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Local pilot recreating America’s first fighter

August 25, 2014

Jim Neely, right, works on his Nieuport 28 at a Bradford Regional Airport hangar under the watchful eye of Matt Geer. The Wetmore resident hopes to have his plane completed in time for the World War I centennial. Photo By Amy Geer

In the spring of 1918, the newly formed American Expeditionary Force’s First Pursuit Group began combat operations in Villenueve, France in support of the Allied Nations defense of Western Europe from German aggression. Soon to be famous American aces such as Rickenbacker, Lufberry, Hall and others were preparing to write their names into the annals of aviation history. WWI was in its fifth and final year and the outlook was uncertain.
The United States' late entry into the conflict in the fall of 1917 marked a major turning point in the war. Great hopes were placed on our promise of American aircraft blackening the skies over Eastern France and Germany. However, the reality was America did not have a single combat aircraft of its own manufacture to support the Allies efforts.

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