Photo: author's collection
Anthony Fokker greatly valued the input he received from frontline pilots during the war, and of course the
leading German ace of one of these. Here he is pictured during his visit to the Fokker factory at Schwerin-Görries
in late May or early June 1917.
Ersatz Abteilung 6 on 10. June 1915 for observer´s
training. This course was rather short, as he
was posted to Feldflieger-Abteilung 69 on the
Eastern front as an observer just eleven days
later. His next posting as an observer took him
to Brieftauben-Abteilung Ostende, back on the
Western front, following in the footsteps of some
of his former comrades from FA 69.
While he greatly enjoyed his time up in the air, he
soon decided that occupying the back seat of an
aeroplane was not totally to his liking. He longed
to be really in control of the “winged horses”, and
the only place where he could accomplish this
was in the pilot´s seat. Pilot training was the next
logical step for him, and before long he was given
unofficial flight training at his unit.
During his time at the Brieftauben-Abteilung, he
Photo: author's collection
Early military career
As a young cavalry officer, he was posted to the
front with his regiment soon after the outbreak
of hostilities. Serving initially on the Eastern
Front, he was quickly transferred to Belgium.
But the initial war of movement turned into
trench warfare within months, and the cavalry
officer found this kind of warfare not to be to his
liking. He was actively looking for a change. And,
like many other soldiers serving in his branch
of the military, he keenly eyed the fast-moving
new weapons above their heads that were now
carrying out the reconnaissance missions that
were previously the task of the cavalry. He longed
to joined one of the new flying units.
His application for transfer to the “Fliegertruppe”
was approved, and he found himself at Flieger
had a chance to meet a certain Leutnant Oswald
Boelcke on 1 October 1915. At the time, Boelcke
had been credited with four aerial victories and
was already quite a bit of a celebrity, both at
the front as well as in the homeland. Meeting
this accomplished young flyer left a lasting
impression on Manfred, and the two would meet
again in the future.
But before that meeting would come about, he
was obliged to undergo formal pilot training
in order to fulfill his dream. On November 15,
1915, he began pilot training at Flieger-ErsatzAbteilung 6 at Döberitz, and he passed his exams
on Christmas Day.
His first posting as a pilot brought him to
Kampfstaffel 8 of Kagohl 2 on 16. March 1916. The
unit was then stationed at Mont, near Verdun,
and he would initially fly various types of aircraft
there, initially mostly two-seaters. But soon after
his arrival at the unit, a few Fokker Eindecker
single-seaters were taken on charge. This was
then a fairly new type of aircraft which was in
short supply, and von Richthofen was more than
happy to fly one of these. Unfortunately, on an
early flight the Oberursel engine failed, and the
precious fighter was destroyed in the resulting
crash. Luckily, the pilot escaped without severe
To make matters worse, his unit was transferred
– so it was back to the Eastern Front for him on
28 June, and there he would find himself piloting
two-seaters again. Instead of carrying out fighter
vs. fighter combat, his duty in the east consisted
mostly of dropping bombs on Russian soldiers
who were positioned roughly 30 Kilometers to the
east of his airfield at Kowel (now Kovel/Ukraine).
By his own accounts, he greatly enjoyed observing
the effects caused by his bombs on the Russian
soldiers below, as well as peppering them with
his machine gun during the odd strafing run.
While the transfer to the East may have seemed
as a deal-breaker for his career as a fighter pilot
Needless to say that the first available example of the Fokker Triplane was made available to Manfred von Richthofen. Here Fokker F.I 102/17 is seen soon after arrival
at Jasta 11 during the last days of August 1917, with Anthony Fokker himself in the cockpit. MvR is seen third from right.