Early Military Developments

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Early Military Developments

Before 1914 militaries used airplanes mostly for surveying of enemy territory. (In 1913, the U.S. Army had only six active pilots and the fledgling U.S. aeronautical industry had fewer than 170 employees.) As World War I progressed, manufacturers began designing aircraft to carry guns, bombs, and torpedoes. Glenn H. Curtiss, the pioneer of the seaplane, established his own airplane company in 1916 and was a major supplier of aircraft equipment to the U.S. and Allied navies during World War I.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Dutch-born aeronaut Anthony Herman Fokker (1890–1939) produced numerous planes for Germany, including the Fokker Eindecker (monoplane) fighter, which featured a machine gun that could fire through a moving propeller without hitting the blades. In the 1920s, Fokker established an aircraft company in New Jersey and set about designing aircraft for the fledgling U.S. commercial aviation industry. The first nonstop flight across the United States was made in a Fokker T-2 in 1923.

Another important development during World War I was the family of engines known as Liberty engines, which featured interchangeable parts and went on to be used in civilian as well as military applications through World War II and beyond.

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