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tv   World War I Fighter Pilot Culture  CSPAN  December 30, 2019 9:39pm-10:34pm EST

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all right ladies and gentlemen it's my true pleasure to introduce the last speaker doctor michael haim cans the assistant president for the graduate professionals of military education where he directs courses on air power history and national strategy he recently published a argo call named the tea battle
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technology a vietnam and the air power history journal and is currently writing a book that explores the relationship between pilot culture and the technological development of military aircraft here earned his ph.d. from kansas state university with his dissertation the calls of the lightweight fighter 1964 to 1991 and ladies and gentlemen please help me in welcoming doctor michael handguns. (applause) >> all right. i'll try not to keep you from the reception, i did want to start off by talking about something that happened a year ago. there was an air force f-15 flying overseer yeah and this is not what you expected to hear in a
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world war i lecture but stay with me, he shoots down an iranian drone. a uav, not quite two weeks later a second almost identical event ppened. 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 does shooting down that drone count as a kill? is that something? and people are really intensely arguing about it, like if you shot down five drones buzz that make you a fighter ace? and many pilots are very emotional about this argument coming back and saying, shooting down a drone is easy. it seems arguable. or maybe shooting down a drone, some of them say it's just not sporty enough. this is actual arguments being put forth. some say it's different because there is not a man at the
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controls of the drone even though technically there is. what's interesting to me about this, and the reason i bring it up, is because all of these arguments, the fact they are using those particular arguments, point to a culture, a culture in fighter pilots that has certain values, and the origin of that culture, you her the dates of some of my work being in the 1960s and 1970s, the reason i got into studying of world war i because the pilots of that era and today all look back to world war i as the origin point of their culture. when the air force times, a fine organization, the air force times reported on these drone shootings and they started off their story not talking about 5-15s or drones but a paragraph about the red barron and his legacy. did those somehow fit into that legacy. the idea of
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world war i and the fighter pilots that we see there are very much in the minds of fighter pilots today. and so let me define what i'm talking about a little bit. when i talk about the fighter pilot mithos and the culture, there are basically five characteristics that this fighter culture has. here's what i'm getting at. individualism. they see themselves as individual fighters, and that includes being so individualistic that they are resistant to authority figures. they don't like their c.o.s, they feel okay sometimes dibeying orders if they can get
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away with it. aggressiveness is part of this. they see themselves as longing for combat, they want to get into fights, it includes a sense of competitiveness with each other. we'll get into that, the use of heroic and mythological imagery to describe themselves. the very term knights of the air, and this idea that we're like the noble knights of old. that's something they used to talk about thom quite often. this technology piece. the airplane is piece of technology inherently so there is always a technological connection when you talk about aircraft and pilots but particularly with fighter pilots they will advocate for certain types of technology, the types that make you a better fighter pilot. they don't care about things like range or bomb load. they talk about how man newfoundland maneuverable. particular types of technology that help this culture perpetuatetsel i 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 aren't part of the fighter fight community like myself who is coming in here and talking about it. it's important to note, when i put this forward, a lot of historians when they talk about knights of the air, they will say, ever thinks of themselves as knights of the air. it's all fake, all fiction, and to an extent that's right a lot of the pilots and dog fights they get into, and dog fights is the term for when airplanes are battling each
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other in the skies, they don't always live up to this kind of image. so this isn't always true. it's true often enough that pilots can point to some specific examples and say that's what i want to be like but what's more interesting to me about this culture is not whether or not it's accurate to reality precisely. but it's more about this is the ideal 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 themselves 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 they want to be living up to this and they see this as an
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ideal to strive for and when they don't live up to this that creates some internal probable reynolds for them. this culture has survived. i can give the example of the drones. think about this. what's really the difference culturally, although the technology has changed, capabilities of aircraft have changed, what is the difference between an eddie ricken bocker of the first world war and tom cruise and "top gun, " other than the aircraft being bigger, faster, and louder, i don't know if there is much in terms of attitu and culture. they are very similar types of folks so i want to get into that. first, some background, for those of you who aren't totally aware of how we got here in terms of air power and what it did in the first world war, air power is doing a lot of things. air power is not totally new in world war i. we've had for a long time balloons. this goes all the way back, we've had balloons that would go up. participating in the german wars of unification. the american civil war has balloons and these are doing primarily reconnaissance roles. they are spotting enemy positions, reporting them back. they are also helping artillery to spot and target more effectively and so as soon as you get aircraft, like airplanes, with a motor, a
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heavier than airmaned air power this is the first thing we try to do. let's use them for recon and observation. and the americans, of course, invent aircraft, right? the wright brothers. and the airplane, but t american military is a little bit slower to pick up on the possibilities of the airplane 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 the 1911 italian turkish war in libya. in 1911, an italian aircraft becomes the first airplane to drop a bomb on ground troops, 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, a few days later, but still a funny story. americans do try to get in on the game shortly after this. in 1913, the americans develop the first arrow squadron. here we are in 1913. and some of the earlier talks talked about the
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expedition to mexico when they go down searching for in mexico, let's bring in some airplanes, get some air power so the americans, of course, have their reputation for technological innovation, so they amass an armada totaling eight planes to go to mexico with. all eight of that's planes are grounded almost instantly. the weather just eats them alive. some locals vandalize two of them. the others get scavaged for parts. they can't even deliver the mail much less go on any sort of combat mission so that's what the americans are doing with aircraft but in europe
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things are going a little bit differently. when we get into the early part of world war i each of the major belligerent powers of world war i have about 50 airlines give or take at the very beginning of the war but no one knows what to do with them. like the idea of recon is there if the balloons but as robin has said, no one had a clear idea about 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 who we're going to do training for pilots at the beginning of world war i is unfocused if it even exists. your average pilot will have about 17 hours of flight training. some of the really good ones will have close to 50, 50 hours of training would be a lot for a world war i pilot and compare that to world war ii, pilots have about 300 hours of training. at least early on in
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the war. so a lot of pilots are actually dying in training accidents. it's a fairly common thing to have happened because these things are environmental. cutting edge technology. wood and canvass and a little wire. and that doesn't sound very technological. what makes this technologically advanced is the engines and how cutting edge they are, how light and powerful they are and also the shape of the canvass. the engineering that goes into making them more aerodynamic. that's constantly being updated and changed and made more efficient as things go on. what about parachutes, you say? if people are dying in training exercises, parachutes, they will be okay. they are in the experimental phase still. they do figure out how to make some of them work and very late in the war, very late in 1918 a few german pilots will have parachutes with them. before that, no one goes in the air outside of the seven flynn crews with parachutes. part of this culture was, if you're a fighter pilot, anyway, why
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would you want a parachute? you want a way out of the fight? are you a wimp? there was an attitude we don't want our pilots to have parachutes, because that may not make them aggressive enough. this all seems very primitive. the idea evolves very quickly, first it's reconnaissance but very quickly people start to figure out what they can do with them. the even reconnaissance is important. one of the reason why the french were able to some the german advance in 1914 is because there is an observation plane very similar to this one that was able to spot german movements very early and the french could respond quickly. that's not the only reason but an important contributor. and people on the ground recognized how important this observation role was even very early on. there is an
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incident where a french artillery officer is giving an interview too a british journalist, and they are talking and a german observation plane flies overhead and the french artillery officer looks at the interviewer and says there is that wretched bird that's hunting us. people recognize this is a problem. people are trying to do other things with planes. 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 shells, with a note afterwards and it's a list of names and it says please notify the families of these men they are p.o.w.s, sorry about the bombs. shortly after that, a different german plane also flew over paris and dropped a single bomb and then a note that said, see the power of our aircraft. you must surrender immediately. early attempt at psychological operations. didn't go quite as well as they thought. but these observation planes are very effective so
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quickly they start to realize we need to shoot down those observation planes. this is causing a problem for us, so we quickly translate into air-to-air combat. this is an example of some rockets. those didn't work out too well. they quickly realized guns are better than this but what this introduces us 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. they will try to shoot right back so now you've got air-to-air combat. each nation is trying to make new technological developments to take out 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 useful, right? so the germans introduce a fighter plane, the folker iron decker. as we would think of it today, the first fighter plane and they used the word pursuit. i'll keep using
