Related Links: Nieuport 17 | Nieuport 28 | Spad VII | Spad XIII | Spad XVI | Fokker D.VII and other German aircraft | Halberstadt CL.IV | Fokker Dr.1 | Albatros D.Va | Caudron G4 trainer | USN Curtiss N-9H trainer | USN Thomas Morse SC-4 | USN Hanriot HD-1 | USN Sopwith Camel | What was the first American fighter plane?
The Nieuport 28 was America's first fighter airplane for an American fighter squadron other than the Lafayette Escadrille. Thus technically, the Nieuport 28 is the USAF's second fighter plan since the Spad VII was used by the Lafayette Escadrille when it flew for France. When the Lafayette Escadrille became a USAS (now the USAF) squadron, it migrated to American service with its Spad VII planes.
The US Army Air Service had already had some experience flying around searching for Pancho Villa, as part of the 1916 punitive expedition led into Mexico by John J. Pershing. There had even been an idea to hold a large machine gun into the air to use it for air to ground attacks.
At the start of American involvement in World War I in April 1917, American industry promised it would produce 45,000 or so fighters; but not a single one was delivered in time to fight the war. So there were no American combat aircraft when the US joined the war and there were too few Spad VII or Spad XIII fighters, thus the Americans ordered 297 Nieuport 28s.
And so the brave American pilots of the 1st Pursuit Group (meaning the 27th, 94th, 97th and 147th Aero Squadrons) initially all flew the French Nieuport 28 biplane. This was a light 1,200 pound fighter 24 feet long with a 26 foot wingspan capable of 122 miles per hour. The 28 was derived from earlier Nieuport 17 and its descendants.
The aircraft was equipped with a nine cylinder air cooled engine developing 160 horsepower. The service ceiling was 17,390 feet, but Eddie Rickenbacker speaks of viewing the world from 15,000 feet. The Nieuport 28 was armed with two twin synchronized .303 Vickers machine guns.
These numbers seem feeble, especially considering that today's typical four door sedan has significantly more horsepower, more weight and in some cases similar top end speeds. But back then, these aircraft were the leading edge of technology - nearly as impressive in those days as today's stealth combat fighters are to us.
The 94th and 95th received their Nieuports and made them operational in mid-March, 1918, but without any machine guns, which would arrive a few weeks later. In the mean time, the Americans familiarized themselves with their new planes.
By mid-April, the guns had arrived, were installed and the units were considered fully operational.
Still, even then the Nieuport 28 was considered an inferior design by the French as it reached production. Designs and combat aircraft technology was evolving very rapidly obsoleting front line aircraft in a year or even in months. The Nieuport had already been superseded and so the French ordered the legendary Spad XIII instead.
The Nieuport, which, according to a number of sources which all use the same words without much further elaboration, had a "tendency to shed its wings" while flying. The earlier marks of Nieuports would sometimes shed their wings too.
However, according to www.acepilots.com, only four of the 298 Nieuports used by the US had fabric stripped from their wings in a dive, etc., and none of them appears to have caused any fatalities. Two of the incidents were for the same pilot, so perhaps it might have been something specific he was doing in pushing the aircraft beyond its design limits. Here is what actually happened:
" 2 May 1918
* 94th - Lieutenants Meissner, Winslow and Davis attacked a formation of three enemy bi-place machines north of Pont-a-Mousson. After a short fight Lieutenant Meissner brought one machine down in flames near the Foret de la Rappe. The fabric of the leading edge and on the lower wings was torn loose during the combat and he was subjected to heavy anti-aircraft fire from German batteries but by skillful operation and cool determination he managed to coax the crippled airplane across the American lines." "Captain Hall while following a Fokker in a dive lost the fabric on his wings and his plane was hit by a dud anti-aircraft shell and felt into a spin. On making a crash landing in German territory he suffered a broken ankle and was taken prisoner. "
Rickenbacker actually had a structural wing problem:
" 17 May 1918
* 94th - Lieutenant Edward Rickenbacker engaged three enemy Albatros scouts near Richecourt and succeeded in destroying one. The other two dove for their side of the lines and in diving after them the wing on Lieutenant Rickenbacker's type XXVIII Nieuport snapped. By good luck he managed to nurse the crippled Nieuport back to the airdrome without being sighted by a single enemy airplane "
The United States had 298 of these Nieuport 28s and operated them for several months in combat. It thus appears that the oft stated information of Nieuport 28s having a tendency to lose their wings has been overemphasized.
Much of the above are excerpts from my book "American Eagles". Please support this website and our efforts to recognize our first combat aviators by buying it. Here are more Nieuport 28 photos from various museums including the silver Nieuport 28 in Pensacola and the camouflaged Nieuport 28 at the National Air and Space Museum:
Books (Paperbacks or Downloads) by Narayan Sengupta and Fred Scheer/Narayan Sengupta:
$ 9.95 American Eagles - The Illustrated History of American Aviation in World War I
$ 9.95 Lafayette Escadrille: America's Most Famous Squadron
$ 9.95 POW Stories of World War II
$ 9.95 Disaster at Dieppe: World War II's Little D-Day
$29.99 The Used Tank Guide of World War I and World War II
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$13.95 Hearts of Iron II (game) scenarios - $13.95 Railroad Tycoon 3 (game) scenarios/maps
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"American Eagles - The Illustrated History of American Aviation in World War I" ($9.95, paperback, 370 pages, 8.5"x11", black and white, add $3.95 for shipping and handling or purchase download or SAVE BIG on book and download):
American Eagles features 220 photos, new maps and beautiful artwork by Michael O'Neal. It tells of American World War I combat aviation, the aviators, their planes, their aerodromes, their stories and what happened to them after the war. Read about America's first fighters, bombers and observation planes, the Lafayette Escadrille, USN Aviation, USMC Aviation, the United States Air Service, etc.
