OF THE FIRST AERO SQUADRON, SIGNAL CORPS,
WITH THE MEXICAN PUNITIVE EXPEDITION,
FOR PERIOD MARCH 15 TO AUGUST 15, 1916.
By Capt. Benjamin D. Fulois, Signal Corps, U.S. Army
Library of Congress Collection, 9-14-07
By virtue of its participation as a combat unit with the Punitive Expedition into Mexico, the 1st Aero Squadron was the first organization
of its kind that was ever used in active field service in the history of the United States Army. The Squadron took the field with airplanes
of very low military efficiency, and with less than fifty percent of its authorized allowance of truck transportation.
Receiving orders on March 12, 1916, to join the Punitive Expedition into Mexico, the 1st Aero Squadron proceeded to Columbus, New Mexico, and immediately began to assemble the aeronautical equipment shipped from Fort Sam Houston, Texas. This equipment consisted of eight airplanes. The Squadron personnel numbered 11 officers, pilots; 84 enlisted men, including two from the Hospital Corps; and one civilian mechanician. The piloting personnel were Captains Benjamin D. Foulois, T. F. Dodd, Lieuts. C. G. Chapman, J. E. Carberry, Herbert A. Dargue, Thomas S. Bowen, R. H. Willis, Walter G. Kilner, Edgar S. Gorell, Arthur R. Christie and Ira A. Rader. Upon its arrival at E1 Paso, Texas, the Squadron was joined by 1st Lieut. S. S. Warren, Medical Reserve Corps, and one enlisted man. With ten trucks and one automobile and two additional trucks, later received from the Depot Quartermaster at E1 Paso, Texas, the Squadron had about fifty percent of its necessary motor transportation. This transportation, on March 16--17, 1916, was turned over to the Quartermaster of the Punitive Expedition for hauling supplies to troops on the march into Mexico.
In addition to performing its regular functions, the Squadron assisted the Quartermaster Corps in assembling its motor transportation. On March 18th, 27 Jeffrey truck chassis with escort wagon bodies (knocked down) arrived at Columbus. The Quartermaster Corps having no men or material to install these escort wagon bodies, the Engineer Section of the Squadron, with its portable machine shop, took charge of this work and remained at Columbus until it was completed. Approximately one half of the enlisted strength of the Squadron was also left at Columbus until such time as transportation became available.
The first reconnaissance flight into Mexico was made on March 16th, Captain Dodd piloting Airplane #44, with Captain Foulois as observer.
Telegraphic orders being received from the Division Commander at Nueva Casas Grandes, Mexico, for the Squadron to proceed at once to that point for immediate service, all of the eight airplanes of the Squadron were started in flight from Columbus at 5:10 P. M., on March 19th. Due to motor trouble, one of the airplanes was compelled to return to Columbus. Dark ness overtook the seven other planes before they reached their destination, four of them being landed at Ascencion, Mexico, and the three remaining ones which became separated in the darkness landed at as many different points, one at Ojo Caliente, one at Janos, and the third was wrecked in landing near Pearson. Three days later, a detachment was sent to salvage such parts of airplane No. 41, wrecked at Pearson, as were serviceable. This detachment returned and reported that it had been fired upon by Mexicans in the vicinity of Pearson. A detachment was again sent the following day, March 23rd, to Pearson, and returned to Dublan with parts of the wrecked airplane as could be considered serviceable.
On March 20th the four pilots who landed at Ascencion proceeded south to Casas Grandes and reported for duty. The pilot who was compelled to return to Columbus, and the one who had landed at Janes, arrived at Casas Grandes at approximately the same hour. The pilot who had landed at Ojo Caliente arrived at Casas Grandes several days later, having incurred slight damage to his plane which had to be repaired. The airplane which crashed near Pearson was so badly damaged that the pilot abandoned it and made his way to Casas Grandes on foot.
Upon reporting to the Division Commander, instructions were received to make an aerial reconnaissance south toward Cumbre Pass, in the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains, for the purpose of locating troops moving south toward Lake Babicora.
