Scarcely eleven years passed between the time of the Wright brothers' pioneer flights in 1903 and the outbreak of the Great War, a conflict in which aviation would play an emerging tactical role. In the skies over the muddy battlefields of World War I, military aviation served its demanding apprenticeship.
In 1914, airplanes first served as observation platforms gathering information about opposing forces. But when the machine gun was mated to agile single seat aircraft, the fighter was born. As wartime demands became greater, aircraft technology advanced, resulting in larger and more powerful fighters and bombers.
Many fighter pilots on both sides of the war gained fame by their aerial exploits in combat. The "aces" of the war--Rickenbacker, Bishop, Richthofen, Fonck, Nungesser and many others--became heroes flying planes like the Albatros, the Nieuport, the Fokker and the SPAD.