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Kevin H

Oswald Boelcke: Germany's First Fighter Ace and Father of Air Combat

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Kevin H

I recently finished reading Oswald Boelcke: Germany's First Fighter Ace and Father of Air Combat  by R. G. Head. While many of you may be bored with all the military and war details, and of course that is the focus on the book, it also talks about Boelcke's character.

When he was 17 he joined a church who's moto was "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ..." and he also used this verse of scripture as the moto of his life. He would do what he could to bring his relationship with Christ into his job as a fighter pilot.  For the planes he shot down he would give them a last salute, and would do his best to learn their names. He would give them a full military funeral with pictures to help give their families closure and where they could either get the body or visit the graves after the war.

The first 6 planes he shot down had no survivors. The crew did survive his 7th victory. He landed beside them and helped them out of the wreckage, told them how happy he was that they lived and asked what he could do for them. Had them write a message to their unit and family to let them know that they were ok and risked his life to deliver the message.  He treated others who survived the same. (also, his student Manfred von  Richthofen -the Red Barron) also treated his victories the same way. I don't know if Richthofen carried on this part of Boelcke's treatment but Boelcke would send care packages to the POW camps. He said that he could not hate the enemy because we are all victims of politics.  Many of the world War 1 pilots from both sides felt this same way. Now there was one English pilot who just hated the Germans, but as he saw Boelcke's kindness he had to give up his hate.

Once a French boy fell into a canal, and he dove in full uniform to rescue him and even though the Germans were seen as enemies occupying the land, this act had many French people see him as a hero and put him in for a medal from the French government. They of course did not want to give it to a German and Germany did not want for their airman to get a medal from France, but a compromise was reached in him getting a lifesaving medal from Prussia. Shortly before his death an American paper was interviewing  him and asked him what his greatest honor was, and he had a long list, but he said that his greatest honor was that medal for saving the boy's life.

When he died (at the tender age of 25) despite being a German Protestant, a huge Catholic church in the area invited his funeral to be there with him being the first person to lie in state there. (the bishop was horrified when he found out that the church allowed this honor to a German Protestant, but the people in the church felt that he deserved the honor.) At the funeral von Richthofen said (and it has been noted that it could have also been said about von Richthofen) that Boelcke never had an enemy. And that was seen even among his "enemies" there were POWs in German POW camps who petitioned the German government to help them send flowers to the funeral, and a British plane flew over dropping a wreath with condolences from the British government and Air Force. While they did not mourn his shooting their people down, they did mourn his death because of his amazing character and integrity and kindness as well as his excellent work. His writings and tactics are still studied by militaries and Air Forces around the world.

God seems to have created in us a need for heros. The greatest ones are those who tried in their little ways to reflect the greatest hero of them all. After World War 2, Germany had to distance themselves from military power. But this distancing also brought about other problems and it was seen that they needed heroes. Bypassing the Nazis they were able to go to people like Boelcke and Richthofen  who were true men of integrity that could be held up as heroes to set as examples.

I have to admit, I got my interest in learning about Boelcke when I was thinking about the century of the passing of von Richthofen.  My interest in von Richthofen came from the song "Snoopy's Christmas" and "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" I recently learned that Charles' Schulz had the theme of Snoopy going after the Red Baron for a few reasons including: One it was a catchy name and funny for Snoopy to keep going after him to be shot down. Two Schulz was impressed with the gallantry on both sides during World War 1 and did not want these people to be forgotten to history. And third, Von Richthofen was, like Boelcke, a man of excellence and integrity, and so Snoopy did not keep loosing to some villain or bully, but to a worthy adversary.

But sadly having these great people, such as Boelcke, Von Richthofen and others who were indeed heroes from both sides of the war who died at such young ages, you can't help but wonder what life would have been like if these great men could have used their greatness in peace instead of war and if they could have lived full rich lives.

 

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dgrimm60

KEVIN

THANK YOU for posting this ==== this sounds like it would be a very interesting book

dgrimm60

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