By BOB JAQUES
Over the weekend of Sept. 21-22, more than 18,000 people from all parts of the U.S. converged on the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, to participate in the 2018 Dawn Patrol Rendezvous.
The event commemorated the 100th year since World War I ended. The beginning of the centenary was Aug. 4, 2014, which was when the Great War started in Europe. The conclusion of the centenary will be Nov. 11, 2018, when the Armistice was signed that ended the war.
The name Dawn Patrol refers to the time Allied aircraft would takeoff for missions. They would hit their targets while the sun was rising and then return to base.
When the visitors arrived on the field next to the museum, they were greeted by the roar of 7/8-scale replica World War I airplanes flying overhead. Some were in mock dogfights, with the sound of simulated machine gun fire loud and clear over speakers.
The plane being chased would then spurt smoke through the exhaust to simulate being shot down.
Re-enactors in their uniforms had their campsites furnished with many original items from World War I, including tents, utensils, gun racks, canvas chairs, and cots. A jeep, truck, or motorcycle could often be seen nearby.
There were camps representing different countries, including the U.S., Scotland, France, Germany, Britain, and Australia. The re-enactors at each camp were very knowledgeable and could answer questions concerning anything in their camp.
The first public event was the dedication of a new World War I Monument in the museum’s Memorial Park on Friday, Sept. 21. On hand were the Embassy air attachés from Washington, D.C., representing the countries that fought in the war, including Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, and Italy.
Some of the special guests present at the dedication were relatives of famous pilots and aces, including Nancy Hall Rutgers, daughter of Lafayette Escadrille pilot and ace Lt. James Norman Hall; William Nungesser, cousin of Lafayette Escadrille pilot Lt. Charles Nungesser; and Tara Stenseth Riley, great-niece of pilot and ace Martinus Stenseth.
The only full scale replica airplane was a beautiful SPAD XIII built by Andrew Parks from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. It took Parks about seven years to complete the aircraft. It is painted in the colors of World War I ace James Norman Hall, whose daughter was at the Monument dedication. Hall was part of Eddie Rickenbacker’s famous 94th Aero Squadron.
A popular attraction at the event was an assortment of vintage automobiles from 1909 to 1915. All the cars were in amazingly good condition and participated in a parade driving up and down the runway. Several of the owners were dressed in period clothing
Vendors were an active part of the whole event as aviation-related books, prints, models, and games were snapped up by eager buyers.
Another popular event at the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous were flying exhibitions of World War I radio-controlled aircraft. Various scale model airplanes were accurately painted in the colors flown by the top pilots and aces from both sides of the war. There were 109 different flying radio-controlled aircraft.
The announcer for the event was Stephen Skinner, author of the book “The Stand: The Final Flight of Lt. Frank Luke, Jr.” Luke, one of the first Medal of Honor recipients of World War I, was killed in a tragic accident. Luke Air Force Base in Arizona is named in his honor.
“You can still see a bit of World War I aviation history by visiting a few rare events like the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous,” Skinner said.
When the Dawn Patrol Rendezvous ended on Sunday afternoon, talk began about the next Dawn Patrol, slated for 2020 at the museum.
I better mark my calendar because I don’t want to miss that one!