Carl Menchkoff

  • World War I
  • 3 mins

By Crusader1307

Credited with being the fist Imperial German Fighter Ace and first Awardee of the coveted ''Blue Max'' Flying Award, Carl Menchkoff was born in Prussia in 1883. He came from a large Family and would not be considered a ''Gentleman'' – having no noble linage. Having a love of mechanical engines, Carl would take to the automobile when prototypes came to Germany. His brother developed a love for Ballooning and often took Carl with Him. This too would peak Carl's interest. Carl would join The Army in 1903, but a suspected illness would cause Him to be mustered out.

 

It was in His 31st year that World War I would begin and Carl would re-enlist (being accepted without medical issue). He would go on to fight on The Western Front and earned several Iron Crosses (Medal of Gallantry) for ''heroic service''. He would eventually be promoted to Sergeant. He took a chance on being accepted into The Imperial Flying Corps. (not being an Officer). Carl credited His experiences with His Brother as a Balloonist for getting an appointment.

 

Menchkoff was described by others as a ''natural Pilot and skilled Hunter/Killer'' in the air. He would score 39 Kills of Enemy Planes and Observation Balloons. Eventually promoted to Lieutenant and made Squadron Commander. However, Carl ran out of luck in 1918, being shot down over France by American Fighters. He would survive His crash and taken prisoner by The French. A story involving His capture is somewhat legendary. After crashing and pulling Himself from His wreckage, The American Pilot landed nearby. Seeing His Foe alive, He rendered Him aid until French Soldiers took Carl away. As was tradition, The American was expected to take a ''trophy''. Rather than take Carl's ''Blue Max'' Medal, He carved off the fabric insignia on the side of His Fighter (a large letter ''M'' for ''Menchkoff''). He carefully folded and took this as His ''trophy''. Carl would be imprisoned until 1919 and the end of The War. But Carl feared that His captors would never release Him, so He planned a daring escape from captivity. Escaping and eventually stealing a car, as well as later – horse and walking, Carl made it to The Swiss Border and crossed over. Rather than return to the pending economic depression and post-War strife of a defeated Germany, Carl stayed in Switzerland, founded a successful Heating Business.

 

In time, Carl saw Germany change into the nightmare of The Nazi's and National Socialism. A vocal opponent of The Nazi's, when German ''4th Element'' supporters invaded the Government of The Swiss, Carl actually helped form, supply and even lead a group of Resisters. Captured in 1944, He would again be imprisoned and almost executed. He escaped this fate due to the Allied advances into Northern Europe. Making a home with His Wife in Basel, Switzerland – Carl would die during surgery in 1949 – largely unknown as a War Hero and former Resistance Fighter. But His story goes farther.

 

Having several children, Carl's youngest Son would eventually made His way to The United States and make His home in Washington DC. His Son knew nothing of His Father's War Service, and it was not until a Historian was working on a Biography that He was tracked down and told. His story made local newspaper coverage. It was read by a neighbor – just several blocks down. This neighbor was the daughter of The American Pilot who had shot down Carl in 1918 and – carved off His trophy.

 

The two would met and as a means of honoring His Father, the daughter gave His Son back the aged cloth fabric which bore the White letter ''M''. It was given with the proviso that it be passed down to other Menchkoff generations. It apparently will be.