At noon on March 20th, Captain T. F. Dodd, pilot, with Captain B. D. Foulois, observer, in Airplane #44, proceeded south from Casas Grande, but only traversed a distance of about 25 miles, being unable to rise over the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Whirlwinds and terrific vertical currents of air were constantly encountered, and insufficient engine power effectually prevented the airplane rising to an altitude sufficiently high to enable it to cross the mountains which at this particular locality rise to a height of over 10,000 feet above sea level.
Misfortune overtook Lieut. T. S Bowen, pilot, who on this same date, while attempting to land Airplane 44, was caught in a whirlwind. The plane was completely wrecked, but Lieut. Bowen escaped with a broken nose and minor injuries.
The mission assigned the Squadron on March 21st was to ascertain the whereabouts of the troops under Colonel Erwin in the Galeana Valley. Captain T. F. Dodd, pilot, flying Airplane #44, with Captain B. D. Foulois, observer, took off from Dublan, located these troops at Galera Lopena, landed, reported to Colonel Erwin, received a report from him and returned to Dublan. As a result of this reconnaissance and report from Colonel Erwin, six trucks of the Squadron, loaded with supplies, were sent to Colonel Erwin's column.
Of the two missions assigned the Squadron on March 22nd, the one which was successful was the locating of Colonel G. A. Dodd's command in the Galeana Valley. It was flown by Lieut. W. G. Kilner, pilot, and Lieut. Ira A. Rader, observer, in Airplane #42, and by Lieut. J. E. Carberry, pilot, in Airplane #45. Reaching the Galeana Valley and locating the troops, the pilots landed, reported to Colonel Dodd, reports from him to the Division Commander. The mission which was participated in by Captain T. F. Dodd, piloting Airplane #44, with Lieut. A. R. Christie as observer, and Lieut. C. G. Chapman, piloting Airplane #53, resulted in failure, due to unsuitable flying equipment. Flying south in an endeavor to locate the troops moving south on the Mexican Northwestern Railroad, the airplanes were driven into the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains as far as the northern end of the Cumbre Pass tunnel. Due, however, to the terrific vertical air currents and whirlwinds, which at times drove the airplanes within 20 feet of the tree tops the pilots were unable to cross these mountains and were compelled to return to Dublan.
As a result of the failure of the airmen to accomplish the reconnaissance directed, the Squadron Commander submitted a memorandum to the Division Commander recommending the purchase of new equipment, since experience had shown that the airplanes with which the Squadron was equipped were not capable of meeting military service conditions. The new equipment which he requested be immediately purchased is enumerated below, as follows:
Two Martin airplanes, Model S, with army standard landing gear, Hall Scott 125 h.p. 6cylinder motors.
Two Curries airplanes, Model R-2, Curtiss 160 h.p. steel cylinder motors.
Two Sturtevant airplanes, 140 h.p. Sturtevant motors.
Two Thomas airplanes, 135 h.p. Thomas motors.
Two Sloane airplanes, 125 h.p. Hall-Scott 6-cylinder motors.
All of the airplanes above to be completely equipped and ready for immediate use.
The manufacturer to furnish one spare motor for each two machines purchased and, in addition, the following airplane and motor spares:
Two spare propellers.
One set lower wings, complete, with fittings and wires.
One landing gear complete.
One set tail control surfaces complete with fittings and wires.
Three spare radiators.
Three spare magnetos.
Receiving orders on March 23rd to communicate with Colonel G. A. Dodd's troops in the Galeana Valley, Lieuts. Christie, Carberry and Chapman, piloting Airplanes #44, ~45 and #53, respectively, flew to E1 Valle, landed, and reported to Colonel Dodd. The pilots were unable to return to Dublan until March 25th, due to high winds, dust and snow storms.
On March 30th, the Squadron Commander, Captain B. D. Foulois, submitted the following plans to the Division Commander which contemplated the establishment of airplane and fuel bases in advance of Division Head quarters:
OBJECT: To maintain aero communication between Columbus, N. M., Casas Grandes, El Valle and Namiquipa.
