Assess the Importance and Significance of Aircraft During WWI and WWII.
Some terms need to be defined. WW1 and WW2 stand for World War One and Two. “Importance” in this question mean the effectiveness and usefulness of airplanes during both World Wars. “Significance” here means, what role the aircraft played in winning the war for the Triple- Alliance and the Triple- Entente. It also means how the aircraft was used during the war and if certain things like the drop of the atomic bomb would never have happened if there was no aircraft. This question is hard to question since it does give specific dates and a extremely specific task. Even though the task is specific, one could argue that it would be better to asses the importance of the aircraft in only one of the wars, since the significance of the aircraft was much less in WW1, then it was in WW2. Also the importance and use of the aircraft in WW1 was different then the use and importance of the aircraft in WW2. In both wars aircraft was significant and important, though it played a more significant role in WW2 then in WW1.
Aircraft in the beginning of WW1 had a very insignificant role, because it was only used for reconnaissance or spying on the enemy. Planes at that time also weren’t of much use because the maximum speed of a typical British fighter plane was only 72 mph in 1914. Planes could easily discover enemy troop movements which indicated whether the enemy was attacking or not. Also Aircraft could see disturbances of the ground to maybe be able to see where a tunnel was being dug or where the enemy was setting up gun pits for artillery. Also planes were used for the so called “Spotting”, which was basically only telling the artillery how to adjust its direction of fire because its targets where sometimes about five kilometres away and for the men using the artillery invisible. This was not very useful since planes were so slow, and pilots could only communicate by dropping messages, that it sometimes took them two hours to adjust the fire direction of just four guns. After the Germans developed the machine gun in the propeller, the killing of 50.000 aircrew was counted. Aircraft had a significant role in the death of many pilots. Aircraft in WW1 did not play a important role for the British and French, who lost a large amount of planes on 8th of August 1918 while trying to bomb Germanys’ bridges. That day the Germans did not lose any bridge, but shot down 150 planes from the RAF not counting the French losses.
Even though Aircraft was not as significant in the beginning of WW1 it still had a important role during the war. Aircraft was used to attack enemies’ territory without having to invade. For example the Zeppelin which the Germans build in 1918 and invaded London and other British towns with, was very successful since it could carry many bombs. In October 1915 the Germans came up with a machine gun mounted in the propeller, which caused a mass downing enemy aircraft. Also the German fighter played an important role for Germanys’ infantry, because the fighter was so effective, the British had to escort their renaissance planes with at least three fighters. This limited the effectiveness of the reconnaissance information available to the British army. Aircraft was not only successfully used in air, but also for ground attacks. From 1916 on planes were involved in land attacks, with bigger bomb carriages which made them more useful in bombing and shooting enemies’ trenches. In 1917 aircraft became effective against ships as well as factories, railway junctions and docks in Germany, with a bomb carriage of 750 kg in total.
Aircraft played a much more important role in WW2, then in WW1. The V-rocket was developed, a rocket containing its own bombs. This can be considered aircraft, and was extremely useful. The enemy suffered great losses since it was a rocket, the side using it had no losses at all. Also aircraft in WW2 discovered the underwater torpedo, which was very useful against submarines and U-boats especially at Pearl Harbour. The plane would drop a torpedo and it would enter the water in the direction the submarine causing great damage when it hit its target. Now since planes were much faster and had a much higher bomb carriage, one side could attack the other with planes causing major damage without having to invade the country. During WW2 effective strategies were used such as strategic bombing, which only required the use of aircraft to destroy the enemies’ factories, cities or airbases. Also since planes now had radio, they could communicate with each other and make better flying formations to achieve more destruction against the enemy and less losses on the own side.
Aircraft showed to be more useful then ships in WW2 . During the Pearl Harbour attack on December 7th 1941, the most damage was done by the first wave of Japanese planes. The planes sank several battleships and other ships and destroyed a major part of the US aircraft. Since the Japanese aircraft was so advanced, the most damage done to the fleet and Us aircraft was done during the first 30 minutes of the attack when the first and second wave of aircrafts arrived. Also planes played a significant role in ending the war. If the Americans did not have fast planes with a big bomb carriage, the atomic bombs might have never been dropped. Aircraft played a extremely important role there, since they transported the atomic bombs. The point of the attack was, to attack quickly without any reaction of defence and leave the greatest damage possible. And this task the plane mastered successfully.
Throughout this essay several points have been made conceiving whether the aircraft did or did not have a significant and important role during the First World War. Aircraft prolonged the war, but when the aircraft was able to drop bombs the importance changed. During WW2 aircraft had a very significant role, which included dropping the Atomic bomb and thus ending the war. Why where the British not able to come up with a fighter plane as good as the one the Germans build in 1916 until 1918? This was a question that occurred while writing this paper. Another questions was: “Why did the British and neither the Germans invest more money in advancing the technology of aircraft if it was seen that it had a lot of potential?”