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12ème escadrille américaine - Juin 1918
Texte en langue anglaise

La 12ème escadrille américaine est affectée le 10 juin 1918 au secteur de Baccarat, sur l'aérodrome inachevé de Flin, en support de la 42ème division américaine et de la 167ème division française. Le séjour sera de courte durée, puisque le 29 juin, l'escadrille rejoint la Marne en vue d'une offensive sur Château-Thierry.

The U.S. Air Service in World War
Ed. Maurer Maurer
Washington 1978

The 12th Aero Squadron in the Baccarat Sector.


During the first week of June the 12th Aero Squadron received notice that orders would shortly issue for its movement overland to Vathemenil, in the Baccarat sector, to the southeast of Luneville. Accordingly, an advance party of several officers and a considerable detachment of men were sent forward to prepare the airdrome and buildings for the arrival of the squadron. The fact that the location assigned for the airdrome possessed little else than some newly erected hangars necessitated a great amount of labor by this advance party in the preparation of the landing field, offices, and quarters for both enlisted and commissioned personnel. A construction squadron had not been available for this work; the utilization of squadron officers and men in the advance party and in addition the necessity for utilizing a large proportion of the squadron in this work after its arrival interfered with active operations for a period of four days. However, the tactical situation in that sector at the time was not such that this delay could result seriously, the observation work during this time being carried out by the French squadron which the 12th was to relieve. On the other hand, much benefit was derived by the squadron in its earnest and strenuous endeavors to complete the airdrome installation necessary to the conduct of active operations over the front; a unit spirit of teamwork was developed which proved invaluable in the months to come.
During its first week in this sector, the squadron gave up its equipment of A. R. airplanes and received 18 Salmson two-seater observation airplanes equipped with the radial Salmson engine of 260 horsepower. This airplane proved most satisfactory in every respect; no observation airplane used upon the western front up to the conclusion of the armistice gave greater all-around satisfaction.

The Tactical Situation.

The Baccarat sector was a typical "stabilized" or "quiet" sector. The enemy was strongly entrenched in positions which had been in existence for many months. Barbed-wire entanglements and machine-gun strong points reinforced the lines of trench work. To the rear he was supported by the usual complement of field and heavy artillery.
In the air his forces were considerably more numerous than was the case in the Toul sector. A rather active observation service was supplemented by a pursuit force which carried out daily patrols of the sector. The latter, although not equipped with the latest types of enemy pursuit airplanes, was active and aggressive. Bombardment squadrons operated on practically all clear nights against various posts of command in the sector, allied airdromes, and the towns and villages adjoining the lines. Farther to the rear the enemy had a considerable amount of pursuit aviation which devoted its energies to the attack of allied day bombardment squadrons which were then carrying out long-distance raids into Germany throughout that area.
The sector of the 42d Division, United States Army, to which the 12th Squadron was assigned, extended approximately from Badenviller to Blamont, some 12 kilometers. As in the Toul sector, the positions of the infantry were strongly organized by means of trench systems, barbed-wire entanglements, and machine-gun emplacements. The infantry was reinforced by the divisional artillery which consisted of two regiments of field and one regiment of heavy artillery. The division operated under the command of the 6th Corps of the 8th French Army. The command of all aviation forces in the Baccarat sector operating for the 6th Corps, 8th French Army, was vested in the "commandant of the sector aeronautique," whose headquarters were located at Luneville. This officer corresponds to the present corps chief of Air Service in the American Air Service.
In addition to the 12th Aero Squadron, the aviation forces of the sector consisted for the most part of observation squadrons operating in conjunction with the divisions to the right and left of the 42d Division, United States Army. These squadrons carried out observation work for their divisions of the same nature as that to be performed for the 42d Division, United States Army. In addition, there operated one observation squadron which did the work of the Army corps. There was no regularly assigned pursuit aviation patrolling that section of the front. As a consequence the observation airplanes there operating had to rely solely upon their own armament as a means of defense against hostile aircraft.

Mission of the 12th Aero Squadron.

The mission devolving upon the 12th Aero Squadron in this sector was:
1. Reconnaissance and surveillance of the enemy.
(a) Visual.
(b) Photographic.
2. Adjustment of artillery fire.
3. Cooperation with the infantry should a situation arise requiring the dispatch of an infantry-contact patrol to locate the position of the front lines.
4. Training with the infantry and artillery.
(a) Terrain exercises for practice in marking out the front lines.
(b) Panel exercises, e.g., simulated adjustments of artillery fire.
5. Coordination and completion of training of flying and ground personnel under actual war conditions.

