Off the Shelf: Beneficial Bombing by Mark Clodfelter

Clodfelter Read the beginning of Chapter 1, "Genesis in the Great War" from Beneficial Bombing: The Progressive Foundations of American Air Power, 1917-1945 by Mark Clodfelter:

 "29 May 1910

On a warm Sunday morning, U.S. Military Academy cadets assembled at Trophy Point to witness a spectacular event. Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss had announced that he would pilot his thirty-foot-long biplane from Albany to New York and claim the New York World's prize of ten thousand dollars for making the first flight between the two cities. The initial leg of his journey had gone well: Curtiss had taken off shortly after 7:00 a.m., had stopped for fuel at Camelot, and had taken off again at 9:30. Yet as he approached Storm King Mountain a few minutes later at an altitude of one thousand feet, violent air currents above the Hudson River plummeted his frail craft to within fifty feet of the water. He struggled with the flight controls to prevent a further loss of altitude and, as he did so, flew past West Point. His dive hid the airplane from the cadets’ view and caused them to run to Cullum Hall, perched high on a bluff overlooking the Hudson. From there they could clearly see the tiny craft, the first flying machine that most of them had ever witnessed. Oblivious to the pilot’s difficulty, the cadets tossed their caps into the air and shouted their favorite football cheer, with a slight modification: “Rah, rah, ray!
Rah, rah, ray! West Point, West Point, Armay! Curtiss! Curtiss! Curtiss!”1


One of those chanting was Edgar Staley Gorrell, a diminutive nineteen-year-old “yearling” from Baltimore. Gorrell’s small stature and boyish features had earned him the nickname “Nap” from his classmates, and Nap was mightily impressed by the spectacle. From the day he viewed Curtiss’s flight—which arrived in New York City after two hours and forty-six minutes of air travel—Gorrell determined that he too would become an aviator. Assigned to the infantry after graduation, he transferred to the Signal Corps’ Aviation Section in 1914 and then completed flight training. Two years later, as one of eleven pilots in the First Aero Squadron, he helped track Pancho Villa’s band of outlaws across northern Mexico. He became the first American to fly an aircraft equipped to take automatic photographs, the first to fly an aircraft while conducting radio experiments, the first American Army officer to volunteer for a parachute jump, and one of the first officers to fly at night. He also developed the first plan for an American bomber offensive against an enemy nation.2"

Mark Clodfelter is a professor of military strategy at the National War College. He is the author of The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam, available in a Bison Books edition.

To read a longer excerpt or to purchase Beneficial Bombing, visit http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Beneficial-Bombing,674686.aspx.

For notes 1 and 2 please refer to the print edition of this book.

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