Max Franz Immelmann (born September 21, 1890 in Dresden , † June 18, 1916 near Annay , Pas-de-Calais , France ) was one of the most famous German fighter pilots of the First World War , along with Oswald Boelcke and Manfred von Richthofen . His successes in aerial combat earned him the nickname “Eagle of Lille ” among his opponents . He received the highest award for bravery in Prussia - the order Pour le Mérite .
Childhood and youth
Max Franz Immelmann was the son of the businessman Franz August Immelmann (1858–1897), owner of a cardboard factory, and his wife Gertrude Sidonie (1862 – after 1928), née Grimmer. She was the daughter of the general auditor Maximilian Bruno Grimmer (1818–1905). Immelmann had a brother and a sister.
Immelmann spent his early youth in the Dresden suburb of Weißer Hirsch , where he developed an early disposition for everything technical. After the father's death, it was up to the mother to bring up the children. Immelmann, who attended the Royal High School in Holzhofgasse in Dresden Neustadt , was not considered ambitious. At first he thought nothing of the profession of a soldier. The Immelmanns moved to Braunschweig in 1902 , where relatives lived and he attended the Ducal Martino-Katharineum grammar school. The family returned to Dresden in 1904.
Cadet, regimental and study time
In April 1905 Immelmann joined the Saxon Army as a cadet . The training took place in the Royal Saxon Cadet Corps in Dresden. However, Immelmann soon realized that he disliked the military way of life and wanted to learn a technical profession instead. This led to his wanting to resign from the cadet corps in 1908. At the request of his mother and against the background of a later study, he stayed until he finished high school.
Subsequently, on April 4, 1911, he was transferred as an ensign to the No. 2 Railway Regiment in Berlin-Schöneberg , where Immelmann hoped to find a satisfactory technical activity in the Railway Testing Department. However, this was limited to the application of technical regulations. This encouraged Immelmann in his endeavors to forego an officer career in order to study mechanical engineering . Even attending the war school in Anklam , to which he had been posted in April 1911, did nothing to change his decision to be transferred to the reserve after passing an officer examination . In mid-April 1912 his request was granted and Immelmann was given a reserve leave.
In the same year Immelmann began studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Dresden , the first semester of which he completed at the Reicker turbine factory. During his studies, Immelmann became a member of the Academic Gymnastics Club Alsatia Dresden and the ADAC , for which he acted as referee at the Harz winter test drive in 1913 . Finally, Immelmann became a member of the local Air Fleet Association, where he was deployed as an official in the triangular flight in 1913/14 at the Dresden-Kaditz airfield .
First World War
Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War , Immelmann applied to the inspection of the air troops as a student pilot . First, however, in the course of mobilization on August 20, he was reactivated to his previous regiment. The garrison service there as platoon leader was limited to supervising and practicing light rail operations. The tasks began to bore Immelmann, so he asked for a transfer to the infantry . Instead he became a company commander and, in the absence of a lieutenant, an officer's deputy. On November 12th he was transferred to the air force . The practical training took place from November 13th at Field Aviation Department 2 at the Johannisthal airfield . The theory lessons took place in Adlershof .
After 54 school flights, Immelmann completed the first solo flight on January 31st. On February 9, he passed the first pilot's test and two days later the field pilot's test. On March 4th he was transferred to Army Aviation Park 3 in the northern French municipality of Rethel . There Immelmann mainly undertook messenger flights and at the same time acted as leader of the motor vehicle column. Immelmann passed his third and final flight master's examination on March 27th.
On April 12, Immelmann was transferred to Feldflieger -teilung 10 in Vrizy , where he flew the first missions at the front as an artillery pilot. His tasks consisted of exploring enemy artillery positions and providing fire control support for his own batteries . At the end of April he was assigned to Field Aviator Department 62 in Döberitz , which was being set up. Here Immelmann met Oswald Boelcke . After completion of the installation, the department was relocated to Pontfaverger and from there to Douai , where it was stationed at the nearby Brayelle airfield . The department of the 6th Army was subordinate . In June, the department was partially converted to the single-seater Fokker EI , which enabled shooting through the propeller circle by means of an interrupter gear. At first Immelmann flew as a reconnaissance aircraft with the task of documenting enemy positions and troop movements. By June 25, he had completed 21 flights. In addition to reconnaissance and restricted flights, Immelmann acted as escort. In July he received the Iron Cross II. Class and the Friedrich August Medal in silver. At the same time he was promoted to lieutenant in the reserve on July 14th . On July 30th, Immelmann flew the Fokker EI for the first time. On August 1st, when the airfield used by the field pilot's department was bombed, Immelmann was able to force a BE2 to land after a brief aerial battle . For his first victory in the air, Immelmann was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class on the same day.
