Here's a treat for (some of) you: the very first aerial warfare movie ever made, in its entirety! Most commonly known as The Airship Destroyer (but sometimes called Battle in the Clouds or The Aerial Torpedo), it's less than 10 minutes long and was produced in 1909 by Charles Urban, an American pioneer of cinematic special effects working in Britain. It's pretty prophetic stuff: airships bombing cities and railways, fighters intercepting them, radio-guided SAMs, even an armoured car thrown in for good measure. I would guess it was inspired in part by the phantom airship scare which took place earlier that year. Here's a contemporary description taken from an American trade journal, Motion Picture World (date unknown, taken from here, slightly emended):
BATTLE IN THE CLOUDS. - Section 1. - preparation. The Aero camp - Loading supplies - Start of the airships - The inventor of the airship destroyer - His love story - The parting - The alarm - The aero fleet in full flight - The aerial torpedo and its inventor.
Section 2. Attack. In the clouds - Dropping like shells from the firing deck of an airship - the chase - High angle firing from a gun on an armored motor car - Total destruction of the car - Railway wrecked by the aerial fleet - Shelling the signal box - The heroic operator meets death at this post - The fight in the air - Airship versus aeroplane - Wreck of the aeroplane - The burning of a town by the aerial fleet - Thrilling rescue of his sweetheart by the inventor.
Section 3. Defense. The inventor with the assistance of his sweetheart sends his airship destroyer on its mission of vengeance. The torpedo, steered through the air by wireless telegraphy - One flash and the airship is doomed - It falls, a mass of scorching fire, into the waters of a lake.
Urban produced a couple of other films along similar lines (The Aerial Anarchists, The Pirates of 1920, both 1911) and had some imitators -- possibly including D. W. Griffith, who made a film in 1916 called The Flying Torpedo.
The link can be found on this page at BFI's screenonline, if the above direct link doesn't work. Unfortunately it's only viewable by people in .uk educational establishments. Which sadly doesn't include me, but that's ok, I've seen it before, in a 16mm copy at what I think is now part of ACMI. So no need to feel guilty on my account :)
A good account of early aviation films can be found in Michael Paris, From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun: Aviation, Nationalism and Popular Cinema (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1995), 10-22.
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