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More of the March 1918 Air War

94th aero squadron eddie rickenbacker james norman hall luckiest man alive wwi

Also in March 1918

There is so much going on in aviation history of 1918 that there isn't time to blog about each of the events; we'll have to wrap up March with a summary of things that happened this month that we haven't yet covered.

  • Captain Hedley, the "Luckiest Man Alive" has gone back up after not - quite - falling to earth. Calling him lucky seems a bit odd as in March 1918 he is shot down (anyway, wouldn't good luck have been not falling out of a plane to begin with?) He liked to claim it was Richthofen who shot him down, but probably his nemesis wasn't actually the Red Baron. Question to consider: would you have gone up in a WWI airplane at all? How about after falling out of one? How about after falling out AND being shot down? What kind of men were these aviators, anyway?
  • James Norman Hall scores a double victory with the 103rd Aero Squadron on 27 March. To put a double victory in perspective, you have to remember that the top ace of the war scored 80 victories, over a couple of years, so a double victory accomplished in a day what the Red Baron took on average about 20 days to do! Hall's last victory before becoming a POW would come in April, as a shared victory with Eddie Rickenbacker (Rickenbacker's first!) Read much more about Hall in the Vintage Aero Flying Museum Highlight of the Month.
  • Tsarist Russia, so instrumental in the events that started the war, stops fighting much like a dead soldier stops fighting. The Bolshevik party (the minority party with a talent for media promotion, since the name "Bolsheviks" implies "majority") takes over the government, renaming itself the Communist Party, making Moscow the capital, and redefining world alliances and superpowers for the next seventy years. Peace with Germany is bought in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with Russian holdings in eastern Europe, which become independent...for a couple decades. Oh, and now the October Revolution officially happened in November, as Russia adopted the Gregorian calendar in February!
  • American squadrons are gearing up, becoming official, and becoming more American, as victories owe less  and less to French and British aircraft, leadership, and training. The 94th (Hat in the Ring) Aero Squadron, the first squadron to be composed entirely of Americans, with a Lafayette Escadrille veteran, Major John Huffer, as commander.  begins operational flights in March, and gets its insignia which is still used today for the 94th Fighter Squadron. Eddie Rickenbacker explained the origin of the insignia:
The honor [of being the first American squadron to go into action against the enemy] deserved a distinctive insignia. One of the pilots. Lieutenant Johnny Wentworth, was an architect, and he was asked to design it. We all threw out ideas. Major Huffer, the CO, suggested Uncle Sam's stovepipe hat with the stars and stripes for a hatband. Our flight surgeon, Lieutenant Walters from Pittsburgh, mentioned the old American custom of throwing a hat into the ring as an invitation to battle. And thus one of the world's most famous military insignia, the Hat-in-the-Ring, which became a part of my entire life from then on, was born.


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