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fighter because i work for the air force. they make us do that. but the folker iron decker, it's got a gun built in. you see it's a mono plane. very maneuverable and this plane could shoot down french and german planes very effectively. the western allies start talking about the folker scourge that's just cleaning out the skies so they have to do something to try to push back against this. it during this time in 1915 as that goes into 1916 and 1917 you see an increasing number of air-to-air battles. the idea of the individual pilot, the aces that are shooting each other down, they start to become famous. they start to become known for this. one of the most famous in germany, of course, oswald fokker, and his students, the red barron, those are some of the more famous on the german side and we'll talk more about them in a second but try to defeat this folker iron decker surge the french develop a new plane, the newport. this is
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small one, the baby. it's very effective at shooting them down so the germans count we are a new type of plane, the albatross, and this second one from the front, the red baron's plane right there, this particular one, so to defeat the albatross, now it's shooting us down, so the western allies come back with kimmel. so now we've got lots of levels of technology being advanced very quickly designed to shoot each other down. by the time you get into 1918, it's very clear, a few things. even though in 1918, air power is playing a particularly large role, by this point the germans are experimenting in their spring offensives 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
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history, up to 1,500 planes and it's fairly effect testify but what's clear also is air power has not changed the nature of war in any significant way. before the war had started, there are all these theorists talking about, well, if we can get airplanes working war will never be the same. it will all be completely different and all this revealed is that just like you fought on the ground before, now you just have more space to fight in. you're fighting into the air and it's turning into attrition in the air just like on the ground and it hasn't fundamentally changed anything but what it has done is created these individual famous aces. now, an ace is means you shoot down five planes or more, which is a convention it didn't start exactly that way. first it was four, depending on who you asked it might have been a different number. i seems to have started within the squadrons themselves and then later newspapers start picking it up. an newspapers start publishing, here's some coverage on the death of in the british troops, but some
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newspapers publish scorecards so you can keep track at home, how many people has red barron killed today. and these people become very famous. so if you shoot down five or more planes you're an ace but you could also get ace status by not being a fighter pilot although this was debated even at the time, could a ground gunner who shot down five planes become an ace. in some cases they did and in some cases they didn't. the red barron is the top scorer with 80 air-to-air kills which is why they called them ace of aces because just ace wasn't good enough. the american pilots start showing up as the american air service in 1918. of course, they are flying european planes because the americans are really late to this party. over a hundred americans will achieve ace status during this war. the most successful of which is eddie ricken backer. we joke around you always need a place in the air force to put your crazy, aggressive people because you need them sometimes
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but you also don't want too many of them around so the 94th was that place. the top scoring unit, the top scoring squadron in the american air service, eddie rickenbacker leads the charge for them. so the airplane is still new. still developing but by the end of the war we've not only seen air power develop kind of the similar types of mission sets that we still use today, to large degree but you've seen this culture start to develop. as it evolves into weapons systems. and why is that? why is it what is it about these aces that make them so famous and attractive to the public? in a large way it's in response to what's happening on the ground. this is the victorian era. people wanted these old school mythological heroes and it wasn't even 15 years earlier that for americans at least you had teddy roosevelt charging up
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san juan hill, the lone warrior even though he has tons of people with him, i'll charge up the hill and take this hill in an expression of masculinity and heroism and now you go into world war i and world war i is not bad. at least the popular perception of what's happening is you've got millions of men in the front lines getting ripped apart by machine fire and artillery barrages and
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their bodies destroyed and decayed by gas. dying in mud pits. all just so they can gain a few inches of muddy ground that isn't worth anything? that's not the heroism. that's not the mythological hero that
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i thought i was wanting for compared to something like a san juan hill of teddy roosevelt that the 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 so the public starts latching on to them and so do pilots themselves. they start calling themselves the knights of the air. i want to read you this passage from john murrow. he's a historian of the first world war. he sums up the attractions to these pilots this way. "the war of the masses bequeath the new individual hero. the aviator. the fighter ace. honored as a demi god, honored as a secular cult. in terms of his number of conquests or killed. the ancient warrior reappeared, now mounted in a lethal machine that elevated him above allethly mortals ready for repeated tries of combat on behalf of the honor and survival of his nation." that sounds a little bit ridiculous. do these people actually see themselves like that? to large degree yes. >> i mean, i looked for the origin of this in trying to find where is the first uof the term knights of the air. it's hard to find. it depends on who you ask but it's there very early on. in fact, in october 1914, noless i will looum their than sci-fi great h.g. wells writes piece for the literary digest. he says anyone who goes up and destroyed an airplane or seven lynn in the air, specifically he's not talking about bombing attacks, he's not talking about observation specifically someone who shoots something down in the air should have a knighthood automatically. there is this association of air-to-air combat with knighthood for whatever reason for h.g. wells. this was a popular sentiment at the time. one of the best expressions of this, i think, is from an american, lieutenant bennett molter. he's one of many americans who volunteered to fly in the lafayette drill, but in 1918 he writes his memoir of the war and he titles it, of
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course, "knights of the air." he has this passage where he says, why sit that i was motivated to be a pilot and he has a half sentence at the beginning. of course, it was patriotism and i love my country but a close second was this. my boyhood love, for adventure and an avid appetite for the tales of chivalry recounting the deeds and exploits of the knights of the roundtable. i'll have my padded helmet instead of a steel one. a machine gun instead of a sword. goggles instead of a visor. when you ask him what i means to be a fighter pilot he's clothing himself in a boy nostalgia. that's what he think it means somehow reinvigorate tales from his youth. it's not just arthur the roundtable kind of stuff. it is that but second
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to that is greek and roman mythological heroes. no less than an air body leader than billy mitchell who goes on to become the father of the u.s. air force. he's talking about fighter pilots and he says this. reunite us i had no greater odds against them than these aviators. fighter pilots the heart of a lion, the speed of thought of mercury. 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 are not necessarily living up to it. but the ways in which they express this individuality was a big part of it. you want to be the lone warrior. this is a problem because the early planes, especially the early recon planes, fighter planes, they have two cockpits. you've got the pilot, a guy behind
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with you some sort of gun, maybe a camera for observation, something like that, and a lot of pilots 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? now, every nation was trying they had recognized the problem, if you mount a machine gun right in front of the cockpit you're probably going to shoot off your own propeller. about one out of every 10 bullets would hit the propeller. that's a problem. even before the war started every nation has
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engineers trying to solve that problem. they all come up with sol version of an interrupt for gear to stop that from happening but before that was fully operational, there is a french pilot, who says, i've got another solution, before we get the interruptor gearing working, i'll just put these big metal plates on my propeller and deflect the bullets away. this will allow me to put a machine gun, it's not just him, he's working with his mechanic and he has some other engineers that helps him but this allows him to be the sole pilot. he doesn't have to have a guy in the back anymore and this is great. at least for the fighter pilots. they love this. oswald, who i mentioned as the german fighter pilot, loved this design. the idea of the single seat fighter becomes the thing for them. os world says of the single seat fighter, "the strong man is mightiest alone. i have obtained my idea with the inc. isle seater. now i can be pilot, observer, fighter, all in one. my single seater possesses the advantage of giving me complete independence. i can fly when, where, how long and how i will." you see this trait all over the plagues. some pilots pride themselves on it. the americans tended to assume, as americans do, that they were more individualistic than the other countries. colonel livingston, as an american pilot says "it was fortunate
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that the germans were so well trained as formation fighters that they were able to follow the leader. they weren't individuals like us americans. i used to lose my leader. to hell with the, we'll go off by ourselves." i mean, the germans were doing that, too, come on. one of the best exam candles of this comes from a fighter pilot named henry clay. i'll bring him up a few times. he's from missouri, spends a lot of time in fort worth, texas, close to my hometown. he flies first with the british and later when the americans enter the war, to the americans. he's writing home to his sister and says this, "the work of the flyer as an individual is more than that of any other, i think. in the other branches, in the other 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 placed on one flyer, on contact patrol, for example, is so great that the fate of a whole portion of the front depends on that one pilot coming through." maybe. sorry, he goes on, "in scout work the individuality of the pilot
