Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Friday Flyby - 27 September

Fokker E.III Eindecker
Wasn't sure which topic I should cover this Friday, then it struck me. World War One, the Great War, the War to End All Wars.

It was the war where military aviation started. From the earliest days of pilots and/or observers taking pot shots at each other with rifles and pistols to the days of synchronized dual machine guns. Military aviation was born in the period 1914 to 1918.

Now I have mentioned World War I pilots before in the Friday Flyby, like here. But I have not done any Flyby's dedicated specifically to the first war in the air. And I feel a series coming on (when my pastor says that, I always groan, don't tell him!)

Today we'll look at the aircraft and the flyers of Imperial Germany. Why Germany first? Well, I like starting with the best. In other words, this guy -

Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen
80 Confirmed Aerial Victories
02 May 1892 - 21 April 1918
Holder of the 
Pour le Mérite
Killed in Action, 25 years old

From Wikipedia -
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April 1918), also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte) during World War I. He is considered the top ace of that war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories.

Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, becoming one of the first members of Jasta 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger unit Jagdgeschwader 1 (better known as the "Flying Circus"). By 1918, he was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and was very well known by the other side.

Richthofen was shot down and killed near Amiens on 21 April 1918. There has been considerable discussion and debate regarding aspects of his career, especially the circumstances of his death. He remains perhaps the most widely known fighter pilot of all time, and has been the subject of many books, films and other media.
A Closer Look  at the Pour le Mérite

From Wikipedia -
The Pour le Mérite was founded in 1740 by King Frederick II of Prussia. It was named in French, which was the leading international language and language of the Prussian royal court of that era. The French name was retained, despite the rising tide of nationalism and increasing hostility between French and Germans during the 19th century, and ironically many of its recipients were honoured for acts performed in wars against France. 
The physical symbol of the award was a blue-enameled Maltese Cross with golden eagles, based on the symbol of the Johanniter Order, between the arms and the Prussian royal cypher and the words Pour le Mérite ("For Merit" in the French language) written in gold letters on the body of the cross.
The medal was also known as the Blue Max (Blauer Max - auf Deutsch). The movie of the same name (with George Peppard) was not bad. Not bad at all.
Yes, Ursula Andress is in the movie. Now that you mention it...

Legend has it that the Rittmeister flew an all red Fokker Triplane (the Dr1). Legend, as usual, is wrong. He also flew the Fokker E.III, the Halberstadt D.II and various models of the Albatross.

Halberstadt D.II

Albatross DVa

Fokker Dr1 in the paint scheme commonly attributed to the "Red Baron"
(Mostly red...)

Yes, Pungo has one.
(Actually they have more than one!)

Now, have you ever heard of an Immelmann turn?

Here's the chap they named that particular maneuver for. (And yes, I have done one of these in a real live aircraft. In the air and everything! Loads of fun!)
Oberleutnant Max Immelmann
15 Confirmed Aerial Victories

21 September 1890 - 18 June 1916
Holder of the 
Pour le Mérite
Killed in Action, 25 years old

From Wikipedia -
Max Immelmann (21 September 1890 – 18 June 1916) was the first German World War I flying ace. He was a great pioneer in fighter aviation and is often mistakenly credited with the first aerial victory using a synchronized gun. He was the first aviator to win the Pour le Merite, and was awarded it at the same time as Oswald Boelcke. His name has become attached to a common flying tactic, the Immelmann turn, and remains a byword in aviation. He is credited with 15 aerial victories.
Speaking of Oswald Boelcke...

Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke
40 Confirmed Aerial Victories

19 May 1891 - 28 October 1916
Holder of the 
Pour le Mérite
Killed in Action, 25 years old

From Wikipedia -
Oswald Boelcke (19 May 1891 – 28 October 1916) was a German flying ace of the First World War and one of the most influential patrol leaders and tacticians of the early years of air combat. Boelcke is considered the father of the German fighter air force, as well as the "Father of Air Fighting Tactics"; he was the first to formalize rules of air fighting, which he presented as the Dicta Boelcke. While he promulgated rules for the individual pilot, his main concern was the use of formation fighting rather than single effort.

Germany's premier ace, Manfred von Richthofen, had been taught by Boelcke and continued to idolize his late mentor long after he had surpassed Boelcke's tally of victories.

One of my personal favorite pilots was Werner Voß (Voss auf Englisch). I had a model of his aircraft when I was a kid. 

