I have written about the Sachsenberg family pilots several
times, but this time around I decided to spread the theme
of Gotthard Sachsenberg Jr. around his extended family. In
this way, the reasons as to why he became such a successful naval aviator and on what basis he built his career
as an industrialist and politician could be best explained.
Photo: Greg VanWyngarden
Autor: Richard Plos
Photo of Gotthard Sachsenberg made in late summer 1918 after the awarding of Pour le Mérite.
Note the Navy observer badge.
Gotthard Sachsenberg Jr. was born on December 6th, 1891 in Rosslau
on the outskirts of Dessau into the family of a shipyard co-owner and
secret Imperial Privy Commercial Councillor Dr.-Ing. h. c. Gotthard
Sachsenberg Sr. His son attended high school in Dessau and Schnepfenthal. The school in Dessau was also attended in the same year by
Oswald Boelcke and their one year younger peer Theodor Osterkamp.
These future aviation legends likely need no introduction.
Gotthard Sachsenberg Jr. graduated high school in Eisenach, and
went to college studies in national economics. However, he soon opted for a career change and even before the First World War began,
he joined the navy in April, 1913. Basic training was followed by naval training on the protected cruiser S.M.S. Hertha. The naval training
was undertaken with the rank of Fähnrich, and the beginning of the
war saw him with that rank on board the pre-dreadnought battleship
S.M.S. Pommern. This ship was sunk on June 1st, 1916 in a battle of
Jutland, and none of her crew survived. But by then, Gotthard Jr. had
been away from the battleship for quite some time.
In September, 1914, after a concentrated effort put forth on his superiors, he was allowed to volunteer for the air component of the
navy, the Freiwillige Marine Fliegerkorps. The commanding officer of
this branch of the service was Oblt. z. S. von Skrbensky, and achieved active duty status from December, 1914, flying from the airfield at
Oostende in Belgium. Sachsenberg became an air observer and crew
commander. At the beginning of 1915, he was reassigned to II. Marine
Landflieger Abteilung, which became combat ready in February of the
same year. In August, 1915, Sachsenberg was awarded the Iron Cross
1st Class for his service, but was sent to recover at Gent due to the
results of the demands of combat that were imposed on him.
His unit was redesignated as II. Marine Feldflieger Abteilung in October. In January, 1916, Sachsenberg was promoted to Leutnant z. See,
and became an observer instructor at an aviation school. A month
later, though, he could be found training on single seat fighters at
Kampf Einsitzer Staffel Mannheim. He would be the first naval aviator
to finish fighter pilot training. In April, 1916, he returned to his original
unit as a ‘Fokkerpilot’, as the unit had accepted single seat Fokker E
fighters, and, as was the custom at the time, it was known as Kampf
Einsitzer Kommando (KEK), but it was not a separate unit.
In November, 1916, the first new specialized naval fighter unit was
activated under the name Marine Feldflieger Jagdeinheit. The unit’s
commanding officer was Sachsenberg, and so the unit was named
Sonderkommando Sachsenberg, and for its lower numerical status
in terms of equipment, was also designated as Jagd-Halbstaffel (with
‘Halb’ meaning ‘half’). However, formally, it still was subordinated to
the command of II MFFA, who’s CO was Oblt. z. S. Hans Alfred von
February, 1917 finally saw the activation of a full fledged fighter unit
at Neumünster called Marine Feldflieger Jagdstaffel I (MFJ I), and its
command was bestowed upon Sachsenberg. The unit’s pilots hailed
from Sonderkommando, which he had led until that time, and also
partly from II MFFA. Among those under his command was also
a friend in the form of Theo Osterkamp, and they soon found themselves in competition with another with regards to the number of aerial
victories, especially after Osterkamp was named commanding officer
INFO Eduard - April 2021