Seeing that aviation was the coming future, but not the coming Armistice Agreement, my under-aged grandfather,
James D. Stephen, signed up with the Army Air Corps to learn how to fly six months prior to the end of the
war to end all wars, World War I.
After basic training, and with the Armistice only 48 hours away, he reported to flight training in Texas to finally start
learning his chosen new profession. There he was given a copy of a van Nostrand's Military Manual on the Operation and
Tactical Use of the Lewis Automatic Machine Rifle, published by the D. van Nostrand Company of New York City.
The Lewis Gun was the first practical air-cooled machine gun, and was used extensively in WWI, including on the aircraft
of the Army Air Corp. Prior machine guns had oil- or water-cooled barrels which were large, bulky and heavy, and many of which could not achieve
the cycle (firing) rate of the Lewis gun. In aircraft installations, the gun was chain timed to the engine of the airplane
in order to time its firing between passes of the aircraft's propeller in order to not shoot off the propeller in flight.
The butt of the weapon was also removable, and in aircraft use replaced with an optional spade grip butt tang.
What is interesting about the van Nostrand book for today's reader is that the book not only includes a description of the
breakdown and care of the weapon, but also an extensive discussion of the use of the weapon in trench warfare. The book gives
a unique insight into the concepts and practices of trench warfare in 1917.
With a quick end to the war for Grandfather, he was shortly discharged prior to the start of his flight training. With the flying
career over before it started, he changed his career plans and became an architect. He went on to design such Manhattan landmarks
as the Milliken Building on 6th Avenue and 41st Street and the Chinese Merchant's Building (the Pagoda) in Chinatown.
I hope you find the book enjoyable and informative.
Robert L. Muller, Jr.