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 3With the RFC at Gosport, Turnberry, and Ayr December 1917–March 1918 Of the American naval air stations established in France in 1917, only Dunkirk on the English Channel coast near the Belgian border exposed aviators to encounters with enemy aircraft. Lumbering flying boats conducting antisubmarine patrols proved easy prey for German warplanes and thus required armed escorts—fast, maneuverable, singleseat chasse (pursuit) machines.To obtain the trained pilots necessary to fly these aircraft, the navy made arrangements with the American army to instruct a dozen enlisted aviators at their new school at Issoudun,France.1 Others were recruited from among American pilots then serving with French escadrilles. The RFC took three additional officer-pilots (David 1. Known as the Third Aviation Instruction Center, the Issoudun facility offered advanced flight instruction, including acrobatics, formation flying, and camera gun work. More than 750 American pilots trained there. See James Hudson, Hostile Skies: A Combat History of the American Air Service in World War I (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1968), 35–36. Many who occupied the site in the fall and winter of 1917–18 remembered it as “about the most all-around, God-forsaken place you could imagine.” Trainee Laydon Brewer opined, “Issoudun—God’s mudhole, where God said,‘Let there be mud,’ and there was mud. Such mud as Noah might have gazed on when the ark was stranded at the top of Ararat.” Quoted in Henry Berry, Make the Kaiser Dance: Living Memories of a ForgottenWar —The American Experience inWorldWar I (Garden City,N.Y.:Doubleday,1978),434.Charles Codman agreed,describing“a sea of frozen mud.Waiting in shivering lines before dawn for a spoonful of gluey porridge slapped into outstretched mess kits, cold as ice.Wretched flying equipment. Broken necks.The flu.A hell of a place, Issoudun.” Quoted in Edward M. Coffman, The War to End AllWars:The American Military Experience inWorldWar I (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986), 199.  With the RFC at Gosport, Turnberry, and Ayr Ingalls, Ken MacLeish, and Edward “Shorty” Smith) for advanced instruction at the School of Special Flying at Gosport, near Portsmouth. Evelyn Preston, a friend and correspondent of many members of theYale Unit’s social set, reported,“Bob, Dave Ingalls, and Ken MacLeish are the ones chosen for acrobatic work. Do you realize they are the only three out of the whole naval aviation that were chosen, and all of them the outcome of Huntington?”2 The School of Special Flying began as something of an experiment, founded in the summer of 1917 under the direction of Lt. Col. Robert Smith-Barry.An officer of forceful personality and strong views, SmithBarry learned to fly in 1911 at Larkhill in Wiltshire and at the Central Flying School at Uphaven. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1914, flew night antizeppelin patrols, and later commanded No.60 Squadron . Known as both brilliant and eccentric, he received permission to reorganize the flying school at Gosport. Sir Hugh Trenchard, one of Britain’s most important military aviation pioneers, claimed that SmithBarry taught the world how to fly. According to a detailed report later compiled by Ken MacLeish, Smith-Barry “wrote repeated letters to the War Department,” arguing it was a waste of time to train men at the frontline squadrons.3 The appropriate authorities must have agreed, for the number of training fatalities and the performance of woefully unprepared replacement pilots seriously impaired morale and operations. Lee Kennet noted in The First AirWar, 1914–1918, that “wastage” at RFC training institutions in 1917 reached as high as 17 to 28 percent. Military historian John Morrow called Smith-Barry’s reforms “sorely needed,” citing the crudeness and inadequacy of even advanced training. French (and later American) flight instruction was more deliberate but much safer. In fact, American training, as measured by accidental deaths, was 2. Quoted in Geoffrey Rossano, The Price of Honor:The World War One Letters of Naval Aviator Kenneth MacLeish (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1991), 59. 3. For a complete discussion of Smith-Barry’s career and the work at Gosport, see FrankTredrey, Pioneer Pilot:The Great Smith BarryWhoTaught theWorld to Fly (London: P. Davies, 1976), and D. G. Stratham, The Gosport Diaries (privately published, 1981). MacLeish was cited in Geoffrey Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: U.S. Naval Aviation in Europe in World War I (Gainesville:University Press of Florida,2010),150–51.MacLeish’s original report is in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., Box...


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