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Olham

Nothing heroic about it

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I just read a passage in Kilduff's "The Red Baron", where MvR and another pilot shot down

two photo recon aircraft. And for the first time, I understood, how easy it might have been,

because Kilduff explains, that these recon craft had to fly a straight set path to get the pictures

right. They both went down.

Now, there may be some heroism involved, as they were escorted by Triplanes.

But then, the German Albatros had an altitude advantage and came down on two-seaters,

shot them to pieces, and could withdraw up and away with the speed advatage they had

gained in the dive.

That made it clear to me again, that most of this "air combat work" was not at all heroic.

It was just a strategic necessity to kill these two craft - not more.

Like MvR shooting a bison during one leave - what the heck is so great about shooting

an animal from a distance with a good gun and maybe even telescopic sight?

 

I feel much the same with the fact, that most aircraft were probably shot down without the

victim even noticing the other craft approaching, until the impact of the deadly rounds.

Not to speak of the German Luftwaffe newbies at the end of WW2 getting shot down like

nothing - they could hardly fly their craft straight.

A military necessity - maybe - but no grand deed.

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.

 

Yes my fair Olham, I'm afraid you are quie right. Necessities of war made it so. Countless brave airmen died never knowing their attackers. And the recce flights had no option if they were in the middle of a photo run but to fly straight on. Otherwise, if they did break off, they would simply have to come back and start all over. Nothing terribly heroic at all about shooting a sitting duck. But then, c'est la guerre.

 

.

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Olham, this is one of the reason's why I have so much respect for those who did reconnaissance work. They knew they were going to be particularly vulnerable at times, but still went on with the job.

I read that there was some denegration of MvR's ace status after the war as so many of the aircraft he shot down were, frequently obsolescent, two seater reconnaissance machines (not sure if this is actually accurate.) That seems to miss the point that that was his job - to try and prevent the enemy gaining intelligence that they could use to their advantage. Although extraordinary actions might be performed, I don't think anyone was under any obligation to be any more heroic than sticking at the job they were given.

 

In OFF, I fly my BE2 now with the TAC set on 'ships' just to show the direction to the next waypoint. I fly as straight and level as my clumsy handling will allow most of the time, and try and make all the waypoints. I weave for AA ,and take evasive action when I realise I am under attack from enemy machines - if they get me before I spot them that seems wholly realistic. It would be interesting if it was a requirement for completeing the mission to fly straight and level over a certain area of ground, but I imagine that might be complicated to set up (I'm presuming this doesn't happen later on, as I am still flying in 1915). I would be happy to fly that way - doing the job, and would accept enemy pilots taking advantage of it as just doing their job.

 

I guess the big trick is avoiding ever having to send anyone out to do those sort of jobs.

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.

 

Wayfarer, I have always been a champion of the WWI recce crews, and have flown many 2-seater missions over the years, both in OFF and before that in RB3D. Theirs were the thankless yet most critical tasks in the air war. Also, having to fly striaght and true for relatively long distances during photo recon and bombing runs lasted throughout the entire four years of fighting. The thing that changed more than any was how deadly the scouts had become by 1918.

 

.

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Good points, Wayfarer!

 

Among MvR's 80 victories, there were

12 FE2

5 DH-2

1 DH-4

1 DH-5

2 Pup

3 1 1/2 Strutter

3 Bristol Fighter

1 FE8

4 SPAD

4 Nieuport

1 Triplane

3 S.E.5a

1 Dolphin

9 Camel

(according to JFM's book "Manfred von Richthofen - the Aircraft, Myths and Accomplishments of "The Red Baron")

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A military necessity - maybe - but no grand deed.

 

Necessity indeed.

Grand? The German infantry probably thought so!

 

I have read several older books (prior WW2) by English and Canadian authors that attempt to belittle MvR's victory score because of the number of two-seaters he shot down citing them, essentially, as helpless victims. A real gentleman would only go after fellow fighters they say. Time has mellowed this quite a bit.