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shows up not only in his fighting but that's his job. he attacks every enemy machine that shows itself. in these fights the pilot who is the best shot and flyer usual usually comes out vicinity torous. in these fights it's man against man instead of division against division. at's why i like the air service, individual counts for something." so aside from this individualism and tied to it is this sense of aggression. it's probably the most emphasized trait among the guys when you read their memoirs and letters. they saw themselves as these warriors who kind of lusted for battle, but in a way they see themselves creating this knights of the roundtable concept. one of the best versions, you see this a lot with fighters i mentioned them, here's the lafayette encadrille, about 250 pilots, minutes that volunteer long before americans enter the war to fly for france and they create the lafayette escadrille. keep in mind, about that many more americans
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volunteered and were spread out among squadrons. they all didn't have a cool marketable name like that and actually more americans will fly with the british than in the lafayette, but they are the famous ones you hear most about. one of their pilots talk extensively in his memoirs how he used to look for german anti-fire look to fly into it, so a german would come up and he could get into a dog fight. that's the kind of aggressiveness we're talking about. these lafayette pilots, i noticed that almost every presentation we've heard today has vovld puppies in some way or another, i don't have any puppies for you, because these
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are fighter pilots, they are more aggressive than that. their mascot was two lion cubs. one was named whiskey and one was named soda because, of course, they were quintin roosevelt was a good example of this aggressiveness. son of teddy roosevelt, of course, he wrote about how he was, and this is a quote, "i'm quite anxious to see combat." so he joins. he goes over to be a pilot and he does a very typical fighter pilot thing, which he knows he has bad eyesight. he can't see anything. so he's not going to pass the eye exam, they won't let him fly, so what does the fighter pilot do, he sneaks into another doctor's office ahead of time, memorizes the chart, aces the test, he can't see anything but he gets into a dog fight fairly early and he's so excite, he loves the adrenaline, feeling of being in combat in his aircraft, he writes back to his mother and he says, "you get so excitedta you that you forget everything,
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except dodging bullets when they stream past you." it's only a few months after he writes that letter that he's shot down and killed at age 20. aggressiveness took the form also of cpetition. of course. the kill count was the measure of success for a fighter pilot. how do you know you're better than that guy? you shot down more planes. of course that leads to inflation. people start claiming a lot of things. but this desire to get a higher kill count is important. here's another quote from henry clay who i'll keep coming back to. he says "before they get me i can have credit to my credit. that's my first wish. my second is they don't get me at all. so if i die i'm cool with it as long as i have a high score. now, spoiler alert for him, he doesn't get 50. he does get eight so he's almost a double ace. he doesurvive the war,
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just long enough to die of influenza in 1919. but this emphasis on the kill count leads to many pilots exaggerating their claims and this becomes a major problem and all the makeses have to deal with it in various ways by instituting various policies. the u.s. ends up saying we're not giving you an official kill unless somebody outside of your squadron can verify it because, come on, but americans also would give kill credits to assists in a way, so there is actually two separate incidents where there are eight observation planes and eight fighter planes that all say they contributed to one german aircraft being shot down. so that one german kill got 16 kill credits on the american side. in fact, if you add all of up this, if you look at all the western allies, france, german and the united states, and when i say britain i should emphasize, they are using pilots from their colonial possessions as well so the
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british flyers, they have pilots from australia, new zealand, canada, south africa, i mean, about 40 modern day nations are represented in the british flying corps in the air force. but if you add up all the kills of the western allies you get 11,760 claimed kills. go look at the german riders of how many planes they lost on the western front, it's about 3,000. and you can easily play that game in reverse. the germans claimed as many the other way. so that's the kind of thing you're dealing with. now, technology, obviously, plays a key role in all of this as well. it's the particular kind of technologies, like i said before, these pilots want to make technological advancements that make their planes more agile, maybe more durable, things that help them do this fighter pilot thing better, and that's where they want to put their advances. and
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these pilots had a close relationship with their technology. the whole knights and horse metaphor is a pretty apt one. they had a very personal, almost intimate connection with their aircraft. so i mention the single seat thing is one good example of the technology and culture coming together. one example of that is he flew he was part of the lafayette drill, he joined the americans as part of the 94th squadron. he's flying along with eddie rickenbacker. any time somebody suggested that he fly in a two-seat plane he allegedly "wouldn't hear of it." he insisted he always fly solo, no one was allowed to fly with him. they nicknamed him lone-star luft. pilots love nicknames. so not just that but the airlines themselves took on symbolic roles and every time there is a new development, now
