Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Hauksbee

Who's the Aussie that got von Richtofen?

Recommended Posts

Since modern scholarship has fairly well determined that it was an Australian MG crew, and not Roy Brown, who fired the shots that brought von Richtofen down, do we know what unit they were from? The names of the gun crew? The man firing the gun that day?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everyone knows it was a certain beagle mounted upon his sturdy dogho- errr, I mean, his Sopwith Triplane! :grin:

 

All seriousness aside, though, this paper goes into a great deal of depth on the subject. Have a look!

 

Best,

 

Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PBS's show, NOVA, ran an episode many years ago (but they re-run it every April) where they reenacted the whole thing and all the theories. They proved that it couldn't have been Brown. Most likely it was Sergeant C. B. Popkin, a Vickers gunner with the 24th Machine Gun Company.

 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/red-baron-theories.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoever fired the lethal round - and there must have been many men firing after the "Little Red One" -

after all it was von Richthofen himself, who was responsible for his own death.

He had broken his own rules, went down low with an enemy plane, followed it into enemy terrain low,

was totally target-fixated, and so exposed himself to maybe a hundred men shooting at him.

Even nine lives end one day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think he just had bad luck. He had been through dangerous situations many times before, but had always survived them.

 

All it takes is a single bullet to the right spot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He had broken his own rules, went down low with an enemy plane, followed it into enemy terrain low,

was totally target-fixated, and so exposed himself to maybe a hundred men shooting at him.

Good point. Despite the murky evidence, I'll cast my vote for Sgt. Popkin.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with NS13Jarhead, I'm sure I've seen a program that did it's phorensic best to determine who fired the shot. I seem to recall near certainty the shot came from the ground, not another aircraft, and that if it wasn't Sgt Popkin, it was someone else in that immediate area.

 

Popkin nearly shot himself in the foot claiming he killed the Red Baron as he flew straight towards him, when the single 303 round enterted in the armpit from the rear and exited through the breast, but Popkin actually had two bursts at separate moments, and the trajectories did fit from Popkin's weapon for the second pass.

 

The trajectory is what ruled out another aircraft, added to the timing. The Baron could only have lived a very short time with the injury he sustained to his heart and lungs, but immediately after Browns attack, he had sought to re-aquire his original target. It seems implicit in his doing that, that he hadn't yet been hit.

 

Not withstanding the program, I am absolutely no ballistics expert, but having tried to down a 1/5 size model aircraft with a Gimpy on a firing range, it was incredibly hard just to hit the target when flying straight towards you with a 1000 round belt and a good mount for the gun. It is possible the round might have been a single 303 shot from a rifle, but such a shot would be the proverbial one in a million, and guided by chance or destiny, but not marksmanship - in my opinion. Popkins air gunnery? - Get's my vote. He'd certainly have put a lot more lead nearer the target than a rifleman.

Edited by Flyby PC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Flyby,

 

Don't ever discount the one in a million shot. They do happen.

 

THIS IS A TRUE STORY: When I was in Somalia in March of 1993, we were enjoying a relatively quiet day - no gunfire or explosions. While out walking through the port, our maintenance officer felt a sting in his leg. He looked down and saw a hole in the cargo pocket on the side of his thigh. He then unbuttoned his pocket, pulled out his 1/2 inch thick canvas covered notebook. It had a hole in one side and about 90% of an AK47 round sticking out of the other. He went to the medical tent and they cleaned the wound up with hydrogen peroxide, filled it with neosporin, slapped a 2"x2" bandage on it and sent him on his way - no stitches. We figured that the rifle that shot him was fired at an upward angle from so far away, we didn't even hear the gunshot and the bullet had lost so much velocity that the notebook almost stopped it. A couple of days later, the casualty control office in Washington DC sent us a message to award him the Purple Heart for wounds received. They presented it to him at the same ceremony where I was promoted to Captain, the 1st of April - April Fools Day! BELIEVE IT OR NOT!

Edited by NS13Jarhead

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You mean, your promotion to Captain might not have been meant seriously?

But then, after the drinks, they all forgot it was an April foolsday joke, and so

you went up the ladder higher and higher from there ?

:grin:

 

But seriously - I have often wondered what happened with all the rounds fired

in the air, especially by Arabian partisans - somewhere they must come down.

The chance must be quite small that they kill somebody (like in "The Mexican"),

but still - maybe somewhere in the Arabian world, somebody died from a head

shot with a vertical entrance wound?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is no 100% proof just good theories, and so we cannot totally rule out anything.

I still think MvR could have rolled /banked at some point and been hit from anywhere including Brown. He could have been shot a few minutes earlier and managed to carry on with his willpower - very strong guy mentally obviously. Even something like 35-40 degrees bank or combined with slight dive angle whatever would give the rear under arm exposed. He could even have been leaning forward or trying to unjam a gun. Everyone always assumes he was perfectly horizontal all the time.

 

Maybe the bullet dropped as Jarhead says. Maybe brown fired from great distance out of frustration and it got help from a ricochet. Maybe off Popkin's bullet ;)

Also he was hit by a "lucky" long range shot previously in the head by one of those 2 seaters he loved to shoot down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A quick google reveals on 17th January 1943 there were 23 people killed in London by anti aircraft shells meant for the Luftwaffe falling back to earth. Not really surprising since there were tens if not hundereds of thousands fired, and what goes up must come down.

 

The SLR we used had a big 762 calibre round the same calibre as an AK47 and had an effective range of over a mile, but the round could still kill a man at three. Not considered effective range because you couldn't aim the shot, but ND's (negligent discharges) were taken VERY seriously, and when firing off the empty mechanism as part of your unload/safety drill, you kept the barrel down range and still aimed the shot just in case. All those guys firing into the air? Not really all that clever.... And a waste of ammo, and you have to clean your weapon for nothing. I'd love to have seen someone do that in front of our NCO's. They'd have eaten him alive most probably. We were once threatened we'd be "Marched up and down until our hairy little legs wore out and then put on a charge for 'arseing' around on the parade ground". :salute:

 

 

 

Edit, Hmmm. I wonder. Looking at that map of the incident, I wonder if mission builder could cope with the timings and altitudes to recreate the angles of the dogfight and have yourself in a watching viewpoint roughly where Popkin was firing.... You'd need to write the quo-ordinates and altitude manually I suspect, but it might be worth having a go....Virtual pint for anybody who can flag up a correspondingly accurate location in the OFF map and scenery.

 

 

 

To me that flightpath looks very much like an instant 'ouch' I've got to land, now! The reports say the wound would only have given 30 seconds or so of life.

Edited by Flyby PC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before his death he had on several occasions found holes, or even whole enemy rounds (!) in his flying suit or boots.

So I repeat - nine lives were definitely all used up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I was a gambling man, or better yet a bookie, I wouldn't give odds on a 'lucky' shot if the target was to fly in aerial combat with machine gun armed ardersaries, over territory studded with hostile anti-aircraft artillery, machine guns and general small arms fire, during the biggest war there had ever been while flying a bright red distinctive aircraft synonimous with having killed a disproportionate number of enemy pilots. At every stage, luck is having less and less to do with it.

 

Perhaps the element of 'luck' is that it didn't happen sooner. Lady Luck is a fickle mistress as they say.

 

I hate to talk about the death of a very brave man in such cold and heartless terms, because that's not the way I feel about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No takers for a recon mission to find a suitable map location? I don't mind having a crack at the mission but I'm in the middle of things and pressed for time to look myself. I don't suppose it's critical to be the actual place, more a close similartity to the topography and landscape, but we all might learn something if the data put in is the best possible.

 

How about a competition to build the fatal mission and see if we can devise any new theories? I'm quite serious. The enquiries into what happened had no such abilitiy to do this, and we're perhaps in a unique position to give it a go. - IF mission builder is up to such high definition missions. 3 aircraft, 1 firing point on the ground and a 'known' flight path.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

True story...

 

I knew a guy who was leaving SA to go back to the UK. Part of the procedure is to get a signed clearance from the Income Tax to say you are paid up to date. He had to cancel his flight because his income tax guy was killed by a bullet while watching a Rugby match at Ellis Park in Joburg.

 

It turned out the bullet came from a pistol fired upwards from a block of flats quite a way away.

 

Strangely enough I now work with an HR guy who found out who did it. I can't remember what the courts did.

