The Red Fighter Pilot - Webpage 15, pages 133-142


That would have been terrible. This way he enjoyed a beautiful hero's death. He'll be transported in the next few days. I visited Lothar and got there just when he was being shipped out. He looked great, tanned, lying about fully dressed in his chaisse lounge with the Medal of Merit around his neck. He was able to stand and will make a full recovery. He'll soon be able to walk and ride. In about two months he can perhaps return to the field, but first he must thoroughly recouperate.

A Bit of Flying

(End of March, 1917)

The term Siegfried Line is known to every young man in the German Empire. In the days on which we had drawn back to this position there were regular missions conducted in the air. The enemy had taken hold of our abandonned territory however we did not concede the sky as quickly to the English. The Boelcke Fighter Squadron saw to that. Only with great caution did the English dare to take to the air beyond their previously held territory.

This was the time in which our beloved Prince Friedrich Karl sacrificed his life for the Fatherland.

During a reconnaissance flight of the Boelcke Fighter Squadron


Lieutenant Voss vanquished an Englishman in an air battle. He was forced down to the earth by his conqueror. He landed in an area which had been designated neutral territory. We had abandonned the area but the enemy had not yet taken possession of it. Only patrols, both English and German, inhabited the unoccupied zone. The English plane was between the lines. The brave Englishman truly believed that his troops already occupied the area and he was right in this assumption. Voss however held another opinion. Determined, he landed near his victim. With great speed he disassembled the enemy's machine guns and other useful parts of the plane and carried them over to his machine. He struck a match and in a few minutes the plane was engulfed in bright flames. A minute later he noticed Englishmen streaming in from all sides. They unseated him from his victorious skyhorse.

A Hot Day

April 2, 1917 was again a hot day for my squadron. From my place you could hear the sound of the artillery and on this day it was very intense.


I was lying in bed and my orderly burst in on me with the announcement, "Lieutenant, the English are here!" Still half asleep, I looked out the window and saw my dear friends already passing over the base. I got out of bed and dressed quickly. My red bird stood ready for its morning's work. My mechanic's knew that I wouldn't let such a fortunate opportunity pass me by. Everything was ready. Quickly I donned my warm furs and left.

I was the last one to start my engine. My comrades were already closer to the enemy. Then suddenly one of them fell in below me. I calmly allow him to come closer and then we begin our lusty dance. My enemy flies upside down, first he goes one way and then the other. He has a two-seatter battle plane. I have the upper hand and I soon realize that he cannot overtake me. During a pause in battle I decide we must face each other. Whoever shoots better, whoever maintains the greater calm, and whoever has the better understanding of the danger of the moment will win.

It doesn't take long since I force him to descend without any real serious weapon fire. It's at least two kilometers to the front. I think he will land however I miscalculate my opponent. I observe


how only a few meters above the ground he suddenly rises and attempts to escape me. This was a surprise for me. I go after him and I'm so low I'm afraid I'm going to graze the houses in the underlying village. The Englishman defends himself to the last moment. In a last ditch effort he puts a bullet into my machine. No more fooling around. He must go down now. He rams at full speed into a housing block. Not much is left of him. This was a case of great daring. He defended himself to the end.

Well pleased with the accomplishments of my steel red horse I returned from my morning's work. My comrades were still in the air. As we met later for breakfast they were astonished as I told them about Number thirty-two.

A very young lieutenant had just shot down his first. We prepared for new battles.

I went back to complete my much delayed morning toilet. A good friend was coming to visit — Lieutenant Voss of the Boelcke Fighter Squadron. We had a conversation. On the day before Voss had shot down his twenty-third. He's closest to me at this time and is my strongest competitor.

As he was flying home I wanted to accompany him for a bit. We made a pass over the front. The weather suddenly got quite bad


and we knew we wouldn't have any good hunting.

Clouds closed up beneath us. Voss was not familiar with the area and things began to get unpleasant. Over Arras I met my brother, who at the time was with my staff. He had lost his squadron. He joined us. He knew it was me (by my red bird.)

Above us we saw a squadron approach. Immediately it popped into my head, "Number thrity-three!" Even though there were nine Englishmen and we were in their air space they avoided a battle. (Next time I must change the plane's color.) We caught up to them because we had fast machines.

