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First air battles in history

This article first appeared on Aug. 3, 1914 in the Cleveland Press.

Famed French aviator Roland Garros is pictured in this June 1914 file photo in his hydroplane Morane-Saulnier G 160HP. Garros participated in the first recorded air battle driving his airplane into a German Zeppelin, destroying the aircraft. File photo by UPI
Famed French aviator Roland Garros is pictured in this June 1914 file photo in his hydroplane Morane-Saulnier G 160HP. Garros participated in the first recorded air battle driving his airplane into a German Zeppelin, destroying the aircraft. File photo by UPI

LONDON, Aug. 3, 1914 (UP) -- The first air battle in world history has taken place at Longwy, France. A French aviator circled above a German aircraft, fired down upon it, and sent it 300 feet to earth. The German aviator was killed.

Roland Garros, famous French flying man, drove his aeroplane into a German Zeppelin dirigible above the German frontier. Both pilots of the big ships were killed in the fall to the earth.

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These air battles give the answer to the question of whether the European war will be partially fought in the air.

The six great powers have 2,110 aeroplanes and dirigibles, manned by trained army officers, ready for the conflict.

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French aviators are engaged in scout duty all along the border. A great fleet of fighting aircraft is at Nancy, near the German border.

French aeroplanes have been sighted from many points in the Rhine provinces. At Nuremburg a French aviator flew over the city, dropping bombs.

German troops fired upon and brought to earth a French airship near Wesel, killing the airman.

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France has 750 aerial warships, dirigibles with trained crews. Germany comes next with 500-perhaps more efficient than even the French airships and as capably manned with fighting men-scientific aviators-soldiers.

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Russia comes third on the list of aerial armament with a fleet of 380. Italy has 200, Austria 150 and England 130.

This gives a total of over 2,000 airships, built on the latest scientific military plans, ready to destroy each other in the air-- to hurl death into cities and towns-- to play the role of army and navy scouts.

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France for some time has lived in constant fear that the aeroplanes of the German army would some day fly over and bring destruction to her cities and fortresses. England has never permitted the fear to die that Germany would send her powerful fleet of death-dealing aeroplanes and dirigibles over to destroy and kill.

So the nations have feverishly added to their fleets of the air to meet such an emergency.

Air fleets have been built more rapidly than battleships. Torpedo boats have been held back to give the workmen more time for aeroplanes. It would appear as if the time has now come to make a final test of the aircraft in time of war. Experts predict it.

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The German and French nations on their respective frontiers have established aeroplane camps which offer the paradoxial appearance of inland naval bases.

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France has taken these precautions at Toul, Verdun, Chalone, Sur Marne, Bar, Le Duc and Epinal. The French government has established factories for the production of hydrogen for dirigibles at Paris, Lille and Langres. Huge aeroplane and dirigible sheds have been constructed at Rheims, Isay-Les-Monlineaux Pau and Moisson.

The French aerial budget for 1911 was $1,240,000. For 1913 it was $8,500,000. In Germany these preparations have been even more actively engaged in. Four huge military zeppelins with full crews are kept almost constantly in the air, training themselves in the art of defense, experimenting in military tactics high up in the clouds.

The naval Z is stationed on the North Sea at Wilmheimshaven, Germany's chief point of defense in case of conflict with England. The Z I is at Koenigsberg on the Russian frontier. Last year Germany added nine units to its fleet of air fighters. This number is being doubled at the present time. Germany has in their army corps, 400 diploma pilots who are highly skilled aviators and soldiers. Germany has spent nearly $8,000,000 within the last year on her aerial fleet which has added chiefly to the strength of her dirigibles. T.R. MacMechen, noted expert and writer on aviation said recently in Everybody's Magazine:

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"Some morning England, perhaps, or France, or Germany, or some other European power, will open its eyes to find its capital and the rear of its armies menaced by hostile air fleets. It will then be called upon to decide whether to accept peace on ignominious terms, or destructive war with humiliating defeat almost certain. Its only hope of success will rest in its ability to summon, without loss of time an air navy of its own sufficiently strong to destroy the enemy's or drive it across the border."

An exact science has now been made of bomb dropping from on high -- gunners of the biggest battleships in the world are no more skillful in their work and in their precision than are the men who have studied the destruction and property of human life from a swaying airship.

From the Krupp factory there is now being turned out a terrible fire-bomb that sheds a bright light, not only during its flight, but after it strikes the earth. It immediately ignites any inflammable material with which it comes in contact-- its explosion is terrific.

A searchlight has been perfected which will suspend 500 feet below the airship so that the gunners are aided in directing their bomb where it will do the most damage.

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Another Krupp bomb explodes high up in the air and destroys airships sailing below the ship from which it is thrown overboard. It also emits dense smoke which gives the aeroplane time to escape from return fire.

In recent aeroplane maneuvers in Germany, a torch was attached to a long wire and hung from a moving aeroplane. This fire-brand dragged through towns and over sun-baked fields starts conflagration which burns up entire communities and subjects the invaders to but small danger.

Again, the issue of a battle may rest on the valuable information which aeroplanes are able to bring to headquarters.

In a few hours a fleet of air-dreadnoughts can sail to the center of France or England from the interior of Germany.

More damage can be done with the German aerial fleet in six hours than with the German navy in six weeks, according to experts.

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