ACE PILOTS IN WORLD WAR I
Ace pilots of World War I were an important topic in the history of the war. In fact, airplanes were first developed just before the start of World War I and aircraft technology further developed as the war progressed. This led to many ‘ace’ pilots from several countries gaining recognition for their ability to ‘dogfight’ in World War I air battles. World War I was a deadly conflict as shown by the millions of military and civil casualties it caused. The large number of casualties was the result, in part, of the development and use of weaponry that took place during the war. The ace pilots of World War I played a key role in World War I and influenced its outcome.
WHY WERE SOME WORLD WAR I PILOTS CALLED 'ACES'?
The development of airplane technology during World War I led to the creation of the fighter airplane. These airplanes were used for ‘dogfights’, where were mid-air plane-to-plane battles. Early mid-air battles were either not possible or basic due to the limitations of weapons. For instance, early models of fighter airplanes did not have mounted machine guns. Instead, the pilots used handheld weapons, which proved difficult when also flying a plane. As such, shooting down an enemy plane was nearly impossible early on. However, as the weapons technology improved on the fighter airplanes, the ability of World War I pilots became much more important. For instance, once machineguns were reliably mounted to the front of fighter airplanes, the pilots were better able to shoot down enemy airplanes.
French newspapers in World War I first used the term ‘ace’ for pilots that had downed at least five enemy airplanes. For instance, the first person to receive the designation was French pilot Adolphe Pégoud. However, the most famous ace pilot from World War I was Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen. He flew for the German Air Force and was more commonly known as the ‘Red Baron’. As such, the term ‘ace’ became used for any pilots that had downed at least five enemy airplanes. Some of the most successful pilots of World War I had downed numerous enemy planes. Regardless, the life for a World War I pilot was usually short-lived due to the dangerous nature of aircrafts at the time.
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