tv World War I Fighter Pilot Culture CSPAN December 28, 2018 6:46pm-7:41pm EST
the senate, conflict and compromise, a cspan original production exploring the history, traditions, and roles of this uniquely american institution premieres wednesday, january 2 at 8 pm eastern and pacific on cspan. go online to our website to learn more about the program and watch original interviews with senators. they do farewell speeches and take a tour inside the senate chamber and other exclusive locations. today's fighter pilot culture has its origins in world war i. military historians revealed the airman behind the romanticize fagades and describes how pilots influence popular culture. part of the symposium hosted by the national world war i museum in kansas city, this runs one
hour. ladies and gentlemen it is my true pleasure to introduce our last speaker for this afternoon, doctor michael the assistant professor of strategy at the united states air force of graduate professional military education where he directs courses on airpower history national strategy. he recently published an article, the evolution of air combat in vietnam 1958 to 1972. in the airpower history journal in the technological development of air craft. he earned his phd from kansas city university of dissertation of the light weight fighter technology in the u.s. air force 1991, ladies and gentlemen please help me in welcoming
doctor michael. >> all right, i will try to not keep you from the reception. and i will be quick i did want to start off by talking about something that happened a year ago last june. there was an air force f-15 flying over syria and i know this is not what you expected her in a world war i lecture. stay with me, and f-15's lying over syria and shoots down an iranian drone. an unmanned aerial vehicle. about two weeks later, almost an identical event happened. and i don't know about you but my twitter exploded. people started talking online, blogs are being written, people are arguing and what they are arguing about is that shooting down that drunk good does that count as a kill u is that something? and people are really intensely
arguing about it. like if you shut down five drones does that make you a fighter ace u and many of the pilots are very emotional about this argument and they're coming back and saying well shooting down a drone that is just easy. it seems arguable. or maybe it's that shooting down a drone, some of them say it's just not sporting enough. this actual argument is being put forth. some say it's different because there's not a man at the controls of the drone, even though technically there is. so what's interesting to me about this is, and the reason i bring it up, is because all of these arguments, the fact that they are using those particular arguments pointculture. a culture and fighter pilots that has certain values, and the origin of that culture, have you heard the dates that some of my work is being in the 1960s and 70s. the reason i got into studying world war i, because the pilots of today all the back at world war one is the start of their culture pack in fact the
air force times reported on these drones shootings and they started at their store not by talking about f-15s or drones but a paragraph about the red baron and his legacy. and is the drone event of those somehow fitting into that legacy? so the idea of world war i and the fighter pilots we see their are very much in the minds of fighter pilots today. and so let me define what i'm talking about a little bit. what i'm talking about the fighter pilot mythos and the culture, they are basically five characteristics that despite her culture has. and number one, individualism. if you see themselves as individual fighters in instead of a partner larger group. they are resistant to authority figures. they don't like their seals.
they feel sometimes disobeying orders sometimes a little bit if they can get away with. aggressiveness is part of this, they see themselves as longing for combat they want to get into fights and that includes a sense of competitiveness with each other. we will get into that. the use of heroic and mythological imagery to describe themselves. the very termites of the air, and this is the idea that we are the noble knights of old. that's something they used to talk about quite frequently. inherently, there's always this inherent technological conversation when you're talking about aircraft. but particularly with pilots they will advocate for certain types of technology. they don't care about things like raids or bomb load they care about how maneuverable is my plane? how can i be more agile or faster? and particular types of technology that help this culture perpetuate itself. and finally, this is a
protective culture. it is internally competitive but also internally respectful of each other and they are suspicious of people that are not part of the fighter pilot community like myself who is apparently coming in here and talking about it. but it's important to know that when i put this forward it's important to talk about the knights of the air, it's all fake and it's all fiction. and to an extent that is right. a lot of the pilots and a lot of the dog bites that they get into, and dogfight is the term for when airplanes are battling each other in the skies. they don't always live up to this kind of image. so, this isn't always true, it's true off the enough that pilots can point to some specific examples and say that's what i want to be like, but what is more interesting to me about this culture is not whether or not it accurate to reality precisely. but it's more about this is the idea that these fighter pilots have. this is what they want to be.
