“Over There in the Air: The Fightin’ Texas Aggies in World War I, 1917-18” by John A. Adams Jr., Texas A&M University Press, 2020, 142 pages, $29.95

Texas Aggies have answered the nation’s call whenever the United States went to war. Although some Aggies served in the Spanish-American War, World War I really sealed the tradition of Aggies fighting for their country.

“Over There in the Air: The Fightin’ Texas Aggies in World War I, 1917-18” by John A. Adams Jr., examines one aspect of Aggie participation in World War I: the air war.

Aviation was new in the early years of the 20th century. The Wright Brothers made their first flight in 1903. Given the school’s engineering emphasis, for Texas A&M University and its students flight proved a fascination from its onset.

Adams explores the link between aviation and Aggies in the years leading up to World War I and shows how the university and its students contributed to the war effort in the air.

The first airplane at A&M landed on Kyle Field in 1911. Adams shows how the relationship between A&M, its Corps of Cadets, the U.S. Army and aircraft developed over the next five years; how A&M built its aeronautical engineering program; and how Army aviation on Texas’ Mexican border fueled aviation interest.

Aggies went to Europe well before the United States entered the war. They wanted to fly and they wanted to fight. Adams follows these Aggies as they serve in the armed forces of France and the nations associated with the United Kingdom.

The trickle became a flood when the United States entered the war in 1917. A&M mobilized, including granting the class of 1917 their diplomas early, before they took finals, to get them into the war quicker. Adams shows how Aggies entered the air services and follows the wartime careers of Aggie aviators as observers, gunners and mechanics, as well as pilots.

A final chapter brings these Aggies home, telling what they did afterward. An appendix provides a roster of all Aggies in air services in World War I.

For those into all things Aggie, “Over There in the Air” is a must-have book. For everyone, it offers a fascinating look at an era far different from ours.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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