American Military Aircraft 1908-1919

AUTHOR: Robert B Casari
PUBLISHER: Aeronaut Books
PRICE: $99.95
NOTES: Hardbound, Letter size format, ISBN 13 978-1-935881-13-1


This 792 page book is a comprehensive study of military aviation in the United States prior to, during, and immediately after World War One. It provides individual histories with photos and drawings of the nearly 400 aircraft types that were procured or produced for the American military from 1908 to 1919. It is illustrated with over 1000 photos and 16 pages of color profiles, The book is the best single source reference about the inception and early development of American military aviation. The book is divided into two parts:

Part 1 is an overview that outlines the extremely slow development of military aviation in the USA prior to 1916. The main reason for the slow development was the federal government's inability to see a need for a military air service of any consequence. Only after the First Aero Squadron's disastrous participation in the expedition to capture the Mexican bandit PanchoVilla in early 1916 came to light was an expansion of the air service given serious consideration. Unfortunately, this was far too late to create the military and industrial foundations upon which large air services could be based by the time the USA entered WWI in April, 1917. One consequence of this was that only about a third of the 300-400 aircraft ordered in late 1916 and early 1917 were suitable for even flight training with the majority being canceled, stored or transferred to ground schools. Another consequence was that no American fighter aircraft designed prior to 1918 was on par with its European contemporaries. The inability of American industries to produce indigenous aircraft to meet the needs of the Army and Navy's air services caused the government to have to procure aircraft from the allies. Although this might seem to be a quick solution, the allies were initially reluctant to release first line equipment that they felt were vital for their nation's defense and only turned over aircraft that had been rejected for service by their own air forces. The reasons for the failure of the USA's WWI aircraft production effort were so complex that even the postwar investigations by the Senate, The House of Representatives, and the Department of Justice failed to accurately identify the causes of the collapse.

Part 2 has the individual histories of the aircraft types that were manufactured or procured for the American military from 1908 -1919. This part has the bulk of the book's text and illustrations. The aircraft histories are arranged alphabetically by manufacturer's name. Each history includes a description of the machine, at least one photo or drawing, a production record (when applicable), and a list of specifications. For the types that saw combat, an operational record is included. This part also includes 16 pages of quality color profiles featuring 23 different aircraft types. 15 appendices and an index close out the book.

Although expensive, this is an outstanding work on a neglected period of American Military Aviation. It provides exhaustive coverage of its subject material and is unlikely to be bettered any time soon. Highly recommended to all early aviation enthusiasts.

Rob Hart

February 2024

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