this is the creation myth, this is the story that they tell about themselves to give himself a sense of identity. so whether or not they live up to this in reality is almost, i'm not going to say irrelevant, but it's less relevant than the fact that they want to be living up to this and they see this as an ideal to strive for and when they don't live up to this that creates some internal problems for them. and this culture has survived, i can give the example of the drone. nick about this, what is really different culture and although the technology has changed in the capabilities of aircraft has changed and we are talking about just what is the difference between and eddie rickenbacker in the first world war and say tom cruise and top gun? other than the aircraft being bigger and faster and louder, i don't know if there's much in terms of attitude and culture, they are very similar types of folks.
so i went to get into that. first some background for those of you who are not totally aware of how we got here in terms of airpower, and what airpower was during the first world war. airpower is doing a lot of things. and airpower is not totally new in world war i. we have had for longtime balloons. this goes all the way back to napoleonic era, we had balloons that go up and they were demonstrating in the german wars of unification. and in the civil war. these are primarily reconnaissance roles. they are helping artillery to spot and target more effectively and so it's easier to get aircraft like airplanes, with the motor and heavier than air meant airpower. this is the first thing we tried to do with it, let's use them for recon and observation. and the americans of course invent aircraft. the wright brothers. in the airplane but the american military is a little bit slower to pick up on the possibilities of airplanes than
the european powers are. in fact, the first use of an airplane as a weapons system is not in world war i, it's actually by the italians in 1911 in the italian-turkish war in libya. in 1911, and italian aircraft becomes the first airplane to drop a bomb on ground troops, from ottoman empire troops. shortly after that incident, those same ottoman troops become the first ground troops to shoot down an airplane. it's not the same airplane, it's a few days later, but it's still a funny story. americans do try to get in on the game shortly after this in 1913 the americas developed the first american squadron. here we are in 1913. and when some of the earlier talks talked about the expedition to mexico and the united states go down to search for poncho beale in mexico. and they say were going to do some military stuff let's get some airpower. so the americans of course have a reputation for technological
technological innovation and they amassed a giant armada totaling eight planes to go to mexico with. all eight of these planes are grounded almost instantly. the weather just eats them alive, some locals vandalized two of them and the rest get scandal scavenged for part. they can even deliver mail from headquarters to the front, much less go in for combat mission. so that's what the americans are doing with aircraft but in your things are going a little bit friendly. when we get into the early part of world war i, each of the major belligerent powers of world war i have about 50 airplanes give or take at the very beginning of the war, but no one really knows what to do with them. like the idea of recon is there for the balloons as a story that robin has said, no one had a clear idea of what they wanted. out of an airplane.
so it's going to be a time of experimentation. and this is true across the board when it comes to training because no one has an idea of what we're going to do, training for pilots at the beginning of world war i is unfocused to say the least if it even exists at all. your average pilot is going to have about 17 hours of flight training. some of the really good ones are going to have close to 50 hours of training which would be a lot for a world war i pirate . and compare that to world war ii when pilots have about 300 hours of training. at least early on in the war. so a lot of pilots are actually dying in training accidents, it's a early thing to have happened because these things are experimental. this cutting edge technology of the day, it is wood and canvas and a little wire. and it doesn't sound very technological. what makes this technologically advanced is the engines in them and how light and powerful they are. but also the shape of that
wooden canvas. the engineering that goes into making the more aerodynamic. that's constantly being updated and changed in a more efficient as things go on. what about parachutes you say? well, people are dying in training exercises, parachutes are in the experiment experimental phase still. they do figure out to help to make some of them work in very late in the war, very late in 1918 if you german pirate -- pilots will figure them out. part of this culture was if you are a fighter pilot why would you want to parachute you want to wait out of the fight? what are you, a wimp? it was an attitude that we don't want our pilots to have parachutes because they may not make them aggressive enough. this all seems very primitive and the idea of airpower evolves very quickly. people start figuring out what
else they can do with them. and even reconnaissance is a important role. in fact one of the reasons why, the french were able to stop the german advance in 1914 is because there's an observation plane very similar to this one i was able to spot german movements very early and the french could respond quickly. that's not the only reason why it happens but it's important contributor. and people on the ground recognized how important is observation role was even very early on. there is an incident where a french artillery officer is giving an interview to a journalist and they are talking and a german observation plane flies overhead in the french artillery officer looks at the interview and says there is that wretched bird that is hunting us. and so people recognize this is a problem. this observation plane so people are trying to do other things with planes as well. there are a few incidents early on in 1914 where a german plane flies over paris with a list of
names of captured french soldiers and drops a couple of bombs around paris. very small ones like single shelf with a note afterwards and it's a list of names and says please notify the families of these men they are pows they are treated there, sorry about the bomb. shortly after that, age different german plane flew over and dropped a single bomb and then a note that said see the power of our aircraft, you must surrender immediately. it was an early attempt at psychological operations, it didn't go quite as well as they thought. but these observation planes are very effective so quickly they start to realize we need to shoot down observation planes this is causing a problem for us. so we quickly transfer into air to air combat. this is an example of some rockets, those didn't work out too well. they quickly realized that guns are better than this. but what this introduces is the idea of air to air combat. now we've got planes
specifically going up to try to shoot down an enemy observer plane. well, they will try to shoot right so now you got air to air combat. each nation is trying to make new technological developments to try to take up the other person's plane and they do something else and there is this cat and mouse game. planes start flying in larger formations for defense, especially the flying v formation is especially used for. so the germans introduce a fighter plying, the iron decker. and as we would think of it the day, the iron decker has gotten gun built in, it's very maneuverable and this plaintiff shoot down french and british planes very effectively. and the western allies start talking about the poker storage that is just cleaning up the sky so they have to try to do something to push back against it.
