The Military Maneuvers of 1912

     Later in the summer of 1912 between August 10 - 17, the War Department had an opportunity to test the efficiency of airplanes operating in connection with ground troop operations during combined Regular Army and National Guard maneuvers held in the northeast countryside near Bridgeport, Connecticut. The College Park, Maryland personnel were ordered to send their four-plane air force to test the efficiency of the airplane to work in conjunction with ground troops. It would be the first time more than one airplane was used in conjunction with massive war game maneuvers.

     Seven pilots were assigned to participate. Four planes were sent, but only three made it. The Army's first tractor (so-called because it was the first aeroplane accepted by the Army that had a propeller mounted in front of the plane to pull it through the air instead of pushing it from the rear), a new Burgess H, S.C. No. 9, piloted by Lieutenants Henry R. Arnold and Roy C. Kirkland cracked up along the way. One plane that got there was a Curtiss E, S.C. No. 6, that had been borrowed from the Army by the New York National Guard and piloted by Private Beckwith Havens, a professional aviation exhibitionist and member of the Guard. The other two planes were a Burgess-Wright single-seat, S.C. No. 5 (the only one equipped with radio), piloted by Lieutenant Benjamin D. Foulois and S.C. No. 8 (refitted with a dual-wheel Y-yoke control column) flown by Lieutenant Thomas DeWitt Milling.

     During the maneuvers the planes first operated with the Red Forces and then the Blue Forces. From a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet as prescribed for the maneuvers, and at the rate of approximately 45 miles-per-hour, the Army pilots made numerous reconnaissance flights on which they reported the position of ground troops. In each case they were able to give the Force to which they were attached a decided reconnaissance advantage over the other, proving conclusively that airplanes could prevent surprise mass attacks by providing information on enemy troop buildups and movements much faster than ever before. Lieutenant Geiger flew S. C. No. 8 during the maneuvers.

     From a historic perspective the maneuvers were unique in that several foreign military representatives were invited to observe the war games. England sent its military attaché, Major Morton A. Gage; Russia sent its military attaché, Colonel de Bode and Mexico sent Major José Avalos. Witnessing the use of military aircraft as observation platforms, these officers would learn the strategic value of air reconnaissance in combat. The lessons first learned in the countryside of Connecticut would soon be applied over the battlefields of Europe just two years later in the "war to end all wars."

Military Aviator and Expert Aviator Qualification

     Early in the summer of 1912, the War Department announced a new rating of Military Aviator as an objective for Army pilots to attain. While the requirements sound very easy to today's modern aviators who pilot modern jets of sleek streamline design, the new rating in 1912 was a substantial incentive to the Army pilots.

     Expressed in condensed terms, the Military Aviator rating required attaining an altitude of at least 2,500 feet, making a flight of at least five minutes duration in a wind of at least 15 m.p.h., carrying a passenger to a height of at least 500 feet followed by a

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