Leutnant Werner Voß
48 Confirmed Aerial Victories
13 April 1897 - 23 September 1917

Holder of the Pour le Mérite
Killed in Action, 20 years old

From Wikipedia -
Werner Voss (German: Werner Voß) (13 April 1897 – 23 September 1917) was a World War I German flying ace, a friend and rival of the famous "Red Baron", Manfred von Richthofen. Voss, a dyer's son from Krefeld, began his military career in 1914 as a Hussar. After turning to aviation, he became such a skilled and aggressive fighter that he was considered by some to be the one pilot who could match von Richthofen. Although absent on leave during Bloody April, when German aces fattened their victory lists on the disproportionate British losses, Voss's score was second among German aces at the time he was killed in action. His final combat is considered one of the most momentous and exciting dogfights in history. After he fell in solo opposition to eight British aces, he was described by his preeminent foe, James McCudden, as "the bravest German airman".
It took EIGHT aces to bring down this young man, fighting alone. He truly was a brilliant aviator.

Leutnant Werner Voß's Last Flight

My profile picture up there near the top of the blog? On my very first visit to the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo, Virginia, I spotted that aircraft I'm posing with right away. Why? It bears an earlier version of the paint scheme Leutnant Voß had on his aircraft. The one before he had the eyes and moustache painted on the engine cowling.

This aircraft -

"My" Fokker Dr1 

Of course, no discussion of World War One military aviation can be complete without a mention of one of the very best fighters to come out of that war. An aircraft so potent that it was called out specifically in the Treaty of Versailles.

From Wikipedia -
The Fokker D.VII was a German World War I fighter aircraft designed by Reinhold Platz of the Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. Germany produced around 3,300 D.VII aircraft in the summer and autumn of 1918. In service, the D.VII quickly proved itself to be a formidable aircraft. The Armistice ending the war specifically required Germany to surrender all D.VIIs to the Allies at the conclusion of hostilities. Surviving aircraft saw continued widespread service with many other countries in the years after World War I.
Fokker D.VII in the Foreground
(That's an Albatross off the starboard side)

And yes, of course Pungo has one!

One of Pungo's D.VIIs
Check your six!

Next time, les Français!


  1. Dinky little fragile things, aren't they. AND, they didn't have parachutes (through most of the war), much less ejection seats. Brass ones they had indeed.

    1. One of my earliest memories of reading about WWI (I must have been in elementary school) was seeing a painting in a book of two French flyers jumping out of their burning aircraft. No parachutes and they were at altitude. The book said that many would jump rather than burn. Brass ones indeed.

      We have evidence of that in our own times.

  2. Wanna hear a funny joke about WW I "Fokkers?" (Although it will be lost on anyone under 30--a generation so ill-educated they know practically NO history--let alone the military hist of WW I and II) Goes like this: An old WW II ex fighter-pilot vet is sitting around telling "and there I was" tales to his nieces and nephews about how he once took on an entire squadron of Fokkers and "shot three of those Fokkers down" before "those Fokkers managed to shoot me down." "But Uncle Bubba," one of the boys piped up:, "I thought the Fokker was strictly a WW I fighter aircraft? I didn't know the Nazis were also flying Fokkers in WW II !" "They weren't," came the reply from Uncle Bubba. "Those fookers were flying Messerschmidts!" :)

    1. I should have added that it goes without saying that this joke only really works in the verbal telling, lol.

    2. Speaking of classics...

      That joke is one! (A personal favorite of mine that one is!)

    3. Hhmm, then again, maybe someone who has seen the movie "Meet the Fockers"?

      Nah, they'd still need to know who Anthony Fokker was. (A Dutchman by the way, not a German.)

  3. PS: For my money the best book about that period is still "They Fought For The Sky" by Quinton Reynolds (1957) LOL, little did I know when I bought it in Jr HS it would become a collectable.

    1. An excellent book! (You can still get it on Amazon.)

    2. Hey! I read that, too... prolly about the same time you did, Virgil.

    3. I probably read it when you two (ahem) geezers were in high school. (Not that I'm not that far behind you in geezer-terms.)

  4. Most excellent. Again. Always.

  5. Now I gotta set aside some time to watch your Mustang video.

    (First world problem right there neh?)

  6. Mustang Video?? AKA P-51's and not enlisted sailors becoming officers or horses? Where?

    1. Exile in Portales. Link is over there on the sidebar. Attached to a 2x4 so's you don't walk off with it.

      Just clean up when you're done.

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks Cap'n.

      I can't believe I haven't posted on WWI aviation before now. A fascinating era.


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