 

I am no MvR "fanboi" (but there are plenty of them) but he understood, as most fliers did I am sure, that the whole reason for the air war was the two-seaters. They were the ones doing the arty adjusting, photo recon, etc, etc. They are the ones that made the difference in the ground war.

 

The single-seaters only purpose was to shoot them down or protect them from enemy single-seaters. Nothing else.

 

It was a bloody "kill or be killed" war - like they all are. And for the airmen, certainly the Germans, two-seaters had to be the priority target.

 

And, though I do not have the numbers, in generalized reading of how certain airmen met their fate, the two-seaters appear to almost have given as good as they got. Plenty of airmen fell victims to a two-seater crew. Interestingly AA was a big killer too but not as much as air to air of course.

 

EDIT: I see Wayfarer was typing the same time I was - gotta stop being so long-winded!

Edited by DukeIronHand

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Thank you anyway, Duke - happens to all of us oocasionally, I suppose.

 

Well, I didn't want to bash MvR and his deeds, nor am I an MvR "fan-boy" as you called it.

The man has shot down quite an impressive number of fighters, too.

And of course he knew, that recon or artillery guiding two-seats were prior targets any time.

So he "did his job" - better than anyone else did at that time.

Edited by Olham

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An enemy observation or artillery spotting plane downed, is dozens of your infantrymen compatriots' lives saved. Down with the legend: the WW1 aviators were no knights, only soldiers. A soldier's duty is to win the war himself has not started, swallow nausea, and do the odious job. Every enemy down is a step on the right way.

 

René Fonck wrote that once, he felt so bad before downing a two-seater whose crew hadn't even seen him, that he let time to the gunner to notice him and fire a few bullets at him before shooting him down as well. On the other hand, Guynemer paid much contempt to the two-seater crews, unworthy opponents to him. In at least two letters, he gave the same terse epitaph to his victims: "Couic!" (= Kaputt!). Nonetheless, it seemed that he fell victim to an Albatros rear-gunner he had attacked in his usual reckless style. In July 1917, the Red Baron too nearly missed to meet his death from the gunner of a Fe2, his favourite prey.

 

Something also has often surprised me. Reading the aces' lists of claims in "The Aerodrome", it seems that by 1918, most of British and Commonwealth aces have almost only claimed kills on single-seater scout planes: always Albatros D.III and D.V, Pfalz D.III, Fokker D.VII, dozens of them, probably more than have been produced. Very few claims on German two-seaters, seeming that almost none of them were downed over the British part of the front. Was it a result of misidentification, or will to claim more noble targets?

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War is ugly business. The pinnacle of air combat skills in WW1 was to completely surprise your enemy and shoot him in the back. So much for the romantic 'Knights of the Sky'.

 

Without bomber and recon aircraft, there would have been no fighter aircraft. The fighters were there to shoot down the two-seaters and other heavies, and to protect their own. As such, there's nothing shameful MvR's or any other ace's actions. They did their duty, which was to help their own country and its allies to win the war. In fact the aces of all air forces combined didn't kill all that many people, if you think about the grotesque number of casualties caused by artillery and machine guns. A single machine gunner could wound and kill more men in one day than MvR during two years of his whole fighter career.

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This wasn't just a WW1 phenomenon, any plane on a torpedo run or even a bombing run had to adopt a flight pattern which was easy for the defenders to predict and aim for. Same goes for landing. The phenomenon known as Mosquitopanik was the fear German pilots had of being shot down on final approach when in sight of their home airfield by a Mosquito. The number of planes actually shot down by Mosquito was much smaller than those crashing as a direct consequence of the low flying tactics adopted specifically to avoid such an attack. I'm sure every pilot had it drummed into them that doing anything predictable was very dangerous.

 

I also recall Bob Doe I think it was, the Battle of Britain ace saying he owed his survival to being a bad pilot. He would always fall out of a loop before the top or be imprecise in his manouvres. He reckoned the better pilots would be much tidier in their manouvres, complete them properly, but that this made them more predictable to the enemy, and easier to hit as a result.

