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MvR writes to his friend von Falkenhayn

Event ID: 566

18 July 1917

50.82958008143341, 3.270851981468829
Lazaret 76 (Sint-Niklaas Hospital)

Source ID: 33

Richthofen, Beyond the legend of the Red Baron, Peter Kilduff, Arms and Armour, 1993

ISBN: 1854091271

Letter from the Falkenhayn family via a private source.

We have 16 Jagdstaffeln in the (4.) Armée. These must really suffice. When an (enemy aircraft) has been shot down recently, it was (done) only by the Jagdgeschwader 60. What are the other 12 Staffeln doing? This (situation), of course, is not due to individual pilots or Staffel leaders; rather, the blame lies elsewhere.

When I came to this Armée, the following was told to me by Bufe: “It does not matter to me that (enemy aircraft) are shot down in my Armée; rather, that you with your Jagdstaffel (and) by your presence at the Front at a certain time will barricade the air!” This is such an insanely great mistake that one could not make a bigger one in fighter aviation. I explained to Bufe that this was not at all my view of fighter aviation and also gave him a copy (of a report) about what I think about the use of Jagdstaffeln and have accomplished so far. At the same time I sent it to (Hauptmann Hermann) Kastner. When you peruse it then you must know it is really a reply to Bufe’s remarks.

Bufe has arranged all of the Jagdstaffeln on a timetable whereby each Staffel has a set time, a set area, (and) a prescribed altitude to barricade for an hour and a quarter. It is indeed quite clear, of course, that this will never be a fighter sortie, but rather maintains the character of a barricade flight. But in Bufe’s view there should indeed be no fighter sorties; rather, he wants to have barricade flights.

The other Jagdstaffeln are… unhappy about it. The Jagdgeschwader is a thorn in (Bufe’s) side, as from the beginning I have not engaged in routine barricade flights. So now he uses the opportunity of my being sick and issues the idiotic orders (regarding) how the Geschwader should fly, how the take-off preparations should go, etc., as if he were the Kommandeur of the Geschwader. I can assure you it is no fun these days to be leader of a Jagdstaffel or in this Armée. In the 6. Armée, after all, I had the good (Hauptmann Max) Sorg, who had no grasp at all of the fighter sortie and the mission of a Jagdstaffel. This Bufe is prejudiced in such a way that it is absolutely impossible to deal with him. The (lack of) success is also strikingly clear. For (the past) three days the British have done what they want. They come over, fly wherever they want and absolutely dominate the air (and), not just over their lines, oh no, they dominate the air far over the countryside. Almost none at all are shot down, in any case (few) in proportion to the massess (of aircraft deployed)…

Now comes a matter that I want to discuss with you: our aircraft, quite frankly, are ridiculously inferior to British (aircraft). The (Sopwith) Triplane and 200hp SPAD, as well as the Sopwith (Camel) single-seater, play with our (Albatros) D.V. In addition to having better-quality aircraft, they have far more (of them). Our really good fighter pilots are lost in this manner. The D.V. is so far surpassed by and so ridiculously inferior to the British single-seaters that one cannot begin to do anything with (the D.V.) But the people at home have brought out no new machines for almost a year, (only) these lousy Albatrosses, and have remained stuck with the Albatrosd D.III (types), in which I fought in the autumn of last year.

This letter is not something from overwrought nerves or the boredom that torments me amply (as I lie) here in bed. Also it is no momentary irritation or personal antipathy against certain people; rather, I want only to bring to your attention the conditions in this Armée.

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