Daredevils they were, and their countries vowed never to forget them. For four years of World War I, they got 100 m.p.h. out of tin-Lizzie aircraft that bucked like hiccuping buzzards, flying by the seat of their pants, tossing bombs like baseball pitches, extending the realm of human conflict to the third and last element: the air.

Many flew to their deaths, and their names became aviation's legends: Germany's Baron Manfred von Richthofen, who shot down 80 foemen, Ireland's "Mick" Mannock (73 kills), U.S.'s Raoul Lufbery (17 kills). Other aces survived to make their marks on the brave new world:...

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