February 23rd Gaming Report
Despite the snow, five players showed up for a total of four very enjoyable Dawn Patrol games at Rick Lacy's house on Saturday, February 23rd. Michael Morgan, Rick, Ethan, Stephen and Stephen Dale were all on hand.
The day produced some incredible games with every player scoring at least one kill and losing at least one pilot. An Italian medal was earned, a rare double-head-shot pilot kill was scored, and we wrapped up gaming by 4:30 pm after a big lunch of Little Ceasar's pizza and tons of snacks.
Rick Lacy had the great idea of designating our first game as a Centennial game, where each of us could fly the "4 for 4" pilots distributed to Fits Society members last year by Mike Carr.
Rick flew his German "4 for 4" Fokker DVII 185 pilot while wingman Stephen Dale opted to log his 9th mission with Albatros pilot Alex Godfrey. The Huns were opposed by two French SPAD 13's (Ethan and Michael) and a British SE5a (Stephen), all of whom were "4 for 4" pilots.
Stephen Dale got a big scare early in the game when Michael's SPAD took a shot at his high compression Albatros, scoring four hit factors and sending a bullet through his 9-mission pilot's right leg. The wound was light and Stephen Dale was able to successfully land on a forward airfield behind German lines. His pilot survived the ordeal, and Michael's new pilot was awarded the victory.
Game 2: Ten Victory German Ace Killed in Action
Stephen's initiative numbers had been poor all day and it cost him dearly in the opening round of the second mission. Flying his German Fokker DVII double ace (Ltn der Reserve Alois Parchau, 15M/10K), Stephen was forced to move first against a trio of British SE 5a's. Using their altitude advantage, the Englishmen dove to the attack. Rick's SE pilot fired a 100-foot bottom shot, scoring six hit factors of damage and a pilot wound.
Parchau was hit in the left shoulder and the wound was critical. He was unable to stay conscious long enough to land. His Fokker crashed badly between the lines, killing the top German pilot on Stephen's roster.
Ethan's 6-mission Fokker pilot was left alone in the sky against all three British planes, but he was able to make his escape.
Game 3: Yves Dies on 8th Mission ~ Giovanni Doubles for Silver Medal of Military Valor
Flying for Austria-Hungary, Ethan (Berg DI) and Rick (200 hp Oeffag Albatros DIII) met a trio of Italian Nieuport 17's over the front lines. Both Austro-Hungarians fired simultaneously on Stephen Dale's Nieuport, scoring a light pilot wound and critical tail damage. Armed with only a single, upper wing Lewis gun, Stephen Dale fought on as best he could with Ethan's Berg on his tail at 16,000 feet altitude until the wound finally caused his pilot (S/Lt Oliver Yves, 8M/1K) to pass out.
Stephen Dale regained consciousness and managed a successful descent, but his pilot crashed heavily on landing and was killed.
Meanwhile, the Nieuport's of Michael Morgan and Stephen (flying SGT Melchoire Giovanni, 17M/11K) continued fighting against Ethan and Rick. While Michael kept Ethan's Berg at bay, Stephen's Nieuport latched onto Rick's tail and fired a 6-hit burst that instantly killed the pilot.
Michael then made his escape while Stephen's double-ace tailed Ethan's Berg DI fighter in the opposite direction, firing constantly. The Berg accidentally overdove during its escape attempt and the wings failed, killing the pilot.
Stephen's pilot, SGT Melchoire Giovanni, was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor (AVM) and enhances his standing as the top Italian pilot in Dawn Patrol.
The only thing worse than getting shot in the head is when it happens twice. Stephen Dale's Albatros DV pilot fired a machine gun burst into Michael's French SPAD, with three bullets going into the cockpit.
Stephen Dale then rolled snake eyes, followed by double “2's” to score a rare double pilot hit. Both bullets went to the head, causing a critical wound.
Michael's SPAD crashed, killing the pilot and ending the fourth and final mission of the day. Stephen Dale's Albatros pilot was credited with his first confirmed kill.
Lance J. Bronnenkant
Soft cover, 136 pages
Order here: http://www.aeronautbooks.com/
I must admit that I approached this book with a bit of skepticism. After all, with hundreds of titles already in print on the topic, what else can be written about Germany's famed “Red Baron” that has not already been published?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Aeronaut Books rewards the reader with amazing, newly discovered photographs, a detailed breakdown of every known aircraft flown by Manfred von Richthofen, one of the finest short summaries of the Red Baron's career ever put on paper, as well as a refreshingly honest assessment of what is known, what is believed, and what is myth.
Give this book five minutes and you won't put it down.
“The Blue Max Airmen, Volume 5” is the fifth in a series of Aeronaut books covering the careers of German fighter pilots who were awarded the Pour le Merite (also known as the “Blue Max”) during the First World War.
The current volume covering Manfred von Richthofen is presented in 8.5x11” format with an attractive, full color cover. The stock paper chosen by Aeronaut immediately strikes the reader as very thin. However, it slims and lightens the book considerably and is sufficient to reproduce surprisingly detailed, quality photographs. At 3/8's of an inch thick, “The Blue Max Airmen, Volume 5” slides easily into a briefcase and makes a convenient companion for travel or a lunch break.
