The Red Fighter Pilot - Webpage 21, pages 193-202

Only an extremely sharp eye can see something specific at really high altitudes. I have good eyes but I doubt they could recognize something on the road at five thousand meters. For that reason we rely on photographic equipment to discern what the eye cannot see. We photograph everything we think should be photographed if we considered it important. If we come home and find that the plates are damaged the entire flight is for nothing.

Often the reconnaissance pilot finds himself involved in a battle but he has more important things to do than fight. Often the photographic plates are more important than shooting down a plane, therefore in most cases the pilot is not called to fight air battles.

To date it is a difficult assignment to carry out good reconnaissance in the West.

Our Aircraft

It's become apparent that in the course of the war our aircraft have changed. The biggest difference is between the giant aircraft and the fighter plane.

The fighter plane is small, fast, manueverable, cropped down to nothing. Only bullets and machine guns.

The giant aircraft — one need only look at the captured English planes which landed on our side undamaged — is a collosus meant to carry as much as possible on large, flat surfaces. It hauls an incredible amount. Three to five thousand kilograms are nothing for it. The gas tanks are veritable railroad tank cars. One no longer has a feeling of flight in these huge things. It's more like driving. Piloting isn't done by feeling but with technical instruments.

A giant aircraft has an incredible amount of horsepower. I don't know exactly how much but it amounts to several thousand units. The more, the better. It's not out of the question to transport an entire division in such a plane. You can go for a walk in its fuselage. In one corner is something indescribable. They built a radio telegraph with which they can stay in contact with the ground. In the other corner hang beautiful flying sausage bombs. Those on the ground should fear these. There's a weapon in every nook. It's a flying fortress. The cargo hold with its expanse looks like a hall with columns.

I can't get excited about these planes. I find them ugly, unsporting, boring and unmanueverable. I like planes such as "le petit rouge." With planes such as these it makes no difference if you fly upside down, push the nose perpendicular to the ground or pull off any other stunt. You fly like a bird, and not just soaring like an albatross but with an actual flying motor. I do believe we will eventually reach the point where we can buy flying suits for two Marks and fifty Pfennig and just put them on. At one end will be a small motor and a small propeller. You stick your arms in the wing assembly and your legs in the tail. You hop around to start the engine and then you lift off like a bird into the air.

Of course you're laughing, dear reader. I am too. But it's not certain whether our children will laugh. People also would have laughed fifty years ago if you told them you could fly over Berlin. I saw Zeppelins when they first came to Berlin in 1910 and now residents scarcely lookup when one rumbles by. Besides gigantic airplanes and small fighers there are innumerable other aircraft of every size. We haven't reach an end to our inventiveness. Who knows what we will be using in another year to bore into the blue ether!

It's All about the Battle

The commander of a fighter squadron must unconditionally stay with his troops. That doesn't mean he can reside somewhere in the backgound or exchange telephone calls with his pilots or convey orders based on theoretical information. That just won't work. The commander of a fighter squadron must observe the individual squadron leaders, their seconds, and each fighter pilot in battle in order to judge their ability. Flying to the enemy is not something one can assign from a list of rankings. A versatile pilot is one who engages the enemy where he sees him, one who is always ready and able to engage in battle, and one who never questions whether he will end up on the ground in a twisted heap at the end of battle. A lot of fine gentlemen go about in beautiful uniforms and yet they are not outstanding battle pilots.

The commander of a battle squadron must understand the different between chaff and wheat. He can only do this if he spends time with the people under his command.

But that's not all. The commander of a fighter

squadron must also be a fighter pilot, and not just a good one. He must be a successful pilot. He too must ascend. Why? Because he must observe how his men fly. That is the most important aspect. He must determine which men to place together in a unit and which are most useful together in the air. The fighter squadrons on the Front which achieve the most consist of comrades who known each other well, who play off one another in battle, and who know enough not to abandon another in a lurch when situations become difficult.

Comradeship in a fighter squadron is of primary importance. I will tolerate no stinker who can be a useful element to the enemy.

The commander of a fighter squadron should not make too many command decisions with his fighter squadron. Unit leaders must have latitude within their territories. In important situations the squadron commander should assign the squadrons their main arena for battle but he should not assign a specific task, such as "fly through the area three times." Such orders are pure nonsense. The fighter pilots must be able to operate within their territories as they see fit and if they see a foe then they can advance towards them and shoot.