I am nearest to the enemy and attempt to get behind him. To my great delight I notice that he is ready to engage me and there is even more satisfaction in knowing that he's leaving his comrades in a lurch. I have him all to myself. He's the same type as the flyer I engaged in the morning. He wasn't going to make it easy for me. He knew what he was doing and besides that, he was a good shot. To my sorrow, I had to acknowledge that. A favorable wind offered assistance and blew us both over my line. The enemy saw that things just weren't as simple


as he had thought. He disappeared by diving into the clouds. It was nearly his salvation. I dove down after him, descended below the clouds, and as luck would have it, found myself right behind him. I shot, he shot, but with no tangible results. Finally I hit him. I saw the white gasoline trail behind his plane. He had to land before his motor stalled.

But he was a stubborn fellow. He had to know he had been outplayed. He could have kept firing and I could have immediately killed him but we were both at an altitude of about three hundred meters. But just like this morning, the fellow defended himself until he landed. After he landed I flew over him at about ten meters in order to determine if I had killed him or not. What did the scoundrel do? He took his machine gun and shot up my entire plane.

Later on Voss told me if that had happened to him he would have shot up the ground. Technically I could have done this because he had not surrendered. He was just one of the few lucky ones who got to remain alive.

Feeling very satisfied, I flew home and celebrated my thirty-third.


"The Red Devil"

Wonderful weather. We stand on the air field. I am visited by a man who has never seen an air battle or anything similar to one. He assures me he would be extremely interested in seing such a battle.

As we're climbing into our cockpit and having a laugh at his expense Schäfer suggests, "We could make him happy!" We could place him in front of a scissors telescope and fly off.

The day started out fine. We were scarcely two thousand meters high when we encountered our first Englishman in a squadron of five. The attack could be compared to an onslaught — The enemy squadron laid dead on the ground. On our side no one was even wounded. Of the enemy planes which came down on our side of the line two came down in flames and three crashed.

The good friend we left on the ground was more than slightly astonished. He had imagined the matter would be quite different, more dramatic. He said the encounter looked so harmless until one of the planes, lit up like a rocket, crashed. I was usually accustomed to the sight but had to admit that I experienced the touch of death. Long since I've dreamed about how I saw that first Englishman plummet into the depths.


I believe that if I were to experience it again it might not be as horrid next time.

After this day had started out so well we settled down to a proper breakfast. We were all famished. In the interval our machines were brought in and reloaded so we could go back up.

That evening we were able to proudly announce, "Thirteen enemy aircraft were nullified by six German machines."

The Boelcke fighter squadron was only able to make a similar claim once. We shot down eight planes and one of us forced four planes to crash land. It was Lieutenant Wolff who did it. He is a slim, inexperienced young man, whom no one would consider capable of multiple victories. My brother got two, Schäfer got two, Festner got two, and I got three.

That night we went to our quarters colossally proud but also dead tired.

Greeting us the next day was the military report of our feats of the day before. On a regular day we generally shot down eight planes.

A very cute little story came out of that event: We had a conversation with one of the Englishmen whom we had shot down and now imprisoned. Naturally he asked about the red machine. Even the troops in the trenches


were acquainted with "the Red Devil." In the Englishman's squadron there was a rumor that a maiden like Joan of Arc must sit in the red machine. He was astonished when I assured him that the maiden was standing before him. He wasn't making a joke because he himself was convinced that only a girl would sit in this perversely painted crate.

"Moritz"

The most beautiful being the world has ever created is the genuine Ulmer Mastiff, my little hunting dog Moritz. I bought him on the eastern front from a Belgian gentleman for five Marks. The dog's dame was a beautiful animal and one of his forefathers must have been a purebred. I'm convinced of this. I had my pick and chose the runt of the litter. Zeumer took the second smallest and called him Max. Max met a sudden demise under a car but things turned out well for Moritz. He slept in bed with me and was well trained. He came every step of the way with me from the eastern front and he's become very near and dear to my heart. Month after month Moritz grew bigger and bigger until he grew


from a sweet little puppy into an absolutely huge beast.

I took him up with me one time. He was my first copilot. He handled himself quite well and ogled the world from above with interest. My flight engineers complained that they had to clean unpleasant excretions from the aircraft but Moritz seemed very satisfied afterwards.

Now he is over a year old and still the puppy-like creature he was a few months ago. He plays billiards quite well. Unfortunately many balls and especially billiard cloths have gone missing. And he has a passion for hunting. My engineers are very happy to eat the many roasted rabbits he's hunted down. From me he gets the somewhat burnt pieces since I am less inclined to this fare.

He had one stupid habit. He loved to accompany the airplane to the takeoff point. The usual demise of aviators' dogs is caused by the propeller. One time he went off on the hunt in front of the taxiing plane, he was brought back and — a fine propeller was at hand. Moritz yelped dreadfully and I took a measure I had previously neglected to take. I was always reluctant to have his ears clipped.


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Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks