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My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Paul Marchal

Link - Posted by David on January 10, 2018 @ 6:00 am in

AMIDST all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Lieutenant Paul Marchal of the French Flying Corps!

Paul Marchal joined the colors on the first day war was declared, and it was he that answered the challenge of that bold German, lieutenant Max Immelmann, when the latter bombed Paris with leaflets calling for surrender. Immelmann had to fly a matter of but a hundred kilometers, or less, to get over the city of Paris. But when Marchal answered his challenge with an identical flight to Berlin, he had to fly 8QO kilometers.

The fact that Marchal succeeded in bombing Berlin with leaflets proves his unusual courage and daring. Marchal was the first sky fighter to be captured by the Germans. Likewise he was the first to make his escape from a German prison camp and rejoin his squadron after a trek through hostile Germany that reads like a page from epic literature. Before his flaming career on the front was inadvertently halted, young Paul Marchal was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Medal Militaire, and the Cross of the Legion d’Honneur. He told the story below upon his return to France after escaping from Germany.

 

BOMBING BERLIN

by Lieutenant Paul Marchal • Sky Fighters, April 1936

THE idea of a flight over Berlin bloomed suddenly in my dumb brain. Of course, if my motor should fail, or the avion falter, or should I run into contrary winds and had weather, I was doomed to failure. But I was willing and anxious to try.

Finally mon-commandant reluctantly consented. Then began the period of preparation. I had charted my course over Germany, intending to fly down the valley of the Moselle into the Rhine, then along the Rhine until it veered off suddenly to the left. After reaching Berlin, and dropping my leaflets, I was going to bend off to the right and make a try for Poland, the terrain of our Russian allies.

To lessen weight, I dispensed with all guns except a small pistol with a single full cylinder of ammunition. The day was just dawning, when my avion was wheeled from the hangar and faced toward the east. I shook hands all around, then took my place in the cockpit. After a long run I got into the air, and headed straight for the trenches, waving back over my shoulder as I left my comrades behind. Would I ever see them again? I did not know.

Over the trenches I was fired at. Some of the bullets made holes in my wings. One or two enemy avions I spied, or thought I did. But in the half light they did not see me. When it was fully light, I was far behind the enemy lines.

Over Unknown Terrain

The winding Moselle heaves into view. I course along it until it empties into the Rhine, then I follow up the Rhine. It is a splendid day.

I have been hours in the air it seems when I must leave the Rhine and strike out over terrain unknown to me. But I have studied my carte Taride well, and I recognize the cities as I fly over them.

Finally Berlin looms beneath me. I am very high now. Over the Unter den Linden I fly, tossing my leaflets out on both sides. They flutter down like snowflakes.

But I am not to get out of Berlin without being shot at, and enemy avions come up, too. But I am so high that I run far from Berlin before they can reach my elevation . . . and they give up the chase.

Flight Toward Poland

Kilometer after kilometer, I fly in a straight line for Poland. I think I am going to make it when I see the Polish villages across the border line far ahead of me. But no, I am still 30 kilometers or so away, when my engine starts to spit.

I am still 20 kilometers from the Polish border when I am forced to spiral down and light on a plowed field. Being so near the border, there are many soldiers, and they run towards my avion as it volplanes down. I consider if I should use my pistol and make a fight of it. But I decide not to. There are too many against me.

That is all there is to it. I was taken prisoner and sent to a prison camp in Silesia, but I have made the longest flight in the war. And I have scattered French leaflets over the German capital. I had delivered my answer, France’s answer to Max Immelmann and the Imperial Army. The people of Berlin knew now that they were no longer safe from attacks by air.

Next Time: LIEUTENANT NORMAN PRINCE

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieutenant Max Immelmann

Link - Posted by David on January 25, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Lieutenant Max Immelmann’s most thrilling sky fight!

LIEUTENANT Max Franz Immelmann was the first of the great German Aces. Immelmann scored victory after victory over the Allied flyers until his total score mounted higher than that of any of the Allied Aces.

He was an excellent gunner and as a flyer had no peer during his time. He was the first to use the quick Climbing reverse turn, which was the fastest method of changing direction while in full flight. The maneuver first demonstrated by Immelmann in his sky battles over the Western front has since been named after him, the Immelmann turn. It was a very effective maneuver and enabled him to gain many victories. He and Oswald Boelke served in the same Squadron. When he was killed Boelke went on to surpass his records, only to be surpassed himself after he was killed, by Baron von Richthofen.

None of the American flyers, except those flying with the French, ever encountered Immelmann in the air. He was killed in 1918 before America entered the war. The account below was told to a newspaper correspondent.

 

TWO OUT OF THREE

by Lieutenant Max Immelmann • Sky Fighters, January 1934

AIR fighting is like any other kind of fighting. Victory goes usually to the strongest and best prepared. The French have tried to make it more romantic, like the fighting of the knights of old, man to man in bold, open fighting on mounted chargers. That is spectacular and picturesque. I do not believe it the best method. The object in war is to down as many of the enemy planes as is possible without losing any of your own. Thus you may obtain the mastery of the air, which is necessary in this modern war, if the ground troops are going to win success.

For that reason I have adopted tactics which seem on the surface prudent. I aim to destroy the enemy without letting them destroy me. My methods are best explained by giving an example. Three days ago, I was out cruising the lines with my patrol. We were in layer formation. One was far below, leading. Two others were further back of him and higher up, one on either side. I brought up the rear, directly behind the leader, and higher up than any of them.

While flying in that formation, the leader encountered a patrol of three Frenchmen. His instructions were to fly on until attacked, which he did. My patrol never even let on that they saw the approaching formation. They flew along parallel with the lines in steady flight without changing elevation. I throttled down my machine and dropped back, until the rest of my patrol was just mere specks. Then I shoved on full throttle and climbed for the sun.

The Frenchmen drove in for the attack on the three German planes below. My men kept their formation until the bullets began to get too close, then they returned the fire and adopted defensive tactics. At the same time, they retreated back over our lines, to draw the enemy over our territory. They were making a running fight of it, according to instructions, diverting the attackers’ intentions all to themselves; but knowing all the time that I would be diving down unawares from the disc of the sun behind to pounce upon the enemy in surprise.

And I did. I dived straight down from the well of the sun, my fingers poised over the gun trips. At one hundred yards I opened up on the first Frenchman. My tracers bored through his cockpit and he went spinning down. But not before I had dived underneath him to zoom up again with my guns pointed at his nearest comrade.

I opened up on him, saw my tracers eating into his belly. One plane was down now. I had the position on the second, and the first shots in. My comrades then, all banked and raced in for attack on the third Frenchman. He fought them bravely, I must admit, returning burst for burst. But he was doomed from the first with three against one.

My opponent slipped from my tracer stream, and nosed down towards his own lines. I zoomed up, half-rolled (Immelmanned—Ed.), changed direction and went streaking after him, still pouring tracer. Glancing back over my shoulder I saw the second enemy break apart beneath the guns of my mates. His plane fell to pieces and went fluttering down.

When I looked forward again, my opponent had dived and won away from me. I nosed down and went after him, but he went even faster for a forced landing just on the other side of his own lines where his ship upended in a shell crater and smashed one wing.

That was the end of the fight. Two French ships had been destroyed in our own territory. The other had been forced down to a crash landing just out of our reach. That was poor strategy on my part. I should have headed him off, making him land on our side. However, my patrol was still intact. Next time, I vowed I would not make such a slip. With perfect strategy and tactics properly executed, we would have accounted for all three enemy ships over our own territory.