Immelmann achieved his second kill while working together with Boelcke on the late evening of September 9th against a French artillery pilot. He got two more kills against aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps on September 21 at Willerval and on October 10 northwest of Lille . In recognition of his previous achievements, the Saxon King Friedrich August III entrusted him . on October 13th with the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of St. Heinrich . He had previously received the Knight's Cross of the Order of Albrecht with Swords on September 10th . On October 26th, Immelmann defeated a French biplane. His sustained successes earned him the nickname “Eagle of Lille” among his opponents. After his sixth victory in the air on November 7th, west of Douai, followed by a feast at the court table of Rupprecht von Bayern , Immelmann received the following day from the hands of his King Friedrich August III. a wall plate made of Meissen porcelain . Another award this month was the Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords.
After a home leave and his return to the troops, Immelmann received another honor when the Crown Prince of Bavaria awarded him the Order of Military Merit III. Class with swords. Immelmann intervened again in the air combat on December 15, after having survived a crash landing with rollover a few days earlier. That day he shot down a two-seater British monoplane over Valenciennes . In the second half of December the dogfights subsided and for Christmas Immelmann and Boelcke were awarded the honor cup for the winner in the dogfight .
On the morning of January 12, Immelmann shot down a Vickers biplane near Bapaume . For their eighth kills, Immelmann and Boelcke were awarded the highest Prussian war award , the Order Pour le Mérite , on the evening of the same day . These were the first two awards to members of the air force.
After another successful aerial battle on March 2 between Lens and Arras against a British biplane, Immelmann shot down two aircraft on March 13, which was followed by another on March 29. In the meantime he had taken over the air raid protection for the Hamburg regiments fighting on the ground, for which the ruling mayor Carl August Schröder awarded him the Hanseatic Cross of his city when his troops visited the front . After his 13th kill on March 30th, Immelmann, who had flown around 450 missions by then, received a letter of thanks from Emperor Wilhelm II and Friedrich August III in recognition of his services . entrusted him with the commander of the II class of the Military Order of St. Henry.
At the end of April Immelmann defeated a British biplane together with his pupil Max von Mulzer before it was shot down a few days later during an aerial battle. He managed to land the damaged machine safely. However, Immelmann had realized for some time that he wanted to remain a pilot. He therefore submitted a request in which he asked to be allowed to return to the active officers. The Saxon king and his crown prince approved his entry and with effect from April 1st he was activated as first lieutenant . On May 16, Immelmann shot down his 15th enemy aircraft west of Douai, a single-seat Bristol biplane. This was followed by another near-crash Immelmann's on May 31, after he had shot himself the propeller of his Fokker due to a defect in the interrupter gear. That month he was awarded the Ottoman Iron Crescent and the Imtiyaz Medal in Silver. As a result, air activities ebbed for weeks due to the bad weather. During this phase, on June 13, 1916, Field Aviation Department 62 was removed from its mission and relocated. It was replaced by the Bavarian Field Aviation Department 5b, the command of which the Fokker pilots of FFA 62 were subordinate to. At that time, Immelmann had already been entrusted with setting up his own hunting squadron (Jasta).
On June 18, 1916, at around 5 p.m., an air-raid alarm was issued when British bombers were reported coming from Arras. The planes were forced to turn away. A few hours later the alarm went off again when seven British bombers were sighted near Sallaumines . To support the pilots Max von Mulzer , Albert Oesterreicher, Alfred Prehn and Wolfgang Heinemann, who were already in the air battle , Immelmann started at around 9:30 p.m.
In the meantime the crowd had split into two groups. Immelmann headed for the group around Prehn / Heinemann, which was above Hénin-Liétard and was under fire from its own artillery. The aircraft attacked by Immelmann sheared out of the formation after being fired at and began to descend with him (Figure 1). As a result, an FE2B biplane detached itself from the northeast combat group , which was in turn pursued by Mulzer (Figure 2). Prehn / Heinemann, who recognized the danger posed by the aircraft approaching Immelmann, then broke away from their opponents in order to tie the approaching machine, which Prehn succeeded in doing. In the meantime, Immelmann followed the falling bomber deeper until it was overtaken by Mulzer's Fokker, who was running out of fuel and who accompanied the FE2 to earth in his place (Figure 3). Thereupon Immelmann went into a climb to turn to a new opponent. At that moment, Immelmann's Fokker broke in two and crashed (Figure 4).
Anthony Fokker said after a tour of the wreck that the machine had been torn apart by artillery fire ( self- fire ). Another cause of Immelmann's crash is said to have been the failure of the synchronization of the interrupter gear, whereby Immelmann shot the propeller himself to pieces. Due to the unbalance of the engine, the Fokker rocked itself, whereupon the filigree plane broke. This is the conclusion reached by the official investigation commission of the 6th Army in its final report. According to the third version of the crash mentioned, Immelmann is said to have been shot down by the rear gunner James Henry Waller.
The fuselage and stern parts of the Fokker hit hundreds of meters apart in the front area of the infantry regiment "Lübeck" (3rd Hanseatic) No. 162 .
Immelmann's death caused consternation and sadness even in the enemy. His body was laid out in the garden of the Douai hospital, where the wake was held. Numerous high-ranking representatives of the generals and various royal families said goodbye to Immelmann on June 22, 1916. The coffin was then transferred to Dresden, where it arrived on June 25th. From the Dresden-Neustadt train station , the funeral procession made its way to the Tolkewitz urn grove , where, after a large funeral service in front of the highest Saxon officers and representatives of the royal family, Immelmann's hero burial took place, to which tens of thousands had come. For the twelfth anniversary on June 25, 1928 a sculpture created by Peter Pöppelmann was handed over to his grave.
Max Immelmann was considered an excellent tactician and excellent aviator. The aerobatic maneuver known as Immelmann is named after him today . In addition to Boelcke and Richthofen, Immelmann belonged to a new generation of fighter pilots whose aim was to aggressively attack their opponents from ambush and bring them down.
The cult carried out around these idols assumed immense excesses. Immelmann and other highly decorated aviator heroes of this era were sold to the population as symbolic models of willingness to make sacrifices and the will to fight in order to glorify the pathos of a knightly struggle that was supposed to distract from the impersonal mass death in the trenches . The media celebration of the deeds and the display of their war equipment contributed to the fact that these pilots were transfigured into folk heroes, whose image of masculinity seemed worthy of imitation and worship. In addition, encouraged by propaganda reports, real hunts for the highest number of kills arose among these appointed " icons ", which led to increasingly daring missions. By the end of the war, 27 of the 72 fighter pilots who were knights of the Order of the Pour le Mérite had died.
At the time of National Socialism , Immelmann continued to be propagated as a war hero, which was reflected in numerous street names and in the fact that it was given the traditional name "Immelmann" to Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 of the Air Force . An air traffic control ship also got his name . Immelmann's admiration continues to this day. The Tactical Air Force Wing 51 “Immelmann” carries his memory. In addition, two were after him barracks of the Bundeswehr named: the Immelmann-Kaserne in Celle and the Max Immelmann Barracks in Manching- Oberstimm at Ingolstadt . Today's grammar school on Romäusring in Villingen-Schwenningen was also named after him.
In summary, it can be said that Immelmann's rise began with the introduction of the Fokker fighter with a synchronized machine gun. At the turn of the year 1915/1916 this aircraft was superior to all Allied machines. The superiority of the air, which was regained in a relatively short time thanks to this innovation, was so serious that the British Parliament spoke of the Fokker chuck.
Immelmann was a vegetarian. He did not drink alcohol or smoke. His nature has been described as calm, level-headed, and humble. The British author Arch Whitehouse describes Immelmann as an arrogant and self-confident "black sheep in the sky" who ignored all orders regarding flight associations and teamwork and who lacked social customs. After Anthony Fokker, Immelmann was a serious and humble man who was extremely interested in the technical side of aviation. In addition to a well-trained body, Immelmann is said to have excellent visual acuity and never talked about the dangers of aerial combat.
