Weapons of warfare have changed over the years, but one of the strangest fighting systems was during World War I, when the planes were not as sophisticated as planes are today. They were slow and at that time, they did not have the guns attached to the planes. Of course they were usually two-seaters, so unlike the World War II planes that had a pilot exclusively assigned to fly the plane, both occupants of the plane had to shoot, or they would be shot down. That was how war was. Kill or be killed.
The problem of not having guns attached to the plane was really one of control. There was the problem of controlling the plane with shots being fired all around you and no protection in the open cockpit. Then there was controlling the guns in the wind of flight. Not to mention the shots being fired at the open cockpit. The guns the soldiers had on these early planes were carbines and pistols…to take down a war plane…yikes. Of course, there were other problems too. Trying to shoot at the enemy from the cockpit of the plane, the soldier had to be careful not to shoot off the propeller. That would definitely be problematic.
Really, I can’t imagine being a pilot in that war era. You would really be taking your life in your own hands…even more so than the men who flew in later eras, who were also in grave danger, but maybe a little less so. Imagine being the co-pilot in the plane when your pilot is waving his gun around trying to hit the planes flying around you. If the soldier shooting could shoot off the propeller, they could just as easily shoot the other occupant of the plane. I suppose that the pilots fighting in World War I would say that they were just doing their duty, but it seems to me that their “duty” took great courage. Of course, any soldier, no matter what their duty, does their duty, and it always takes great courage. Any soldier must exhibit great courage in battle. There is no way to go into battle and not be concerned for your safety. And thankfully, as time goes on, weapons of warfare are getting more advanced at being effective, while protecting the soldier in the fight.
Of course, those old biplanes had some advantages too. The open cockpit design allowed for easy spying. They could also see the enemy better, and it was easier to drop bombs in those planes, but the later planes made for easier shooting with the attached gun, multiple guns, and the nose guns of the men below the pilots. I’m thankful for the many improvements that have made it easier for our soldiers to come home alive.