The font type is large and easily read. The main text is presented in a font similar to Times New Roman, making it recognizable and user friendly. Photo captions are clearly distinguished by an Ariel-type font to eliminate any confusion with the main text.
Photographic reproduction is excellent. Better still, the publishers anticipated the reader's desire to study photos with a magnifying glass. In addition to reproducing the entire original photos, a number of the book's previously unpublished pictures are also blown up and cropped to facilitate a close study of critical details. This is a highly useful feature that readers will quickly grow to appreciate.
Author Lance J. Bronnenkant advises the reader in the opening paragraphs that this relatively brief tome is not intended as exhaustive, and he wisely points the reader to several other lengthy accounts for further details. He then launches into an engaging 43-page summary of Richthofen's life.
I found Bronnenkant's approach particularly appealing because he relies heavily on personal letters, diaries and the memoirs of Richthofen's mother, Kunigunde Elisabeth. These personal memories unveil a number of revelations including Manfred's distaste for the popular and widely used Albatros DV fighter airplane and the long term effects of a head wound suffered in July 1917.
Bronnenkant uses Manfred's own writings to detail the pilot's growing disgust with the war and his intention to write another book to correct his “flippant” autobiography known as “The Red Combat Pilot.” This passage is perhaps among the most important in the book.
Penned by Richthofen himself, a portion of this passage reads, “The 'Red Combat Pilot' projected a much different Richthofen than how I really am and feel... it's really not like the people at home imagine, with cheers and shouting. It's all much more serious, grim...”
For decades Richthofen has been presented as the state's ideal soldier, a near automaton driven by duty and patriotism. But Richthofen's personal writings demonstrate that even the most successful and decorated soldiers in every war can eventually realize that they've been duped and are, in reality, little more than expendable pawns in the international schemes of politicians.
The impact of this revelation is monumental. Had Richthofen lived to write another book about how he truly felt, he would never have become the First World War's poster boy for “duty,” “honor,” and other propaganda terms employed to con youngsters into state service. He would have certainly refuted a great deal of what has been written about him in the past century, and he might well have been flushed down the same black hole of silence as two-time Medal of Honor recipient General Smedley Butler. It is interesting to imagine how few books might have been written on his life and how we would view Richthofen today had he lived to express these feelings publicly.
This passage is followed by an equally amazing study of two photos claimed to be the final pictures ever taken of the Red Baron. Fellow pilot Ltn. Richard Wenzl took the photos on his personal camera and specifically detailed the circumstances of the day. Wenzl claimed that Richthofen took off on his last flight shortly after the photos were taken and the book leaves the reader with the impression that, although it cannot be proven, this just might be correct.
The legendary death and ensuing controversy around Richthofen's death is recited as it is currently known. This is not a disappointment, however, because Bronnenkant gives all sides of the argument a fair hearing in a brief, matter-of-fact manner. And by this point in the book, the reader is so captivated by other new information that the manuscript has already justified itself many times over.
The biographical section is followed by a detailed summary of every airplane known to have been flown by Richthofen, stocked with previously unpublished photos and new information. Color profiles are presented for each individual aircraft pivotal to the story line, which makes this book especially functional for scale modelers and radio controlled airplane builders. A complete list of Richthofen's victories and a full index follows, which lends an unexpected completeness to a book of this length.
Bronnenkant is well known among avid World War I aviation enthusiasts. His former offerings include “The Imperial German Eagles of World War I,” previous volumes in “The Blue Max Airmen” series, and a body of work with the League of World War I Aviation Historians.
Publisher Jack Herris is best known as the founder and former owner of Flying Machines Press. His new company, Aeronaut Books, has published a number of staple works including Jim Wilberg's excellent tomes on the WWI aviation art of Jim Deitz and Russell Smith (“Knights in Canvas” and “Tumult in the Clouds” respectively).
“Blue Max Airmen, Volume 5” also includes a six-page bonus commentary by Greg VanWyngarden, one of the leading experts in German aircraft markings in World War I. VanWyngarden's involvement in any project can only be seen as a benefit by those who have studied his previous work.
The personnel involved in this publication are among the most knowledgeable World War I aviation experts in the world and their credentials afford the reader a great deal of confidence.
The Indy Squadron Dispatch highly recommends that you buy this book as fast as you can.
The few negatives I could find while reading Bronnenkant's text are so insignificant as to be unworthy of mention as legitimate complaints. Meanwhile, the story, the photos and the page-turning readability of this work make it a real gem.
For veteran World War I aviation enthusiasts, it matters not how many previous chronicles you've read on Richthofen. Despite the proliferation of material on the subject, Bronnenkant's new effort holds many fun surprises that make it a worthy addition to any bookshelf.
For newcomers looking for an introduction to World War I aviation's most hotly debated topic, you will be hard pressed to find a better and more concise work on the life of Manfred von Richthofen than “The Blue Max Airmen, Volume 5.”