KEKs and Fokkerstaffels: The Early German Fighter Units in 1915-1916. By Johan Ryheul. Stroud UK: Fonthill Media, 2015. Photographs. Maps. Bibliography. Pp.240. $40.00 ISBN: 1-78155223-1
When this book was first announced, I was eager to obtain a copy as I found the topic to be an intriguing one. It promised to examine who, what, where, and how the "war in the air" commenced. I was not disappointed. Granted, that statement covers a fair amount of territory, as combat over the front had already transpired in the first months of the war.
When on April 1,1915, French aviator Eugene Adrien Roland Georges Garros fired a Hotchkiss machine gun through the propeller arc of his Morane Saulnier type L bringing down a German Albatros two seater, little did he realize he was setting the stage for a far-reaching German response. When it came, it was significant, as it produced the first organized and purposeful use of armed fighters to interdict the enemies' reconnaissance aircraft and to further protect their own machines as they flew over the lines on recce missions. The Germans were able to draw upon the technological breakthrough of synchronizing the machine gun to fire through the propeller arc, something that would put the Allies on the defensive until they were able to reach parity.
This work looks into the histories of Kampfeinsitzer Kommandos (also known as KEKs) and the Fokkerstaffels (the first of these fighter units), which appeared in 19151916. Ryheul presents each of these units, their notable pilots, the aerodrome locations, and the actions that took place over the front. Familiar names such as Boelcke, Immelmann, Buddecke, Frankl, Wintgens, von Althaus, Loerzer, and their contemporaries fill the pages along with their "first"...