The Aerial Warfare of World War I (45 pics)

The First World War was the first conflict that aircraft were involved on a large scale and played a major role in combat.

In 1915, Anthony Fokker, a Dutch aircraft manufacturer working for the Germans, perfected a French invention allowing machine-gun fire through the propeller. This discovery had a deadly revolutionary consequence: the creation of fighter aircraft. This innovation gave an edge to the Germans during 1915.

Below are amazing photos of the aerial warfare of World War I from 1914 to 1918.

A French SPAD S.XVI two-seat biplane reconnaissance aircraft, flying over Compeign Sector, France ca. 1918. Note the zig-zag patterns of defensive trenches in the fields below.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

German pilot Richard Scholl and his co-pilot Lieutenant Anderer, in flight gear beside their Hannover CL.II biplane in 1918.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

British Handley-Page bombers on a mission, Western Front, during World War I. This photograph, which appears to have been taken from the cabin of a Handley-Page bomber, is attributed to Tom Aitken. It shows another Handley-Page bomber setting out on a bombing mission. The model 0/400 bomber, which was introduced in 1918, could carry 2,000 lbs (907 kilos) of bombs and could be fitted with four Lewis machine-guns.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

German soldiers attend to a stack of gas canisters attached to a manifold, inflating a captive balloon on the Western front.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A German Type Ae 800 observation balloon ascending.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A captured German Taube monoplane, on display in the courtyard of Les Invalides in Paris, in 1915. The Taube was a pre-World War I aircraft, only briefly used on the front lines, replaced later by newer designs.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A soldier poses with a Hythe Mk III Gun Camera during training activities at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas in April of 1918. The Mk III, built to match the size, handling, and weight of a Lewis Gun, was used to train aerial gunners, recording a photograph when the trigger was pulled, for later review, when an instructor could coach trainees on better aiming strategies.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Captain Ross-Smith (left) and Observer in front of a Modern Bristol Fighter, 1st Squadron A.F.C. Palestine, February 1918. This image was taken using the Paget process, an early experiment in color photography.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Lieutenant Kirk Booth of the U.S. Signal Corps being lifted skyward by the giant Perkins man-carrying kite at Camp Devens, Ayer, Massachusetts. While the United States never used these kites during the war, the German and French armies put some to use on the front lines.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Wreckage of a German Albatross D. III fighter biplane.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Unidentified pilot wearing a type of breathing apparatus. Image taken by O.I.C Photographic Detachment, Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, New York.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A Farman airplane with rockets attached to its struts.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A German balloon being shot down.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

An aircraft in flames falls from the sky.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A German Pfalz Dr.I single-seat triplane fighter aircraft, ca. 1918.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Observation Balloons near Coblenz, Germany.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Observer in a German balloon gondola shoots off light signals with a pistol.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Night Flight at Le Bourget, France.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

British reconnaissance plane flying over enemy lines, in France.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Bombing Montmedy, 42 km north of Verdun, while American troops advance in the Meuse-Argonne sector. Three bombs have been released by a U.S. bomber, one striking a supply station, the other two in mid-air, visible on their way down. Black puffs of smoke indicate anti-aircraft fire. To the right (west), a building with a Red Cross symbol can be seen.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

German soldiers attend to an upended German aircraft.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Japanese aviator, 1914.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A Sunday morning service in an aerodrome in France. The Chaplain conducting the service from an aeroplane.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

An observer in the tail tip of the English airship R33 on March 6, 1919 in Selby, England.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Soldiers carry a set of German airplane wings.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Captain Maurice Happe, rear seat, commander of French squadron MF 29, seated in his Farman MF.11 Shorthorn bomber with a Captain Berthaut. The plane bears the insignia of the first unit, a Croix de Guerre, ca. 1915.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A German airplane over the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Car of French Military Dirigible “Republique”.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A German pilot lies dead in his crashed airplane in France, in 1918.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A German Pfalz E.I prepares to land, April 1916.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A returning observation balloon. A small army of men, dwarfed by the balloon, are controlling its descent with a multitude of ropes. The basket attached to the balloon, with space for two people, can be seen sitting on the ground. Frequently a target for gunfire, those conducting observations in these balloons were required to wear parachutes for a swift descent if necessary.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Aerial reconnaissance photograph showing a landscape scarred by trench lines and artillery craters. Photograph by pilot Richard Scholl and his co-pilot Lieutenant Anderer near Guignicourt, northern France, August 8, 1918. One month later, Richard Scholl was reported missing.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

German hydroplane, ca. 1918.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

French Cavalry observe an Army airplane fly past.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Attaching a 100 kg bomb to a German airplane.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Soldiers silhouetted against the sky prepare to fire an anti-aircraft gun. On the right of the photograph a soldier is being handed a large shell for the gun. The Battle of Broodseinde (October 1917) was part of a larger offensive – the third Battle of Ypres – engineered by Sir Douglas Haig to capture the Passchendaele ridge.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

An aircraft crashed and burning in German territory, ca. 1917.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter biplane aircraft taking off from a platform built on top of HMAS Australia’s midships “Q” turret, in 1918.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

An aerial photographer with a Graflex camera, ca. 1917-18.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

14th Photo Section, 1st Army, “The Balloonatic Section”. Capt. A. W. Stevens (center, front row) and personnel. Ca. 1918. Air Service Photographic Section.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Aerial photo of a cratered battlefield. The dark diagonal lines are the shadows of the few remaining tree trunks.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

A British Commander starting off on a raid, flying an Airco DH.2 biplane.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

The bombarded barracks at Ypres, viewed from 500 ft.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

No. 1 Squadron, a unit of the Australian Flying Corps, in Palestine in 1918.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

Returning from a reconnaissance flight during World War I, a view of the clouds from above.

Credit: Bundesarchiv/Bibliotheque nationale de France/National World War I Museum, Missouri, USA/Text: Bernard Wilkin

SHARE this with your friends by clicking below!