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- 04 -122016

The “hyperbataille” of Verdun, fifteenth episode : air war over Verdun

Verdun épisode 15-1 : Avion de chasse SPAD, fonds ValoisThe Battle of Verdun was also the theatre of an important air war battle. It was an air battle during which air superiority was introduced and that became the first large scale air battle of the war. As early as December 1915, the Germans who had built a large concentration of aircrafts in the Verdun sector caught the French squadrons totally unprepared.

Verdun épisode 15-2 : Vue aérienne du fort de Douaumont, Hallo Charles-JeanThe German aim was simple: prevent the French from making any aerial reconnaissance and artillery spotting so that the preparations of the German offensive could go undetected. In February 1916, in support to the German ground offensive, the German Military Aviation Service delivered attacks on French airfields and observation balloons to deprive French artillery of any support from its reconnaissance aircrafts. General Pétain well aware of the stakes involved turned to Major Charles Tricornot de Rose, Verdun Air Station Commanding Officer, and gave him the famous order :

«de Rose, I’m blind, wipe out the sky! …».

Verdun épisode 15-3 : le Sergent Hallo, collection HalloTo regain air superiority, Major de Rose adopted the organisational and fighting structure of the squadron, concentrated fighter aircrafts and called for the best pilots, the future flying aces. The era of the so-called lonely «Captain of the Clouds» was over and replaced by the Groupe de Chasse, formed with French fighter units charged to find and destroy German fighters.

By May 1916, the French had regained air superiority. Thus, the domination of air space over the battlefield was born in the skies of Verdun and the Somme.

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