(a) Two airplanes with sufficient commissioned and enlisted personnel and supplies to take station at El Valle. One airplane to fly from El Valle to Namiquipa every morning, returning the following morning to El Valle.
(b) Two airplanes to be assigned to maintain aerial communication between Casas Grandes and Columbus, as follows: One airplane to leave Casas Grandes every morning, flying to Columbus without stop, returning the following morning without stop.
(c) Two airplanes to be assigned to maintain aerial communication between Casas Grandes and Namiquipa, as follows: One airplane to leave Casas Grandes every morning, flying to Namiquipa without stop, returning the following morning without stop. The foregoing plan contemplates the maximum use of all aviators and all airplanes for maintaining aerial communication between Columbus, Casas Grandes, El Valle and Namiquipa only, and does not contemplate the use of airplanes for communication south, east or west of Namiquipa.
OBJECT: To maintain.aerial communication between Casas Grandes, El Valle, Namiquipa and points south of Namiquipa, communication between Casas Grandes to be maintained by radiotelegraph, motorcycles and road transportation.
(a) Transfer entire squadron of six airplanes to Namiquipa, maintaining fuel bases only, at Casas Grandes, El Valle, and an advanced fuel base south of Namiquipa, location to be determined later.
(b) Upon transfer of Squadron to Namiquipa, the following assignment of airplanes to be made:
(1) Two airplanes to maintain daily communication between Namiquipa and Casas Grandes.
(2) Two airplanes to maintain daffy aerial communication between Namiquipa and El Valle.
(3) Two airplanes to maintain daily aerial communication between Namiquipa and points south, within effective radius of airplanes.
(a) Upon the establishment of effective radiotelegraph communication between Namiquipa and Casas Grandes, the following is recommended:
1. Discontinue the use of airplanes between Namiquipa and Casas Grandes except in emergencies.
2. Continue the airplane communication between Namiquipa and El Valle, if radiotelegraph, motorcycles, or other means fail.
3. Concentrate all available airplanes at Namiquipa for daily communica tion between Namiquipa and advanced troops.
4. If communication between Namiquipa and El Valle is of secondary importance only and can be maintained by radiotelegraph, motorcycles, or other means of communication, the use of airplanes between these two points should also be discontinued, and every available airplane concentrated at Namiquipa for the purpose of maintaining communication south of Namiquipa.
(a) In the event that contact is gained with the enemy, it Is recommended that every available airplane be concentrated at the front for observation and reconnaissance of the enemy, as far as practicable.
In connection with the foregoing plans for the effective use of the airplanes of the 1st Aero Squadron, the Squadron Commander stated that the six air planes in use were for nearly ten months subjected to severe weather conditions in Oklahoma and Texas, being exposed to rain, high winds and severe cold weather. As a result of the wear and tear on these planes during these months of field service, and with the present extreme field service conditions, every machine is liable at any day to be placed out of commission as unfit and too dangerous for further field service.
The Squadron Commander further stated that these airplanes are not capable of meeting the present military needs incident to the expedition, their low power motors and limited climbing ability with the necessary military load making it impossible to operate them safely in the vicinity of the mountains which cover the present theater of operations. These same limitations as to power, climbing ability, and weight-carrying ability limit these planes to safe operations for a few hours each day, chiefly on account of the altitude and extremely severe atmospheric conditions encountered every day in the present theater of operations.
In conclusion, the Squadron Commander urged that the organization be supplied at the earliest possible moment with at least ten of the highest powered, highest climbing and best weight carrying airplanes that could be found and purchased in the United States, stating that with this new equipment the present commissioned and enlisted personnel of the organization will be able, under the present service conditions, to increase its effectiveness to the expedition at least five hundred percent. So far as concerned the present equipment of the Squadron, even the united efforts of the entire technical ability of the command cannot make the planes suitable to meet the present military needs, although the entire commissioned and enlisted personnel are exerting every effort to maintain all airplanes in the best possible condition for further field service.
Plan No. III was approved and ordered placed in effect on April 1st.
