Today marks the 100th anniversary of Max Immelmann’s death.
Max Immelmann was one of Germany’s first air fighters during the Great War, and became a national hero, famous to this day for the combat maneuver that still bears his name – The Immelmann Turn.
Called to service at the outbreak of the First World War, Immelmann transferred to Pilot training in 1914. He entered service as a pilot on February 10, 1915.
Gathering an impressive number of air victories, Immelmman became known as a great German fighter pilot. He competed with Oswald Boelcke for the title of Germany’s leading ace; a title that was traded between them multiple times throughout the war.
In January 1916, Immelmann was the first pilot to be awarded the Pour le Mérite – now known as the Blue Max – after his eighth win. In the two years of his air service, we was able to claim 15 victories.
On June 18, 1916, at the age of 25, Immelmann’s service came to an end. Leading a flight of four Fokker E.III Eindeckers in search of reconnaissance from Britain’s 25 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, Immelmann intercepted them and brought down one of the enemy aircraft. Later that evening, Immelmann encountered 25 Squadron again, and was shot down.
In Immelmann: “The Eagle of Lille”, written by Immelmann’s brother Frantz, he writes:
“Eye-witnesses from the ground reports as follows:
After a series of oscillation, which were plainly visible from the ground, the rear part of the fuselage suddenly detached itself from the fore part. The cockpit hurtled into the depths without the pilot, falling like a stone and making a weird whistling sound, while the wings collapsed like the sides of a house of cards, and came away from the shattered machine. The fore part of the machine, containing the engine and pilot, finished its fall of 2,000 meters with a dull thud.
Men opened the leather jacked of the dead pilot. They found the ‘Pour le Mérite’…and on the linen of the monogram ‘M.I.’…Immelmann!”
For more about Immelmann, Fighter Aces, and the German Air Force in World War One: