3743 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR,
were being altered to remedy defects.
"The production of combat planes in the
United States for use in actual warfare
has thus far been a substantial failure
and constitutes a most serious disappointment in our war preparations."
A minority report did not dispute
the figures given above but emphasized
the magnitude of the task and the difficulties encountered. It also brought out
the fact that 6,100 combat planes had
been ordered in France and that to aid
in this foreign manufacture the Signal Corps had shipped to France
11,000 tons of various materials and
had sent 7,000 mechanics to release
for French factories making planes for
American fliers an equal number of
French workers on motor transports.
Critics of this program insisted, however, that the plan involved "robbing
Peter to pay Paul," and that, although it might ultimately produce
planes for our fliers, the number of
planes fighting the Germans would not
actually be greatly increased.
The requirements for aeroplanes fell
into two classes, those for training
purposes and those for actual fighting.
The production of training planes
and engines proceeded without much
difficulty, and the general public was
often confused regarding the aeroplane
situation by the publication of figures
on the production of planes and engines fitted only for training purposes.
The plans for the Liberty Motor
were changed so much that its production was greatly delayed. However, in
the summer and fall of 1918, production
attained large dimensions and by the end
of the war 15,131 had been built. About
as many other engines, most of them for
training purposes, were constructed during
the war. Some of the Liberty Motors
were supplied to foreign governments
while others were used for American planes. However, comparatively few
American built battle planes actually took
part in the fighting. Most of the battle planes on the American Front were French
or British built, and, up to the very end
of the fighting, the American supply of
planes was inadequate.
As finally developed, the Liberty Motor
was an excellent engine for certain purposes. It was capable of delivering 440
horsepower and weighed, without water
or oil, only 860 pounds. Had the war
lasted a year longer, it would doubtless
have played a considerable part in the conflict. As it was, its name will always call up
thoughts of mismanagement, inefficiency,
Fortunately, the training of American
aviators proceeded more rapidly than
the building of engines and planes. With
the assistance of foreign aviators and of
Americans who had been in the Allied
air service, thousands of America's young
men were trained to fly and to fight in
the air. Some of these men won high
distinction by their exploits. When the
armistice was signed the total strength of
the air service was over 190,000 men,
including about 20,000 commissioned officers and over 6,000 cadets under training.