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aircraft came out these pilots would have hot opinions about it. and so we see the cycles start to repeat themselves. one example, in the american 147th, kenneth loved the newport 28. here's a newport, loved this, this is the most maneuverable claim i've had yet. helps me to dog fight. i can do the close turns. when the unit started receiving spad fighters, they hated them, they weren't as maneuverable and they nicknamed them the pooping spad, saying it had a problematic engine. in the 90th squadron they had different planes. these are actually observation planes but apparently the flight characteristics of it were so sublime to the fighter pilot that their eyes would literally light up according to one memoir. that unit, before that, had been using the 1 1/2 strutter here and apparently these were considered terrible
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because they weren't maneuverable or reliable. when the 90th air drone was bombed by german bombers the pilots all complained that the worse thing that happened about this bombing was they didn't destroy the they wanted to get rid of those and there are different opinions, so colonel livingston irving who flew for both france and the united states later in his life in a memoir said he preferred flying with france because he thought their aircraft were better at dog fighting. he disagreed with some of the earlier pilots. he liked the spad better because it was actually favorite. he said it was the fastest thing on the front, a blistering 147 miles per hour, was considered really, really fast for the time. but he liked the agility but he also knew he needed durability. he wanted his planes to be able to take some hits so his preference was this, the royal aircraft factory s.e. 5. what's interesting to me, this keeps going on. the
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camelle came out but it also had a tendency to go into an inverted spin which was dangerous. others said it was durable and they said the newport, yes, more man maneuverable maneuverable, but if you turn too tight, you'll pull off the wing. i don't want to get into which plane is at the best, that's an endless we can have that at the bar but what's interesting to me is their reasoning for what they think a good plane is, what they are looking for in a good plane and it's always cast, sticks that give them an edge in combat in that ace fighter man on man combat. that's what they are looking for. now this aggressiveness that i'm talking about, this lust for violence, again, it's tempered by that sense of chivalry. and again,
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historians have said this is largely untrue, and it largely isn't, but it's true just often enough that there are some specific examples that pilots can point to and say look how noble we're being in some of these combats. chivalry does exist sometimes. adam winslow talked about his first dog fight. he's flying around, some germans are coming at him. his machine guns get jammed. this happens all the time. now if you're on the ground and your-gets your-machine gets jammed that's one thing, but in the air, it's a different thing. you have to lean over and try and fix your guns. winslow is doing that while a german is coming right at him. and he knows he's vulnerable and he's a goner. allegedly, according to him the german comes up, sees what's going on, sees the guns are jammed, gets up close, flies off. and winslow writes in his diary, by
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galleyantly my life has been saved. in the 13th arrow squadron there is an incident where a german shoots down a fighter plane, guy goes to the ground. the american lands, gets up, sees the german pilot as mildly injured but nothing serious. they shake hands, oh, thank you, sir. and then they go about their business. and the official unit for the history of that event calls ate splendid holiday. so those kinds of things do happen. it's not like they never happen. they are just kind of the exception that proves the rule because more often than not, air combat was not like that. it was a little bit more brutal. this mobility thing is a construction. it's an ideal and it's an ideal that even a lot of pilots at the time knew that they were not necessarily living up to. they knew it was a mythology, so, for example, the 91st aerosquadron, they had a theme song and it's super
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long, i won't show you all of it but one verse of it talks about the knights of old, that's what we're calling back to, these knights in the days of old, they would get drunk at night, they would go out to the bar, they would get plastered, they would wake up at noon, who cares what their c.e.o.'s are saying. it's not like that today, though, we have to get up 59:30. it gets into some gender issues where they talk about chasing after women when it used to be cool and apparently it's not anymore. they are longing for these days. they want to be this and they know they can't quite live up to it. and that's their theme song. but for many pilots, it gets much more brutal than that. the technology aspect that i emphasize tends to have a dehumanizing effect. there is a lot of pilots that have
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trouble recognizing that there is a man in the cockpit but there is, in fact, a man in the enemy cockpit like this dead german here. hunter, he's an ace of the 94th, he'll go on to be a general in the world war ii era, he says, you're not fighting a person. it's a 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, this is an exit from an interview where he has an low passage talking about dog fights and all these planes swirling, because these guys, they talk about one-on-one aerial duels like the thing they want to do but that's not how most of these fights were.
