Howard Hawks directed a film in 1930 whose influence can be seen in virtually every military aviation movie made since it premiered. The Dawn Patrol, with its dramatic aerial combat scenes and heroic and tragic pilot figures, is the father of all military aviation films. We will be screening The Dawn Patrol and providing commentary on March 17 as part of our Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen, film series.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I, setting America on a course to become an important player on the world stage. It was a turning point in the nation’s history that still reverberates through world events a century later. One of the Museum’s most engaging programs in observance of the hundredth anniversary of the First World War is Hollywood Goes to War: World War I on the Big Screen, a year-long film series showing Hollywood’s finest feature films on World War I.
The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the “Escadrille Américaine” or the Lafayette Escadrille. Created on December 6, 1916, the Escadrille (or “squadron”) holds a unique place both in the history of World War I (1914-1918) and in the history of aviation overall. Most notably, the Escadrille was composed of American volunteers who chose to fight for France a year before the United States’ official entry into the Great War in April 1917.
Our Archives houses the Technical Reference Files, an important collection of aeronautical and astronautical topics comprised of 1,920 cubic feet of documents, photographs, and ephemera. This important resource is housed in vertical files and is an organic, growing collection to which material is added constantly. Recently, we came across a remarkable document in the Tech Files of the long fight against tuberculosis—shared with you today in recognition of World Tuberculosis Day.
Theodore E. Boyd was a 24-year-old teacher from Tennessee when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Boyd initially volunteered for Reserve Officers Training School at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. He then accepted a commission to be a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery Section. In France, Boyd served with the 88th Aero Squadron (Attached), 7th Field Artillery, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). In 2012, the National Air and Space Museum Archives received the Theodore E. Boyd World War I Collection (Acc. No. 2013-0016), and through the documents in the collection—correspondence, photographs, military orders, flight logs, and memoirs—we can reconstruct Boyd’s World War I experience.
From witches to winged demons, humanity has long harbored a horror of airborne denizens. Even when we ventured forth into the heavens without supernatural support, we sometimes adopted some truly terrifying attire.
The Museum’s annual Air & Scare event is taking place this Saturday at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. In the spirit of disguises, costumes, and just plain scary stuff, I thought I would share some examples from the history of military aviation where things were not as they seemed.
Starting just 11 years after the invention of powered flight, the Great War was the first major conflict in which pilots and airplanes were involved, experiencing their baptism by fire. At the beginning of the war, military applications of the new technology were barely known. At the end of the war, there was a vast array of fighter planes, reconnaissance planes, and bombers. Dogfighting tactics and bombing strategies had been developed, with weapons and armaments now essential elements in military aircraft.