AT the close of the war 94 Squadron not only held first
place among all American squadrons in length of service at the front, but we
held the record in number of enemy planes brought down and the record number of
aces for any one squadron as well. I believe no single squadron in the world
has won similarly so many victories as the American 94 Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron
had credited to it during the first six months of its existence. Our victories
which were confirmed, totalled 69, ending with the last aerial victory of the
warthat of Major Kirby, who shot down his first and last enemy machine
just northeast of Verdun at about noon on Sunday, November 10th, 1918.
Many of the pilots who had gone out on their first patrols
with me counted themselves later among the American Aces. While many Americans
had secured five or more victories in the air before the pilots of 94 began
their full strides, these early Aces, such as Lufbery, Baylies and Putnam of
French escadrilles, and Warman, Libby and Magoun, who were enrolled with the
British, all were trained under foreign methods and flew foreign machines. The
first official American Ace is therefore claimed by our squadron. This
simon-pure American air-fighter who entered the war with the Americans,
received his training with Americans and did all his fighting with the
Americans was Lieutenant Douglas Campbell of St. José, California.
Douglas Campbell was 22 years of age when he made his first
trip over the lines. His father was the head of the Lick Observatory on Mount
Hamilton, California. Douglas had received an unusually good schooling before
he entered the war, being an old boy of Hotchkiss, and later graduating at
Harvard with the class of 1917. The outbreak of the war caught him traveling in
Austria with his family. They avoided the active theater of war by going
through Russia and getting thence from Denmark to England.
After finishing his college course Doug began preparing for
aviation by entering the ground school work at Cornell University. He was among
the first cadets to be sent to France, arriving in Paris in August, 1917. He
had not as yet received any training in flying but was thoroughly familiar with
wireless operation, aerial navigation and aeroplane motors.
Made adjutant under Captain Miller, who was then in command
of the American Flying School at Issoudun, Lieutenant Campbell had great
difficulty in extricating himself from this indoors work, where every day's
stay made him more and more valuable to his superiors. He determined to learn
to fly, with the expectation that, once possessed of his wings, he might find
his transfer to an active service at the front more quickly obtainable.
There were no beginners' training machines at Issoudun. Only
the 23 Model Nieuports were there. Pilots were supposed to receive initial
training on the slower Curtiss machines, or the Caudrons, before attempting to
fly the fast Nieuports. But Campbell feared he would never get necessary
permission to take this preliminary training, so he determined to get through
without the beginner's course.
Little by little he edged his way into the advanced training
school. He finally considered himself well enough schooled in the principles of
flying to make his first essay on a solo flight. He went up all right, flew
away all right, landed all right. In other words Lieutenant Campbell learned to
fly alone on a fast scout machinea feat I do not remember any other
American pilot having duplicated.
Douglas Campbell was always a silent and selfpossessed
fellow. He was popular among his fellows from his first appearance in 94
Squadron. Quiet and thoughtful in manner and gentle in speech when on the
ground, Lieutenant Campbell in the air was quite a different character. He went
after an enemy pilot like a tornado, often exposing himself to deadly openings.
His very impetuosity usually saved him from danger unless his opponent was an
old hand at the game and knew how to measure up the proper amount of defensive
and offensive tactics in the same maneuver.
On May 31st, the day after our big celebration just
recorded, Lieutenant Campbell went out on a voluntary patrol alonei. e.,
Doug went out looking for trouble. He made quite a long flight inside the
German lines at a great altitude, but discovering too many enemy aeroplanes
aloft he decided to return back to the lines. When still three or four miles
behind the German front, he discerned a German Rumpler machine evidently taking
photographs of our advanced positions just south of Flirey. Flirey lies just
inside our lines about half-way between Pont-à-Mousson and St. Mihiel.
The Rumpler aeroplane was the machine used by the enemy for
observation and photographing. It was a two-seater and both the pilot and the
observer who sat behind, had machine-guns so mounted that they covered both the
front and the rear. The pilot's gun was fixed, that is, it lay flat on top of
the engine hood and could not be raised or lowered. The pilot must raise or
lower the nose of the aeroplane itself to bring his sights upon a target. The
bullets shoot straight through the revolving propeller and the trigger of the
gun is so connected with the propeller shaft by a synchronizing gear that the
hammer of the gun falls only when the propeller blade is out of the way of the
The observer in the rear seat, however, is able to move his
twin guns about and point them in any direction. An attack is therefore usually
made upon such a machine from a position under its tail. If an attack comes
from below the fusilage the observer cannot shoot without cutting holes through
his own tail. The forward pilot cannot use his guns at all. The only defense
against such an attack is a quick swing to the left or right so that the
observer can see the attacking enemy and bring his guns into action. This move
the attacking aeroplane must anticipate.