and it's during this time in 1950 and this goes into 1916 and 17 that you start increasing the number of air to air battles. the idea of the individual pilots, the aces that are shooting each other down. they started to become known for this. one of the most famous in germany of course was all wolf boca, and his students, the red baron, those are some of the more more famous on the german side. and we'll talk more about them in a second but they try to defeat this i'm decker skirts the french developed a new plane., the newport. this is a small one, the baby. it is very effective at shooting them down so the germans then counter with any type of plane, the albatross and this second one from the front, that is the red baron's plane right there. this particular one, so do didn't defeat the albatross? and so now the british come
back and they come up with camel, this bad fighter, and so now we have got lots of levels of technology being advanced very quickly to shoot each other down. by the time you get into 1918, it's very clear, even though in 1918 air powers playing a particularly large role. by this time the germans are experimenting in their spring offenses with some new ground techniques that are pretty effective. the sammy hill offensive of the americans is probably the largest air attack up to that point in history, 1500 planes. and is fairly effective but what is clear also that airpower has not changed the nature or in any significant way. before the war started, there are all these terrorists talking about will if we can get airplanes working the war will never be the same. it will all be completely different. and all this revealed was that just like you fought on the
ground before, now you just have more space to fight in. you're fighting in the air and is turning into attrition the air dislike it was attrition on the ground. and you have fundamentally changed things and what it has done is created these individual famous aces. now an ace means you should down five planes or more, and a convention that kind of started, it didn't start exactly that with first was four and then it might've been a different number. but it seems to have started within the squadrons themselves. in the later newspapers picked it up. the newspaper started publishing, here's some coverage on the death in the british newspapers but some newspapers would publish scorecards so you could keep it home that how many people red baron has killed today. and these people become very famous. so you should down by more planes you are an ace. but you can also get ace status by not being a fighter pilot. although this is very debated at the time. ground gunner that shut down
five planes become an ace? in some cases, they did. in some cases they didn't. the red baron is the top score with 80 air to air kills, which is why they called him the ace of aces, because ace wasn't good enough. the american pilots start showing up as the american air service in 1918 and of course there flying european planes because the americans are really late to this party. over 100 americans will achieve ace status during this war, the most successful is eddie rickenbacker and here he is the 94th squadron. the 94th, we joke around that you always need a plane in the air force to put your really crazy aggressive people in, because you need them sometimes but you also don't want too many of them around. so the 94th was that place for the top scoring units, the top scoring squadron in the american air service. eddie rickenbacker leads the charts for them. so airplane is still new, and still developing but by the end of the war, we have not only seen airpower develop kind of similar types of missions that
that we still use today to a large degree, but you have seen this culture start to develop. as it evolved into weapons system. and why is that? what is it about these aces that make them so famous and attractive to the public? well, in a large way the response was happening on the ground. this is the victorian era, people wanted the kind of old school mythological heroes. and it wasn't even 15 years earlier that for americans you had to hear the roosevelt charging up san juan hill, the lone warrior. i'm going to charge up the hill and take the hall and expression of masculinity and heroism then world war i is not that. at least the popular perception of what is happening is you have got millions of men in the front line getting ripped apart by machine fire and artillery garages and their bodies destroyed, decayed by gas, dying in mud pits, also they
can gain a few inches of muddy ground that isn't worth anything. that is not the heroism, but mythological hero i thought i was wanting for. compared to something like a san juan hill of teddy roosevelt. but this public, particularly of this generation longed for. but these pilots seemed to fit into that old ideal. at least in some way, at least on the surface. and so the public starts latching onto them and onto the pilots themselves. they start calling themselves the night my want to redo this passage from john murrell a historian of first-floor ward, he sums up the attractiveness of the pilots this way. "the war of the masses bequeaths a new individual hero, the aviator, the fighter ace honored as a demigod of a holy cold whose fame and heroism are quantified by his number conquests were killed. the ancient warrior reappeared, now mounted in a legal machine
