A Moment in Air Force History

Courtesy of 435th Air Base Wing and 86th Airlift Wing History offices

What was the first ship sunk by an airplane?

A. A Turkish merchant ship by a Royal Naval Air Service Short Seaplane Type 184
B. The German battleship Ostfriesland by Keystone Bombers under the command of Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell
C. The U-966 by Lt. Leonard E. Harmon, Lt. Kenneth
L. Wright and Lt. William W. Parish flying Liberator bombers

Answer: A. Aug. 12, 1915, A RNAS Short Seaplane Type 184 torpedoed and sunk a Turkish Merchant ship in the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli campaign in World War I. This was also the first successful use of a self-propelled torpedo in combat.

Did You Know? The Ostfriesland was sunk July 21, 1921. Tests against Ostfriesland began July 20, when Navy and Marine Corps planes dropped 52 bombs on the ship. The test ended the next day when General Mitchell’s Army bombers came in to deliver the fatal blow with eleven 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs. The Navy had originally planned the tests to provide detailed data on the effectiveness of aerial bombing against ships and the value of compartmentalization in enabling ships to survive bomb damage. The Army participated for the sheer purpose of portraying the superiority of air power over sea power. The U-966 was sunk Nov. 10, 1943, in the Bay of Biscay, near Spain, during one of the longest air battles against a U-boat in World War II. The combat lasted over four hours.