Back during World War I, in order to fly an aeroplane (airplane) you needed to be brave, number one, and you needed skill, but it was the Germans who developed a set of combat rules that are still the norm today.
Two of the best known Fokker Eindecker (one wing, monoplane) pilots were Lieutenant Max Immelmann (You know – the famous Immelmann turn!) and Lieutenant Oswald Boelcke (that’s a postcard above showing his image above a downed French aircraft – perhaps as part of a memoriam.
Manfred von Richtofen (the Red Baron) was better known as a Triplane and biplane pilot.
It was the Fokker pilots that first devised some aerial tactics, such as when spotting an enemy aircraft, that they should be above it with the sun at their back to make themselves invisible or at least difficult to spot.
When diving at the enemy, the pilot should dive down behind the enemy and fire a burst from close range.
If the kill wasn’t executed, the Fokker should continue on its dive, then get back up to altitude and repeat the attack process.
If the enemy was an armed two-seater (one pilot, one observer/gunner), then the Fokker should dive beneath it to avoid being shot at by the observer’s fire, and then use the enemy plane’s own fuselage to block visibility and return fire. The Fokker could then fire from in close and underneath it.
These two attack formats were known as the Fokker Bounce.
Lieutenant Oswald Boelcke seems like a fascinating pilot and person to me, and I will write up a biography on him soon. As well as for Immelmann and that other guy that Snoopy was always trying to shoot down, the Red Baron and some other great pilots of the Great War.
Boelcke wrote down his rules of engagement, in his Dicta Boelcke, a set of rules for successful and survivable aerial fighter tactics.
- Try to secure the upper hand before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.
- Always follow through an attack once you have started it.
- Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.
- Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.
- In any form of attack it is essential to assail your opponent from behind.
- If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.
- When over enemy lines, never forget your line of retreat.
- For the Straffel (Squadrons): Attack in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for one opponent.
I should point out, however, that Lieutenant Oswald Boelcke actually failed to pay heed to one of his own rules – which I’ll discuss when I write about him later – which contributed to his death at the age of 25, with 40 kills to his credit.