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Soon after entering the war in April 1917 American propaganda promised that she would `Darken the skies over Europe' by sending over `the Greatest Aerial Armada ever seen'. Encouraged by the French Government America promised to build no less than 22,000 aeroplanes within a year and to field, and to maintain, a force of 4,000 machines, all of the latest type, over the Western Front during 1918, not only to provide adequate air support for her own troops, but because she saw this as a way to use her industrial strength to bypass the squalor of the war in the trenches, and so bring an end to the stalemate of attrition into which the war had descended. However, by the time of the Armistice more than 18 months later just a few hundred American built aeroplanes had reached the war fronts and several investigations into the causes of the failure of the project were already in progress.
Paul R. Hare, a retired engineer, has made a lifelong study of early aviation, becoming a recognised authority in his field, and has publishing several books and numerous magazine articles various aspects of the first war in the air. He first began researching the failure of the American Aeroplane building Programme over 25 years ago and has lectured on the topic both in The UK and the USA as well as writing a number of articles about it, and about the Liberty engine that was crucial to it.