The DH4 "Liberty Plane" Restoration Project
In 1917, the United States possessed no combat-worthy aircraft upon entry into World War I. Several European aircraft designs were considered. Ultimately the DH4 was selected because of its comparatively simple construction and its adaptability to mass production. It was also well-suited to the new American 400-horsepower Liberty V-12 engine. A total of 8,500 American built DH4s dubbed the "Liberty Plane", were ordered of which 4,846 were built. Thirteen Army Air Service squadrons, five of them bomber squadrons, were equipped with them. In addition, four combined Navy-Marine squadrons flew DH4s along the Belgian coast. The DH4 protected itself with two machine guns in the rear cockpit and two forward facing machine guns for the pilot up front. Thus making it the first two-seat, light day-bomber to have an effective defensive armament.
Congressional Medal of Honor:On October 6, 1918, Lieutenants Goettler and Bleckley of the 50th Aero Squadron climbed aboard a DH4, Number 6 and despite receiving substantial battle damage on previous flights, took off in search of a group of American soldiers desperately in need of help. Of the eight Congressional Medals of Honor awarded to aviators during World War 1, four were received by pilots and observers flying DH4s.
Lieutenants Goettler and Bleckley flew at tree top level with total disregard of their own personal safety while under constant enemy machine gun fire while attempting to locate and resupply American soldiers of the famed 'Lost Battalion'. The two brave young lads were shot down. They were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
The Mail Plane:
A second Centennial milestone will occur in 2020, the year marks the 100th anniversary of the first transcontinental Mail Route. The newly restored DH4 will be configured to represent that early aviation icon. The U.S. Post Office was given 100 surplus DH-4's by the War Department after the war. They were modified to be flown from the rear cockpit with a 400 lb. watertight mail compartment replacing the forward cockpit.
A number of firms were contracted to re-manufacture surplus DH4s to DH4B and DH4M. One hundred and eleven aircraft, called the Model 16 or DH4M-1, were delivered between March and July 1920. Famous aviators like Charles Lindbergh regularly flew the DH4 Mailplane.
The Record Breaker:
The first transcontinental Air Race was won in August of 1919 by Army Lieutenant Belvin Maynard and his dog Trixie flying a DH4. On September, 1920, DH4s were used to establish the first coast-to-coast, transcontinental airmail service, between San Francisco and New York, a distance of 2,680 miles. A year later the DH4's would fly both day and night to set a new cross country record. The first flight across the United States in less than 24-hours was made by Lt. Jimmy Doolittle on Sept. 4, 1922. In 1923, the Army used DH4s to perform the first air to air refueling.
Why Your Support is Needed:These important milestones in both American and Aviation History will be brought back to life with the restoration of the DH4 to airworthy status. It's a huge job, placed in the hands of an experienced and dedicated team. But we can't do this without you!
In 2017, when completed, "The Liberty Plane" will serve as a flying tribute to the memory of the ordinary Americans who answered the call of their nation 100 years ago. "The Liberty Plane" will allow Americans today to take a first person look into the lives of those who were willing to sacrifice it all. This important national treasure needs your support to honor the memory of all those who gave so much for their country and those they loved.
Please support "The Liberty Plane"!