Between the dates of March 26th and April 4th, inclusive, the piloting personnel of the 1st Aero Squadron made a total of 79 flights, most of them for the purpose of carrying mail and dispatches. During this period the planes traveled between Columbus, New Mexico, and such points in Mexico as Dublan, Espindoleno, Galera Lopena, El Valle, Cruces, Namiquipa, San Geronimo, Santa Ana, and Bachineva. Starting on March 26th with 9 flights, a totaI of 7 was made on March 27th, 2 on the 28th, 6 on the 29th, 3 on the 30th, 9 on the 31st, 19 on April 1st, 14 on the 2nd, 6 on the 3rd, and 4 on the 4th.
On March 28th, Airplane #53, piloted by Lieut. Chapman, was flown east and south from El Valle for a distance of 110 miles and back. On March 30th, that portion of the Squadron personnel left at Columbus, N.M., to assemble truck bodies, reported at Dublan. These men, after the departure of the Squadron from Columbus, had assembled and installed 54 truck bodies on two Quartermaster truck trains in four days and nights.
During the nine flights by four airplanes on March 31st between Dublan, El Valle, Namiquipa and San Geronimo, carrying mail and dispatches, severe rain, hail and snow storms were encountered, necessitating several forced landings away from the base at Dublan until the storms had passed. Similar weather conditions on the following day caused more forced landings.
The Squadron, on April 5th, changed its headquarters to San Geronimo. On this date seven flights were made by four airplanes, between Dublan, El Valle, Namiquipa and San Geronimo, carrying mail and dispatches. Orders were received to locate Colonel W. C. Brown's column, which was reported in the vicinity of San Antonio. With Captain Foulois as observer, Lieut. H. A. Dargue, piloting Airplane #43, left San Geronimo on this recon naissance, flew to San Antonio and located a pack train of Colonel Brown's column returning towards San Geronimo. Landing and receiving information that troops were proceeding toward Cusihuirachic, Lieut. Dargue flew towards the canyon of that name, located the troops entering it, landed and reported to Colonel Brown. He then flew back to San Geronimo with a report from Colonel Brown to the Division Commander.
During one of the four flights made by three airplanes on April 6th, carrying mail and dispatches to troops between Namiquipa, San Geronimo and Cusihuirachic, Airplane #44, was so badly damaged on landing at San Geronimo that all serviceable parts were salvaged and the remainder of the plane condemned and destroyed.
Perhaps the most dramatic incident experienced by the American airmen during their service with the Punitive Expedition occurred on April 7th at Chihuahua City, Mexico. Airplanes #43 and #45 were flown from San Geronimo to Chihuahua City by Lieut. Dargue, with Captain Foulois as observer, and by Lieut. Carberry with Captain Dodd as observer, the object of the mission being to deliver dispatches to Mr. Marion Letcher, the Ameri can Consul at that point. Lieut. Dargue carried the original dispatches and Lieut. Carberry duplicates thereof. Both airplanes arrived at Chihuahua City at the same time, causing considerable excitement.
Through previous arrangement, Lieut. Dargue landed on the south side of the city and Lieut. Carberry on the north side. After Captain Foulois left the plane, Lieut. Dargue was directed to fly his plane to the north side of the town in order to join Airplane #45. As he started off, four mounted rurales opened fire on him at a distance of about one-half mile. Captain Foulois, having started into town, heard the firing, proceeded in the direction of the rurales and stopped their firing.', lie was then arrested by the rurales and taken to the city jail, followed by a mob of several hundred men and boys. Enroute to the jail, Captain Foulois succeeded in getting word to an American bystander, requesting that he notify the American Consul of his arrival in that city and that the Consul take the necessary steps for the protection of all aviators and machines that had arrived in the city. Upon his arrival at the city jail and after considerable delay, Captain Foulois succeeded in getting in touch with Colonel Miranda, Chief of Staff to General Gutierrez, Military Governor of Chihuahua. Colonel Miranda then took Captain Foulois to see General Gutierrez, who soon ordered Captain Foulois' release. The latter then requested that a guard be placed over the two air planes, which was granted. In company with Colonel Miranda, Captain Foulois then proceeded to the north side of the city to locate the other three aviators and airplanes. Arriving at the landing place, only Lieut. Dargue, with Airplane #43, was found, and he reported that after landing alongside of Airplane #45, Captain Dodd proceeded into Chihuahua City to locate the American Consul and deliver his duplicate dispatches; that after Captain Dodd had left, a large crowd of natives, Carranzista soldiers, and officers, had collected and proceeded to crowd around the machine, making insulting remarks; that several natives burned holes with cigarettes in the wings of Airplane #43; that others had slashed the cloth with knives in several places and extracted bolts and nuts from both machines.