Campbell was coming into the enemy's range from a very
favorable direction. He had the sun at his back and moreover, he was coming
from Germany into France. His presence in that direction would not be
Maneuvering until he was sure of his position Lieutenant
Campbell first tried a diving attack, from above and behind the Rumpler. He had
an excellent chance of killing the observer with the first burst long before
the latter could swing his guns around and aim them. But no such easy victory
As he began his dive he began firing. Six or seven shots
issued from the Nieuport's single gun, and then it jammed. The observer turned
around and saw the diving Nieuport almost upon him. He quickly seized his own
gun mount and got to work. Campbell was compelled to fly a wide circle away out
of range while he worked the breechblock of the Vickers and freed the jam. Now
it must be a contest between a one-man scout and a two-man fighting 'bus. The
best pilotage and the coolest nerve must win.
As Doug returned to the attack he discovered at once that he
had a veteran pilot against him. The Rumpler crew showed no sign of panic or
fear. The Heinies did not even propose to retreat!
Campbell approached somewhat warily and began a study of the
enemy's tactics. The Nieuport could turn and twist with much greater agility
than the heavier machine. It had greater speed and a faster dive. Underneath
the Rumpler was a safe position from which the American could keep out of view
and occasionally point up his nose and let go a burst of bullets through the
enemy's floor. Campbell darted in, braving a few hurried shots, and secured his
position. But he didn't keep it long!
With a skill that won from Campbell still greater respect
for his pilotage, the German pilot suddenly banked over, giving his observer an
excellent shot at the Nieuport below. It was no place to linger in and Douglas
quickly vacated. He dived again and came away at a safe distance. Again he
turned the proposition over in his mind. These fellows were evidently desirous
of a real battle. Well, thought Campbell to himself, let the best man win. Here
Circling the enemy again and again at such speed that no
careful aim at him was possible, Campbell smiled grimly to himself as he saw
the observer frantically continue his firing. At this rate he must soon exhaust
his ammunition and then Campbell's turn would come. Doug continued his
maneuvers, at times firing a shot or two to tempt the Boche into still greater
activity. Round and round they went, the Hun pilot attempting to kick his tail
around to keep pace with the quicker circles of the flitting Nieuport. The
pilot was surely a wonder. The observer, however, was not in the same class as
For fifteen minutes Campbell continued these maneuvers. So
far as he knew not a single bullet had entered his plane. Then suddenly he
noticed that the pilot had changed his tactics. Instead of trying to keep the
Nieuport within range of the observer, the German pilot was now keeping his
tail behind him and sought always to get a shot himself with his forward gun.
Campbell flew in closer to the tail to get a look at this situation.
Coming in towards the observer from a diagonal direction
Campbell approached to within fifty feet of the enemy and saw a curious sight.
The observer was standing proudly upright and his arms were folded! From the
edge of his cockpit the empty ammunition belt floated overboard and flapped in
the wind. He had indeed exhausted his ammunition and now stood awaiting his
doom without a thought of asking for mercy. He wore a haughty expression on his
face as he watched the American approach. As Doug said later, he was so
impressed with the bravery of the action that he felt he could not continue the
combat against an unarmed enemy. The Prussian's expression seemed to say: "Go
ahead and shoot me! I know you have won."
Upon second thought Lieutenant Campbell realized this was
not a game in which he was engaged. It was war. These men had photographs of
our positions within their cameras which might be the death of hundreds of our
boys. They had done their best to kill him and he had endured their bullets in
order to obtain just this opportunity. And the pilot was still continuing his
effort to outwit the American and get him beneath his guns.
With his next maneuver Campbell began firing. With almost
his first burst he saw that he had won. The machine of the enemy suddenly
descended very rapidly, the next second it began falling out of control, and a
few minutes later Lieutenant Campbell saw its last crash in our lines, a few
hundred yards north of the little village of Menil-le-Tours.
Campbell returned to the field and immediately jumped into a
car and drove over to the scene of the crash. Here he quickly found the mangled
Rumpler and in the midst of the débris were the bodies of the two late
occupants with whom he had had such a prolonged duel. Both had been killed by
The brave observer whose demeanor had so aroused Campbell's
admiration was in truth a Prussian lieutenant. The pilot held the same rank.