 

It doesn't take heroism to shoot down a sitting duck, but it does take discipline. Nobody is going to like the job, but the target needs to be destroyed, if you don't do it, some other poor b*!"*!d would have to do it for you. But if there isn't some other poor b*!"*!d there at the time, and your failure lends impetus to the enemy's attack, you might well have a clear conscience, but you might have the blood of your own troops on your hands too.

 

Don't feel unduly sorry for the attacking pilot. If I had the choice of mission, fly the fighter or take the photo's, I'd take the fighter intercept every time. Keep your medals - give them to poor fella armed with the camera. I like to think I might try to bring the aircraft down without specifically targetting the crew, but one way or another, the aircraft has to go down. I also like to think if I was the PR photographer, that I would recognise the enemy attacker was just doing his job. He's not a murderer, his attack is nothing personal, he's just a fighter pilot doing his job and today isn't my lucky day.

 

 

Edit - I don't think the Knights of the Sky thing was a myth, it was just confined the the early months of the war. In the early months, reconaissance pilots from opposing sides would even wave as they past each other. It was important to do the honourable thing, and respect your enemy. Fighting the enemy was indeed a 'joust'. When you think that most of these pilots were toffs, from upper class families, such protocols were part of their upbringing. Even this too isn't unique to WW1. In the early days of WW2 when the Brits and Germans were fighting in the desert, the war stopped at 4pm, and it was bad form to break the rules. Don't ask me where I read it, but some corporal nicked a german lorry, but after four o'clock. He was warned there would be trouble, and sure enough the Germans nicked four British lorries the next night. Not because of the lorries, but because it was after 4 pm that the first one got nicked. It's only when war gets serious, and buddies start dying, that chivalry and honour give way to staying alive and keeping your mates alive too. It's the nature of conflict to escalate out of control when both sides want to win.

Edited by Flyby PC

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One thing to remember is that WW1 airforces all had about 3 times more 2-seaters than they had scouts. As such, the vast majority of 2-seaters flew around unescorted except by other members of their own squadrons. The relatively few scouts available mostly flew "offensive patrols" intended to keep Germans out of a given area of sky for a while so the 2-seaters could work, instead of true escort missions. And of course the Entente mostly flew across the lines while the Germans mostly didn't.

 

So, German scouts were about 3 times more likely to meet Entente 2-seaters than scouts, and most of these were unescorted and over German territory. Periodically, a flight of Entente scouts would wander by, but they couldn't be everywhere at once. Thus, all the German scouts had to do was swoop the 2-seaters in between the enemy scout formations. Or, if the Entente scouts spotted a Jasta and went chasing off after it, another Jasta was often placed to exploit the gap in the patrol screen.

 

On top of this, for much of the war the performance of Entente 2-seaters pretty much sucked. Quirks, Fees, Harry Tates, ARs, Caudrons, Farmans, etc., are all pretty much known as flying coffins due to their low speeds, low ceilings, and lack of maneuverability. Thus, besides being easy to find flying around on their own, Entente 2-seaters were relatively easy to knock down, too. IOW, the Germans were in a target-rich environment. It's no wonder they shot down more 2-seaters than scouts, whether that was their main mission or not.

 

German 2-seaters, OTOH, were in general rather good machines with relatively high performance. Their photo planes flew so high and so fast that they were very hard to catch, their bombers usually flew at night, and their arty spotters usually stayed behind their own lines where they were relatively hard to reach. Entente scout pilots were thus unlikely to meet any 2-seaters but the arty spotters, and those would often run back deeper into Hunland if they saw the scouts coming, forcing the Entente scouts either to let them go or chase them far off their assigned patrol station. The mission of the Entente scouts, after all, was to keep German scouts out of a given patrol area. Thus, despite there being more German 2-seaters, Entente scouts were much more likely to engage German scouts.