that elevated him about everything mortal, ready for repeated trial by combat on behalf of the honor and survival of his nation." that sounds a little bit over the top. these people actually see themselves like that. and to a large degree, yes. i looked for the origin of this and trying to find where is the first use of the term knights of the air or knighthood with being a pilot. it's hard to find it depends on the you. but it's very early on, in fact it's october 1914, no less a luminary of the sci-fi great hg wells writes a piece for the literary digest and he says anyone who goes up and destroy the near point was definitely in the air, specifically, he is not talking about bombing attacks he is not talking about observations. specifically someone who shoots down something in the air should have a knighthood
automatic. there is this association of air to air combat with knighthood or whatever reason for hg wells and this was kind of a popular sentiment at the time. one of the expressions of this, i think is from an american lieutenant bennett mulcher. is one of many americans who volunteered to fly in the lafayette s pedro but in 1918 he write his memoir of the war and he titles and of course, knights of the air. and he has this passage where he says why is it that i am motivated to be a pilot? he has a half sentence at the beginning. and of course patriotism and i love my country but a close second is this. my boyhood love, for adventure and an appetite for tales of chivalry and mike's roundtable. and he had this whole section that instead of going forth on a horse, i am going to fly in my aircraft, i'm going to write a fur-lined fire jacket instead of you know, a suit of armor.
i will have my padded leather helmet instead of a steel one. i will have gloves of wood and a machine gun instead of a sword, goggles instead of a visor. this guy, when you ask him what it means to be a fighter pilot he is literally closing himself in boyhood nostalgia. and that's what he thinks being a fighter pilot means is to somehow reinvigorate these tales of knighthood from his youth. and is not arthur of the round table stuff, it's that, but a close second to that is greek and roman mythology. in fact, no less of an airpower leader than billy mitchell who would go on to be like the column the air force, the father of the us air force. he is talking about fighter pilots and he says this. we are united we had no greater honor to give them than these aviators. fighter pilots have had the hardest line here to service and with the speed of mercury. so not only are these guys
heroes, they are kind of like the gods themselves. is what billy mitchell is saying. and again, they see themselves this way. they're not necessarily living up to it, but the way in which they express this individuality was a big part of it. you want to be the loan. because the early planes as opposed to the early recon planes, they have two cockpits in them. you got the pilot and you got the guy behind you with some sort of gun, maybe a camera for observation. a lot of pilot did not like that one bit. i don't want another guy shooting the gun for me, and they are all guys. so what can i do about this? not every nation was trying, they had recognize the problem if you recognize the machine gun in front of the cop pit you're probably going to shoot your own propeller off. about one out of every 10 bullets would hit the propeller. so that was a problem. even before the war started, every nation had engineers
trying to solve that problem. they all come up with some version of an interrupter gear to stop that from happening. before that was fully operational, there is a fringe pilot, who says i have got another solution before we get to the interrupter gear. i will just put these big metal plates on my propeller, it will deflect the bullets away. this will allow me to put a machine gun, it's just not him and that's working with his mechanic he had some other engineers that help them with this. this allowed him to be the sole pilot. he did have to have a guy in the back of him and this was great. at least for the fighter pilots, they love this. the german fighter pilot love this design, the idea of this singleseat fighter again became a thing for them. "the strongman is mightiest alone. i have attained my ideal with
this singleseat. now i can be pilot, observer and fighter all at once. my little finger cedar has given me the advantage of complete independence. i can fly when, where, how long and how i will." and you see this trait all over the place. and some pilot try to save the americans tended to assume as americans do, that they were more individualist, colonel livingston said "it was fortunate that the germans were so well-trained in formation and it required that they were able to follow the leaders. they weren't individuals like us americans. i used to lose my leader, we will go off by ourselves. >> i mean the germans were doing that. one of the best examples of this comes from a fighter pilot and henry clay i'm going to bring him up a few times. he's from missouri and was spending a lot of time in fort worth texas break close to my own hometown. he flies first with the british
and then later when the americans won the war, he is writing home to his sister. he says, "the work of the flyer as an individual is more than that of any other. in the other branches of services one is just a small part of a big machine and the individual does not count for much. but in the air service, the individual is something. the responsibility place on one flyer on contact patrol is so great that the whole fate of the front depends on that one pilot coming through." maybe. he goes on. >> reporter: and scout work it's his job and he attacks every enemy machine that shows itself. in these fights the pilot that is the best shot in the best flyer usually comes out victorious. in this fight it is man against man, instead of a division against division. that is why i like the air service, the individual counts for something.".
so despite this there is the sense of aggression. this is the most emphasized trait among the guys when you're either memoirs. they see these guys kind of ready for battle. but in a chivalrous way, they see themselves kind of creating this knights of the round table concept. one of the best versions of this, and you see this with fighters of the lost as patrol, i mentioned them earlier. here is lafayette s pedro. this is about 200 50-ish pilots. long before america enters the war to fly or friends. and they create the lafayette s pedro. they get a lot of credit as being the most famous unit. but about that many more americans volunteer and are spread out among other squadrons. they often didn't have a cool marketable name like that, and actually more americans are
going to fly with the british than in the lafayette. but they have the famous ones you hear most about. one of their pilot alan winslow talks about in his memoirs about how he used to look for german anti-fire and fly right into it. hoping that he would be seen so that an enemy pilot could come up and he could get into a dogfight. that's the kind of aggressiveness we are talking about. and these lafayette s pedro pilots, i noticed that every presentation with her today involved puppies and some way or another, i don't have any puppies for you because these are fighter pilots they are more aggressive than that. their mascot was two lion cubs, one with the whiskey and one with the soda because of course, but this aggressiveness showed up in other ways and in fact quinton roosevelt was a good example of this aggressiveness. quinton roosevelt, son of teddy roosevelt of course, he wrote about how he was, "i'm quite anxious to see combat."
he goes over to be a pilot and he becomes a very typical firefighter thing he has very bad eyesight he can't see a thing. so he is not going to pass the eye exam and they were not going let them fly. so what is a fighter pilot do? he sneaks into the doctor office ahead of time, goes in aces the test. he can't see anything. but he gets in a dogfight fairly early here so excited by it he loves the adrenaline and the feel of being in combat. he's in his aircraft he writes back to his mother and he says, "you get so excited that you forget everything except getting the other fellow, trying to dodge tracers when they are streaking past you." this exciting letter and it's only a few moments after he writes that in 1918 that he is shot down, killed at age 20. aggressiveness took the form also of competition, of course. the hill counts was the measure
of success for fighter pilot. how do you know you're better than that guy? you shut down more planes. of course that leads to inflation. people start claiming a lot. but this desire to get a higher kill count is important. and i'll give another quote from henry clay. but he says, "here's hoping that before they get me, i can have 50 to my credit. that is my first wish and my second is that they don't get me at all." so, if i'm dying i'm cool with it as long as i have a high score. now spoiler alert from him, he doesn't get 50, he does get 8 so he's almost a double ace. he does survive the war just long enough to die of influenza in 1919. but this emphasis on the kill count, with these pilots exaggerating their claims and this becomes a major problem and all of them have to deal with it in major ways by instituting various policies. the us in something we are not giving you the official killed
unless someone outside of your squadron can bear fight because come on, but americans would also give kill credits to assist in a way, so there are very two separate incidents with our eight observation planes and eight fighter planes that all they contributed to one german aircraft been shut down, so that one german kilt got 16 kill credits on the american side. in fact if you add all this up coming you look at all the western allies and i mean france, britain and unites states, and when i say britain i should emphasize they are using pilots from their colonial possessions as well. so the british flyers, they have pilots from new zealand, canada, south africa, about 40 modern-day nations are represented in the british flying core and then in air force afterwards. you add up all the kills of the western ally you get 11,760 claimed kills. go look at the german record
of how many planes they lost on the western front, about 3000. and you can play that game in reverse the germans claimed as many on the other side. so that's the kind of things we are dealing with. technology obviously plays a role in this as well. it is the particular kind of technology, like i said before, these pilots want to make technological advances that make their planes more agile, maybe more durable. the things that help them do this fighter pilot thing better. and that is where they want to put their advances. and these pilots had a very close relationship with her technology. the whole night and horse metaphor is pretty affluent. they had the whole connection with your aircraft. and so i mentioned that the single feet thing in the culture kind of coming together. one example of that is raul look great. he flew, he was part of the