 

One in a million....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FlyBy, the location of MvR's last fight, and the spot where he came down, are known.

Also a lot of theories have been developed, and some of them have even been re-enacted.

 

Here is Part 3 of a "History Channel" re-inactment. I don't always like their "historical" researches, but this one looks quite smart.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcE1A6hoagE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FlyBy, the location of MvR's last fight, and the spot where he came down, are known.

Also a lot of theories have been developed, and some of them have even been re-enacted.

 

Here is Part 3 of a "History Channel" re-inactment. I don't always like their "historical" researches, but this one looks quite smart.

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=AcE1A6hoagE

 

 

Yes, but I don't mean the actual location. I mean a place in the OFF map which resembles the actual location to attempt recreating a visual interpretation of what Popkin saw looking down his gun barrel.

 

 

Edit -

I just watched that Olham. It's a bit long for my download, but it was worth watching, and they did exactly what I was planning, although I wanted it with the OFF perspective.

 

I almost stopped watching when she started talking about aiming a shot with a machinegun at 600 yards. 'Aim' with a machine gun is not the same as aim with a rifle. With a gun, you wouldn't concern yourself with minor corrections and accuracy because a machinegun is not designed to shoot like that and won't put two rounds in the same place anyway. You do aim as best you might, but just start firing, and use the line of tracer as a 'hose' you correct and try to bring into contact with the target. Takes a lot of rounds and it's incredibly difficult.When we fired on the model, you only used the gun sight to open up, then lifted your eye above the sight because it and the smoke etc of fired and ejecting rounds obscured your view of the tracer.Machineguns clatter and jump around to much to aim in the conventional sense.The object is to pepper the general area of the target and hope you get a lucky kill or two.

Edited by Flyby PC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about a competition to build the fatal mission and see if we can devise any new theories? I'm quite serious. The enquiries into what happened had no such abilitiy to do this, and we're perhaps in a unique position to give it a go. - IF mission builder is up to such high definition missions. 3 aircraft, 1 firing point on the ground and a 'known' flight path.

 

Build it and I will come.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah that's what I thought about the "aiming" too.

I have fired a German machine gun once, and it is quite impossible to aim at anything else but a certain area.

Against aircraft, the trick is to use good deflection shooting.

Good means, to know how much in front of the aircraft you have to fire, and how much the rounds may drop

on their way. But I guess they just fired after him like mad.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But I guess they just fired after him like mad.

Right. At 800 yards, I'm sure there was a lot of "Spray and Pray"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree to a point, but shooting at that model was great fun, and a novelty, but nevertheless, it felt like something you could get pretty good at with enough practice and ammo.

 

Nevertheless, if that program is correct, 800 yards is still a long way away, and two, three, even four times the distance before a rifleman would even try his luck on an iron sight. Even 200m on a moving target traveling around 100mph is still a highly optimistic shot to make with a rifle. You've no spread of shot like a shotgun has shooting clays. When you miss, there's no perspective or ground strike to clue you in how far to correct your aim, and even if there was, your target has moved 20 or 30 yards in a few seconds anyway.

 

Here I am blethering away like I'm some kind of expert at this. I'm definitely not that, but if you want to get a pretty good measure how difficult it is, crank up your CFS3 and f8 yourself into the waist gun of a B17 and see how many hits you get from a 1000 rounds. The tail gunner is tough too, but the relative speeds between you and following fighter make hits slightly easier. You don't get those 'easy' shots with the waist guns, every shot is a deflection shot. I wouldn't say that's exactly what it's like, but I find that it's difficult for the same reasons as shooting at the real thing was difficult.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thinking about the 800m - might be right enough.

 

100mph is around 44m per second, so an aircraft would take 18 to 20 seconds to travel 800m directly towards to you. Firing 400 rounds a minute, there's only time to get 130 or so rounds in the air before he's overhead, of which only 24 are going to be tracer rounds. If you DONT start firing at 800m, your target is going to be long gone before you get your tracer lined up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could he also have aimed well ahead of the target and let it fly through the stream of bullits like ww2 air gunners did , just a thought .

 

 

 

cheers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could he also have aimed well ahead of the target and let it fly through the stream of bullits like ww2 air gunners did , just a thought .

He definitely would have. It's a 90 deg.deflection shot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..