National Geographic : 1918 Jan
© Paul Thompson FRENCH OBSERVATION BALLOON, OR "ELEPHANT" powerfully equipped bombarding planes can reach and destroy? ATTACKING THE ENEMY'S MOST VULNER ABLE POSITION It is the problem of the employment of bombarding or bomb-dropping planes, in cooperation with the other branches of the army, that we are about to consider. In general, it may be assumed that all objectives on the battlefield which are beyond the range of the guns may be effectively bombarded by airplanes, pro vided these objectives are large enough to be easily hit. It must be remembered that bomb - dropping by airplanes, al though well conducted with the most ac curate devices for sighting and launching, never attains the precision of artillery fire. It would therefore be useless to at tempt the destruction of small objectives. Without undertaking the description of the battlefield itself, with its first and sec ond line trenches continually exposed to the fire of the enemy, I wish to mention the principal organizations, which are lo cated immediately back of this fighting zone of about eight miles. In this region of comparative safety the troops are as sembled for an attack. There one finds the army supply sta- tions, artillery depots, ammunition de pots; also the airplane landing fields, with their hangars, their machines, their roll ing stock. Lastly, it is in this region that the soldiers are located to rest after their sojourn in the trenches, and where they can profit by the relative quiet to obtain the necessary relaxation for their nerves after the rude shocks of battle. This zone is reached only by an occa sional very rare shot from special long range guns, which are not often used on account of the great expense and the great difficulty and long delays involved in moving and mounting them on new foundations. It follows, therefore, that the rear of the battlefield is densely oc cupied, very vulnerable, and practically unmolested. These are the three essential conditions for the profitable employment of bomb dropping airplanes, and these are the real military reasons why our fighting squad rons have expended their energies in op erations over the rear lines of the enemy rather than in distant raids of doubtful military value. In regard to this question of the choice of objectives, I think you will agree with me that the excitement caused by the long-distance raids hardly compensates for the slight gain.