Sunday, November 6, 2011

US - 1918 96th Aero Squadron

America's 1st Bombardment Squadron & the Breguet Br.14

As part of the ongoing work on the U.S.A.S during the First World War I began fleshing out details for the 1st Bombardment Group. This means a need for new master files for both the AIRCO DH-4 and the Breguet Br.14. Since the 96th Aero Squadron was the first squadron of the group deployed I began by making a new master file for the Breguet Br.14 to replace the one lost during the great crash. Once I have finished some French, Belgian, and Greek profiles I will get busy with a new DH-4 master. Here is a short excerpt from some upcoming pages on

This Breguet Br.14 is painted in a standard French scheme, including the rudder which has the original identification information. The four pane windows were intended to improve visibility for the observer. As with most aircraft in the 96th, the numbers are red with white borders. The wings are camouflage pattern on the top surfaces and varnished fabric on the lower. The wings have a standard positioning scheme for the roundels, Two on the top surface of the upper and two on the lower surface of the lower bottom wing. As with all the examples shown today none of them have wheel covers.

This is Major Brown's plane from the unfortunate incident which resulted in the capture of 6 aircraft and crew near Coblenz, Germany. The plane has command stripes on the fuselage and the rudder has been repainted. The red numbers have no border. There was no squadron insignia on the fuselage.

This example has slightly different paint scheme, and no windows on the fuselage. It does have the word “PHOTO” painted near the pilot's position. 20 kg french bombs are mounted on hard points under the lower wing. The rudder carries the standard markings.

This example has all the standard features you would expect for a typical Breguet Br.14 serving with the 96th Aero Squadron during 1918. The tail plane is painted in the standard french camouflage pattern.

A Short History of the 96th Aero Squadron

The 96th Aero Squadron was America's first bomber group and was formed at Kelly Field, Texas. Originally consisting of 80 men, largely college graduates or college dropouts, volunteers all, and something of an elite group, since their aeronautical qualifications were the highest in the U.S. Army Air Service. Just before embarking upon its first aerial warfare, the squadron decided upon its insignia, a black triangle outlined by a white strip enclosing the profile of a red devil thumbing his nose at the ground with his right hand. In his left, he held a white bomb. This distinctive emblem was designed by the squadron's talented graphic artist, Harry O. Lawson.

The 96th's first attack was a six Breguet raid against the railway yards at Dommary-Baroncourt - a village located in between Thionville, Metz and Verdun - on June 12. The six planes dropped a ton of bombs across the rail yards, hitting the railway lines and a warehouse. This ton per raid average would be maintained during the month of August when formations of 10 Breguets, on average, dropped a total of 21.1 tons of bombs during 14 flying days and a total of 20 missions.

On July 10 a flight of six Breguet 14B.2 bombers from the 96th Day Bombardment Squadron bombers got lost. The weather had turned to rain about an hour after the flight took off, bringing the clouds down to 100 meters (330 feet) reducing the visibility to near zero. The planes were running short on fuel and faced with the dilemma whether they would land under power or to attempt gliding to a landing. The flight landed near Coblenz, Germany, and fell into German hands without firing a shot. The Germans sent back a humorous message which was dropped at one of the allied airdromes. It said, “We thank you for the fine airplanes and equipment which you have sent us, but what shall we do with the Major Harry K. Brown?” In all fairness, the mistake was both understandable and unfortunate.

There was only one other Breguet operational for the rest of July which the 96th duly used for bombing practice. 11 more Breguets arrived on August 1st which allowed operations to continue as they had before. The squadron flew for 14 days during August – probably the number of days the weather allowed bombing operations. And during that time they dropped 21.1 tons of bombs during 20 bombing raids. The German airfield and the railway station at Conflans were favorite targets in spite of its heavy anti-aircraft defenses. Following rivers made for good navigation and easier orientation. The village was located at the junction of the Moselle and Madon rivers which made it relatively easy to find. The 96th hit Conflans with a total of 15,000 kilograms of bombs over the course of the war – meaning that 96th's efforts against just this 2.5 square mile village of 2,500 people accounted for one quarter of all bombs dropped by all four Day Bombardment squadrons against all targets during the entire war. During one raid on August 20th against Conflans, the 96th destroyed 40 German aircraft while they were still in railway boxcars and also killed fifty workmen and soldiers.

In spite of the set backs experienced by the 96th it had been the most successful of the bomber squadrons of World War One and it was the only US bomber squadron operating in combat for four months before other bomber squadrons started to go into action. It was the 96th that wrote the book on American bomber tactics and operational procedures.


  1. 1st Bombardment Group during World War I Retrieved 12:19, November 2, 2011, from
  2. 96th Bomb Squadron. (2011, September 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:19, November 5, 2011, from
  3. Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, AL: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  4. Joseph, Frank: Last Of The Red Devils. Galde Press, Inc., 2003.

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