Plans Made to Fulfill Mission.

To operate as an individual squadron all that was required in addition to the organization of the squadron, as described under that heading in the chapter on the operations in the Toul sector, was to place in active operation the squadron radio equipment, to install a photographic section, and to assign for duty at the squadron a branch intelligence officer. Under the direction of the squadron commander, the work over the lines was to be distributed by the operations officer and assistant operations officer according to a roster of the flying personnel, exceptions to be made occasionally in cases where certain pilots and observers were particularly well qualified to carry out some special mission. In general, the routine operations of the squadron were carried out in accordance with the methods prescribed in the Toul sector.

Post Security and Defense.

The defense of the airdrome was organized along the same lines as those described in the chapter on the Toul sector. Carefully prepared plans for the defense and, if necessary, the withdrawal of the squadron in case of hostile attack were received from the commandant of the secteur aeronautique, 6th Corps, 8th French Army. These plans were given careful study and all necessary steps were taken to carry them into execution in case the need arose.

Communication and Liaison.

1. Interior communications.-Telephone lines were constructed connecting the various offices, barracks, and hangars.
2. Telephonic- Long-distance telephone lines to tactical posts of command in the division and Higher Air Service headquarters were maintained through regional switchboards.
3. Radio.-The squadron radio section insured, in this stabilized sector, the sending and receipt of radio messages between all points in the divisional area. In addition, it made possible the receipt and record of all messages sent by the squadron airplane in their work over the front.
4. Airplane.-(a) Radio, from the airplane to the ground.
(b) Visual signals, from airplane to ground, e.g., rockets.
(c) Dropped written messages, from airplane to ground.
(d) Visual signals, ground to airplane, e.g., rockets, bengal flares, signal panels.
5. Motor-cycle dispatch service.
6. Personal.-Frequent visits by the commanding officer, pilots, and observers of the squadron to the posts of command of the division.

Operations Undertaken.

