Immelmann. The Eagle of Lille.

Author:Eldridge, Golda
Position:Book review
 
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Immelmann. The Eagle of Lille. By Franz Immelmann. Philadelphia and Newberry, UK: Casemate, 2009. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Glossary. Pp. 205. $29.95. ISBN: 978-1-932033-98-4

Max Immelmann was the prototypical fighter pilot. He wasn't the first airman to down an enemy aircraft in combat, but his name is still synonymous with air fighting--even for those unfamiliar with the man himself He was, in fact, the first pilot to shoot down an aircraft using the famous Fokker Eindekker. This airplane sported the world's first synchronizer gear allowing a machine gun to fire forward thru its own propeller arc. This innovation gave Eindekker pilots a significant advantage in air combat by allowing them to aim their entire aircraft rather than maneuvering to position an observer to fire. Immelmann and his fellow pilots were responsible for the Fokker Scourge of early-to-mid 1915 which effectively banished Allied planes from the skies over German lines. He is credited with developing the famous climbing reversal maneuver known as the Immelmann (interestingly enough he never describes performing this maneuver in his letters.) Besides his individual accomplishments he helped develop the fighter-squadron concept as well as formation tactics his friend Oswald Boelcke would later perfect. His prowess so impressed his British opponents that they nicknamed him the "Eagle of Lille." Aside from the maneuver bearing his name, Immelmann's contributions to air warfare are often lost in the greater fame of later pilots like Richtofen and Rickenbacker. One of the first true fighter pilots, he blazed a trail for his successors. His death at age twenty-five, victim of an aircraft structural failure after his synchronizer gear failed and he shot off his own propeller, was mourned by all Germany.

Franz Immelmann, Max's brother and another World War I fighter pilot, wrote the book both as homage to his brother and as an exhortation to a new generation of German youth to look to...

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