Sopwith Camel

In June 1918 the United States authorities purchased 143 Clerget engined Sopwith Camels with the intention of equipping four combat fighter squadrons to be employed on the Western Front. The first of these, the 17th Aero Squadron, became operational on the 20th of June, and was joined in the following month by the 148th Aero Squadron.

On the 13th of July, Lieutenant Field Kinley of the 148th opened the USAAS’s war score by shooting down an Albatross near Ypres. Seven days later, Lieutenant R.D.Williams chalked up the 17th Aero’s first kill of the war.

By September the USAAS’s Camels were being employed in two main roles-Continual strafing of German airfield and depots; and Air combat against the still strong German Air Service. In the latter role, at this stage in the war, it was quite commonplace for up to 100 fighter aircraft to clash in sprawling dogfights over the trenches. Such combats would bring their fair share of casualties to the US Camel squadrons. On the 26th of August, for example, the 17th Aero Squadron lost six aircraft in one patrol. Revenge, however, was obtained on the 24th September 1918 when 15 Camels of the 148th ‘bounced’ 20 German Fokker D.VII, shooting down seven of the German aircraft for the loss of only one of their own..

Following the armistice there appeared to be few remaining applications for the Sopwith Camel’s in US service, and so the surviving machines were broken up for scrap.

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