Both were subsequently given a military funeral and their personal effects were
sent back to Germany in their names.
Lieutenant Campbell detached from the conquered Rumpler the
black crosses which decorated its wings and brought them home with him as first
evidence of his well won victory. As the machine crashed within our lines it
required but a few more hours in which to have Lieutenant Campbell's victory
officially confirmed. It was his fifth! He had been the first American pilot to
win five official confirmations. Douglas Campbell that night received the
heartiest congratulations from all the boys in the squadron as the first
American Ace. The news was telegraphed to the whole world and for a month the
congratulations of the world came pouring in upon him. Almost self-taught and
equipped with not the safest machine at the front, Douglas Campbell had within
six weeks of his first flight over the lines fought five successful duels with
the boasted air-fighters of the Germans.
During the early hours of the same day on which Campbell was
bringing this distinguished honor to the 94th Squadron an episode occurred
which illustrates the great aid that aeroplanes give to the land forces in
warfare. Sadly enough this illustration is negative rather than affirmative,
for it shows the misfortune that resulted from the failure of our troops always
to use our aeroplanes before a contemplated advance.
Northwest of Seicheprey a small offensive movement had been
planned by the American infantry. By some means or other the enemy had received
advanced information of this attack and had prepared a trap for them.
According to the pre-arrangements our artillery began the
show with a terrific bombardment of shells along the German trenches. Something
like 20,000 shells were poured into a small area of ground inside of one hour.
Then the doughboys got the word and went over the top.
They raced along across No Man's Land, dropped into the
first line trenches of the Germans, crawled out of them and went on to the
second. All the way on to the third line trenches of the Germans they continued
their victorious course. When they arrived there they counted up their
prisoners and found the whole bag consisted of but one sick Heinie, whom the
Germans had been unable to remove!
While they were scratching their heads over this
extraordinary puzzle German gas shells began to drop among them. The enemy had
calculated to an inch the exact positions they had just evacuated and they
quickly filled the trench lines with deadly fumes. Over 300 of our boys were
gassed more or less seriously before they had time to meet the devilish menace.
Then they realized they had wasted their ammunition upon vacant trenches and
had blindly walked into a carefully prepared trap!
One single preliminary aeroplane flight over this area
before beginning the offensive would have disclosed to our troops the whole
situation. In fact I believe this function of " seeing for the army " is the
most important one that belongs to the aviation arm in warfare. Bombing,
patrolling and bringing down enemy aeroplanes are but trivial compared to the
vast importance of knowing the exact positions of the enemy's forces and "
looking before you leap."
On the morning of June first I had an interesting little
fracas with an enemy two-seater Rumpler some distance within the German lines.
But this pair of Boche airmen was evidently not related to the team that Doug
met on the day before. They dived for the ground and continued their course
homeward regardless of my earnest invitations to come back and fight it out.
Much disappointed with a fruitless day's work I went home and arranged to take
a little joyride by automobile over to Nancy, the principal city in this part
Nancy is a city of thirty thousand or thereabouts and is
called by Frenchmen " the Little Paris of the East." After four years of war
its shops are now almost empty and its glory considerably dimmed; but a visit
and walk about the city's streets did all of us good after so many weeks
standing on the alert.
We heard rumors there that the American aeroplane squadrons
were to be moved soon to another sector of the front to meet a " big push " on
Paris that was anticipated. Rumors were rife in Nancy on every topic, however,
so we were not fully convinced by them. Nancy is darkened by night, as is every
city or village so near the front where bombing raiders may be expected.
Nothing daunted by this possibility of a raid however, we investigated the
chances for a good meal as dinner time approached. Imagine our gratification
when we stepped into a restaurant on Stanislas Plaza and found a list of good
old American dishes on the menu!
Upon inquiry we found that the place was called " Walter's "
and was quite the most pretentious café in Nancy. I called for the
proprietor and learned that his name was Walter. He had formerly been the Chef
at the Knickerbocker in New York. Visiting his old home in France Walter had
been caught by the war, joined the infantry and after a few months at the front
was wounded and retired from service.
Being a native and a lover of France, he decided to stay and
see the war out. Accordingly he selected " little Paris in the East " and
opened up a first-class restaurant which has now become the favorite rendezvous
for the many American officers who find their headquarters in this vicinity.
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