Poster Title

The US Army Air Service and the Battle of Blair Mountain

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Public History

Minor

Film Studies

Institution

Morehead State University

KY House District #

99

KY Senate District #

27

Department

Dept. of History

Abstract

The US Army Air Service and the Battle of Blair Mountain

Nathaniel Baker

Adrian Mandzy, Ph.D.

History Department

In the late summer of 1921, 10,000 United Mine Workers (UMW) fought against a combined force of 3,000 volunteer troops and 27,000 state and federal authorities. What began as a decade-long struggle over the unionization of coal mines, the civil unrest escalated and became violent. Known as the Battle of Blair Mountain, this clash was the largest armed conflict to be fought on American soil since the American Civil War and resulted in the combined deaths of approximately 150 civilians and police. The Battle of Blair Mountain is also known for the combat use of airplanes often equipped with gas and explosive ordnance against civil targets.

Though many scholars attribute aerial terror’s beginnings to the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), the US Army Air Service sent bombers to threaten the United Mine Workers and their supporters. After the UMW forces disregarded his threat, President Warren Harding sent in one of the Air Service’s most capable weapons: The Martin MB-1 bomber. The Martin MB-1 was an American bomber/reconnaissance biplane designed towards the end of World War One and carried a crew of three. Unfortunately for the Air Service, a reconnaissance mission failed when one Martin MB-1 crashed, leaving the crew dead and the bomber destroyed. New developments in battlefield archaeology, however, allowed us to study the crash site. Studying the site provided an opportunity to better understand how the bombers were used within the Battle of Blair Mountain as both a military tool and a symbol of federal power.

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The US Army Air Service and the Battle of Blair Mountain

The US Army Air Service and the Battle of Blair Mountain

Nathaniel Baker

Adrian Mandzy, Ph.D.

History Department

In the late summer of 1921, 10,000 United Mine Workers (UMW) fought against a combined force of 3,000 volunteer troops and 27,000 state and federal authorities. What began as a decade-long struggle over the unionization of coal mines, the civil unrest escalated and became violent. Known as the Battle of Blair Mountain, this clash was the largest armed conflict to be fought on American soil since the American Civil War and resulted in the combined deaths of approximately 150 civilians and police. The Battle of Blair Mountain is also known for the combat use of airplanes often equipped with gas and explosive ordnance against civil targets.

Though many scholars attribute aerial terror’s beginnings to the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), the US Army Air Service sent bombers to threaten the United Mine Workers and their supporters. After the UMW forces disregarded his threat, President Warren Harding sent in one of the Air Service’s most capable weapons: The Martin MB-1 bomber. The Martin MB-1 was an American bomber/reconnaissance biplane designed towards the end of World War One and carried a crew of three. Unfortunately for the Air Service, a reconnaissance mission failed when one Martin MB-1 crashed, leaving the crew dead and the bomber destroyed. New developments in battlefield archaeology, however, allowed us to study the crash site. Studying the site provided an opportunity to better understand how the bombers were used within the Battle of Blair Mountain as both a military tool and a symbol of federal power.