Feeling that the mob would ultimately wreck the planes, Lieuts. Dargue and Carberry decided to fly them to the smelters of the American Smelting and Refining Company, located about six miles from Chihuahua City. Lieut. Carberry got away safely without encountering any further difficulties.
Lieut. Dargue took off in the midst of a shower of stones, thrown at him by the mob. He had only flown a short distance when the top section of the fuselage flew off and damaged the stabilizer, causing him to make an immediate landing, which he accomplished safely. He then stood off the crowd without further damage to the airplane or to himself until the arrival of the guard. Captains Foulois and Dodd spent the remainder of the day with the American Consul in arranging for supplies to be sent to the advance troops by railroad. Lieuts. Dargue and Carberry spent the remainder of the day repairing the damage done b~ the mob on the two airplanes.
On the following day the pilots and observers took off from Chihuahua City to San Geronimo with dispatches from the American Consul to the Division Commander. Orders were received to move the Squadron base to San Antonio, Mexico.
Five airplanes participated in ten flights between Namiquipa, San Geronimo and San Antonio on April 9th.
Orders being received on April 10th to locate troops in the vicinity of San Borja, Mexico, Lieut. Dargue, pfioting Airplane #43, with Captain Foulois as observer, and Lieut. J. E. Carberry, piloting Airplane #45, with Captain Dodd as observer, reconnoitered the area from San Antonio to Ojo Azules--Ojo Caliente-San Borja-- Santa Maris--Tres Hermanos--Satevo--San Lucas--Santa Cruz--Manula--Carretas--Santa Ysabel and return to San Antonio. No troops were discovered in this area. The Squadron base was moved to Satevo, in compliance with orders.
Squadron activities on April llth were featured by a 315 mile flight by Lieut. II. A. Dargue with Lieut. Gorrell, as observer, from San Antonio, Mexico, to Columbus, New Mexico, with one stop at Dublan. Ten flights, by five airplanes, were made between Satevo, Santa Rosalia, San Lucas, San Antonio, Namiquipa, Dublan and Columbus, N. M. Flying Airplane #53 on a reconnaissance trip to Santa Rosalia, south of Chihuahua City, on Mexican Central Railway, Lieut. Chapman, upon landing at Santa Rosalia, was taken by Carranza troops to the Commanding Officer of the Carranza garrison. During his absence from the plane, his field glasses, goggles and considerable ammunition were stolen by the Carranza soldiers. The squadron truck train, which arrived at Satevo at 11:00 P. M., was fired upon by a Villista band in passing the village of Cienagas, about 15 miles north of Satevo. No casualties occurred, however.
Among the six flights made by three airplanes on April 12th between Satevo, San Geronimo, Namiquipa and south towards Parral, was a reconnaissance mission by Lieut. Chapman in Airplane #53, for the purpose of locating troops moving in the direction of Parral. Another reconnaissance flight south towards Parral was made the following day by Lieut. Ira A. Rader, piloting Airplane #42, for the purpose of locating troops. None were located, however. Four flights were made in three planes between Satevo, Chihuahua City and San Andreas. Flying Airplane #45 to Chihuahua City with dispatches for the American Consul, Lieut. Carberry, pilot, and Captain Foulois observer, received first information regarding the fight at Parral.
