ENTERING SERVICE WITH GERMAN SQUADRONS IN THE SPRING OF 1915, THE FOKKER EINDECKER SHAPED THE FUTURE OF AERIAL COMBAT
On 24 June 1915, Lieutenant Oswald Boelcke, the leader of the first generation of German fighter pilots, took to the air in the Fokker Eindecker, the initial operational flight of the new aircraft. It was innovative for its single-wing construction and its synchronisation gear that allowed the forward-firing machine gun to shoot through the propeller arc.
Boelcke, fellow ace Max Immelmann and other German pilots soon made the Eindecker dominant in the skies over the Western Front. During the dark months of the ‘Fokker Scourge’, British pilots began referring to their planes as ‘Fokker fodder’ simply because they had no adequate means of fighting back against the marauding German aircraft.
On the evening of 1 July 1915, Lieutenant Kurt Wintgens probably recorded the first aerial victory for an Eindecker pilot. About
6pm, Wintgens encountered a French Moranesaulnier Type L two-seater observation plane and attacked. As the French observer fired back with a rifle, Wintgens peppered the enemy’s engine with 7.92mm machine gun bullets. The French machine was forced out of the sky and went down behind Allied lines, so Wintgens’s kill could not be officially confirmed.
Only 416 Eindecker fighters were completed, including 249 examples of the E.III, the main production model and the first to become available in sufficient numbers to organise true fighter squadrons. On 1 August 1915, Boelcke and Immelmann shocked their British adversaries, pouncing on a formation of
Royal Aircraft Factory BE2C reconnaissance and bomber aircraft that were returning from a mission. Boelcke’s guns jammed, but Immelmann chased a BE2C for ten minutes, pouring hundreds of bullets into the plane, which crashed. That summer, Boelcke and Immelmann claimed 13 kills, while seven other German pilots shot down another 15 Allied planes.
The Fokker Scourge ended in early 1916 with the introduction of new Allied fighter types. But the Fokker Eindecker – soon outmoded – had already revolutionised aerial warfare.
“BRITISH PILOTS BEGAN REFERRING TO THEIR PLANES AS ‘FOKKER FODDER’ SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY HAD NO ADEQUATE MEANS OF FIGHTING BACK AGAINST THE MARAUDING GERMAN AIRCRAFT”
This image of a modern Fokker Eindecker reveals the structure of the fixed undercarriage that was designed to handle the impact of difficult landings and add stability to the aircraft, both on the ground and in the air