JF Ptak Science Books Post 1472
This is another in a longish series of posts on this blog on the archaeology of bombing, aerial bombing, and today's installment comes from its earliest period. The first air assault belongs to the Italians, who used the weapons from the air in bombing Tripoli in 1911, which they also found to be within the defensible scope of international law, even when used against a noncombatant population (which came on the heals of the Italian army's massacre of civilians there). Bombing from the air had happened earlier of course, but also entirely in fiction: for example, Jules Verne bombed civilians in The Flight of Engineer Roburs (1886), and H.G. Wells had New York City in flames in The War in the Air (1908).
"Torpedoes of the Air: Bomb-Droppers Directed by Wireless", a graphical story that appeared in The Illustrated London News on 6 September 1913, and drawn by W.B. Robinson, describes a sort of two-tier remote controlled aerial bombing arrangement of dirigibles. The "parent" ship hosts a number of smaller dirigibles which are radio-controlled elements sent in to do the actual bombing, which allows for no human interaction with dropping the bombs and exposes only materiel to enemy fire. (I should point out that each one of these early drones were 40' long, making the parent dirigible something like 400' in length if we are seeing about half of it in the illustration, and enabling the thing to carry perhaps 10 of these remote controlled units. This dirigible would have been about as big as the monster Zeppelin LZ1.)
And this two years after this remarkable graphical display:
There's nothing quite so satisfying as seeing a representation of quantitative data like this where the graphical displays are flying. "One Dreadnought Buys 52 Dirigibles and 235 Aeroplanes" is a full-page diagram appearing in the 3 June 1911 , making a very strong point that in the new air-age 2 million pounds for one battleship buys a lot of aircraft. Of course this is a British journal and the ship is flying an American flag--the image originally appeared in the Scientific American just a short while before this publication, and so it also enumerates American and international aircraft, making for a lovely representation of a broad range of airplanes filling up the same sky. (This image is available for purchase from our blog bookstore, here.)