lafayette group as part as part of the 94th. and with rickenbacker and all of those. anyone suggested that he supply fly in a two seat plane. he wouldn't hear of it. he insisted, he always fly so low that no one was allowed to fly with him. they gave him the name of lone star loft. pilots loved names. so not just that but these airplanes themselves took on symbolic roles. every time there's a new development, these pilots would have hot opinions about it. and so we see the cycle start to read pete itself. so one example, and the american in the 147, cannon clinton loves the newport. this is the most manure plane i've had yet, it helps me avoid dog bites and when the unit restarted receiving squat
biters the pilots in that unit hated them because the engines were less reliable and apparently according to some of them they weren't as maneuverable, they named them the pooping spat. and they said they had a problem in the engine. in the 90th aero squadron they had a different plane when they got these and this was absent and observation plane. the said they were sublime and their eyes would lit up according to one memoir. the unit before that, had been using this software one and have strader here. and apparently these were considered terrible because they work maneuverable or reliable. and back when the aerodrome was bombed by german bombers, the pilots all complained that the worst thing that happened about this bombing is that they didn't destroy the sopwith, they wanted to get rid of those. and there's different opinions on that, so colonel livingston irving who flew for both france and the united states later in his life in a memoir said he preferred lying with france
because he thought the aircraft were better at dogfighting. he actually disagreed with the earlier pilots, he likes spat at her because they were actually faster. he said it was the fastest thing on the front, a blistering 147 miles per hour, considered really, really fast for the time. but he liked the agility, but he also knew that he needed durability. he wanted his planes to be to take some hits in a fight. so his preference was this, the royal aircraft factory sd 5. this is not original. but what is interesting to me, this keeps going on, the sopwith camel comes out and a lot of pipe pilots love that but it also had an up a tendency to fall into an inverted spin which was dangerous. other pilots said it was durable but that the newport, yet the newport was more maneuverable but if you turned to type you might tear your own
wings often that's a problem. so we don't want that. what's interesting, i'm not trying to get into an argument about which plane is best. because that endless. we can have that at the bar. but what's interesting to me is what the reasoning is for what they think a plane is or what they are looking for in a good plane. and it's always characteristic that gives them an edge in combat. that ace fighter man on man come back. that is what they're looking for. now this aggressiveness that i'm talking about this lust for violence. again it's tempered by the since of chivalry. and again, the story was largely untrue, but it's true just often enough that there are some specific examples that pilots can pump to and say look how noble we are being in some of these comments. chivalry does exist. for example, i'll show you two examples, ellen winslow talks about his first dog bite. his machine guns get jammed and this happened all the time.
now, if you're in the ground and you see your machine can get jammed that's one thing. but if you are in the air that's a whole different ballgame. so the only way to fix this problem is to crawl out of your cup while you're flying, lean over and try to fix her guns. winslow is doing that while a german is coming right at him. and he knows he is vulnerable, he's a goner. allegedly, according to him, the german comes up, sees what's going on, sees the guns art jammed and flies off. and winslow writes in his diary, by gallantry my life has been saved. and who am i to say it didn't happen? another thing that happened in the 13th aero squadron there's an incident where an american chute down a german fighter plane. the guy goes to the ground the american lands, gets out, sees the german pilot is mildly injured him and nothing serious, they shake hands and say thank you sir, and then they go about their business.