A nonstop flight of 315 miles, the record up to that time for distance with two men in the plane, featured the activities of the Squadron on April 14th. This flight, was made by Lieut. II. A. Dargue, with Lieut. Gorrell as observer, using Airplane #43, was for the purpose of making a reconnaissance from Columbus, N. M., to Boca Grande, Pulpit Pass, Oxaca Pass, Carretas, Janos, Ascencion and return to Columbus, in order to locate a large Carranzista force reported to be moving east towards the American line of communications. No hostile troops were located within the area covered.
In a reconnaissance flight south from Satevo towards Parral, Lieut. Rader, piloting Airplane #52, located Major Robert L. Howze's command in the vicinity of Ojito, near Duranga State line. The pilot was compelled to land on very rough ground and damaged the airplane. Being in a hostile country, 100 miles from the nearest base, and unable to make the necessary repairs, Lieut. Rader abandoned the plane and proceeded to Major Howze's column.
In a flight in Airplane #45 from Chihuahua City to Satevo, Lieut. Carberry, pilot, with Captain Foulois, observer, carried dispatches from Mr. Marion H. Letcher, the American Consul, and from General Gutierrez, the Military Governor of Chihuahua. Later in the day, Captain Foulois and 14 enlisted men of the Squadron proceeded from Satevo to Chihuahua City in automobile and truck with dispatches for the American Consul and General Gutierrez. Due to the intense feeling in Chihuahua City over the clash between the American troops and troops at Parral, the detachment of enlisted men was placed in concealment in the outskirts of the city. Captain Foulois, accompanied by Corporal Arthur Westermark (chauffeur) proceeded to the American Consulate, delivered the dispatches for the American Consul and the Military Governor, left the city without difficulty and returned to Division Headquarters at Satevo.
Lieut. Dargue, on April 15th, exceeded all previous long distance flights in accomplishing a reconnaissance mission from Columbus, N. M., to Boca Grande, Pulpit Pass, Dublan, Namiquipa and Satevo. This flight totalled a distance of 415 miles, with stops at Dublan and Namiquipa. Three other flights were made between Satevo, San Antonio and Namiquipa, carrying mail and dispatches. Airplane #42 was dismantled, condemned and destroyed. Its lower wings, however, were placed on Airplane #45 to replace those damaged in the flight to Chihuahua City.
From April 16th to April 18th, two flights were made each day between Satevo, San Antonio and Namiquipa, carrying mail and dispatches. On April 17th the Squadron headquarters was moved to Namiquipa.
Airplane #43, which carried Lieut. Dargue on several notable flights during the flight operations of the Squadron with the Punitive Expedition made its last flight on April 19th. It was piloted by Lieut. Dargue on a reconnaissance mission from San Antonio to Chihuahua City, with Captain R. E. Willis as observer. Ail roads in the vicinity of Chihuahua City were reconnoitered and several photographs taken.While reconnoitering roads in the hills west of Chihuahua City, motor failure necessitated a forced landing in the hills, completely wrecking the plane. Lieut. Dargue escaped without injury, but Captain Willis, who was pinned under the wreckage, sustained a severe scalp wound and was considerably bruised about the legs and ankles. Wrecked beyond all hope of repair, the airplane was burnt on the spot, and the two aviators with their personal equipment started to walk to San Antonio, their nearest base, a distance of about 65 miles. Two days later, after constantly suffering hardships due to lack of food and water, they reached San Antonio, where they remained until April 23rd and then proceeded by automobile to Namiquipa and reported the results of their reconnaissance to the Division Commander.
With only two airplanes left, and these in unserviceable condition, the Squadron received orders on April 20th to return to Columbus, N. M., to secure new airplanes, and arrived there on April 22nd. Awaiting them were four airplanes which had been purchased from the Curtiss Aeroplane Company. The period from April 23rd to 29th was utilized by the Squadron in testing these four new airplanes. In practical flight tests, however, it was found that they were unsuitable for Mexican field service.