"I wanted to tell you what a great job you have done with your book! I have been totally enthralled reading through it!"
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"The photos in your books have a clarity I have not seen among the hundreds of WWI aviation books that I've collected/amassed. Those photos make you feel like you are standing there with the subjects. Outstanding! Your passion for the subject is evident!"
Mark, Lt Col, USAF (Retired)
Preview (Table of Contents, Table of Illustrations, Chapter 1, 1.0 mb PDF)
"Lafayette Escadrille: America's Most Famous Squadron" ($9.95, 204 pages, digest size, black and white, add $3.95 for shipping and handling or purchase download or SAVE BIG on book and download):
The Lafayette Escadrille is about the brave Americans who volunteered to fly for France and the United States 103rd Aero Squadron during World War I. Read about Raoul Lufbery, Bill Thaw, Kiffin Rockwell, Norman Prince, Charles Biddle and the early days of American World War I military aviation before it was known as the United States Air Force. These men flew Nieuports and Spads against Fokkers and Albatroses. This book has lots of new research and is thoroughly well-documented. 204 pages, 62 photos and maps.
"Narayan Sengupta's "The Lafayette Escadrille: America's Most Famous Squadron" is a wonderfully written history of one of the most unique air combat units that ever existed. Not only is his book factual and chock full of historical photos (80+), the text is nicely augmented with maps, appendices, and a very complete bibliography. Great job, all around!"
Steve Ruffin, Managing Editor emeritus, "Over the Front."
"You write so well! I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot."
"A concise, well written history of one of the most significant fighter squadrons in American history. Long before the US entered World War One, these volunteers showed that not all Americans were "too proud to fight." They helped defend the skies of France and laid the groundwork for what would eventually become the United States Air Force. Mr. Sengupta has done an excellent job of telling the story of some of the most colorful individuals in American history. Very readable and superbly illustrated, the book is thoroughly researched and well documented."
Steve Tom, PhD, Lt Col USAF (Ret)
"POW Stories" ($9.95, paperback, 189 pages, 6"x9", black and white, add $3.95 for shipping and handling or purchase download or SAVE BIG on book and download):
POW Stories: remarkable stories told by men once POWs in Germany. Some were in the US Army, others in the United States Army Air Force. Read exhilarating, astonishing and poignant real-life stories by Fred Scheer, James Golden, Les Schrenk and many others. All were POWs in Germany during WWII. Jim was a Mustang pilot who was the last Allied pilot shot down on D-Day. Fred escaped twice and was recaptured. He made it out for good on his third escape. And Les survived the brutal German Death March. 189 pages, 35 photos and maps.
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The raid on Dieppe, code named Operation Jubilee, was the first invasion/large scale raid, of World War II. Jubilee featured the first use of Rangers, Churchill tanks, tanks in an amphibious assault, P-51s and Typhoons and more. Approximately 6,000 troops were roped into the attack: they included 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British, 50 American Rangers and 24 French light infantry. Poor planning and Murphy's Law led to an 85% casualty rate for the Canadians who landed! It was a rate far, far worse than the 10% suffered by the US Marines at Tarawa in late 1943 or the 15% that would be sustained by the Americans on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. But their sacrifice was not in vain and may have saved 10 times as many lives in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. This is an easy read. At the same time, it is thoroughly documented. Its tables and six-page index makes it a great reference book. 167 pages, 6" x 9", 66 photos and maps.
The Used Tank Guide has a 36 page overview of World War I and World War II tanks (and self-propelled artillery and tank-destroyers, etc.). Then is the eye-candy photo album section with 700+ fantastic full-color photos and 115+ profiles of tanks, self-propelled guns and tank destroyers in the most color-packed book on World War I and World War II armored vehicles ever...
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This exquisite collection showcases tanks in full-color as never seen before. Countries represented: Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, USSR, United Kingdom and USA.
Bad Boys is a terrific scenario where the US President makes the United States very aggressive, attacking Nazi Germany and other dictatorships, but the US sells its soul in the process... Download for $13.95 Hearts of Iron II scenario - Bad Boys! - more information on my 5 Star General website...
Here are several terrific extra maps (scenarios) for Railroad Tycoon 3. Download for $13.95. Original Railroad Tycoon game NOT included, but can be bought elsewhere online. More details: Railroad Tycoon 3 Maps!
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Related Links: Quentin Roosevelt | Frank Luke | Eddie Rickenbacker | Raoul Lufbery | Eugene Bullard | David Ingalls - 1st Navy Ace | "American Eagles" - 345 page illustrated history of US Combat Aviation in World War I