What's New in Old News?

November 2021, vol. 1, no. 5.

From the Department of Prognostications

“Airplanes Will Never Prove Effective in Combat”

Major General Frederick Grant, a leading American military thinker, made his bold prediction in November 1910, after watching the ungainly airships flying around the field at New York’s Belmont Park Air Meet. In its present state, opined the general, the airplane “will be useful for scouting purposes, but not formidable as an engine of war.”

Airplanes, continued the general, would prove easy targets for army marksmen as they slowly lumbered across the sky. Any pilot foolish enough to close within rifle range, a distance of 6,000 feet, would be shot right out of the sky. If General Grant was offered an opportunity to build anti-aircraft defenses, he would not waste any time on artillery pieces. “Under the command of an officer armed with a field glass that contains a new mirror device for determining sky distances, we would station platoons of sharpshooters to watch the enemy’s aeroplanes. The officer would communicate the range to the riflemen and they would fire quick volleys at the man in the flying machine.”

If the shooting was accurate—and the general believed army sharpshooters were accurate to 6,000 feet—the pilot would perish in a fusillade of bullets. Even if the shooters missed the aviator, their bullets would damage the aircraft. The chances of a trip ending in death would be “10 to 1” against the pilot.

Who would accept such terrible odds? Clearly the future of warfare would never include the sky.

World War I dispelled General Grant’s myopic prediction. By the end of the conflict, airplanes had found their place on the modern battlefield. They served as scouts, dropped bombs, and ultimately carried the battle into the third dimension, scrapping with each other in the sky.

After the war ended, the military was committed to winning control of the skies in future conflicts. There was, however, an obvious question: did you design an airplane that was fast and maneuverable, or should you place your chips on a craft that was slow, but heavily armored?

And that’s a long introduction to this story. Meet the GAX, the U. S. Army’s first stab at this problem:

Read more about this fascinating aircraft here: The Battleship That Flew.

Continuing Features

Hiking the Via Romea Germanica

The long walk continues. In this month’s installments, Mary and I visit Otzi the Neolithic ice man in Bolzano, Italy, and hike along the Strada della Vino (Street of Wine). Catch up with our adventures by clicking the link below:

The Oyster Burger Chronicles

The quest to find the world’s greatest oyster burger continues. In this month’s installments, the Oyster Burger Test Team (OTT) visits Lincoln City and Depoe Bay, Oregon, to see if these towns conceal award-winning oysters.

Exit Music

I hope to have some big announcements to share with you next month: Exciting new projects, articles, and something fun to compensate for those Christmas supply chain shortages.

Be safe, be sensible, and look for the newsletter’s next installment on December 1.