The short decade before the onset of WWI was an exciting period as man attempted to, and finally conquered the skies. By 1913 these efforts had finally placed in humanity's hands not one but two possible means of aerial transport - the airship and the airplane.
Early pilots, many of whom were peacetime aviation pioneers, engaged the enemy rarely and when they did so it was by passing the enemy plane and firing upon it with rifles and pistols. Little by little however, as the war expanded into the air, planes were armed. The machine gun had almost completely replaced the rifle by the Spring of 1915, but its use in the significantly improved single-seat planes which had been developed, was greatly hindered.  The reason was that when using the forward mounted machine gun, the pilot as often as not shot off his own propellers! It was the successful synchronization of the machine gun with the propeller blades that suddenly turned the single-seat fighter into a truly murderous wapon.

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German victory at the Somme by Georg Marschall.
Publ. Verlag des Luftfahrerdank - Charlottenburg.

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Downed French
L. Usabal

Battle in the
L. Usabal

German "Taube"
fighting enemy planes.

Battle in the

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Dogfight at
close range.
Illustrierte Zeitung

Downed enemy
Illustrierte Zeitung

Battle between German
and French pilots
over Paris.

Battle betwee German
and French pilots.
( 9 October 1914 )
Off. Red Cross Postcard.

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Airbattle over
"Monte S. Michele"

Dogfight between
German "Taube" and
French a French plane
over Paris.

"The Aerial Duel"
G. Reynolds, Ld. London.

Back of
"The Aerial Duel"

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Dogfight over the Yser between
a Belgian plane and a German Taube.

The result of these technological developments was that the air war became even more deadly as conflicts were engaged between single-seat fighters and free-wheeling duels were fought. These were complete chaos as one must remember that there was no radio communication between the pilots of an aerial squad. These aerial duels sometimes involved the destruction of up to twenty planes in a single engagement. This was especially the case between German and British pilots, who were less closely associated with ground troop movements then were the French. Thus was born the famous "dogfight" of legend. Thus was born, glittered and died the mythical "ace", that heroic amalgam of man and killing machine so lionized by the propaganda machines on both sides of the conflict.

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