and the official unit history for that event calls it the splendid holiday. so those kinds of things to happen, it's not like they don't happen it's kind of the exception that proves the rule because more often than not, air to air combat was not like that. it was a little more brutal. this nobility thing is a construction is an ideal, and as i ideal that even a lot of pilots of the time knew that they were not necessarily living up to. they knew it was a mythology. so for example the 91st aero squadron for the united states, they had a song and is superlong i'm not going to show you all of it. but one verse of it is, "the knights of old, these nights in the days of old," they would go out to the bar, they would get plastered, they would wake up at noon, who cares what their
ceos are saying? it's not like that today we have to get up at 5:30 and do our maneuvers or whatever. and there's like 10 more verses of this. and it gets into some gender issues where they're talking about chasing after women used to be cool and apparently is not anymore. they talk about all of this and it's like they are longing for those days. they want to be this and they know that they can't quite live up to it. and that is their theme song. but for many pilots, it gets much more brutal than that. the technology aspects that i emphasize, tend to have a dehumanizing effect. there is a lot of pilots that have trouble recognizing that there is a man in this outfit but there is a man in the cockpit, german here, franklin driscoll hunter is an eighth 19 hundreds, he will going to be a general in the 19 hundreds. he said you're not fighting a person, it's the machine. when he's in that cockpit, he can't recognize that he's talking about another human
being. it's just a machine. this french pilot, he's talking about an interview he has a long passage about dog height and how crazy br and bullets flying everywhere, all these planes swirling, because these guys talk about one-on-one aerial duels is the thing they want to do but that's now how most of these fights were. most of these fights at minimum there are going to be eight on eight, a lot of them are going to be much higher. there are some specific battles with theirs over 100 planes in the air at any one time. so it's more crazy and disorienting and terrifying than anything else. and he gets there and he says it's impossible to speak of chivalry in that kind of scenario. arthur rice davis talks about the same thing, very similar dog bite that he experienced and he's at all you can think of is pumping led into any machine you see looking out, avoiding collisions, dismissing each of the right couple of
feet. that is not knighthood, that is not nobility dueling in the old tradition, that is insanity. that is chaos and a terrifying chaos happening at over 100 miles an hour with an open cockpit and no parachute. and so this causes some issues for several people, psychologically. people discuss the trauma that they have been going down in flames. because keep in mind, a lot of these planes are carrying explosive rounds and incendiary rounds. to light there enemies on fire at times. and they talk about this, captain lee talked about recurring dreams, nightmares of guns shooting at him and if he flies in the sky, several times he would wake up in the middle of the night shaking, sweating and screaming. and his was not an isolated experience. pilots talk about just that kind of thing. which all of them for the 66 say, this flying job is run for
one's nerves. although it is supposed to last months with a fortnightly pathway, quite a lot of people's nerves conked out. there are a lot of ceos in various squads that complained about their men having nervous breakdowns. fear of flying is a real thing, a lot of these pilots become superstitious and they carry certain things with them in the air as good luck charms. the most common thing being women's lingerie. it was tied onto the side. so many pilots are terrified and psychologically scarred by the work, but they feel like they're supposed to live up to this image and a lot of them have trouble admitting this. and probably the best example of this is a pilot i've mentioned several times, henry clay. and i want to point this out because this is something i found in the archives, and all
of his letters are there and i'm reading all of these letters to his sisters the one i quoted to you from early where he is talking about the romance and the individualism in the aggressiveness and i'm going to get 50 guys in all this. as he is writing those letters to his sister, he discovers that his younger brother wants to be a pilot. wants to join him. so, at the same time and in the same date range that he is writing these letters, he writes separately to his little brother. and he says this:"it's not all sunshine and flowers. more flowers than anything else. we joke about pushing up daisies but it's a reality. he says it's all in the paper that one must forget about danger, but that person didn't know what they were talking about. this whole thing can be summed up in a you words, little other, don't be a fool. " he even goes on further. "he says this game of war is the greatest game of chance you ever played. it's not a game of nobility and
nightly duels and exciting oral combat like the stories you read about as a kid. this is a game of chance and it's a deadly one. i am a fatalist so is everyone else in this game. sherman was right, war is, and i don't know the half of it. again, this is a private letter he writes only to his brother he doesn't say stuff like this in any of his other letters. but not your typical fighter pilot braggadocio. but that's not something they felt they could express publicly. and so this image of the fighter pilot becomes something that the public latches onto. the pilots see themselves as wanting to be this, trying to live up to it, the public loves it. magazines and pulp fiction starts to celebrate this after the war is over, the 1920s you can magazines like this and notice these are not about bombers, these are all about the glory fighter pilot days.
