Early in 1919, as part of the American force that invaded Haiti, Marine Corps pilot Lt. Lawson Sanderson used a canvas bag to hold a bomb in place on the underside of his Curtis JN-4 “Jenny” aircraft and began dive-bombing with success. The U.S. also flew British-designed, American-made de Havilland DH-4s during the same conflict.
Later that same year, the Army Air Forces showed off improved dive-bombing techniques likely gleaned from Sanderson’s feats. Shortly after that, it was used along the border during the Mexican Revolution. Ironically, the first recognized aerial combat scenario took place during the same conflict six years earlier in 1913 when two American pilots fighting on opposite sides shot at each other in mid-air with, of all things, revolvers.
In 1926, the commanding officer for a Naval strike squadron began teaching his squad dive-bombing techniques. They coordinated a fake attack on ships in the fleet using a Curtiss F6C-2 to prove the soundness of the strategy. This demonstration convinced the Navy to design a biplane — the Martin XT5M-1 – made explicitly to survive steep dives at terminal velocity with a massive bomb still stuck to its belly.
The U.S. used dive-bombers again in 1927 and 1928 while fighting the “Sandinistas” in Nicaragua. In short, the United States unabashedly favored this new form of aerial combat with vim and vigor wherever possible. And it did not go unnoticed by Germany.
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