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Olham,

 

 

If the Red Baron shot the bison with a traditional bow i would have been very impressed for that takes a lot of skill.

 

 

this is the same topic as shooting down the newbie flying in a straight line after he is in shock. I can recall reading about a dance between Ernst Udet and a enemy fighter. The enemy fighter left Udet alone after his guns jammed early in his career. Now that was a big mistake with 62 kills to his name after the war....

 

 

"reportedly dueled with Georges Guynemer in June 1917. Udet would later write that during the dogfight, his guns jammed and the French ace broke off his attack when he saw Udet pounding on the breech of his machine gun. On 26 July 1917, he transferred to Jasta 37 where he scored fifteen victories. From there he transferred to Jasta 11 in March 1918 and Jasta 4 in May 1918". - The aerodrome

 

 

 

m

Edited by Morris

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Well, Ernst Udet was not flying at all like a newbie in shell shock - he even used a looping to get behind Guynemer.

Those two opponents had their fight, and if Guynemer let him go, then it was not for pity, but because of respect.

Militarily, it was a mistake, that has probably cost more French lifes. Personally, I can understand it.

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Good points, Wayfarer!

 

Among MvR's 80 victories, there were

12 FE2

5 DH-2

1 DH-4

1 DH-5

2 Pup

3 1 1/2 Strutter

3 Bristol Fighter

1 FE8

4 SPAD

4 Nieuport

1 Triplane

3 S.E.5a

1 Dolphin

9 Camel

(according to JFM's book "Manfred von Richthofen - the Aircraft, Myths and Accomplishments of "The Red Baron")

 

I echo your thoughts Olham. There really was nothing romantic about air combat in World War I. The idea of the chivalrous dogfight, with two pilots squaring off to duel was an anomaly during World War I. If you were a fighter pilot between 1914 and 1918, your ideal dogfight was to catch your enemy from behind and shoot him in the back before he ever knew you were there.

 

I noticed something interesting about MvR's tally. I don't see a single Be2 Quirk or an RE8 on the list. Did MvR never shoot one of those down? If that's the case, I'm surprised after reading about how these two types were essentially easy meat.

 

I also noticed that even the greatest dogfighter of World War I only bagged 3 Bristol Fighters - I bet even old Manfred was leery about tangling with them!

Edited by CaptSopwith

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I noticed something interesting about MvR's tally. I don't see a single Be2 Quirk or an RE8 on the list.

Did MvR never shoot one of those down?

My listing is not complete - I only showed the fighters here, because of the posts before.

He shot down 17 BE2 and 7 RE8.

 

I also noticed that even the greatest dogfighter of World War I only bagged 3 Bristol Fighters -

I bet even old Manfred was leery about tangling with them!

 

Other German aces have shot down more of them, like Josef Mai (10 !) from Jasta 5.

MvR wasn't the firehead, running into death for glory. He was a tactician, and a careful hunter.

He wouldn't have put his life at risk too easily (except - strangely - on his last flight, where he seemed

to have forgotten his own rules of combat).

Edited by Olham

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The very early days of the War granted they waved etc...not long into it it was a life and death struggle....I'm sure the odd occasion where they did let each other go was so rare that it became a big story....and like someone said it was for respect rather than sympathy....I'm sure watching your mates go burning down to their deaths made you hard and callous with a burning desire for revenge...and fueled by fear of it happening to you...

 

The Knights of the Sky was perpetuated by the Press at the time...whether the pilots thought they where was a different matter....

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Nothing heroic about it?Well maybe not, but surely most people would agree it would take a certain amount of guts to climb into the cockpit of a WW1 aircraft day after day and head off into all the dangers,real or imagined,of wartime flying.I'm sure even the Red Baron would admit to the occasional case of belly flutters in the heat of combat.

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If the Red Baron shot the bison with a traditional bow i would have been very impressed for that takes a lot of skill.

 

Bows are for girly-men. Real men use atlatls :cool:

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Bows are for girly-men.

