Oswald Boelcke ranks as the most important early
aviation pioneer. A natural pilot, he eventually became
the mentor and instructor of the entire German Air Service.
After initially flying two-seaters, Boelcke received one
of the first Eindeckers to arrive on the front. He quickly ran
up a respectable tally of aerial victories. However, he wasn't
satisfied with just fighting. In his spare time, he evolved a
series of rules to govern fighter pilot actions in combat. His
Dicta Boelcke is still considered the foundation of fighter tactics.
His influence helped reorganize the German Air Service in the
summer of 1916. It was clear to him that his country needed
homogeneous fighter units just like the British and French had recently created.
Traditionally, the Eindeckers had been dispatched in twos and threes to
the observation units.
The top pilots in each unit were then assigned to fly the fighters as escorts for the reconaissance planes.
The Germansdidn't use offensive combat patrols until after the reorganization. Boelcke spent the summer touring all of the German fronts, choosing crack pilots for the unit he was to create. One of those, whom Boelcke found in Russia, was Manfred von Richthofen, later known as the "Red Baron."
In August 1916, the first few Jagdstaffeln were organized and sent to the Western Front. Jagdstaffeln literally translates to "hunting groups." These were the first German offensive combat patrols. Boelcke's unit was called Jasta 2.
Throughout August and early September, Boelcke kept his men busy by training
them to use his combat tactics. It took until mid-September for his unit
to get the requisite 12 planes to commence operational duty, so the unit
had plenty of time to practice. It soon paid off.Flying the new Albatros
D.I and D.II scouts, Jasta 2 found no equals in the sky. On their first combat
flight alone, Boelcke and his men downed 8 out of 14 British planes without
loss. One of these planes was downed by von Richthofen, his first victory.For
the next two months, Jasta 2 cleared their airspace of Allied aircraft.
Among the many aces the unit produced were Werner Voss (48 victories), Manfred von Richthofen (80), Erwin Boehme (24), and Fritz Rumey (45).Boelcke died after achieving 40 kills, on October 26, 1916.
Involved in a dogfight with Major Hawker's 24 Squadron, von Richthofen cut in front of Boelcke while chasing a D.H.2. Boelcke swerved upward to avoid Manfred but, in the process, brushed lightly against the lower wing of Erwin Boehme's Albatros. Boelcke's wing collapsed and he plunged to his death.Later, a British plane flew over Jasta 2's aerodrome and dropped a wreath bearing the inscription, "To the Memory of Captain Boelcke, our Brave and Chivalrous Opponent."