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most of these fights at minimum, they will be like eight on eight, a lot of them much higher. there were some specific battles where there were over a hundred planes in the air at any one time so it's more crazy and disorienting and terrifying than anything else, and he gets at that. it's impossible to speak of chivalryn th i kind of a scenario. arthur writes, david talks about the same thing, a very similar dog fight he experienced. all you can think of is pumping lead into any machine that you see, looking out, avoiding collisions, just missing each other by a couple of feet. that's not knighthood. that's not nobility dueling in the old tradition. that's insanity, that's chaos, and it's terrifying care os happening at over a hundred miles per hour with an open cockpit and no parachute. so this causes some issues for several people, psyologically. people discuss the trauma that they have in going down in flames. because keep in mind a lot of these planes are carrying explosive rounds and incendiary rounds to light their enemies on fire at times. others talk about this. captain arthur of the rfc 46th, he talked about recurring dreams, nightmares, of guns shooting at him as he flies in the skies
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and several times where he would wake up in the middle of the night shaking, sweating, and screaming, and his with you not an isolated experience. pilots talked about just this kind of thing. oliver from the 56th says, "this flying job is rotten for one's nerves. what's supposed to last months quite a lot of people's nerves conk out." there are lots of c.o.'s in various squadrons that complain about their men having nervous breakdowns. fear of flying is the thing. a lot of these pilots become very superstitious and they carry certain things with them in the air as good luck charms. the most common one being women's lingerie just tie it on the side. so many pilots are terrified and psychologically scarred by the war but they feel like they are supposed to live up to this knightly image and a lot of them have trouble
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admitting this and probably the best example is a pilot i've mentioned several times-ry clay. henry clay. u.t. dallas has a great world war i aviation archives. his letters are there and i'm reading the letters to his sister, the ones i quoted earlier, where he's talking about the romance, i'm going to get 50 guys and all of this, as he's writing those letters to his sister he discovers that his younger brother once to be a pilot. wants to join him. so at the same time, in the same date range that he's writing these letters to his sister he writes separately, to his little brother, and he says this, it's not all sunshine and flowers. more flowers than anything else, though, we joke about pushing up daisies but it's a reality. he says i saw in the paper that one must forget about danger, be fearless to be a good pilot
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but that person didn't know what they were talking about. this whole thing can be summed up in a few words, little brother, don't be a fool. and he writes his brother and says do not do this. this is not what you think it is. it's not the glory that you think it is. he even goes on further, he says this game of war the greatest game of chance you ever played. not a game of nobility and knightly duels and exciting heroic combat like those stories you read as a kid. this is a game of chance, a deadly one. i'm a fatalist. sherman was right, war is hell and i don't know the half of it and there is not a hell hot enough for those who contributed toward the beginning of this war. this is not a typical again, this is a private letter he writes only to his brother. he did not say stuff like this in any of his letters but not your typical fighter pilot braggdochio. but that's not something they felt
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like they could share publicly so this image of the fighter pilot becomes something that the public latches on to. the pilots see themselves as wanting to be this, trying live up to it, magazines and pop fiction start to celebrate this. after the war is over in the 1920s you get magazines like this, notice these aren't about bombers. these are all about the glory fighter pilot days. as soon as motion pictures become the thing, soon they are about air-to-air combat. all three of these were the most expensive movies made when they came out. what are they about? all about dog fighting, of course, and they celebrate this. also, now art form shows up in the 1930s, comic-book, and comic-book super heroes will also play into this. one of the earliest best-selling comic-books in 1941 is blackhawk celebrating the pilot fighter mythology.
