I couldn’t imagine flying in a dog fight in the 1918 time period. Changing out the ammunition on a Fokker D Tri-wing while in combat must have been both an adrenaline rush and a death scare.
Finally the German engineers figured out a way to mount forward facing guns and developed a synchronizer so that pilots wouldn’t shoot off their own propellers during combat.
The sychronizer allowed the the guns to only fire when the propellers were not directly in front of the gun barrels. The pilot, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, Germany’s greatest WW1 fighter pilot, was shot down and killed over the Australian lines in the Western Front in France on 21 April 1918.
It was a greatly contested claim by both Canadian and Australian pilots as to who shot him down. He managed to crash land his plane before he died. There are many published accounts of this event and even published examinations of Richthofen’s body to clarify the account.
His death came after an aerial dog fight with the newer more agile British Sopwith Camel biplane .
The Baron’s guns could easily be pointed in the direction of the enemy fighter and blast them out of the sky. The ammunition could also easily be reloaded in flight, which is kind of scary, given the fact that you could crash the aircraft while trying. What an amazing story and a fantastic look back at how tough these men were.
Manfred Baron Von Richthofen was all about guns a blazing! There are some great stories out there, and some not so nice. Back then there was no way to capture the action like there is today, so many stories get twisted, mis-communicated, or simply become a persons account of what happened with little or no evidence to support any claims.
Want to learn more about Richthofen’s life and career check out this article.
Let me know what you think about WWI aerial combat.