The Red Fighter Pilot - Webpage 16, pages 143-152


One side had been caught in the propeller. He had never been an impressive beauty but one floppy ear and one half cut off ear didn't look right. In the end, if it weren't for the curly tail, he would be a proper Ulmer Mastiff.

Moritz understood world war and the enemy. Like when he first saw a native Russian in the summer of 1916 — the train stopped and Moritz was taken out for a walk — Moritz chased off a running Russian boy while issuing a horrendous yapping sound. He didn't like Frenchmen either despite the fact that he was a Belgian. Once in my new quarters I gave the inhabitants the task of cleaning the house. When I came home that night, nothing had been done. Angered, I had the Frenchmen brought before me. They had scarcely made it to the door when Moritz greeted them with hostility. Now I understood why the men avoided my chateau.

Wounded

On a wonderful day (July 6, 1917) I went on a hunting mission with my squadron. For quite a while we had frolicked about between Ypern and Armentière without coming upon a proper battle. Then I saw a


squadron up above and thought to myself: The enemy brethren want to go over there. They came over to the front, saw us, and turned around. I believe we might have scared them off. I was supposed to put them on the list then fly away. But instead I waited and observed the enemy squadron. It didn't take long before I saw them fly back in the direction of our front.

Winds were unfavorable, that is, the wind was coming from the east. I let them fly for a good stretch into our territory then cut off their way to the front. These were my beloved friends, the large Vickers, English aircraft with caged front fuselages. The observer sits at the front.

We leisurely observed our fast opponents. We might not have crept up on them if we hadn't been at a very high altitude and able to drop down on them. After a while I had the last airplane so close to me that I could consider the best way in which to attack him. Wolff flew below me. I could tell from the position of his machine gun that he had already engaged in battle. My opponent turned about and engaged me in battle, however only at such a great distance that one really couldn't call it an air battle at all. It was a long time before I unlatched the safety and fought with the enemy.


I observed that the observer had already fired out of pure excitement. I let him continue to fire. At a distance of three hundred meters even the best shots won't make their targets. They won't hit anything! Now he turned fully towards me and I hoped in the next banked curve to get behind him and maybe set his fur on fire. Then all at once I received a blow to the head! I was shot! For a moment my whole body was paralysed. My hands hung down and my leg dangled in the cockpit. The worst part was that the hit to my head affected my optic nerve. I was fully blind. The machine took a nose dive. For a moment my head seared with pain. It seemed like the moment before one crashes and meets his death. I awaited the moment when the wings wouldn't take the stress and would break away.

I sat alone in the cockpit. I hadn't lost consciousness yet. I managed to recover the control of my arms and legs and grab the wheel. Mechanically I turned off the gas and the ignition. But what good would it do me? One cannot fly with closed eyes! I opened them wide, threw off the goggles but I was unable to see the sun. I was completely blind.


Seconds lasted an eternity. I noticed I was still diving. The machine began to level out but it was still shaking. I started at four thousand meters and I now had descended somewhere between two and three thousand meters. Gathering up all my resolve I told myself "I must see!"

I don't know if my resolution helped, but in a short time I was able to discern black and white specks before my eyes. Gradually I saw more light. I looked towards the sun and I could see it without feeling the slightest pain or disorientation. It was like looking at things through dark, thick glasses. It was sufficient.

My first sight was the altimeter. It indicated eight hundred meters in altitude. I didn't know where I was located. I resumed control of the plane, levelled it out and continued on a gliding approach. There were no gunshell holes beneath me. I recognized a large forest complex so I could determine if I was over our territory or next to it. To my great joy I saw that I was already a fair distance on our side. If the Englishman had followed me he could have shot me down without any trouble, but thank God, my comrades protected me.


This was even though in the beginning they could not determine the reason for my sudden spiral and descent.

I wanted to land as soon as possible because I didn't know how long I could remain conscious. For that reason I went down to fifty meters in altitude but found no flat area on which to land amid the many gunshell holes. Therefore I gave it some gas and flew in an easterly direction at low altitude for as long as I could retain consciousness. At first things went well. After a few seconds though I felt my strength leave me and my vision turn dark. Time was up. I landed but couldn't keep the machine level. I took out a few poles and telephone lines which my eyes hadn't seen. I still had enough strength to get up in the plane and I wanted to get out. I fell out and didn't have the strength to get up. I just laid there.

Some people immediately came to the site since they had witnessed the entire event and recognized from my red machine who I was. The men wrapped my head in a bandage. What happened next is a blur. I hadn't completely lost consciousness but found myself in a semiconscious state. I only know that


I laid down on some thistle and didn't have the strength to remove myself from the spot, which was very painful for quite some time.

