Instrumental or experimental: a history of U.S. naval air stations in Europe during World War I
MetadataShow full item record
At the turn of the century, the United States Navy found itself participating in an explosive naval armaments race. Germany and England were its strongest rivals. Greater emphasis on emerging technologies was transforming the nature of naval warfare. Improved steam engines, thicker armor plating, larger guns and improved firing controls were soon joined by submarines, dirigibles and airplanes. As military applications were devised for these new weapons, a decided shift away from the previous emphasis on "capital" ships resulted.The outbreak of World War I provided a dramatic opportunity to test the effectiveness of the newest technologies. Germany's destructive success with U-boats against the Allied forces and the subsequent entrance of the the United States military forces into the war set the stage for U.S. naval aviation to attempt a grand experiment overseas.When the United States Government declared war with Germany on 6 April 1917, Navy aviation, including Marine air power had a total strength of 48 officers and 239 enlisted men, 54 airplanes, 1 airship, 3 balloons and 1 air station. By 11 November 1918, the number of men involved in naval aviation had increased to 6,716 officers and 30,693 men. In addition, the Marine Corps aviation program contributed another 282 officers and 2,180 men to the Navy totals. Between the two branches there were 2,107 assorted aircraft, 15 dirigibles and 215 kite balloons and free balloons.More than twenty air stations were established throughout France, England, Ireland and Italy, creating both a strong physical and psychological presence. The largest undertaking by naval aviation forces was in France. Twelve stations were planned and six became fully operational during the war, adding a strong element to coastal defense for the French. Just two stations were established in England. Killingholme was an operational air station, while Eastleigh served as a supply station for the Northern Bombing Group. The four stations established in Ireland so deterred the Germans that submarine sightings along the Irish coast were reduced to virtually zero. The two air stations in Italy provided needed assistance in preventing German and Austro-Hungarian air and submarine attacks emanating from across the Adriatic Sea at Pola.
- History