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Museum preserves planes

Historians say that men first fired shots in anger at each other from two airplanes in an inauspicious (and ineffective) engagement during Gen. John J. Pershing's 1916 foray into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa.

Both planes went home from that fight.

In World War I, the combatants began using airplanes only as an extension of observation balloons. Pilots were enlisted men who chauffeured artillery officers around the skies to direct ground bombardments.

But soon rival artillery officers started shooting at each other with pistols when their flight paths crossed, and then machine guns sprouted aboard planes.

The age of fighter aircraft began in earnest.

With a quick trip to Falcon Field in Mesa, it's possible to trace that history with a walk past 33 actual airplanes that represent that near-century of aviation history from World War I to the Vietnam War.

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