I had the good fortune to land my plane next to a road. It wasn't long before an ambulance drove over, loaded me up and took me on a many-hour drive to a field hospital. The doctors were prepared for me and immediately began their work.

I had a good-sized hole in my head measuring about ten centimeters in length. They could scarcely close it up. In one spot white bone actually showed through in a wide gap. My thick Richthofen head had prevailed again. My skull had not been crushed. With the miracle of the X-Ray they could discern a tiny dent. The humming in my head that I couldn't get rid of for days was not pleasant.

In my home district they reported I was in the hospital with severe head and stomach wounds but I was recovering nicely.

I had wondered which of us would end up in the coffin first, my brother of me. My brother feared it would be me and I feared it would be my brother.


                        Fighter Squadron, August 28, 1917

I'm very happy about Lothar's state of health. However he may no under any circumstance return to the front until he has fully recovered his strength otherwise he might immediately grow weak or get shot. I make the same statement concerning myself. I made two reconnaissance flights and both were successful but I was totally exhausted by the end of each one. After the first one I almost felt sick. My wound is healing dreadfully slowly and it's still as big as a five Mark coin. Yesterday they pulled out yet another piece of bone. I'm sure it will be the last.

A while back the Kaiser was here for a troop inspection. He spent a long time in conversation with me. Shortly I will be on vacation and I'm looking forward to seeing all of us together.

An English Bomb Attack on our Airfield

Nights during a full moon are the best times for night flight.

During the nights of the full moon in April our beloved Englishmen were particularly busy. Naturally this occurred in conjunction with the Battle of Arras. Perhaps they wanted to see for themselves


that we had built a very beautiful and large airport. One night as we sat in the casino, the telephone rang. We received the report, "The English are coming." Naturally it created quite a stir. We had bomb shelters. Very capable Simon had seen to that. Simon is our building administrator. Everyone was crammed into the shelters and you could hear — first in the distance and then much louder — the droning of an airplane engine. The flak and spotlight squads must also have received word for we noticed that they were quite active. The first of the enemy wasn't too far away to be fired upon. We had a good laugh over that. We were merely worried that the English might not find our place since it's not so easy to locate at night. We don't lay on a large roadway or near water or a railroad. At night these are the best guideposts.

The Englishman seemed to fly at high altitude once around the entire perimeter. We thought he might have been looking for a different target. However after a while he pulled back on the engine and descended. "Now it's getting serious," Wolff said. We had taken two rifles with us and began to shoot at the Englishman. We still couldn't see him but the sound of gunfire calmed our nerves. Then he came into the range of the spotlight. A massive hallo glowed above the airfield.


The plane was a pretty old crate. We easily recognized the model. He was at most a kilometer away from us. He kept descending until he couldn't have been more than a hundred meters above. He pulled back some more on the engine and flew quite close to us. Wolff said, "Thank God he's searching the other side of the airfield." However it didn't take long before the first of several bombs rained down. Our brother in flight provided us with spectacular fireworks. He also left the impression of being a coward. I find it of dubious value to drop bombs at night. Some might be so scared they soil their trousers while others would not be affected.

We greatly enjoyed this and figured the Englishmen might come back. The flying lattice tail dropped its bombs at an altitude of fifty meters. That seemed a bold move to me but on the night of a full moon I might be able to fire some decent shots at a wild boar. Why shouldn't I try things out on the English? Would it be different firing at a brother aviator?

We'd had great success firing from the air. Why not try it out from below?


When the Englishman left we went back to the officers' club and discussed what we wanted to prepare by way of greeting for those fellows the next night. The next day we kept our crews busy at work putting up posts near the officers' club and barracks. In the coming night we would use the posts as machine gun stands. We would use the machine guns we had salvaged from the English planes. We installed gun sights geared for night vision on them then waited anxiously for what would come next. I will not tell you the number of machine guns we had but there were sufficient number for each of my officers.

We sat in the officers' club. Natually we spoke about night flying. Then a sparsely-clad lad came in and cried, "They're coming, they're coming!" He disappeared into the nearest shelter. Each of us curled up next to a machine gun. All capable men who are good shots are similarly armed. We all had carbine rifles. The fighter squadron is armed to the teeth and ready to receive our visitors.

The first arrived at high alititude just like the night before. He descended to fifty meters and to our great joy he was looking for our barracks this time. The spotlight catches him. At most he's three hundred meters away from us.


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Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks