The First Eagles: The Fearless American Aces Who Flew with the RAF in World War I. By Gavin Mortimer. Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2014. Photographs. Appendixes. Bibliography. Index. Pp 240. $30.00. ISBN: 978-0-76034639-6.
The First Eagles resurrects the spirits of Americans who flew for the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in World War I. Photographs of the pilots and their airplanes help to bring to fife events from a century ago. Author Gavin Mortimer's research relied on the flyers' letters and journals, squadron diaries, archives, and memoirs.
Mortimer begins by explaining that, prior to World War I, American leaders had little faith in the airplane. In 1914, Congress created the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps, approving a strength of sixty officers and two hundred sixty enlisted men. A month later when war started in Europe, the Aviation Section had only five aircraft. As a result, Americans who wanted to fly against Germany joined the RFC.
Although American volunteers did not enter the war until late in 1917, they arrived when needed most. Following the April 1918 German offensive, of 1,200 RAF (the RFC had been renamed and organized as the Royal Air Force on April 1, 1918) aircraft on the Western Front, only 200 had not been destroyed or damaged beyond repair, Mortimer says.
The book is entertaining because Mortimer presents a long string of stories about the American...