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Combat Is the Mother of Invention

When a french Morane-Saulnier Model L slipped behind them, the Germans in the Albatros reconnaissance airplane likely sensed no threat. They were flying over northern France on April Fool’s Day, 1915, but the outmoded Model L carried only a pilot and no gunner. Besides, in an era when aircraft couldn’t shoot straight ahead, the Albatros pilot and observer no doubt thought that an enemy right behind was little worry. Odd, though, that an unarmed scout would tailgate like this, wasn’t it?

Moments later, the Albatros pilot was killed instantly by a 15-round burst from a fixed, forward-firing Hotchkiss machine gun mounted on the spindly Model L’s cockpit. Helpless in the seat behind the slumped pilot, the observer rode the spiraling biplane down to his death, perhaps wondering: How could this happen?

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