Anything else is nonsense. It comes down to nothing more than the final outcome. As the great, grand old Mr. Clausewitz has already said, in battle nothing counts except annihilating the enemy. If someone maintains that he's there merely to determine the number of fighter pilots in a particular section of the front and he's there to observe or reconnoiter, he's mistaken. Control of airspace in a war is only achieved by winning battles. That's the expected outcome. Orders of this kind are diasterous for the fighter pilots whose nerves are not steady or whose wills are easily broken. If somehow the cautious fighter pilot still states, "you achieve the same objective at the front just flying back and forth as does the pilot who attacks and annihilates the enemy," this dubious fighter pilot is totally useless. Superiors in command positions should see to it that they never issue such stylized orders, after all, it's all about the battle.

The Red Fighter Pilot

I have written a book. It's being published by Ullstein and it is titled "The Red fighter Pilot."

Daily I receive letters and cards from people who assure me they like "The Red Fighter Pilot." That makes me very happy. I read all the correspondence but if I can't respond to even half of them, I at least go to great effort to write to most people.

It's amusing to see how different an impression the book makes on the readers. For example, a comrade who is perhaps above all else a gourmand and does not quite understand war wrote:
"Dear Comrade, please write me immediately about where you get your oysters. I also want to eat oysters."

When I received this letter the first thing I did is grab my head and laugh out loud. I then had a distant memory that there was talk of oysters in my book. As a matter of fact it is stated in my book, "We celebrated with a feast. We ate oysters and drank champagne."

Apparently this comrade considered the oyster affair the quintessential message of the book.

A schoolboy sent me a bathroom mirror and remarked he gathered from the book that I didn't have an accessory of that nature in my red airplane.

An extraordinary number of letters came to me from the Cadet Corps. The cadets wrote me that when it comes to their old instructors they were absolutely of my opinion that one should only learn that which is most necessary to get promoted.

My younger brother Bolko has written a letter of complaint to the family about me. He is a cadet in Wahlstatt and complains that I have treated the teachers of the Cadet Corps [military academy for school-age boys] badly in my book. He's experienced so many unpleasantries in the Cadets that he can no longer take it. He's asking the family to take measures so if I commit a crime he will get control of the manuscript. I think dear Bolko's asking a lot of me besides which he's accusing me of lying. In my book I related that once I climbed up the church tower in Wahlstatt and hung up a handkerchief. Bolko now maintains that he knows for certain that the handkerchief isn't hanging there and that I couldn't have been telling the truth. I think it's too much to require a handkerchief decorate a church tower for fifteen years.

Someone sent me the London Times. The newspaper had a write-up on the "Red Fighter Pilot." I find it interesting being reviewed by the enemy during the war. I come off quite well in the review. If I should end up in an English prison camp I'll be fairly treated by the Lords.

Such a book can also have disasterous effects on the feelings of the inhabitants of this planet. One poor person wrote me she idolized me and read my book seven times. The poor child!

And then something happened that astonished me. A young woman wrote, as she said in her own words, that she was from a good house. This lady is a convent school student and will become a nun. She got a picture of me from somewhere and had hung it up in her convent cell. Then one day there was an unfortunately occurrence as the abbess came into her cell and saw the picture. The convent student received a harsh reprimand and she was told that future nuns should never hang any pictures, even pictures of the Lord in their rooms and certainly not this man, a well-known fighter pilot. The student was supposed to rid herself of the picture. But did this clever child do this? She did something which might have flattered me if I had not considered the matter so twisted. She wrote to a friend who was already a nun and

and asked her to send a large photograph of herself. The friend did this. Then the deluded girl cut the face out of the photograph and stuck my face under the nun's habit. When that news came out the student did something similar to what I do. She flew.

Perhaps with good reason.

I've also heard the following great story:

Two English publishing houses want to publish the "Red Fighter Pilot" in England. Both have gone before the London Patent Court because publishing the book commits an international violation of copyright laws. The representative of the English supervisory commission does me a great honor. He states my book is certainly one of great general and factual interest and that his English edition would be useful. The book describes methods used by the best German fighter pilot who shot down the most famous English pilot, Captain Ball. If the two publishing houses can reach agreement "The Red Fighter Pilot" will be published in England.

God save the King!

Go to pages 203-212

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Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks