Oswald Boelcke
Overview
 
Oswald Boelcke (ˈbœlkə; 19 May 1891 – 28 October 1916) was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 flying ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and one of the most influential patrol leaders and tacticians
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 of the early years of air combat. Boelcke is considered the father of the German fighter air force, as well as the "Father of Air Fighting Tactics"; he was the first to formalize rules of air fighting, which he presented as the Dicta Boelcke
Dicta Boelcke
The Dicta Boelcke is a list of fundamental aerial maneuvers of aerial combat formulated by the first great German flying ace of the First World War, Oswald Boelcke.-1. Try to secure the upper hand before attacking...

. While he promulgated rules for the individual pilot, his main concern was the use of formation fighting rather than single effort.

Germany's premier ace, Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen , also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I...

 (The Red Baron), had been taught by Boelcke and continued to idolize his late mentor long after he had surpassed Boelcke's tally of victories.
Boelcke was born in Giebichenstein
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

, the son of a schoolmaster.
Encyclopedia
Oswald Boelcke (ˈbœlkə; 19 May 1891 – 28 October 1916) was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 flying ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and one of the most influential patrol leaders and tacticians
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 of the early years of air combat. Boelcke is considered the father of the German fighter air force, as well as the "Father of Air Fighting Tactics"; he was the first to formalize rules of air fighting, which he presented as the Dicta Boelcke
Dicta Boelcke
The Dicta Boelcke is a list of fundamental aerial maneuvers of aerial combat formulated by the first great German flying ace of the First World War, Oswald Boelcke.-1. Try to secure the upper hand before attacking...

. While he promulgated rules for the individual pilot, his main concern was the use of formation fighting rather than single effort.

Germany's premier ace, Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen , also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I...

 (The Red Baron), had been taught by Boelcke and continued to idolize his late mentor long after he had surpassed Boelcke's tally of victories.

Early Years

Boelcke was born in Giebichenstein
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

, the son of a schoolmaster. His father's first teaching job had been in Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 from where the family had recently returned; Boelcke's three elder sibling
Sibling
Siblings are people who share at least one parent. A male sibling is called a brother; and a female sibling is called a sister. In most societies throughout the world, siblings usually grow up together and spend a good deal of their childhood socializing with one another...

s were born in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

.

His family name was originally spelt Bölcke, but Oswald and his elder brother Wilhelm dispensed with the umlaut
Umlaut (diacritic)
The diaeresis and the umlaut are diacritics that consist of two dots placed over a letter, most commonly a vowel. When that letter is an i or a j, the diacritic replaces the tittle: ï....

 and adopted the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 spelling in place of the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. The pronunciation is the same for both spellings.

Whilst he was young, Boelcke's family moved to Dessau
Dessau
Dessau is a town in Germany on the junction of the rivers Mulde and Elbe, in the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. Since 1 July 2007, it is part of the merged town Dessau-Roßlau. Population of Dessau proper: 77,973 .-Geography:...

, the capital of the Duchy
Duchy
A duchy is a territory, fief, or domain ruled by a duke or duchess.Some duchies were sovereign in areas that would become unified realms only during the Modern era . In contrast, others were subordinate districts of those kingdoms that unified either partially or completely during the Medieval era...

 of Anhalt
Anhalt
Anhalt was a sovereign county in Germany, located between the Harz Mountains and the river Elbe in Middle Germany. It now forms part of the state of Saxony-Anhalt.- Dukes of Anhalt :...

. As a youth he caught whooping cough; in order to build up his stamina, he became increasingly involved in playing sports but retained a tendency towards asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

 throughout his life. Among his athletic pursuits were swimming, tennis, rowing, and gymnastics. However, he never did become very large; in later life, he was described as being about 5 feet 7 inches tall.

Oswald Boelcke was studious as well as athletic; he excelled at mathematics and physics. His father was a nationalist and a militarist; under his influence, the 13-year-old Boelcke had the audacity to write a personal letter to the Kaiser requesting an appointment to military school. His wish was granted, and he attended Cadets School.

After leaving school he joined Telegraphen-Bataillon Nr. 3 in Koblenz
Koblenz
Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

 as a Fahnenjunker (cadet officer) in March 1911; he received a Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n officer commission a year later.

1914

In mid-1914, Boelcke transferred to what was then known as the Fliegertruppe. His flight training took place from May to August at the Halberstädter Fliegerschule. He passed his final pilot's exam on 15 August 1914. He was then immediately posted to active duty. Due to the influence of his elder brother, Hauptmann
Hauptmann
Hauptmann is a German word usually translated as captain when it is used as an officer's rank in the German, Austrian and Swiss armies. While "haupt" in contemporary German means "main", it also has the dated meaning of "head", i.e...

 Wilhelm Boelcke, Boelcke was initially posted to Fliegerabteilung 13 (Aviation Section 13), of which Wilhelm was a member. Boelcke won an Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

 Second Class for flying 50 missions with this unit, in company with his brother. They were such a successful team they aroused antipathy in other members of the section. As a result, Wilhelm was transferred away from his brother.

1915

At his own instigation, Boelcke transferred to Fliegerabteilung 62 in April 1915 which was based at Douai
Douai
-Main sights:Douai's ornate Gothic style belfry was begun in 1380, on the site of an earlier tower. The 80 m high structure includes an impressive carillon, consisting of 62 bells spanning 5 octaves. The originals, some dating from 1391 were removed in 1917 during World War I by the occupying...

. This was a reconnaissance unit using LVG
LVG
Luftverkehrsgesellschaft m.b.H. was a German aircraft manufacturer based in Berlin-Johannisthal, which began constructing aircraft in 1912, building Farman-type aircraft. The company constructed many reconnaissance and light bomber biplanes during World War I.The raid on London in 1916 was...

 two-seater aircraft to observe and adjust artillery fire.

In July 1915, Boelcke, Max Immelmann
Max Immelmann
Max Immelmann was the first German World War I flying ace. He was a great pioneer in fighter aviation and is often mistakenly credited with the first aerial victory using a synchronized gun...

, Otto Parschau
Otto Parschau
Leutnant Otto Parschau was a German World War I Flying Ace and recipient of the Pour le Mérite, Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, and Iron Cross, First Class. He was noted as one of the pre-eminent aces on the Fokker Eindecker...

 and Kurt Wintgens
Kurt Wintgens
Leutnant Kurt Wintgens was a German World War I fighter ace. He was the first military fighter pilot to score a victory over an opposing aircraft in an aircraft armed with a synchronized machine gun. Wintgens was the recipient of the Iron Cross and the Blue Max.-Background:Wintgens was born into a...

, were given access to three of the five constructed prototype aircraft production model Fokker M.5K/MG examples of the Fokker E.I
Fokker E.I
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Boyne, Walter J. The Smithsonian Book of Flight for Young People. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1988. ISBN 0-689-31422-1....

 aircraft. These types were fitted with a synchronized forward-firing air-cooled Parabellum
Parabellum MG14
The Parabellum MG14 was a 7.9 mm caliber World War I machine gun built by Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken. It was an adaptation of their Maschinengewehr 08 gun intended for use on aircraft and zeppelins. The MG08's belt-style ammunition feed was enclosed in a drum, the recoil casing was...

 machine gun slaved to a gun synchronizer
Interrupter gear
An interrupter gear is a device used on military aircraft and warships in order to allow them to target opponents without damaging themselves....

 that prevented accidentally shooting the Fokker's propeller. Leutnant Parschau had been the first person of this group to work with Fokker in developing the Eindecker
Fokker Eindecker
The Fokker Eindecker was a German World War I monoplane single-seat fighter aircraft designed by Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker. Developed in April 1915, the Eindecker was the first purpose-built German fighter aircraft and the first aircraft to be fitted with synchronizer gear, enabling the pilot...

 as a prototype fighter, and received the first example of the M.5K/MG, with military serial "E.1/15", with Boelcke getting the third example, "E.3/15", which he first flew on 7 July. Use of the type by operational units was restricted; the provision being that they were to be flown when pilots were not flying reconnaissance missions in their two seaters. They were considered so revolutionary that orders had been given that they wouldn't be risked over enemy lines for fear of capture.

Wintgens, flying the last-produced example of the M.5K/MG "E.5/15", made the first victory claim with the new aircraft, on 1 July 1915, but it went unconfirmed because it fell behind French lines. Historians have since identified the aircraft and crew as being a Morane-Saulnier
Morane-Saulnier
Aéroplanes Morane-Saulnier is a French aircraft manufacturing company formed in October 1911 by Raymond Saulnier and the Morane brothers, Leon and Robert...

 crewed by Capitaine Paul de Peuty and Sous-Lieutenant de Boutiny, who were both wounded.

In the meantime, while flying a two-seater, Boelcke's observer (Leutnant Heinz von Wǘhlisch) shot down their first enemy aircraft on 4 July 1915, in a protracted running fight between reconnaissance craft. Boelcke landed near the French aircraft's wreckage and verified the death of the crew. On that same day, Wintgens had another unconfirmed win. Wintgens finally got credit for a triumph on 15 July.

Boelcke won his first individual aerial combat on 19 August 1915. Just nine days later, he was a hero on the ground. He dived into a canal near his aerodrome, fully clothed, and rescued a drowning French boy, Albert DePlace. The child's parents wanted Boelcke to be awarded the French Legion d'Honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

; instead, he received the Prussian Lifesaving Medal.

On 22 September, Boelcke was moved to Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

, joining the Brieftauben-Abteilung-Metz unit but was moved back to FA 62 in December. He downed four more enemy aircraft before the end of the year. Max Immelmann had scored his first victory just before Boelcke's first, on 1 August. He and Boelcke had a "horse race" of victories, with first one rival leading, then the other, as they left Wintgens behind. The deadly effect of the new aircraft on aerial combat was beginning to be referred to as the Fokker Scourge
Fokker Scourge
The Fokker Scourge was a term coined by the British press in the summer of 1915 to describe the then-current ascendancy of the Fokker Eindecker monoplane fighters of the German Fliegertruppen over the poorly-armed Allied reconnaissance types of the period....

. On 1 November, the day after his sixth victory, Boelcke became the first German pilot to win the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern. Immelmann duplicated the feat six days later.

By the end of 1915, Immelmann had seven victories, Boelcke had six, and Wintgens and Hans-Joachim Buddecke had three.

Boelcke wins the "ace race"

Boelcke had three more "kills" in January 1916; Immelman had two, in the same month, Boelcke and Immelmann also were the first German fliers to be awarded the Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite
The Pour le Mérite, known informally as the Blue Max , was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German soldiers until the end of World War I....

, Germany's highest military medal, as each pilot achieved the required eight aerial victories to earn it on the same day, 12 January.

In March 1916, Boelcke emerged from a stay in hospital for intestinal problems, and upon complaining he was stationed too far from the front at Jametz, was given permission to use the forward airfield at Sivry
Sivry
Sivry is a village in Burgundy.It is part of the Commune of Saisy in Saône-et-Loire département...

 near the Verdun offensive. Boelcke then connected a front line observation post to the airfield, and thus established the first tactical air direction center. He was made leader of the newly formed Fliegerabteilung Sivery and led them in action over Verdun. This unit of six fighter pilots was the precursor of the Jasta German fighter squadron units. The new fighter unit was stationed near Stenay, which was the headquarters of Crown Prince Wilhelm. A friendship developed between the Crown Prince and the ace.

The ace race was still on; Boelcke became the first Überkanone with his 10th victory on 12 March; the following day, even as he scored, Immelmann scored one of the first double victories of the war to tie it up at 11 all. The dead heat lasted for a week; on 19 March, Boelcke used his usual tactics of pointblank fire to kill the enemy pilot and saw off his Farman's wing with machine gun fire, for win number 12. Immelmann telephoned to congratulate him and ask him for an opportunity to catch up; Boelcke jokingly offered him a week's grace. Boelcke's victory two days later may be seen as symptomatic of his disregard for Immelmann.

By this time, the unpopular Fokker E.III
Fokker E.III
|-See also:...

 was being replaced by newer Halberstadt
Halberstadt D.II
The Halberstadt D.II was a biplane fighter aircraft of the Luftstreitkräfte that served through the period of Allied air superiority in early 1916, but had begun to be superseded in the Jagdstaffeln by the superior Albatros fighters by the autumn of that year.-Design and development:The D.II was...

 and Albatros
Albatros D.I
|-See also:...

 aircraft with synchronized guns. The French had countered the "Fokker Scourge" with fast new Nieuports; the British also countered, with pusher aircraft that could fire in their direction of flight without need of synchronizing gear. Boelcke focused on developing his own counter methods: flying in tight formations, accurate gunnery in combat and remaining within his own German lines.

By 18 May, Boelcke established his lead over Immelmann for good, 16 victories to 15, to become the highest scoring ace in the war up to that time.

After Immelmann was killed on 18 June 1916 after his 17th victory, Boelcke, who then had 18 victories, was left the preeminent ace of the war. Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered Boelcke grounded for a month to avoid losing him in combat soon after Immelmann. He had become such an important hero to the German public, as well as such an authority on aerial warfare, that he could not be risked. Given a choice between a desk job and a tour of the Middle East, Boelcke downed a Nieuport
Nieuport
Nieuport, later Nieuport-Delage, was a French aeroplane company that primarily built racing aircraft before World War I and fighter aircraft during World War I and between the wars.-Beginnings:...

 over Douaumont
Douaumont
Douaumont is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.The village was destroyed during World War I. Today the Douaumont ossuary, which contains the remains of more than 100,000 unknown soldiers of both French and German nationalities found on the battlefield, stands...

 on 27 June and reported to headquarters. Boelcke was detailed to share his expertise with the head of German military aviation. The German air force was being reorganized from the Fliegertruppe into the Luftstreitkräfte
Luftstreitkräfte
The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte , known before October 1916 as Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches , or simply Die Fliegertruppen, was the air arm of the Imperial German Army during World War I...

in mid-1916; this reorganization was inspired by Boelcke. At this time, Boelcke codified his Dicta, which was a distillation of his successful tactics. He also shared his views on creation of a fighter arm, and the organization of fighter squadrons.

Boelcke was sent on a tour of the Balkans. He transited Austria to visit Turkey. On the return trip he visited Bulgaria and the Russian Front
Eastern Front (World War I)
The Eastern Front was a theatre of war during World War I in Central and, primarily, Eastern Europe. The term is in contrast to the Western Front. Despite the geographical separation, the events in the two theatres strongly influenced each other...

. Along the way, he interviewed pilots. Boelcke was visiting Wilhelm in Kovel
Kovel
Kovel is a city located in the Volyn Oblast , in northwestern Ukraine. Serving as the administrative center of the Kovelskyi Raion , the city itself is also designated as a separate raion within the oblast. The current estimated population is around 65,777.Kovel gives its name to one of the...

 when he received a telegram from Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen
Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen
General Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen, born Hermann Thomsen, was a German military aviation pioneer, a senior air commander in the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I and a founding father of the German military aviation.-Early life and military career:Hermann Thomsen was born on...

 appointing him to raise, organize and command Royal Prussian Jagdstaffel 2.

Creation of Jasta Boelcke

He was given permission by the head of German aviation, Feldflugchef (Aviation Chief of Staff) Oberstleutnant Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen, to choose his own pilots to form a fighter squadron. Along the way, he interviewed pilots. Among his first selections upon his return were Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen , also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I...

, Erwin Böhme
Erwin Böhme
Erwin Böhme , Pour le Mérite, was a German pilot during World War I. He was born in Holzminden, grew into an athletic sportsman, and became a flying ace during the war credited with 24 victories. He was a both a close friend and a military subordinate of Oswald Boelcke and was inadvertently...

 and Hans Reimann.

