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De Havilland DH-4

Although the DH-4 was originally a British combat airplane, it was redesigned in the United States in 1917 for the Liberty engine. The U.S. Air Service in France used the plane primarily for observation, day bombing, and artillery spotting. It carried the nickname "The Flaming Coffin" because of the supposed ease with which it could be shot down in flames. However, in reality, only eight of the 33 DH-4s the United States lost in combat burned as they fell. This was no greater percentage than for the French- and British-built airplanes used by the American Expeditionary Forces inFrance.

The De Havilland DH-4.

The De Havilland DH-4.

The DH-4 was the only U.S.-built airplane to fly in combat during World War I. By the end of the war, 3,431 had been delivered to the Air Service. The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company built most of these. Of these, 1,213 had been shipped to France, and 417 had seen combat.

The DH-4 had a span of 43.5 feet (13.3 meters), was 30.5 feet (9.3 meters) in length, and 10.3 feet (3.1 meters) high. It weighed 3,557 pounds (1,613 kilograms) when loaded and carried two .30-caliber Marlin machine guns in the nose and two .30-caliber Lewis machine guns in the rear as well as 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of bombs. It used a Liberty 12 421-horsepower (314-kilowatt) engine and carried a two-man crew.

Following World War I, the DH-4 continued in use with the army for a decade. More than 1,500 were rebuilt for increased strength and some were modified for carrying airmail in the 1920s.