Monday, September 7, 2015

Caproni and the Dawn of Military Aviation

Gianni Caproni (1886 - 1957)
Caproni Museum, Trento, IT

Gianni Caproni was to military aviation to what the Wright brothers were to general aviation. Caproni was a pioneer and innovator in air combat.  He was born in the town of Massone near Trento in what was then Austrian territory - Trentino would not become part of Italy until the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 - but he was unmistakably Italian.   Caproni studied engineering at Universities in Munich and in Liege.
Coming October 2015

Italians have been at the forefront of technical innovation with respect to warfare for a very long time. In our forthcoming new history Invades Italy: How Italians Conquered the World, we note,  "The Italians have often Been at the forefront of military science and engineering . The Romans reduced the fortifications of Their enemies with Ballistae, Onagers (wild ass), scorpios (crossbows), battering rams, siege towers and elaborate. in his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci, despite His revulsion at "the cruelty of men," sketched designs for the helicopter, the parachute, the armored car or tank, and the submarine. The first aerial bombing raid was made ​​by the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) in Libya in 1911. Giulio Douhet (1869-1930) , author of The Command of the Air , was a visionary proponent of air power in warfare. In 1943, Admiral Minisini and twelve engineers and technicians were pinched by the OSS and brought` to the United States to develop the modern submarine. " (Sign up for our free newsletter here ... ).

Ca.20 Monoplane Fighter
Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
The Caproni Ca.20 was the world's first fighter plane. It was Introduced in 1914 just in time for World War I Italy Which would enter on the side of the Triple Entente in the spring of 1915. It mounted a .303 caliber Lewis machine gun.

Daedalus & Icarus
Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Inspired by his friend Douhet, Caproni believed passionately in the power of bomber aircraft. In the spring of 1913 Caproni Introduced in tri-motor biplane bomber that could generate 300 horsepower. The Italian government placed an order for twelve planes. More orders for more advanced bombers would follow. Italian pilots, initially using French planes, bombed targets in Austria-Hungary in May of 1915. By the summer of 1915 Caproni tri-motor bombers were attacking railways and airfields in the Austrian occupied Trento.

American pilots in Italy in WWI Became known as the Foggiana
Caproni planes were not flown Exclusively by Italians. Capronis were purchased by Britain, France and the United States.   George MD Lewis (1891 -1987), from Pennsylvania, came to Italy in 1917 and learned to pilot Capronis such as the Ca. 300, the Ca.450 and the Ca.5 (source: ).   Captain Fiorello LaGuardia, the future mayor of New York City, was his commanding officer in Foggia.

Ca.5, Type Used by US Navy
The US Navy Purchased eighteen of the new Capronis for use by its Northern Bombing Group That hoped to bomb German U-boat bases in Belgium. Lewis was given the job of ferrying to Caproni Ca.5 from Italy to France over the Alps. On July 25, 1918 he Became the first American pilot to cross the Alps. Lewis wrote in his diary, "I had ice on my mustache, while crossing Mt. Blanc."

Near the war's end in 1918 Vienna was bombarded by planes Caproni with propaganda leaflets.

Ca.163 Recon Bi-plane, Caproni Museum, Trento, IT
Caproni manufactured planes for Mussolini from the dawn of the fascist regime in 1922. Many Caproni aircraft were used in fighting the Battle of Britain against the Royal Air Force in World War II. The company went out of business in 1950.

You can learn much more about Caproni at the Caproni Museum in Trento ...

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