Boelcke was appointed commander of his hand-picked group of pilots on 30 August 1916. Three squadrons were the first ones founded, on 10 August 1916, but among them, Jagdstaffel 2 became the premier German unit. It ended the war with 20 aces among its members, a total of 336 victories, and a casualty list of only 44. In the beginning, however, Boelcke started with only the empty buildings vacated by FFA 32 in the Vélu
Vélu
Vélu is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.-Geography:Vélu is situated some southeast of Arras, at the junction of the D18 and the D18E roads.-Population:-Places of interest:...

 Woods. As of 27 August, the fledgling jasta had three officers and 64 other ranks on strength, but no aircraft. But as of 8 September, there were eight pilots on board, including Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen , also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I...

 and Erwin Böhme
Erwin Böhme
Erwin Böhme , Pour le Mérite, was a German pilot during World War I. He was born in Holzminden, grew into an athletic sportsman, and became a flying ace during the war credited with 24 victories. He was a both a close friend and a military subordinate of Oswald Boelcke and was inadvertently...

. Three days later, Böhme noted he was pushing for permission to use his castoff Halberstadt
Halberstadt
Halberstadt is a town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt and the capital of the district of Harz. It is located on the German Half-Timbered House Road and the Magdeburg–Thale railway....

, since Boelcke had a Fokker; there seemed to be four aircraft in the squadron by then. On 16 September, Boelcke's new squadron received five new Albatros D.I
Albatros D.I
|-See also:...

s for the pilots, and an improved Albatros D.II
Albatros D.II
|-See also:...

 for the Staffelfuhrer
Staffelführer
Staffelführer was one of the first paramilitary ranks used by the German Schutzstaffel in the early years of that group’s existence...

. Boelcke promptly put the new fighters in the air on the first-ever fighter unit effort to gain local air superiority. At 1300 hours 16 September, Boelcke and five of his pilots took off; they intercepted a British bombing raid on Marcoing
Marcoing
-References:*...

 Railway Station. While Boelcke held aside, his five tyros bounced a British formation of 14 planes, broke it up, and shot down two. The master himself added another.

Boelcke shot down 10 Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 aircraft in his first month with Jasta 2, September 1916. He would fly a solo mission in the morning and return to his "cubs", who would ask if he had scored again. He would ask them if his chin was black with burnt cordite from his machine guns' breech. If it was, he had fired his gun and scored. However, in contrast to his freebooting style, his pilots always flew in disciplined formations in practice, and he repeatedly drilled them in his tactics. Among them were his famed combat rules, called "Boelcke's Dicta"
Dicta Boelcke
The Dicta Boelcke is a list of fundamental aerial maneuvers of aerial combat formulated by the first great German flying ace of the First World War, Oswald Boelcke.-1. Try to secure the upper hand before attacking...

, which were the first systematic analysis of air combat and continued to be applicable through World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Despite his run of personal successes, Boelcke's attitude is best expressed thus, in his own words: "Everything depends on sticking together when the Staffel goes into battle. It does not matter who actually scores the victory as long as the Staffel wins." He not only preached this doctrine to his own "cubs"; he proselytized throughout the Luftstreitkräfte
Luftstreitkräfte
The Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte , known before October 1916 as Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches , or simply Die Fliegertruppen, was the air arm of the Imperial German Army during World War I...

. He wrote upon his ideas, sketched them out and delivered them in person to other aerodromes.

Death in action

Boelcke set out on 28 October 1916 for his sixth sortie of the day with his two best pilots, Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen , also widely known as the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I...

 and Erwin Böhme
Erwin Böhme
Erwin Böhme , Pour le Mérite, was a German pilot during World War I. He was born in Holzminden, grew into an athletic sportsman, and became a flying ace during the war credited with 24 victories. He was a both a close friend and a military subordinate of Oswald Boelcke and was inadvertently...

, and three others. Before they had set out on their attack, Boelcke, rushing to get ready, failed to properly strap on his safety belt. The patrol eventually led them into a dogfight with single-seater DH.2 fighters
Airco DH.2
|-DH.2 aces:Distinguished pilots of the DH.2 included Victoria Cross winner Lanoe Hawker , who was the first commander of No 24 Squadron and ace Alan Wilkinson. The commander of No. 32 Squadron, Lionel Rees won the Victoria Cross flying the D.H.2 for single handedly attacking a formation of 10...

 from No. 24 squadron RFC
No. XXIV Squadron RAF
No. 24 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the C-130J Hercules C.4 and C.5 from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.-As a fighter squadron:...

.

In the ensuing dogfight, Boelcke and Böhme, unaware of each other's presence, closed in on the same aircraft, flown by Captain Arthur Knight. Von Richthofen dived in on the flight path of that very same aircraft; he was chasing the other DH.2, piloted by Lieutenant Alfred Edwin McKay
Alfred Edwin McKay
Captain Alfred Edwin “Eddie” McKay MC was a Canadian flying ace who flew with the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War.- Civilian Life :...

. Boelcke swerved to avoid a collision with the interceding aircraft. Böhme's landing gear brushed Boelcke's upper wing. As the fabric peeled off the upper wing of his aircraft, Boelcke struggled for control. He and his aircraft fell out of sight into a cloud. When it emerged, the top wing was gone. However, Boelcke made a relatively soft crash-landing. The impact seemed survivable. However, his lap belt did not restrain him, and he never wore a helmet when he flew.

Minutes later, the pilot's lifeless body was pulled from his smashed Albatros D.II
Albatros D.II
|-See also:...

. The great Oswald Boelcke, victor of 40 aerial engagements, was dead at age 25.

Both Böhme and Richthofen left descriptions of the catastrophe. Richthofen's account, from his memoirs:

Böhme also remarked, "Why did he, the irreplaceable, have to be the victim of this blind fate, and why not I?"

Böhme, blaming himself for Boelcke's death, had to be talked out of committing suicide. As the Fatherland mourned, Boelcke was buried with full honors at his aerodrome in Cambrai
Cambrai
Cambrai is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Cambrai is the seat of an archdiocese whose jurisdiction was immense during the Middle Ages. The territory of the Bishopric of Cambrai, roughly coinciding with the shire of Brabant, included...

. The Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 dropped a wreath a day later over Jasta 2 which read, "To the memory of Captain Boelcke, a brave and chivalrous foe."

In honor of their great leader, Jasta 2 was officially named "Jasta Boelcke" on 17 December 1916, a name the squadron still bears to this very day. Erwin Böhme was killed exactly one year, one month, and one day after his collision with Boelcke.

In the end, Boelcke had died because of a violation of one of his own dicta, which stated to never close in on a single combatant when others are also pursuing it.

Orders and Medals

Prussian / Imperial German
  • Pour le Mérite
    Pour le Mérite
    The Pour le Mérite, known informally as the Blue Max , was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German soldiers until the end of World War I....

    , 12 January 1916, after his eighth victory
  • Iron Cross
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

    , First Class, January 27, 1915
  • Iron Cross
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

    , Second Class, December 10, 1914
  • Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight’s Cross with Swords, 1 November 1916, after his sixth victory
  • Life Saving Medal, 12 December 1915, for saving Albert DePlace from drowning in the canal, 29 August 1915


Duchy of Anhalt
  • House Order of Albert the Bear, Knight’s Cross, First Class
  • House Order of Albert the Bear, Knight’s Cross, Second Class
  • Friedrich Cross, Second Class


Kingdom of Bavaria
  • Military Merit Order, Fourth Class with Swords


Other
  • Military Order for Bravery, Third Class (Kingdom of Bulgaria), 9 August 1916
  • Turkish War Medal of 1915 (Ottoman Empire), awarded personally by Enver Pascha, 15 July 1916
  • Imtiyaz Medal
    Imtiyaz Medal
    The Imtiyaz Medal / Imtiaz Medal or Nishan-i-Imtiaz was an Ottoman military decoration, instituted in 1882. It was presented in two classes, gold and silver. The gold medal was the highest Ottoman military decoration for gallantry. When awarded during World War I, the medal was worn with a...

     (Ottoman Empire)

External links

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