I thought there was something "girly" about Robin Hood - other than the pantyhose... :grin:

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Guest British_eh

Hi there,

 

Capitaine Vengeur "Very few claims on German two-seaters, seeming that almost none of them were downed over the British part of the front. Was it a result of misidentification, or will to claim more noble targets?"

 

BH provides a keen insight into this statistic. The Rumpler CVIII recon was according to one source, victim to enemy aircraft for a total of 6 victories. These aircraft reconnoitered the Strategic Zone, at a depth of 20 miles across the lines. The other recon aircraft were primarily the Tactical Zone, so at a distance of 6 miles across the lines. 1918 proved to be a difficult time for the Germans as they were fighting 10 - 20 miles behind the Front and also lacked the resources that the Allies had; pilots, aircraft, fuel, oil, mechanics, etc.

 

Of note is the transformation of the Scouts to an allround attack weapon, as the Camels did the low groundwork such as straffing, while the SE 5a's did furhter damage by engaging ground targets, and protecting the Camels. The Bristol fighters also were multitasking, with deep forays into Hunland, and keeping watch over the SE 5a's.

 

 

Cheers,

 

British_eh

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My listing is not complete - I only showed the fighters here, because of the posts before.

He shot down 17 BE2 and 7 RE8.

 

 

 

Other German aces have shot down more of them, like Josef Mai (10 !) from Jasta 5.

MvR wasn't the firehead, running into death for glory. He was a tactician, and a careful hunter.

He wouldn't have put his life at risk too easily (except - strangely - on his last flight, where he seemed

to have forgotten his own rules of combat).

 

Ahh, forgive me, I didn't realize that recon planes weren't included. I've been incredibly sick the last few weeks with bronchitis and I guess in my cough-syrup induced stupor, I miss-read.

 

And wow, 10 Bristol Fighters! If they were anything like their digital counterparts in OFF, I wouldn't go anywhere near them!

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Capitaine Vengeur,

 

Just to back-up British_eh, so to speak, and without getting all long winded (as I have a tendency to do) I would guess that, understanding the air war as I do, that the Allied aces high preponderance of single-seater claims has to do with the dynamics of the air war and how it played out for the Germans.

I can think of about 6 reasons off the top but I promised not to be all wordy!

 

S!

Edited by DukeIronHand

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I thought there was something "girly" about Robin Hood - other than the pantyhose... :grin:

 

Not to mention the sheer impracticality of panyhose in the forest - have you seen that undergrowth?!! Honestly - more ladders than a fire-station, sweetie. And don't get me started on how many dead leaves a pair of four inch stilettos can spike up in half an hour! As for that snotty cow Marion... Maid?... Hah! One woman and a dozen horny men - go figure. Speaking of horny though, I'm telling you they don't call Much the tailor 'Much' for nothing! Oh no. No wonder he's a tailor, a codpiece that size takes a lot of sewing skill! Little John on the other hand....

 

Sorry... couldn't resist. [/Dick Emery Mode].

  • Like 1

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Olham,

 

 

If the Red Baron shot the bison with a traditional bow i would have been very impressed for that takes a lot of skill.

 

 

this is the same topic as shooting down the newbie flying in a straight line after he is in shock. I can recall reading about a dance between Ernst Udet and a enemy fighter. The enemy fighter left Udet alone after his guns jammed early in his career. Now that was a big mistake with 62 kills to his name after the war....

 

 

"reportedly dueled with Georges Guynemer in June 1917. Udet would later write that during the dogfight, his guns jammed and the French ace broke off his attack when he saw Udet pounding on the breech of his machine gun. On 26 July 1917, he transferred to Jasta 37 where he scored fifteen victories. From there he transferred to Jasta 11 in March 1918 and Jasta 4 in May 1918". - The aerodrome

 

 

 

m

This duel has been modelled in video in the Dogfights series, The First Dogfighters, Part 1/5. Visible on Youtube. Usual high standard of quality of the History Channel products.

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