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El Paso Wisdom

After the Great War, way out in El Paso, Texas, sometime in the early 1920's, the 12th Aero Squadron received a hot little French fighter plane, the Spad 220. It wasn't long before one of their young Lieutenants took her up putting the plane through its paces. He returned boldly proclaiming there wasn't a plane on the planet that could last fifteen minutes against him.

Captain Don Thompson and Lt William Morris, disagreed, pointing out to the Lt. any plane with fixed guns no matter how sporty was vulnerable to the less sexy, slower observation planes as they had something the fighter didn't - turrent mounted guns. Neither party relented their position and like most aviator arguments, a bet ensued. The two would "mock" dogfight. The loser bought dinner for eight across the border in Juarez.

Thompson gave the Lt. the advantage allowing him to takeoff first. The dogfight would begin between 8,000 and 10,000 feet directly over the Fort Bliss airfield. Next Capt Thompson and Lt. Morris departed in their "lumbering" observation plane.

12th Aero Squadron Julvecourt, France
Lt. Donlad Thompson 4th from the left.

Reaching the appointed altitude and savoring sweet victory the Lt. opened his throttle diving upon his prey. Ole' Thompson and Morris saw him coming a mile away and simply turned into him causing forcing the Lt to overshoot and miss. The Lt. pulled into a steep climb attempting to reposition for another run. Thompson and Morris hosed him down with their camera "guns." The Lt. pressed the fight attempting to attack from every known angle using every possible maneuver he could think of. Nonplussed, Thompson and Morris continued to thwart his every attempt. For nearly forty-five minutes Thompson, Morris kept the Lt. at bay while they "raked" him with their guns almost at will.

Back on the field they reviewed their gun camera film. The result: Thompson and Morris hands down had won the bet, multiple times over. The poor Lt. never came close.

Ever a good sport Lt. Claire Lee Chennault paid up buying dinner for eight in Juarez, Mexico.


1. O'Neil, M. (1942, August 16). Gen Chennault Learned Safe Combat Flying. El Paso Times, p. 8.

2. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. (1860 - 1920).Spad 220 Hispano-Suiza. Retrieved from

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