The Red Fighter Pilot - Webpage 7, pages 58-66


I shot at her when she was still in the water then went after her. The beast would have drowned if I hadn't grabbed at her in the last moment in order to pull her from the current.

Another time I rode with my orderly through a narrow forest path when several wild boars crossed the path. I quickly dismounted, grabbed my orderly's rifle and ran several hundred paces after them. Another boar came along. He was a powerful beast. I had never seen a boar before and I was astonished how gigantic he was. He now hangs as a trophy in my room. He makes a lovely momento.

*

                     Outside Verdun, October 11, 1914

The post is going out soon so I must send greetings to you quickly. In the past few days I have experienced a great deal and I scarcely believe my good fortune. I was on patrol and was unseated from my excellent charger by a grenade thrown five paces in front of me which landed on my saddle. Three other horses were also killed. My saddle and everything a man needs, which I had put in my saddlebag, were blown into tiny pieces. A fragment


shredded my cape but I was not injured. I had just read a letter from Aunt Friedel. I hadn't opened the package which came with the letter. I put it in my saddlebag — it was smashed into a formless mess. I also had Antithesis with me. He took a fragment to the rear — not too bad.

*

                     Béchamp, November 2, 1914

We lie in the trenches in shifts like the infantry. The French are two thousand meters away from us. It's boring and twenty-four hours of quietly lying about provides no satisfaction. Every once in a while a grenade breaks the monotony. That's all I've experienced for the past four weeks.Too bad that I'm not active in a large battlefield. Our position in front of Verdun has not changed in weeks even by five meters. We're stationed in a burned out village. Wedel and I are quartered in a house in which you have to hold your nose closed. We seldom ride since Antithesis is sick and Fuchs is dead. We run about even less. In other words, there's no movement.— There's little good food but we eat more than usual of what's bad. Everything on me is shifting — I'm so fat I must weigh a ton. Once I start riding it'll probably be a while until I'm back to my normal weigh again.


I would gladly work towards the Iron Cross, First Class but I haven't had the opportunity. For that I would have to dress like a Frenchman, run towards Verdun and blow a gun turret into the air.

*

                     Côtes, January 15, 1915

In a brief message I want you to known that I have become ordnance officer with the 18th Infantry Brigade. Here one experiences somewhat more than one did in our regiment at Béchamp. In moving battles naturally things would be the opposite. I am totally content with my posting. In the past few days there was activity up on the coast. In the night of the 27th/28th we of the 7th Regiment Grenadiers took a trench away from the French. On the night of the 29th/30th the French tried to retrieve it but was beaten to a pulp. Thank God the casualties were relatively light. Each chap here in the trenches is a hero and a poet rightly put it: "There's no greater iron that those heroes out there." Each individual has earned that iron. That's what anyone must say who has seen our brave men here. Live well, say hello to Papa, Ilse and "German's future," Bolko.


Finally!

I had to wait it out for a few months until the great day of movement reached our troops. We were assigned a small offensive at our section of the front. I was really happy that the ordnance officer finally got into his ordnance! But kitchen duty! I thought it would be something else and this discovery pulled the rug our from under my feet. I wrote a request to my commanding general and evil tongues assert that I said: "Dear General, I did not come to the war in order to distribute cheese and eggs. I came here for a difference purpose." At first people closed their doors to me but then some heard my request. At the end of May, 1915 I entered the Air Force, thus fulfilling my greatest wish.


The First Time in the Air!

Early in the morning around seven o'clock I was going to fly with someone for the first time. Understandably I was rather excited. I couldn't imagine what it would be like. Everyone I asked about it told me something different. I went to bed the night before earlier than usual so I would be fresh for the next day. We drove over to the air field. I sat for the first time in an airplane. The wind from the propeller disturbed me greatly. It was impossible to hear what the pilot said to me. Everything flew by me. I took a piece of paper out, it disappeared. My crash helmut slipped off, the scarf came untied, the jacket wasn't buttoned tightly enough. The long and short of it, the situation was dismal. I wasn't yet buckled up when we darted off. The pilot gave it full gas and the machine started to taxi. Ever faster, ever faster. I frantically held myself in place. In a moment the shuddering stopped and the machine was in the air. The earth slid by me underneath.


I had been told where I was supposed to fly to, that meaning where I should direct my pilot. First we flew a ways out then my pilot turned, then turned again, to the left, to the right. I lost my sense of direction with regards to the airport. I had no idea where I was! I began to pay attention to the ground beneath me. The people were tiny specks, the houses merely children's toys. Everything was in miniature. Cologne was in the background. The Cologne Cathedral was a child's model. It was a sublime feeling to soar so high above it all. Who could have told me about it? No one! It no longer mattered that I didn't know where I was, and I was sad when my pilot indicated that we had to land.

I would rather have gone back up immediately. I didn't have any feeling of vertigo as I might have had in an air swing. The dizzyness caused by the famous American swing is unbearable for me but one feels so secure in an airplane. However there's a damned nervousness associated when after gliding through the air you start to descend, the airplane is suspended in mid air, the motor stops


and there's an ungodly silence. Once again I fastened myself tightly to my seat and thought, "Now you're going to crash." But then everything goes the way it should and you land, the term men use for touching back down on the ground. It's all so easy and the feeling of impending doom ceases. I was enthused and I could have sat in the airplane the entire day. I counted the hours until the next lesson.

                     Cologne, June 6, 1915

I have finally arrived. Flight School Department 7 is a giant facility used to teach us. There are thirty of us who will be taught to be observers. The best of us will be sought out and retained. Such circumstances make things extremely difficult and lead to self-doubt as to whether I will be chosen to continue.

With Holck in Russia

(Summer 1915)

I remained at flight school June, July, and August 1915 which coincided with Machensen von Gorlice's advance on Brest-Litowsk.


I was assigned there as a junior observer and I didn't have a clue about anything.

As a cavalryman my job always consisted of reconnaissance so I was well suited to this assignment. I took great pleasure in the massive air reconnaissance operations we performed daily.

For the observer it is important to find a sensible pilot. One fine day I heard, "Count Holck is on his way here." Immediately I had the thought, "That is the man you need."

Holck did not arrive, as people believed he would, in a 60 PS Mercedes or a sleeper car first class but on foot. After several days of train travel he arrived in the region of Jaroslau. There he got out because the train would stop for an undetermined amount of time. He told his orderly to stay with his luggage while he traveled on foot. He got out and after a couple hours looked back but saw that the train was not following him, so he kept on going without retrieving his bags. He eventually walked fifty kilometers and reached his destination, Rawa Ruska. Twenty-four hours later his orderly arrived with his bags. This was not an unusual feat for a sportsman. His body was trained to stand up to fifty kilometer foot marches.


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Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks