The Fokker triplane was a very rare sight
in combat units in the autumn of 1918. German
fighter units had rearmed to Fokker D.VIIs and
the vast majority of them had discarded the
nimble but slow triplane. Not so the fourth most
successful German fighter ace, Josef Carl Peter
Jacobs. The commander of Jasta 7 retained his
black Dr. I.
Jacobs became one of Germany's fighter
legends. He could already fly before the
outbreak of the war, so it is not surprising
that he immediately joined the newly formed
Fliegertruppen. After a few months of training as
a military pilot, he joined Feldflieger-Abteilung
11 in June 1915, where he flew reconnaissance
aircraft. For his actions, which included one
unconfirmed shoot-down of a French Caudron,
he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class and
promoted to the rank of Leutnant (Lieutenant)
on February 6, 1916. Shortly afterwards he
retrained as a single-seater fighter pilot and
by May that year he became a member of
Fokkerstaffel West. He achieved his first victory
with an Eindecker there and subsequently
transferred to Jasta 22 on October 25 and
increased his score until he achieved his fifth
kill on April 16, 1917, and became a fighter ace.
Two months later he was appointed commander
of Jasta 7 and remained in that position until
the end of the war. During the year, he raised
his number of victories to twelve. And the
twelfth one might as well have been his last.
Shortly after he shot down a Sopwith Camel on
December 18, 1917, he collided in midair with an
Albatros D.V of Jasta 28, while he had his work
cut out for him, he successfully managed to
make an emergency landing with his damaged
aircraft in a crater-strewn no-man’s land.
In March 1918, his unit received several
Fokker Dr. Is and Jacobs literally fell in love
with this aircraft. He was impressed by its
agility and rate of climb, so he decided to
keep it even after Jasta 7 rearmed during
June and July with Fokkers D.VIIs. He flew the
Dr. I virtually until the end of the war, so it is not
surprising that he became the most successful
fighter pilot on this type.
Jacobs was a very popular commander,
according to eyewitness accounts, partly
because he was always taking a care of his
men’s well-being. But he was also able to “blow
up”, especially when someone failed to follow
instructions during a combat flight. A guilty
man could count on a red-headed commander
to be waiting for him on the ground, ready to
“explain” everything properly. One of the pilots,
according to the recollection of Jacobs himself
was Vzfw. Josef Bohne, remarked during
one such “spat” that “Köbes is spitting fire”
(Jasta Colours vol. I; Bruno Schmäling, Jörn
Leckscheid). Köbes was Jacobs's nickname, an
ancient term for innkeepers from the Rhineland
who not only served guests but also entertained
them with jokes and stories. Jacobs came from
this area and the nickname said a lot about his
character. In fact, Bruno Schmäling stated in
his book that Jacobs was one of the nicest and
most charismatic WWI pilots he met.
Bohne’s remark subsequently gave rise to
a painting on both side of Jacobs’ aircraft.
Text: Richard Plos
Illustration: Kateřina Borecká
Jacobs proved his sense of humor when he
first saw the aircraft decorated in this way.
Not only he did not dress anyone down, but he
appreciated the decoration and also had his
black Fokker D.VII similarly painted.
The artwork by Kateřina Borecká for kit
cat. no. 7039 depicts a successful attack on
an observation balloon, of which Jacobs shot
down eight during the war. It could be, for
example, a shoot-down on September 16, 1918.
The devil spitting fire is depicted on the boxart
in a different form compared to the first edition
of this kit, because we have considered new
information and changed its form. As far as
his shape is concerned, it can be read from the
only surviving photograph clearly showing the
right side of Jacobs’ Dr. I. According to Jacobs
himself (who died on July 29, 1978), the devil’s
appearance on the left side was faithfully
captured by a color painting of which he kept
a photograph in his office after the Second
World War. In it, the devil had light yellow
hair and a stylized wing with a yellow hem.
So, unlike the decal in the first edition of the kit,
with the devil’s brown hair and the red hem, we
have used yellow on both sides. Although the
painting in the photograph from Jacobs’ office
does not match in shape with what is seen in
the period photograph, this is not surprising.
These were hand paintings, without any
templates, and so the difference in appearance
on the left and right sides of the fuselage
is more than likely.