as soon as motion pictures become a thing, some of the earliest motion pictures are about air-to-air combat. dawn patrol, some of these were some of the most experienced movies and they came out. and what are they all about? dog bites. also a new art form shows up in the 1930s,, books. and, superheroes were also planted this. one of the earliest best- selling, vicks in 19 41 is black hawk. celebrating, and lack hawk is still one of the staples of the dc universe. i know you are all thinking of it, what is the most obvious example of comics talking about world war i pilots? snoopy, the world war i flying ace. and practices such as powerful image for later pilots that
snoopy becomes a logo used all throughout the vietnam era. they use snoopy as a logo, and these are just a few examples of what could've been hundreds of examples. hundreds of pilots talk about recurring dreams of being snoopy and it goes on, even later when you get to the 1980s, you have got top gun, iron eagle, these movies celebrate this culture. it shipped into signs action. where do you think luke skywalker and starbuck come from? those are translations of the same fighter pilot mythology. and probably the best example and i'll leave you with this, a bunch of examples of this culture in our current day connected to world war i how strong it is. it comes from a film last year you may have heard wonder woman u good film? this is not really a spoiler, it may be a very mild when i'll try to say it in a non-spoiler anyway. toward the end of the film there is a photograph of the
christopher pine character character, see i grab them from the movie and it's christopher pine, standing in front of his fighter plane. notice, this is the same exact photo i showed you 30 minutes ago. there it is. this is shorthand, this is visual shorthand, this is the directors of this film telling you how do you know chris pine is a hero? because i've literally photoshop him into the shoes of eddie rickenbacker , the greatest fighter ace that america ever had. and here is his logo, the hat in the ring, and it's still an active squadron, the nerdy 91st fighter squadron based at langley. our most fighter advanced jets, have the same logo. i don't know if you see there, the hat in the ring. this culture will never go away. because top gun is filming a
sequel. [ laughter ] so, that's why this legacy is important, thank you very much i'll take any questions. [ applause ] >> all right ladies and gentlemen we will invite you to come to either of our microphones and as you work your way down and i daresay there will be some, i do have the personally say dr. michael hankins , thank you. we do show wonder woman here in this auditorium and we do a quick little conversation about what is true and what is not. and i hadn't found that one yet, so thank you so much for that. one thing i would add to one of my lecture in the future. it's because i threatened world war i aviation historians. [ laughter ] >> were these planes and pilots
involved in air to ground operations against the germans? >> absolutely. yes, so in 1918, it gets even more so. they are experimenting with ground attack as early as they can. in 1918 it kind of comes to fruition in a lot of ways. and the germans and the allied powers are doing this extensively. so in the spring offensive, you have probably heard about the storm trooper tactics that they are using on the ground? they also have the storm flyer units. and these are heavily armored airplanes, they are taking basic planes and adding armor to them that fly very low. 100 feet, maybe not even that? flying over the trenches, doing strafing of the trenches dropping explosives where they can, trying to break up the line. the loss rate for those pilots is shockingly high and the powers are going to do the same type of thing and they had the
same types of losses. but one thing that happens in the sandy hill assailant is billy mitchell goes in and pershing says willie mitchell we are going to do this big attack on sandy hill, can you do an air tack in support? absolutely he said i need 15 planes. he gets them, it's a mix of american and european pilots. they fly over and they are doing a lot of different stuff. part of what they're doing is they need to eliminate those german aircraft, so anytime german aircraft come up to engage their going to do some air-to-air they are also going to bomb the air drones of the germans to try to take a as many planes as they can on the ground. but but they are doing a strategic bombing and we would call it more in interdiction. they are trying to hit rail lines, supplied depots and things like that. and it's pretty effective and is one of the reasons why it works as well as it does. at least it's part of that.
i can talk about sammy hill all day. >> i watched with all of the other speakers, and we are going to go to our last question of the day, thank you, sir. >> do chopper pilots have the same culture? >> this is very interesting. and it's something i try to get at and some of my longer works is how'd do different types of pilots have different cultures? i have not looked at rotary rings guy very closely so i can't speak directly to them. but i can say that different types of pilots have different cultures. bomber pilots have a very different subculture than the fighter guys do. then the missile ears do. and in fact there are psychological studies in during and after world war to win air force hired psychologist to look at fighter pilots versus bomber pilots and they found that almost all of this was true. and some of it is self reflecting and some of it was a the result of combat.
but fighter pilots were more aggressive and more an independent, bomber pilots were more team oriented and tended to respect authority more. so there are certainly some cultural differences there i don't know about the chopper pilots specifically but i imagine just from what i've seen and certainly is not quite the same as this. there is probably some overlap. >> ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thinking does thinking dr. michael hankins . [ applause ] when the new congress takes office in january, it will have the youngest, most diverse richmond class in recent history. new congress, new leaders. watch it live on c-span, starting january 3. every spring the us army heritage and education center in carlisle pennsylvania host a living history event featuring several hundred reenactors from all eras of