Two Curtiss R-2 type, 160 h.p. planes were received on May 1, 1916, and by the 25th of that month twelve planes of this type had arrived.: During the months of May, June and July, constant troubles and difficulties were encountered with defective propellers, motor parts and defects in construction. The propeller question was the most vital. Propellers were received from manufacturers all over the United States and sent to Columbus to be tested. To perform this work properly, the Squadron constructed a motor and propeller testing stand for testing all motors and propellers received. On account of the lack of field facilities for accurate work, testing operations progressed very slowly but sufficiently satisfactory to determine the suitability of all propellers received for test.
Since practically all types of propellers received proved unserviceable, chiefly due to climatic conditions, steps were taken to build propellers at Columbus, and three civilian employees of the Curtiss Aeroplane Company arrived on June 29th and commenced the work of building propellers.
In addition to the problems encountered in connection with the mechanical defects of airplanes, motors and propellers, the Squadron carried on extensive experiments with an automatic camera, considered to be one of the most valuable adjuncts in existence for use in aero-reconnaissance. The Squadron Commander stated that this camera takes a continuous string of pictures, of a limited section of terrain over which an airplane may be passing. These pictures, when developed and fitted together, are equivalent to a road map of the section traversed, and superior to the road map in the detail that is represented.
A total of 21 new Jeffrey (Quad) trucks were received and assigned to the Squadron on April 12th, all of the old trucks then in use being then transferred to the Quartermaster Corps. In the following three months a large amount of work was required in making alterations and repairs to all new trucks, it being found that, while the new trucks were of the same type as the old trucks used by the Squadron in Mexico, they were very much inferior in workmanship. Many of the troubles encountered with the new trucks were eliminated, but they were still behind in efficiency as compared to the old trucks of the same type. Comparative tests were carried on by the Squadron, in cooperation with the Jeffrey Company, with the object of developing improvements in motors and chassis.
In addition to the foregoing duties, the Squadron drew up a complete Unit Equipment for an Aero Squadron which was submitted to the Chief Signal Officer for approval.
Due to the lack of airplanes with greater carrying capacity, flying officers were continually called upon to take extraordinary risks in every reconnaissance flight made while on duty in Mexico. All officers thoroughly appreciated the fact that motor failure while flying through mountainous canyons and over rugged mountains would invariably result in death. They also realized that, in the event of a forced landing, even if safely made, there was every possible risk of being taken prisoner by an enemy whose ideas of the laws of war might not be on a par with those of our own country.
Ail officer pilots on duty with Squadron during its active service in Mexico were constantly exposed to personal risk and physical suffering. Due to the inadequate weight-carrying capacity of the airplanes, it was impossible to carry even sufficient food, water or clothing on many of the reconnaissance flights. During their flights the pilots were frequently caught in snow, rain and hail storms which because of their inadequate clothing, invariably caused excessive suffering.
In several instances, the pilots were compelled to make forced landings in desert and hostile country, 50 to ?0 miles from the nearest troops. In every case, the airplanes were abandoned or destroyed and the pilots, after experiencing all possible suffering due to the lack of food and water, would finally work their way on foot, through alkali deserts and mountains, to friendly troops, usually arriving thoroughly exhausted as a result of these hardships.
During the operations of the 1st Aero Squadron with the Punitive Expedition, from March 15 to August 15, 1916, 540 flights were made for a total flying time of 345 hours and 43 minutes. The distance flown during this period totalled 19,553 miles.
It is interesting to note that during the first month's operations of the Squadron, March 19th to April 20th, five of the eight airplanes taken into Mexico were wrecked and one, which was damaged in a forced landing at a point too distant from any repair facilities, was abandoned, so that on April 20th only two airplanes, Nos. 45 and 53 remained, and these were in such condition as to be unsafe for further field service. They were forth-with flown back to Columbus, N. M., and ultimately condemned and destroyed.
In concluding his report of the operations of the 1st Aero Squadron with the Punitive Expedition from March 15 to August 15, 1916, the Squadron Commander, Captain B. D. Foulois, made the following recommendations:
(a) As a result of actual experience in the field, one or more aero squadrons, operating in the field should have a base, conveniently located, from which all supplies, material and personnel should be drawn. This base should be independent of the field aero squadrons as regards its personnel and equipment. It should be fully equipped to receive, assemble, and test all new airplanes and motors intended for field service, and to make repairs and alterations on same whenever necessary.
