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Old 14th February 2006, 01:02
Klaus Schiffler Klaus Schiffler is offline
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Klaus Schiffler
World War I Dogfight

On 12 Feb 2006 the History Channel presented a rerun of "Dogfight" the first part of which covered the dogfight of Eddie Rickenbacker against five Fokker D. VIIs and two Halberstadt Cs (two-seaters) on 25 Sep 1918. He claimed one of each type. The entire description of the air combat follows the description of Rickenbacker in his book, Fighting the Flying Circus.
There is no attempt to try to identify the German units or pilots involved. We are led to believe that he destroyed two German aircraft in a typical dogfight of WW I. A careful reading of Rickenbacker's book reveals much to be desired. The man was flying alone and he claims that "my bullets were already ripping through his fuselage and he must have been killed instantly. His machine fell wildly away and crashed south of Etain."
The fact is that Rickenbacker was involved with six other aircraft and it is highly doubtful that he had time to watch the Fokker fall "wildly away" and also observe the crash. To have done so would have made him very vulnerable to the other four Fokkers.
Rickenbacker also claimed a "LVG" which according to him "started a blazing path to earth just as the Fokker escort came tearing up to the rescue." Again to survive he would not have tried to observe the crashing German due to the following four Fokkers.
Rickenbacker then claims that he tried to get confirmation from French ground troops. He states that M. le Commandant gave him a signed statement regarding the fight with the two-seater and that the Frenchman shook his hand congratulating him on his victory. There is no indication that the Frenchman confirmed his "victory" over the Fokker D. VII.
The description of Rickenbacker of his fatal damage to the two German aircraft would indicate that there would be three fatalities or serious wounds regarding German airmen. The book Bloody April...Black September by Norman Franks, Russel Guest and Frank Bailey do not show any losses among German air units in the American sector of the front. One fighter pilot was killed and his name is Franz Wagner of Jasta 79 who was killed in a fight with 22 and 25 Squadrons of the RAF.
On the 25th the Allied air forces claimed to have destroyed a total of 22 German aircraft and 14 driven out of control. Total German losses amounted to four aircraft (with the possibility of two or three others). How many of these are due to air combat is not known. The Allied claims are vastly inflated. The Germans in turn claimed 22 Allied aircraft and the Allies lost 20 destroyed.
Just how much of Rickenbacker's story is true and how much is due to wishful thinking is unknown.
My question is based on the above account. Were American fighter pilots in the U.S. Air Service in WWI given credit for a kill without corroborating evidence such as another witness?
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