Air Aces of World War One

Leutnant Wilhelm Frankl – German Ace – 1893 / 1917

Frankl was born, the son of a Jewish businessman in Hamburg on the 2oth of December 1893. He later moved to Frankfurt am Main and then later to Berlin. After he graduated from school, he pursued an interest in Aviation by attending Germany’s hotbed of pre-war aviation at Johannisthal. His instructor was Germany’s first female pilot, Melli Beese. On July the 20th 1913, Frankl earned pilot’s licence No.49.

The outbreak of World War One sparked off Frankl’s volunteering to fly for his country. His flying ability and his personality both commended him to his superiors. While his professional life took off, so did his personal life. He fell in love with the daughter of Austrian Naval Kapitan zur See Edmund Stroll. Frankl forsake his Judaism, converted to Christianity, and married his love in early 1917.

Frankl began his career of aerial victories early in the war, before the advent of synchronised machine guns firing safely through the planes propeller became a practical reality. On the 10th of May, 1915 whilst flying as an observer with Feldflieger Abtielung 40 (FFA 40) He used a carbine to shoot down a French Voisin, he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for this feat.

It took exactly eight months to gain his second victory. On the 10th of January 1916 while flying a Fokker Eindecker with KEK Vaux, He downed another Voisin, this one was armed with a 37mm Hotchkiss cannon. By the 1st of February 1917 his victory total had risen to four. Three months later on the 4th of May he became an ace, On the 16th of May he was promoted from Vizefeldwebel into the Officers ranks as a Leutnant. He scored once again on the 21st of May. He was awarded the Knights Cross with Swords of the Order of Hohenzollern during late may, followed by the Hanseatic Cross.

By this time Frankl was one of only eight aces in the German Flying Service. Frankl’s gallantry earned him the Pour le Merite after his eighth conformed victory; the Blue Max was awarded on the 16th of July 1916. His guns rested until the 2nd of August, when he tallied a Morane-Saulnier ‘L’. A double victory followed on the 10th of August. On the 1st of September 1916, Frankl then transferred to Prussian Jagdstaffel 4 ( Jasta 4 ) as it was formed from KEK Vaux, to fly Halberstadt D.V’s. On the 1st of January 1917 he took command of the squadron.

Four victories in September and two in October made him a triple ace. Then after a six month hiatus, he scored a quadruple victory on the 6th of April 1917. The following day he scored his twentieth victory. His death came the day after, while battling Bristol F2b Fighters of No.48 Squadron RFC on Easter Sunday the 8th of April 1917. Frankl’s Albatros D.III lost its lower wing due to the stress of combat manouvres and he and his collapsed aircraft fell 800 metres to his death near Vitry- Sailly, France.

Frankl was among the number of Jewish winners of the Pour le Merite, of which there were several who were struck off the Roll of Honour under the Third Reich later to be restored after the Second World War.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

8 thoughts on “Air Aces of World War One

  1. There were several Jewish aces in the German air arm, But when the Third Reich came to power they became pariahs thanks to Goering and co, Incidentally some of Manfred von Richtofen’s squadron mates and comrades were of Jewish extraction,

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