By the time the first shot was fired in 1914 during the “war to end all wars,” the airplane was barely out of its infancy stage. The early “knights of the air” puttering around in their mostly wooden and fabric-covered flying contraptions were mere observers to the large-scale battles that lay below them. As they flew over the spiderlike trenches, gaining intelligence on enemy troop movements and buildups, pilots often encountered a fellow enemy observer nearby. As they flew by one another, they periodically exchanged a crisp salute or gentle wave because, after all, these were chivalrous gentlemen—that was until the sticks and stones started flying.
As the war on the ground progressed, so too did the action in the air. These men of high esteem and honor soon adopted an almost medieval tactic that began with one of the observation pilots throwing a rock, heavy chain, or railroad spike at the other pilot in attempts to knock his foe down. It wasn’t until someone brought a brick to a gunfight that aerial combat forever changed. As soon as machine guns replaced pistols and bombs replaced rocks, the killing machines of the air drastically changed how future wars would be fought. Although the horrors of war continued on and off for decades, some of these men, particularly those sent out to bomb strategic targets, sought to introduce a little humor into their daily missions as a way of coping with these inherent dangers. Here are just a few examples of some of the unconventional ordnance they dropped.
Read the article from the April 2019 issue of Flight Journal, click here.
By James P. Busha