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By Roger G. Miller

On March 15, 1916, the first Aero Squadron arrived at Columbus, New Mexico, its teach steaming into the crowded, chaotic city at 9:15 within the morning. Led via Capt. Benjamin D. Foulois, a lantern-jawed, bantam-weight former enlisted guy, the squadron integrated 11 officials, eighty-two enlisted males, and one civilian technician. lower than Foulois's path, the boys unloaded an car, six bikes, and twelve motor vehicles, automobiles infrequent in 1916 New Mexico or even rarer in a military nonetheless wedded to the pony and mule. those have been via wood crates containing 8 wooden, twine, and upholstery Curtiss JN--3 biplanes, each aircraft owned via the U.S. military, keep these assigned to its aviation university at San Diego, California. The squadron used to be in Columbus to affix an day trip commanded by way of Brig. Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. President Woodrow Wilson had ordered Pershing's strength into Mexico according to a March nine assault at the tiny border city via the Mexican desperado, Francisco "Pancho" Villa. the development was once auspicious. For the 1st time, the U.S. Army's whole air force---the 1st Aero Squadron---had deployed for an energetic crusade. the first Aero Squadron performed an important function within the Punitive excursion, yet, in dramatic distinction to how an air strength capabilities this present day, it served as a method of verbal exchange and commentary, now not as a combatant arm. a few experiments with bombs and computing device weapons were carried out, and the conflict in Europe used to be fast turning the aircraft right into a severe weapon of conflict. however, U.S. military leaders predicted aviation's basic undertaking to be the receipt and transmission of knowledge for tactical commanders and long-distance scouting as an accessory to the cavalry. for that reason, through the cellular part of the Punitive day trip, the first Aero Squadron enabled Pershing to find and converse together with his extensively dispersed, fast-moving columns and carried dispatches among Pershing's major and complicated bases. The squadron additionally scouted for adversarial forces and saved an eye for threats to Pershing's line of communications. As may be visible, those efforts have been made in a few of the worst climate and poorest stipulations conceivable, and by means of the top of April, all 8 airplanes were destroyed. throughout the static section of the Punitive day trip, the first Aero Squadron remained at Columbus, the place Foulois and his males operated a try and evaluate application for a large choice of airplanes and aviation gear. in the course of either stages of the crusade, the officials and males of the first Aero Squadron discovered classes approximately airplanes, apparatus, and operations within the box that might be utilized in France lower than a 12 months later.

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Additional resources for A Preliminary to War: The 1st Aero Squadron and the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916

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All of Foulois’s airplanes were out of commission from May 10 through May 15 with faulty propellers, and of the twenty-nine propellers received in May and June, only two passed their tests. C. No. 70, took off at Columbus. Thirty-five minutes into the flight, a blade of the propeller, manufactured by the Paragon Propeller Company, broke completely off near the hub. The engine tore from its mounts and dangled below the landing gear, suspended only by cables and metal supports. The pilot, Lieutenant Chapman, managed to land uninjured, but the airplane was completely wrecked.

Although virtually the same vehicle, the workmanship was inferior. The squadron mechanics had to make numerous modifications and repairs over the next three months, but even with these, the new vehicles lacked the dependability of the earlier trucks. As with the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, 37 the Thomas B. Jeffery Company (soon to become Nash Motors) was producing huge number of trucks for the war in Europe, and the rapid expansion appears to have diminished quality. 101 Otherwise, April 12 was a relatively quiet day.

44 from Namiquipa to San Geronimo. During the landing roll, Dodd ran into a ditch hidden by grass, destroying the landing gear and damaging the lower wings. C. On April 3, 1916, an article appeared in the New York World claiming that several pilots with the Punitive Expedition, including Foulois, Gorrell, Carberry, Dargue, Willis, and Chapman, had complained bitterly to reporters about the deficiencies in their airplanes and blamed most of the problems they faced on the nonflying officers of the Signal Corps who controlled army aviation.

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