Naval Aces of World War 1 part 2
Aircraft of the Aces 104
Author: Jon Guttman
Illustrator: Harry Dempsey
This volume features at the naval aces who flew alongside or against those of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS): Americans, Austrians, Germans, Greeks, Italians and Russians. The German navy countered formidable RNAS squadrons with its own Land Feld Jagdstaffeln
and Seefront Staffeln
, German floatplane units producing at least three aces at the expense of British, Belgian and French aircraft and airships. Unique to World War 1 was the use of flying boats as fighters in combat, which figured at least partially in the scores of Russian, Italian, American and Austro-Hungarian aces.
Men such as Aleksandr de Seversky, Aristeides Moraitinis, David Ingalls, Federico Martinengo, Friedrich Christiansen, Friedrich Lang, Gottfried Banfield, Karl Meyer, Mikhail Safanov, and Theodor Osterkamp fought in an eclectic mix of floatplanes, flying boats and conventional land planes - single-seaters and crewed aircraft - against the same mix of opponents. These machines include not only familiar Sopwith Camels, Nieuports, and Albatrosen, but also Lohner types, the Shchetinin M-9, and the fascinating and exceptional Hansa-Brandenburg designs, and those of Macchi including the excellent M.5.
Between the Covers
Author Jon Guttman is a recognized authority of WW1 air warfare, having written several books on the subject including the first part of this subject: Naval Aces of World War 1, Part 1
. Mr. Guttman recounts the organization, development, employment, personalities, and effectiveness of naval fighter pilots. Like most Aircraft of the Aces
titles, the text if full of accounts of fights. While most are dry, seemingly drawn from official reports, enriching the text is a good selection of personal reminiscents, combat report excerpts and diary entries, such as:
'Opposing enemy seaplane units in our area was comparatively easy to do, as our Hansa-Brandenburg monoplanes were superior to the British flying boats', explained Ltn z S Fritz Stormer, who flew W 29s in Christiansen's 1 Staffel. 'On the other hand, the drag of our twin pontoons put us at a serious disadvantage in terms of speed, manoeuvrability and armament if we were ambushed on takeoff or landing by British or French land-based biplane fighters.
'Generally, the Staffel flew in a wedge-shaped formation', he continued, 'with the Staffilkapitän in the leading seaplane. Behind him and to the right was the W 29 crewed by the photo officer and deputy commander of the unit. During an attack by fighters coming in from above and behind, the seaplanes would descend even lower so that a sloping V was formed and all machine guns had an unobstructed field of fire. This defensive manoeuvre had been learned through hard experience, and it made land-based enemy fighters respect our formations. Gliding along close to the surface of the water gave us a slight advantage when we were subjected to a classic attack from above and behind.
'The comradeship among the crews - officers and enlisted men alike - was splendid! Each would have sacrificed himself for the other. Among the officer corps at the seaplane station, this feeling was of course advanced by Christiansen's superior qualities as a leader.'
Combat encounters also enhance the text, including the fight in which US Navy pilot Esn Charles Hammann won the first Medal of Honor for aerial combat:
As the Austrians made for the M.8, the leader of the M.5 escorts, Ens George Ludlow, signalled for his pilots to dive on the enemy flying boats. Ens Dudley Voorhees was unable to follow due to jammed guns, but Ens Austen G Parker (also a former Lafayette Flying Corps volunteer with escadrilles N85 and N98) and Landsman for Quartermaster Charles Hazeltine Hammann did. Battle was joined at an altitude of 2500 metres at 1125 hrs when Ludlow fired on Lang's lead Phönix, which dived away. Parker pursued it until a jam in his right gun compelled him to pull up. He then emptied his left gun at two other assailants. Ludlow reported that he 'apparently perforated the radiator' of one opponent and Voorhees recalled seeing it 'dive away trailing smoke'. Ludlow's confirmed victory was Gindl, retiring after the spontaneous combustion of his phosphorous ammunition. He force landed safely near the anti-aircraft batteries at Valdandon.
At that point two other Austrians attacked Ludlow, Wollemann's bullets smashing his magneto, holing the propeller and puncturing the radiator and crankcase. As the Macchi descended in flames, Wollemann and Pramberger disengaged at an altitude of 500 metres and turned….
My favorite quote is the telegram from Tzar Nicholas II in response to the petition to allow Lt Aleksandr de Seversky to return to action following the amputation of a leg; Seversky tricked his way into an M-9 and put on an amazing aerobatic show before unsuspecting senior officers. Tzar’s cabled, ‘Read. Admire. Let fly. Nikolai’.
Overclaiming kills was a fact of aerial combat. How some 'that got away' are understandable, particularly the British and Italian flying boat crews who played possum on the sea until their tormentors flew away to toast another victory, then taxied - or even flew - back to base! Several accounts record seaplanes shot down, only to be taken under tow by friendly warships and recovered to base. An over Flanders much of the fighting was close enough to the lines that vanquished foes were indeed shot down, although to successful forced landings within friendly lines. It seems that these naval pilots did have a higher chance of independent kill confirmation as many kills crashed in full sight of ships, or debris was recovered, crewed taken prisoner, etc. Still, some dogfights recorded multiple kills on both sides while involved squadron and Jasta
records record no losses for the day. Curiously, many planes claimed "shot down in flames over..." managed to make it home unscathed.
You will find familiar names in the text; the stories can be somewhat personal. Many downed pilots were positively identified through capture, and many are identified through records. Both victor and vanquished are frequently named: On 8 June Vzflgmstr H Bottler downed Triplane N5491 of ‘Naval 1’ north of Warneton, killing New Zealander Flt Lt Thomas G Culling…
, with many other accounts such as …Flgmt Fritz Kühn was shot down – possibly by Flt Sub-Lt John E Sharman of ‘Naval 10’… .
Naval Aces of World War 1
is presented to you through 96 pages in seven chapters, and a three-part appendices:
• Sky and Sea
• Zeebrugge Hornets’ Nest
• The Marine Feld Jastas
• Detached Duty
• Aces Over the Baltic
• Action Over the Adriatic
• Allies in Camels
• Appendices (Naval Aces, Colour Plates Commentary)
I was surprised that Germany fielded land-based naval Jastas
- as well as their Seeflugstations
. Mr. Guttman continues with the known stories of the survivors’ post-war exploits, including the 1919 border conflict between Germany and Lithuania, employing the Junkers D.I and CL. I, Rumplers and Fokkers! Also discussed are the post-war activities of Seversky, Banfield, American Ens Ingalls, and Greek Lt Cdr Moraitinis, et al. Of course, aircraft used by the combatants are explored, too.
Photographs and Illustrations
Some 100 black-and-white photographs support of this work. Obviously many of the 94-plus-year-old photos are of marginal quality. These pictures vary between studio quality images and amateur ‘grab shots’. Some are propaganda photos of pilots, one with a formal portrait superimposed in a ‘there I was’ exposure. You will see aerodrome scenes, formal portraits and group shots, informal pilots, their airplanes, crash and accident scenes, and more. Many German seaplanes were two-seaters with cameras and this yields a bonanza of remarkable shots. Several photos document Kptlt z Christiansen and flight repeatedly attacking British submarine C25
, strafing a downed Felixstowe F 2A, and flaming airship C27
Those extraordinary images rival the wonderful color profiles and planforms by Harry Dempsey. Twenty-eight profiles and nine top and a frontal artworks recreate the colors and marking of those amazing aircraft. Highly varnished wooden hulled flying boats sport a riot of bright markings. Christiansen’s Hansa-Brandenburg W 29 monoplane seaplane with novel hexagonal lozenge
camouflage is portrayed top and side; ‘bumblebee’ Albatros D.Va of Osterkamp; Banfield’s “Blue Wonder” Oeffag Type H. Modelers beware – you will be inspired! Except for the dramatic cover art by Osprey artist Mike Postlethwaite, none are Osprey’s dramatic action illustrations.
A table in the appendices lists German naval aces yet, curiously, no mention is made of other nationalities.
One graphic missing is a map of bases to help orient the reader to the arenas of conflicts.
I am very impressed with this second Naval Aces title. Authoritative research and good presentation of a wealth of information including personal accounts brings the history of the aces to life. The fine color profiles are wonderful, as always. And the photographic support enhances the text with quality images. My gripes are the lack of maps and a non-German ace table.
Overall this is another excellent title that did more than just show me impressive artwork - it brought to light historical events that I did not know about. I certainly recommend Naval Aces of World War 1 part 2
to everyone interested in seaplanes, land planes, WWI, WWI air combat pilots, whether you are a historian or a modeler.
Please remember, when contacting manufacturers and sellers, to mention you saw this book here—on Aeroscale