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          “At the end of June 1918 two American air units, the 1st Pursuit Group and the I Corps Observation Group, having gained combat experience in the Toul area, move west to airdromes near Chateau-Thierry, a town which the Germans had captured a few weeks earlier.* These units formed the nucleus of the First Air Service Brigade, a temporary organization under the command of Col. William (Billy) Mitchell.


     During the first 2 weeks of July the 1 st Pursuit Group, flying older Nieuports against a larger and more experienced enemy air force, lost 8 pilots, half captured when forced down behind German lines and half killed in action. Among the latter was the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, Quentin, whom a German pilot shot down on July 14. Despite these losses, the group scored 9 aerial victories. The Germans attempted to break Allied defenses on the Western Front in a 2-pronged attack on July 15. The Allies had pinpointed the time of the attack within 24 hours and determined the general location, assisted in part by the 1st Corps Observation Group, which conducted visual and photographic reconnaissance that contributed to Allied intelligence. Early on the morning of the 15th Colonel Mitchell flew a reconnaissance mission to locate the enemy bridgehead over the Marne River. After informing Allied Headquarters, he dispatched pursuit aircraft to strafe enemy troops crossing the Marne on pontoon bridges. Attacking between Soissons, on the Aisne River, and Reims, 40 miles to the east on the Vesle River, the German Seventh Army pushed south across the Marne River between Chateau-Thierry, about 55 miles northeast of Paris, and Epernay, 25 miles east of Chateau-Thierry. The Germans drove 2 Italian divisions from their positions southwest of Reims before the U.S. 3d Division, aided by the French,stopped the German advance.

     In the second prong of the attack, the German First Army made practically no gains east of Reims, where the French Fourth Army, reinforced with British units, had prepared a strong defense in expectation of the battle. The Allies also had ample warning of this attack, provided for the most part through aerial photography by the Air Service 1st Corps Observation Group. The 1st Pursuit Group aggressively strafed German ground forces, escorted observation and bombardment aircraft, and flew air defense patrols over the battle area. The American pilots also adopted new tactics. Instead of relying on the large, closely massed formations favored by the British and French or on the small independent formations of 3 to 5 aircraft employed around Toul, the 1 st Pursuit Group began to fly in formations of 12 to 15 aircraft organized in mutually supporting flights of 4 or 5, with 1 flight usually remaining high as cover. During the 3-day battle, the group destroyed 8 enemy aircraft, and the Germans killed 2 American pilots and captured another.


     On July 18 the German High Command, directing exhausted and ill-equipped troops and facing well-prepared Allied defenses and the threat of an Allied counter offensive between the Aisne and Marne River, terminated the Champagne-Marne offensive. Aerial reconnaissance and air defense performed by the Ist Pursuit Group and other elements of the First Air Service Brigade had helped the Allies successfully defend Reims.”

*”Between April 17 and July 15, 1918, the Germans launched two other ground offensives, designated the Aisne and the Montdidier-Noyon Campaigns (War Department General Order No 48, April 9, 1919). Enemy troops seized a salient between Soissons, Chteau-Thierry, and Reims. During this time Air Service units and pilots flew combat missions elsewhere along the Western Front and especially near Toul, but no Air Service unit qualified for campaign credit in the Aisne Campaign, May 27-June 5, 1918, or the Montdidier-Noyon Campaign, June 9-13 1918.”

   The following Excerpt from: “Air Force Combat Medals, Streamers, and Campaigns AD-A242319”, A. Timothy Warnock, United States Air Force Historical Research Center, Office of Air Force History USAF Washington DC, 1990.

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