The First Time Warplanes Exchanged Fire, It Was Two Americans Faking Being Enemies
As we've explained to you before, the very first dogfights didn't involve guns attached to the plane and fired using cockpit controls. Before these, pilots fired pistols—they pointed out of the plane with a handgun. We saw one battle like this even at the end of World War II, in which a British pilot managed to bring down a German plane with a .45 caliber pistol.
The very first dogfight happened 32 years earlier, during the Mexican Revolution. Fighting for the Revolutionaries was Dean Ivan Lamb, an American who'd traveled from New York down to Naco in Mexico as a mercenary. Fighting for the establishment was another American mercenary, California reporter Phil Rader.
Lamb got in a plane to attack Rader, who was already in the air in a bomber. The troops below watched as the planes flew in parallel, with the two men exchanging pistol fire. But what no one on the ground realized was that Lamb and Rader were friends. They were each deliberately aiming just below the other's plane, missing every time.
Given how hard it is to aim a pistol while flying a plane, you might wonder whether this secret partnership, which Lamb revealed later, was just a cover story to explain why he hadn't landed a single shot. But we have reason to believe him because this wasn't the only time Lamb pulled a stunt like this.
Ten years later, Lamb was still a soldier of fortune and was now commanding the air force of Paraguay, which was having its own revolution. Commanding the revolutionaries was another foreigner, another friend of Lamb's. Lamb's side kept watching admiringly as he engaged the enemy aircraft, who kept appearing to plummet to the ground. These were all faked encounters, and the enemy aircraft were all fine. This was how Dean Ivan Lamb managed to record shooting down 48 planes, despite the opposing side having just six planes total.
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Top image: Louis Weirter