY: Crescent Publishing, 1991, p. 201.] [18: Grant, p. 336.] [19: Jackson, p. 427.] [20: Grant, p. 7.] [21: Ibid., p. 122.] [22: Jackson, p. 86.] [23: Grant, p. 185.] [24: McCarthy, pp. 28-9.] [25: Ibid., p. 29.]

The United States' participation in World War II from December 8, 1941 to September 2, 1945 necessarily caused a dramatic burst in flight development. From 1941 to 1945, airplanes and jets were developed extensively for use in World War II, chiefly by the Army Air Corps.[footnoteRef:26] Developments during that time included Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR), first so named by the U.S. Navy and ushering in an era in which "electronic detection and navigation systems" and their countermeasures could determine victory or defeat in battle.[footnoteRef:27] Aircraft itself was also being transformed with the manufacture of the B-17, B-24, B-25, B-26 and B-29 Flying Fortresses[footnoteRef:28] and the P-51 Mustang.[footnoteRef:29] the B. Series of "flying fortresses," chiefly commissioned by the U.S. Army Air Corps, were developed and manufactured by the Boeing Company, and were designed to be fully pressurized, allowing flight crews a far more comfortable high-altitude environment.[footnoteRef:30] Though the B. Series of planes functioned as workhorses during World War II, essentially incinerating major enemy cities in both war theaters, the most notable use involved the devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and subsequent atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 through the use of a B-29 planes.[footnoteRef:31] Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy commissioned the development and construction of carrier-based fighter planes by the Grumman Company, including but not limited to the Wildcat and the Hellcat.[footnoteRef:32] Still another aviation development first effectively used in World War II was the helicopter: initially designed as a flying toy as early as 1325,[footnoteRef:33] by the 1940's the helicopter was so fully developed that it was widely used by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard for such duties as attack, rescue and reconnaissance.[footnoteRef:34] in addition, the U.S. And its allies examined German Messerchmitts and intercepted Nazi secrets regarding rockets, which began an age of high-speed aerodynamics shifting flight from mere travel in the earth's atmosphere to travel beyond our atmosphere.[footnoteRef:35] the result of these and other aviation developments was the eventual U.S. And allied dominance of the skies in World War II, with saturation bombing in both the European and Pacific Theaters of War.[footnoteRef:36] All in all, the U.S. military used aviation developments in planes, jets, drones and gliders for outright attack, transportation of cargo and troops, and reconnaissance during World War II, practices that continued through the 20th Century. [26: Ibid.] [27: Crouch, p. 384.] [28: Grant, p. 71.] [29: Jackson, p. 141.] [30: Crouch, p. 387.] [31: Ibid., p. 424.] [32: Robert Gadbois. Hellcat Tales: AU.S. Navy Fighter Pilot in World War II, Third Edition. Bennington, VT: Merriam Press, 2005, p. 50.] [33: Crouch, p. 25.] [34: Walter J. Boyne. Beyond the Wild and Blue: A History of the United States Air Force, 1947-2007, Second Edition. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 2007, p. 91.] [35: Crouch, pp. 404-5.] [36: Ibid., p. 579.]

The Korean War (June 25, 1950 -- July… [END OF PREVIEW]

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