(b) The organization of an aero squadron, consisting of 12 machines, should have a minimum enlisted strength of 149 men. The present tables of organization provide for 129 men only.
(c) There should be a minimum of 25 trucks with each aero squadron of 12 airplanes.
(d) A field aero squadron should confine its duties to the military application of the airplane for use in active service, and all airplanes consigned to a field squadron should be ready for such service when received. On account of the numerous problems which have been encountered during the past three months, a great amount of repair and alteration work has been done at this station which normally should have been done by the manufacturers before the airplanes, motors and propellers were shipped from the factories. In other words, an airplane consigned to a field aero squadron should, upon receipt and assembly, be ready for field service without wasting a lot of time in overhauling and altering motors and airplanes.
(e) Heretofore all airplanes received by the Government have been tested at or near sea level altitudes and generally under most favorable conditions. Tests under such conditions are not service tests. Airplanes intended to be used in field service should be tested under as severe conditions of service as possible. Such tests should include flying in localities where great variations of temperature and low percentage of humidity are found. They should be tested where the starting altitude is approximately 5,000 feet above sea level and where sand and rain storms are frequently encountered. These are the exact conditions under which the 1st Aero Squadron performed its flying work in Mexico and New Mexico, and it is believed that these are the maximum service conditions to which an aero squadron will be subjected in any field service that may be encountered in North America. It is, therefore, recommended that no airplane be accepted for field service with a mobile army unless it has been tested under service conditions as stated herein, and that, whenever alterations are necessary to place an airplane in fit condition for field service, such alterations shall be made by the manufacturer.
(f) With reference to conducting service tests of all airplanes intended for service in the mobile army, it is recommended that the Government establish an airplane testing station at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, or some other military station on the Mexican Border where the altitude above sea level and the average climatic conditions throughout the year are more closely related to maximum service conditions. Asserting that the earnest and willing spirit shown by every officer in the command in performing this new and perilous service, with inadequate equipment and under very severe conditions, is deserving of the highest commendation, and that foreign governments have decorated their flying officers for far less perilous flying, Captain Foulois stated that the officers of the Squadron considered their hardships and their service with the Punitive Expedition as part of the day's work and simply in line of duty.
Captain Foulois also commended the spirit and efficiency of the enlisted personnel of the Squadron, stating that without their willing and efficient cooperation the flying service of the Punitive Expedition would have ended at Columbus, New Mexico. On many occasions they worked day and night to keep airplanes in fit condition for service. Their technical skill was in demand time after time in the repair of automobiles and trucks of the Quartermaster Corps, especially in the earlier days of the Expedition, and later as the Expedition advanced into Mexico.
The enlisted truck drivers of the Squadron performed especially hard service throughout the entire period the Squadron was in Mexico. Due to lack of sufficient motor transportation in the Squadron, they were constantly called upon to perform double duty, not only in connection with aviation work but frequently in connection with the needs of the entire Expedition regarding transportation of supplies to advance troops.
At the time of submitting this report, as of August 28, 1916, Captain Foulois stated that the Squadron was maintaining two airplane sections with the necessary personnel and equipment at Division Headquarters in Mexico; that the entire Squadron, less two sections, was being held at Columbus, N. M., for the purpose of assembling and testing 18 new airplanes under order for shipment to this station. The Squadron received 12 Lewis Machine Guns and 100 bombs; that instruction has commenced in the use of these weapons and also in the use of the Brock Automatic Camera for service in aerial photography.
Captain Foulois and his officers were of the firm belief, after their service in the field, that aviation was indispensable to military operations, and that airplane design should tend to greater speed, dependability and weight carrying capacity.
In conclusion, Captain Foulois stated that the experience gained by the commissioned and enlisted personnel of the Squadron while on active duty with the Punitive Expedition was of the greatest value, and he expressed his belief that the knowledge gained by all concerned should result in more rapid and efficient development of the aviation service in the United States Army.