In the actual fulfillment of the missions assigned to the pilots and observers of the squadron in this sector the same general methods were pursued as those described as being the routine methods for the execution of the various types of missions carried out by corps observation units in the chapter on operations in the Toul sector. For the most part, the missions performed were confined to those of artillery adjustment and visual and photographic reconnaissance. On only one occasion were infantry contact patrols attempted. That occurred during a raid the enemy carried out against the American troops at the time of the relief of the 42d Division by the 77th Division, United States Army.l The raid took place during the night, and on the following morning the 12th Aero Squadron was requested to locate the friendly front line. In attempting to carry out the request, the observer in the first airplane dispatched returned with a serious wound caused by antiaircraft artillery fire. The second observer, when the infantry failed repeatedly to respond to his signals calling upon them to mark out the first line by means of panels or bengal flares, flew so low that he was able to distinguish the uniforms of such men as exposed themselves to view, and was thus able to give a rough idea as to the position of the friendly infantry. Unfortunately, he was wounded by machine-gun fire from the ground before he had fully satisfied himself as to the location of our first-line troops. The third airplane dispatched encountered no better fortune than the first two in receiving a response from the infantry, but he was finally able to report briefly upon the position of the latter by means of observations made at extremely low altitude.
For the most part, aside from the visual reconnaissance missions performed at dawn and twilight of each day, and a certain number of photographic missions requested by the division and the commandant of the secteur aeronautique, practically all of the work undertaken was that solicited by the squadron commander and the observers. It being realized that the plan of operations in this sector was one of training, every effort was made to arrange and perform as many adjustments of artillery as were possible. The only limitation placed upon this type of work was that which resulted from a shortage of artillery ammunition, the artillery regiments being allotted only a fixed amount for their per diem allowance.
Great stress was laid upon the matter of exercises. Under the direction of the squadron commander, and with the advice of the commandant of the regional secteur aeronautique and that of a captain observer from one of the nearby French observation squadrons, a large number of exercises was carried out with the infantry and the artillery. The infantry exercises took the form of training the infantry in the proper use of their panels and bengal flares marking out the line at the call of the aerial observer. These exercises, for the most part, took place with reserve battalions in the second or third lines. With the artillery, exercises were arranged frequently for the practice of a method for rapid adjustment of specially designated batteries against fugitive targets located by the observer in the enemy lines and reported to the battery by means of dropped written messages. This method of adjustment was designed especially for use in a war of movement. It had been adopted by the French observation squadrons of that sector after a long and thorough study of enemy and allied methods in the major operations of the preceding spring. The "shoots" were conducted over the actual lines; the targets were chosen by the observer after taking the air. Usually they were points in enemy territory assumed to be fugitive targets. Too much value can not be given to the results of this form of exercise to both the artillery and the observers of the squadron. Considerable success marked the efforts of both the artillery and the observers, and the experience gained later proved of value to both.
Considerable advance was made on the part of the observers of the squadron in gaining a knowledge of the importance of close personal liaison with the officers of the divisional artillery and infantry posts of command. Various incidents arose which taught the observers that few of the American troops entering the lines for the first time would have even a working knowledge of the elements which are so necessary to bring about some measure of success in the cooperation of the observation air service with the divisional ground troops. It was brought most forcibly home to all the squadron observers that great and prolonged effort would be necessary on their part to fit the ground troops to properly fulfill their part in working with the Air Service during the execution of artillery fire adjustments or infantry contact patrols. Questions connected with the execution of artillery fire adjustments were mainly those of proper operation of the artillery radio stations and the functioning of the crews assigned to them for the operation of panel strips used to signal the airplane observer. As regards the infantry, the main difficulties may be briefly stated to have been:
(a) To insure the proper supply and distribution to the first-line infantry of infantry signal panels and bengal flares.
(b) To instruct the individual infantryman in their proper use.
(c) To train the individual infantryman to respond by signal to the requests of the airplane observer for the marking out of the line as automatically and readily as a soldier responds to fire discipline.
During the three weeks operations by the 12th Aero Squadron in the Baccarat sector much valuable advice and aid were given by the corps observation air service commander-the commandant secteur aeronautique, 6th Corps, 8th French Army-and by the experienced observer whom he placed at the disposal of the squadron commander.
As the result of attacks from hostile pursuit forces during the execution of the missions assigned to them, considerable experience was gained by some three or four tours of pilots and observers of the squadron in aerial combat.


In the main the actual operations conducted by the 12th Aero Squadron in the Baccarat sector were only a continuation and development of those carried out previously in the Toul sector. The conduct of visual and photographic reconnaissance missions, prearranged artillery fire adjustments, and infantry contact patrols was similar in every way to that of like operations in the Toul sector. In a few instances visual reconnaissance missions were dispatched under orders from the secteur aeronautique of the 6th French Corps to procure certain specific information in well-defined areas of the enemy positions, but on the whole reconnaissance missions covered the entire divisional sector under standing orders to observe and report upon all forms of enemy activity. In the course of the squadron's stay in the Baccarat sector it was learned that a general visual reconnaissance of the sector produced very little in the way of valuable results except when performed at dawn or just before darkness; reconnaissance missions performed during the daytime scarcely ever realized success sufficient to justify their dispatch and execution. This fact is easy of comprehension when it is remembered that the sector had long been stabilized and that no active operations were in course. Enemy and friendly activity was almost entirely confined to the hours of darkness.
Undoubtedly the most valuable lessons of the period at Baccarat were those learned concerning the scope of personal liaison in preparation of successful cooperation between the squadron and the divisional ground troops. In addition, the experience derived in the execution of the exercises with the artillery, which had as their purpose the rapid adjustment of fire of specially designated batteries upon fugitive targets in a war of movement, although not of great extent, was sufficient to acquaint the observers of the squadron with the general principles of this form of aerial work and to impress them with the importance of developing it in the future.
From the point of view of the squadron alone it had undoubtedly proved of great value for the unit to be thrown entirely upon its own resources during the period of its operations in this sector. A considerable training was acquired by the officers of the squadron while it thus operated as an isolated Air Service unit, which they would not have received operating as one squadron in a group during the same length of time. As a tactical matter, this fact proved of great value during the American Air Service operations on the Marne, for at that time the need immediately arose for a much larger number of observers trained in the principles of liaison with ground troops and the conduct of group and squadron operations than had been necessary or were available at any previous time.

Salmson 2 équipé en avion de reconnaissance

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