- Christian Zweng, Karl Friedrich Hildebrand: The knights of the order Pour le Mérite. Part 2: The knights of the Pour le Mérite order of World War I. Volume 2: HO. Biblio-Verlag, Bissendorf 2003, ISBN 3-7648-2516-2 , p. 148.
- Heinz Kraft: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 10, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1974, ISBN 3-428-00191-5 , p. 158 ( ). In:
- Literature by and about Max Immelmann in the catalog of the German National Library
- Newspaper article about Max Immelmann in the press kit of the 20th century of the ZBW - Leibniz Information Center for Economics .
- Arnulf Scriba: Max Immelmann. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
- Hannes Täger: Max Immelmann . In: Institute for Saxon History and Folklore (Ed.): Saxon Biography .
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 11–15.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 15–33.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 37–47.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 46-105.
- The Royal Saxon Military St. Heinrichs Order 1736–1918. An honor sheet of the Saxon Army. Wilhelm and Bertha von Baensch Foundation, Dresden 1937, p. 344.
- Kai Biermann, Erhard Cielewicz: airfield Döberitz. Birthplace of military aviation in Germany. Ch.links Verlag 2005, p. 62.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 106-134.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 135–148.
- Johannes Werner: Boelcke. The man, the aviator, the leader of German fighter aviation. , v. Haase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1932, p. 127.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 144–147.
- Johannes Werner: Boelcke. The man, the aviator, the leader of German fighter aviation. v. Haase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1932, p. 136.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag Leipzig 1942, pp. 152-164.
- The Royal Saxon Military St. Heinrichs Order 1736–1918. An honor sheet of the Saxon Army. Wilhelm and Bertha von Baensch Foundation, Dresden 1937, p. 91.
- Michael Dörflinger: Death flies with you, fates of the flying aces in the First World War. Bucher-Verlag 2014, p. 33.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 166–178.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 178–182.
- Anton Herman Gerard Fokker, Joachim Castan: The flying Dutchman. The memoirs of the AHG Fokker. Wunderkammer Verlag 2010, pp. 218-219.
- Janusz Piekalkiewicz: The First World War. Weltbild Verlag 2009, p. 427.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 181–182.
- Arch Whitehouse: Flieger-Ase 1914-1918. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1973, p. 406.
- Otto Dziobek: History of the Infantry Regiment Lübeck (3rd Hanseatic) No. 162, first edition 1922, chapter 7. Spring 1916.
- Immelmann's cremation. In: Neues Wiener Journal. Vol. 24, No. 8139 of June 28, 1916, p. 7 ( online at ANNO ).
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 184-186.
- Siegfried Reinhardt: When flying was still a risk. On the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Dresden-Kaditz airfield. Engelsdorfer, Dresden, Leipzig 2012, p. 329.
- Fernando Esposito: Mythical Heroes. Oldenbourg Munich 2011, pp. 242, 239-240.
- Kai Biermann, Erhard Cielewicz: airfield Döberitz. Birthplace of military aviation in Germany. Ch.links Verlag 2005, p. 61.
- Johannes Werner: Boelcke. The man, the aviator, the leader of German fighter aviation. v. Haase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1932, p. 144.
- Georg Paul Neumann: The entire German air force in the 1st World War. Europäische Hochschulverlag 2011, p. 586.
- Anton Herman Gerard Fokker, Joachim Castan: The flying Dutchman. The memoirs of the AHG Fokker. Wunderkammer Verlag 2010, pp. 20–21.
- Joachim Castan: The Red Baron. The whole story of Manfred von Richthofen. Clett-Cotta Verlag 2008, p. 73.
- Franz Immelmann (Ed.): Immelmann. "The Eagle of Lille". v. Hase & Koehler Verlag, Leipzig 1942, pp. 16-17.
- Arch Whitehouse: Flieger-Ase 1914-1918. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 1973, pp. 402-403.
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Immelmann, Max Franz (full name)|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||German fighter pilot in the First World War|
|DATE OF BIRTH||September 21, 1890|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Dresden|
|DATE OF DEATH||June 18, 1916|
|Place of death||Annay|