Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Re-posting - History of Aviation in the Holy Land: Military Aircraft Filled the Skies

Bonnier lands in Jerusalem, 1913. The man on the far right appears
 to be the mayor of Jerusalem, Salim Hussein el-Husseini.  Note
the unidentified Jewish man on the left. (Library of Congress)
Just 10 years after the first Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, the first aircraft landed in Jerusalem on December 31, 1913, flown by a Frenchman, Marc Bonnier.  The flight was part of a seven-week tour of the Mediterranean that began and ended in France. 

On May 1, 1914, Turkish aviators Salim Bey and Kemal Bey landed their aircraft in Jerusalem.  After that flight, military aircraft began to fill the skies over Palestine.

Turkish plane in Jerusalem, 1914
German reconnaissance flight over Ramla, 1915 (Australian
War Memorial)
The early aircrafts' biggest military advantage was its ability to provide reconnaissance data of enemy troops' deployment.  In that regard, the plane's advantage was slightly more than the observation balloons used by armies two centuries earlier.  But quickly machine guns and bombs were added to the planes, and air combat and ground support changed the nature of modern warfare.

Turkey utilized aircraft to provide intelligence during its 1916 attack on the Suez Canal and to observe British troops' two attempts to capture Gaza in early 1917.

By the fall of 1917, German and Turkish aircraft had to be stopped from reporting back on British commanders' plan to unleash a flank attack against Be'er Sheva.  The challenge was met by British and Australian planes, and the Turks at the Be'er Sheva garrison and in Gaza were caught unprepared.

German planes near Gaza

Turkish anti-aircraft guns, 1917

Aerial photo of Jerusalem taken by German pilot in 1917. (Library of Congress)
Click here for another view. By the end of 1917, Jerusalem was in British hands.


German and Turkish officers at the
funeral of a German pilot in Nazareth (Desert Column)
Memorial plaque in Jenin for
fallen German pilots

German plane captured by Australian soldiers, 1917.
Pilot is behind the plane's left wing. (
Australian aircraft in Palestine, 1918 (Australian
War Memorial)


The Library of Congress and the Australian War Memorial provide many photographs of the combat aircraft, the men who flew them, and the graves of those who fell.

Click on the photos to enlarge. Click on the captions to see the originals.

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