CHAPTER SEVEN - First Kill
3rd March 1918
God Damn Bruno Stachel!
I am minding my own business having a cup of coffee, working on my journal at my desk, when I hear the throbbing sound of an approaching engine. Not an unusual event at our Aerodrome, but this gets louder and louder. I jump up from my chair just in time to see an RE-8 half turned on its side plow into the dirt twenty meters outside the office front door.
WHAM!! My window shatters and I dive under my desk, coffee flying everywhere. I am sure we are under attack. When I get back up, through my broken window I can see a crowd gathered around the fallen aircraft. No attack after all. A piece of the shattered prop spun into the side of our building.
While I am busy cleaning up, what do I see? No surprise, it's Leutnant Stachel pulling out his pocket knife and cutting the serial numbers off the tail of the RE-8 and shoving it into Kettering's chest.
Only Stachel would deliver his first kill right on the Hauptmann's doormat like a proud house cat. Kettering doesn't get angry much but he was fuming when he came in and dropped the canvas on my desk.
"You better get the combat report written up. Looks like Heidemann's favorite son of a bitch has gotten his first kill."
I knew once I finished cleaning up the office, I would have an even bigger mess left outside. From where I was sitting it included a dead pilot and rear gunner.
It was going to be a long day for me.
Combat Reports are part of the drudgery of my day to day life as an Unteroffizier. The Kofl requires that they are filed after every combat event. The docs are used to report up to Command the state of the war. They are intended to report the facts but the German newspapers keep track of them as well when the story is interesting.
For a career climber like Stachel, recorded kills make a pilot's reputation. A report like this one with an attempted capture is rare and will draw even more attention to our future Kahone.
All that being said, my interview with Leutnant Klugermann was odd. He was the flight lead and I expected the "pouty Prussian" to come in bragging as usual, but he was unusually subdued. He barely made eye contact as he described the events without emotion.
"We encountered an enemy RE-8 doing recon at 3,000 meters over Nauroy. Leutnant Stachel gained advantage on the aircraft, damaged its engine and injured the rear gunner. He attempted to capture the aircraft by forcing it back to our Aerodrome. At the last minute, the rear gunner attempted to engage a second time. Leutnant Stachel was forced to shoot them down."
After the interview, I went out to examine the crash site (a very short walk). The pilot had taken a shot to the head and must have died instantly, but still had both hands firmly clenched around the joystick. The rear gunner was a different case, his head and arms hung loosely over the side of the cockpit. He had taken two clean rounds to his face, taking out both his eyes.
"Attempted to engage a second time"? Unlikely.
It appears the "Cobra" can bite.