Aerial Refueling: Historical Significance to the US Military
BY JEFFREY J. QUICK
American Military University
May 24, 2009
HIST500 Historical Research Methods
Professor Jon Mikolashek
Nearly 100 years has passed since Alexander P. de Seversky, a pilot in the Imperial Russian Navy, envisioned the concept of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another while airborne. After immigrating into the United States and receiving the first-ever patent for air-to-air refueling, Seversky was quick to demonstrate his newly found capability. In a manner that looked similar to a stunt you would see at an air show, a man named Wesley May managed to clamber from the wing of a Lincoln Standard to a Curtiss JN-4 airplane. With a fuel canister strapped to his back, May was one of the first men to take fuel from one aircraft and refuel another with in-flight. Obviously, if this was to become a practical means to conduct aerial refueling, some improvements to the process would need to be explored.
The rudimentary method of aerial refueling in the 1920s has evolved into an operation the US military utilizes daily to get the mission accomplished. The history behind aerial refueling is long and wrought with challenges in the initial stages but has become essential part of numerous military activities and operations to date. Aerial refueling ultimately supports the idea of increasing range of any refuelable aircraft to do a variety of missions. Seversky put the idea aerial refueling in motion but it was General Curtis LeMay who introduced the concept of adding “global reach” to American bombers and set the stage for “global power.” The question of whether aerial refueling is a significant part of the US Military can be answered simply by exploring the past, present and future and letting the events speak for themselves.
The first military in-flight refueling endeavor took place above Rockwell Field in San Diego on June 27, 1923 when the U.S. Army Air Service...