America is the leader in aviation technology today, and has been for decades. But that was not the case in 1918, even though the Wright Brothers who hailed from Ohio had invented the airplane only a few years before.
As this May 1918 article explained, the U.S. had some major catching up to do upon entering WWI:
It must be remembered that all the warring nations had three years of advantage over the United States in bringing aircraft production to its highest efficiency, because they had been fighting three years when we began. Some of our aircraft producers had foreign contracts, but not many; and the aircraft industry in the United States, on that day in early April when we threw Uncle Sam’s hat into the ring and decided to make the world safe for democracy, was at a low ebb. Although two young Americans invented the aircraft, people of the United States, generally speaking, took no very intense interest in doing their traveling by air, and it was extremely difficult for aircraft manufacturers to keep going, even in a small way.
But with our entrance into the war, the whole situation changed. Aircraft companies sprang up like mushrooms.
As Dr. Bert Frandsen writes in his article The Birth of American Airpower in World War I in Air & Space Power Journal, the American military only had 26 qualified aviators at the start of the war, and “Aircraft production was so small that airplanes were made in shops instead of factories.” By the end of the war, we had created the Army Air Service (later largely turned into the Air Force in 1947), with 190,000 men and 11,000 aircraft.
3,000 Planes a Month: Careful Inquiry Shows Real Progress in American Output, Including One Machine Which Is Unburnable
Published: Sunday, May 26, 1918
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