Background: A few years ago in my readings about the U.S. war effort, I noticed an interesting pattern regarding the descriptions about the air operations of the AEF. There was over-the-top emphasis on the St. Mihiel Offensive – a hugely successful effort, but over in less than a week – and little said about the subsequent Meuse-Argonne Offensive – that lasted 47 days. Mostly the authors emphasized the heroics of Frank Luke and Eddie Rickenbacker. I decided to ask an expert about this.
|Air and Ground Crew of a Salmson 2A2 Reconnaissance Aircraft, 12th Aero Squadron|
Billy Mitchell put together 1,485 aircraft — pursuit, bombardment, observation — for St. Mihiel. There Americans (there were many British and French aero squadrons as well as a few Italian ones) had air supremacy. During the Meuse-Argonne, however, Mitchell was not able to put that many aircraft into the skies. One must recall that the Meuse-Argonne was fought in dismal weather conditions which kept much of the Air Service on the ground. Mitchell did have a good air operations op-plan, and the Air Service moved from St. Mihiel to fields for the Meuse-Argonne with surprising quickness, but many planes were in bad need of maintenance, and many air pilot and air observers were in dire need of some rest. St. Mihiel rates an A+, Meuse-Argonne a C.
Response from Air Service Historian and Mitchell Biographer, Professor James Cooke