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he's still one of the staples of the universe. i know you're all thinking of it, the most obvious example of comics talking about world war i pilots, but snoopy, world war i flying ace. in fact, this is such a powerful image for later pilots, that sfoop snooby becomes a logo used throughout the vietnam era. this is just a few of what could have been hundreds of examples. pilots in the vietnam era talk about recurring dreams of being snoopy and wanting to reenact this. it goes on. later in the 1980, you've got "top gun, " celebrating this culture. it shifts into science fiction, 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
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you with this, best example of this culture in our current day connection to world war i and how strong it is comes from a film last year you may have heard of called "wonder woman." good film. this is not really a spoiler, maybe a veryild one. i'll try to say it in a nonspoiler way. torts the end of the film there is a photograph of the christopher character steve trevor, here it is. this is a i grabbed this from the dvd. this is in the movie and it's christopher 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 is a hero because i've photo shopped him into the picture of eddiebacker. it's the symbol of his squadron, the 91st fighter
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squadron based in langley and that same exact logo exists today on our current most advanced fighter jets, f-22. same logo. i don't know if you can see it there. the hat in the ring. it's still with us. this culture will never go away, because "top gun" is filming a sequel. so, that's why this legacy is important. thank you very much. i'll take any questions. (applause) (applause) >> ladies and gentlemen, we would invite you to come to either of our makeicrophones. as you work your way down, we just have to personally say thank you. we do show wonder woman here in this auditorium and we do a quick
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little conversation about what's true and what's not, and i hadn't found that one yet so thank you so much for that. that's one more thing i'll add to one of my future lectures. >> it's because i threaten world war i historians, i know. >> were these planes and pilots involved in air-to-ground operations against the germans? >> absolutely. absolutely. >> can you tell us about that. >> yes. so in 1918, it get even more so. they are experimenting with ground attack as early as they can. in 1918 it comes to fruition if a lot of ways and the germans and the allied powers are doing this extensively. so in the spring offensive, what the germans are using in 1918, you've probably heard about the stormtrooper tactics that they are using on the ground, they also have storm fire units. and these are
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heavily armored airplanes, they are taking existing planes, adding armor to themful they will fly very low. a hundred feet. maybe not even that. flying over the trenches doing dropping explosives where they can. trying to break up the lines. the loss rates for those pilots is shockingly high, and the on top powers will do the same type of tactic in 1918 and they have the same kind of losses, but one thing that happens, billy mitchell goes in, he says we're going to do this big attack, can you do an air attack many support? he says absolutely. i need 1,500 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 are doing is, we need to eliminate those german aircraft so any time german aircraft come up to engage they will do some air-to-air. they will also bomb the air drones of the germans
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to try to take out as many planes on the ground don't typically we would call it more interdiction. they are trying to hit rail lines, supply depots, things like that, and it's pretty effective and it's one of the reasons why the offensive works as well as it does. many planes on the ground as they can and that's pretty successful but then they are doing what they at the time talk about is strategic bombing. we at least they are trying to it's part of that, i can talk about sammy hill all day. >> but he's kindly watched me with all the other speakers so he's not going to and we're going to go to our last question of the day, thank you, sir. >> do chopper pilots have the same culture? >> chopper pilots, this is very interesting. and it's something i try to get at in some of my longer works is how do the different types of flyers have different cultures? i permanently have not looked at rotary wing guys very closely so i can't speak directly to them but i can say that
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different types of pilots have very different cultures. bomber pilots have a very different subculture than the fighter guys do, than the missile-eers do. there are psychological studies during and after world war ii where the air force hired psychologists to come in and look at fighter pilots versus bomber pilots and they found that almost all of this was true, and some of sit self-selectself-was self-selecting but fighter pile lieutenants were 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 it's certainly not quite the same as this but there is probably some overlap. ..." ought ladies and gentlemen please join me and thinking doctor michael higgins (applause).
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