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The Plan of Reconnaissance Aviation

Note: This item is currently in storage.

This battle plan, drafted by Col. William Mitchell, outlined the role of reconnaissance aviation in the planning and execution for the St. Mihiel Offensive. The plan identified the observation squadrons selected to participate in the offensive and established the boundaries of the operational zone. The reconnaissance plan was to be executed in three phases:

(1) Phase 1 consisted of photographic reconnaissance to be carried out in preparation for the attack.

(2) Phase 2 detailed the role of reconnaissance aviation in preparation for artillery barrages, battle damage assessment, and selection of objectives for follow-up attack by bombardment aircraft.

(3) Phase 3 directed for continued visual reconnaissance in the reporting of enemy troop concentrations and movement to American ground forces.

Mitchell’s plan coordinated more than 1,400 Allied aircraft under a single, unified command and was the largest air operation of World War I. While Mitchell’s reconnaissance aircraft patrolled the skies reporting enemy movement and coordinating artillery strikes, bombers and pursuit aircraft penetrated deep behind German lines. The ferocity of the American-led assault forced a German retreat, and within one week the St. Mihiel salient was regained by the Allies for the first time since 1914.

This plan, initially classified as Secret, was declassified in November 1958.

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St. Mihiel Offensive
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