Tuesday, March 13, 2012

America - 1918 RAF (Austin) SE.5a

The SE.5a In American Service

I am taking a break from the inter-war period, and getting back to work on my yet unpublished USAS section and started fleshing out the pages for the 4th Pursuit Group.

When many think of American squadrons serving in WWI the first thing that comes to mind is units flying French aircraft. This was not always the case. Several units flew both the British Sopwith Camel and the RAF SE.5a. Since I have been working on new master files for the SE.5a I thought it was high time to tackle examples which served in the American sector of the front.

The white markings are used by B flight. This aircraft does not carry a diamond insignia. The squadron insignia is a cartoon of a masked executioner on a on a white oval. The white bordered American fuselage roundels are the same size and location as was used in British service. The aircraft used by the 25th are painted in the standard British scheme of PC-10 and lower surfaces varnished linen. From what I have seen of photos the upper wing carried white identification numbers and the lower wing has the number in black..

This B flight SE.5a was the personal plane of the squadron leader, Captain Reed Landis. The red diamond on the vertical tail fin indicates a command plane. The white bordered roundels outside edge begins at the second wing spar.The wing markings are a command diagonal stripe on the left side and the number number on the right The finish is PC-10 as is the fuselage. The bottom wing is painted in a mirror of the top wing except the stripe and number are black on varnished fabric. The top of the fuselage has two white diamonds just aft of the head rest.

This aircraft has many details on the fuselage including a white bordered diamond which may mean it is a command plane. The blue markings indicate this plane flew with C flight. I am not sure about the scheme on the wings. There is still some debate if there were diamonds on the top of the fuselage as in number 13.

Creation of the 4th Pursuit Group

In the last days of the First World War American command created the 4th Pursuit Group. Several of the squadrons assigned to the 4th were formed around pilots who had served in the RAF before the American entry into the war.

The process of creating the 4th Pursuit Group began on October 25, 1918 at Toul, France. The unit was allocated to the new 2nd Army Air Service which had been formed on October 12. The first squadron assigned to the 4th PG was the 141st Aero Squadron which had begun operations two days earlier on October 23rd. Three other squadrons - the 17th, 25th, 148th joined the 141st at Toul in preparation for an offensive which was to begin on November 10th.

The Americans had requested the 17th and 25th squadrons be transferred back to American command for upcoming offensives. The the British agreed, but refused to allow them to take their planes with them, so the Americans arrived in Toul without airplanes.

A Short History of the 25th Aero Squadron

The unit was established as the 20th Aero Squadron in June 1917. It was later re-designated the 25th Aero Squadron after the United States entered into the war. The 25th was deployed to Europe, first to England, then to the Western Front in France in late October 1918. Assigned to the 4th Pursuit Group, 2nd Army Air Service, Toul Sector, however at that time the unit had not been issued any airplanes. The Squadron was made up of American pilots who flew with RAF S.E.5a Fighter Squadrons. Command of the squadron was given to Capt. Reed Landis who had 10 victories flying the SE5a with Royal Air Force 40th Squadron. The squadron finally received some British Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5s and went operational flying one combat mission on 10 November 1918 the day before the war ended. It was demobilized after the 1918 armistice.

The 25th Pursuit Squadron, U.S.A.S was equipped with the British S.E.5a with the Wright-Martin built 180 hp Hispano-Suiza. The S.E.5a were built by Austin. The U.S.Army had a large order with Austin Motor Car Co. The 141st Pursuit was equipped with S.E.5a after the war.

The 25thused color to identify the different flights. Red was used for A flight, white for B flight, and blue for C flight.

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