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Menckhoff, Carl
Born (1883-04-14)April 14, 1883
Died 11 January 1948(1948-01-11) (aged 64)
Place of birth Herford, Westphalia, Germany
Place of death Switzerland
Allegiance Germany
Service/branch Imperial German Aviation Service
Years of service 1914-1918
Rank Oberleutnant
Unit Jagdstaffel 3
Commands held Jagdstaffel 72
Awards Pour le Mérite, Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Iron Cross First and Second Class
Other work Businessman in Switzerland

Carl Menckhoff (14 April 1883 - 11 January 1948) was a German First World War fighter ace, credited with 39 confirmed victories. Already in his 30s when he learned to fly, he was one of the oldest pilots in the Imperial German Air Service. He transferred from infantry service to aviation as a non-commissioned officer, but afterwards succeeded in being was later commissioned as an officer. He won the Pour le Mérite ("Blue Max"), and was given a squadron command.

Having fallen prisoner on 25 June 1918, he languished incarcerated until August 1919 when he escaped into Switzerland. He succeeded in business and remained there for the rest of his life.

Military years

Menckhoff was born in Herford, Westphalia,[1] in the Kingdom of Prussia. He reported for his compulsory military service at age 20 in 1903, but was invalided out within six weeks when he contracted appendicitis.[2]

In August 1914, when he was 31, Menckoff enlisted in Infantry Regiment Nr. 106.[3] He was wounded several times and received the Iron Cross First Class and Second Class for gallantry, both by the end of 1914.[4]

Aerial service

Left unfit for infantry service by his injuries, Menckhoff applied for transfer to the Luftstreitkrafte. He was at first an observer on the Eastern Front, where he gained useful flying experience but little experience of combat.[5] In 1916 he became a flight instructor, and the following year, as a Vizefeldwebel (staff sergeant), he was assigned as a fighter pilot to Jagdstaffel 3, stationed in France and equipped with the Albatros D.III.[6]

He scored his first victory on 5 April 1917, downing a Nieuport 17 of No. 29 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, flown by Lieutenant Norman Birks.[7][8] The victories began to mount rapidly after that,[9] though Menckhoff often returned from victorious flights shaken by his triumphs.[10]

Menckhoff was shot down several times, but always returned to duty. On 23 September 1917, he rushed to the aid of Werner Voss during the latter's battle against an overwhelming force from the Royal Flying Corps. Lieutenant Arthur Rhys Davids turned from engaging Voss and damaged Menckhoff's Albatros so badly that he had to crash land it. Rhys Davids then shot down Voss.[11]

Menckhoff's Fokker D.VII of Jasta 72 (marked with prominent letter "M"s) at Bergnicourt, 1918.

Menckhoff fought planes of No. 56 Squadron again on 28 September, and again had to crash land.[12] Nevertheless, his victories totalled 20 by 4 February 1918.[13] One week later, he was assigned command of Saxon Jagdstaffel 72[14] as its initial Staffelführer.[15] His leadership style conserved his men's lives and the squadron's subsequent 60 victories were claimed with the loss of only one of its own pilots.[16] The number of aircraft lost by his unit during this time is unknown.[citation needed]

On 23 April 1918, he was awarded Germany's highest decoration for valor, the Pour le Mérite, his victory total having reached 25.[17]

On 25 July, however, three days after his thirty-ninth victory, Menckhoff was shot down by Lieutenant Walter Avery of the 95th Aero Squadron, United States Air Service[18][19][20] while the German ace was piloting one of his two Fokker D.VIIs.[21] Captured by French troops at the crash site, Menckhoff was chagrined to learn that he was a rookie pilot's first victory. Avery cut the letter "M" from the crashed Fokker, but sportingly refused to deprive him of his Pour le Merite.[22]

Following interrogation, Menckhoff was held as a prisoner of war, along with many other German pilots, at Camp Montoire, near Orléans.[23]

Post war years

Menckhoff remained a prisoner long after the war ended in November 1918. Despairing of his release, he finally escaped on 23 August 1919, and managed to reach Switzerland.[24] He remained there for the rest of his life, becoming a successful businessman. He raised a family, but never talked about the war. Carl Menckhoff died in Switzerland in 1948.[25][26]


In May 2007, Walter Avery's daughter learned that Menckhoff's son, Gerhard Menckhoff, lived in the District of Columbia. She decided to return the fabric "M" from Menckhoff's crashed Fokker D.VII to the family. Gerhard Menckhoff explained he had not known his father was a war hero until after his death, and promised to pass the relic on to his son Carl, the German ace's namesake.[27]


  1. SE.5a Vs. Albatros D.V. p. 22. 
  2. German Fighter Aces of World War One. p. 128. 
  3. SE.5a Vs. Albatros D.V. p. 22. 
  4. Fokker D.VII Aces of World War I Part 2. pp. 74–75. 
  5. German Fighter Aces of World War One. p. 129. 
  8. Franks, Norman L.R.; Guest, Russell; Bailey, Frank W. (1995). Bloody April ... Black September. London: Grub Street. p. 19. ISBN 1-898697-08-6. 
  9. Above the Lines, p. 164.
  10. The First Air War 1914-1918, p. 169.
  11. Sopwith Camel Vs. Fokker Dr.I, pp, 21-22.
  12. SE.5a Vs. Albatros D.V, p. 73.
  13. Above the Lines, p. 164.
  15. Fokker D.VII Aces, Part 2.. p. 74. 
  16. Combat in the Sky. p. 43. 
  17. Fokker D.VII Aces, Part 2.. p. 74. 
  18. Fokker D.VII Aces, Part 2.. pp. 74–75. 
  19. German Fighter Aces of World War One. p. 129. 
  20. The Pharos-Reporter, July 27, 1918
  21. Spad XIII Vs. Fokker D.VII. p. 14. 
  22. Fokker D.VII Aces, Part 2.. pp. 74–75. 
  23. German Fighter Aces of World War One. p. 129. 
  24. German Fighter Aces of World War One. p. 129. 
  26. Above the Lines, p. 164.



  • Above the Lines: The Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914–1918. Norman Franks, Frank W. Bailey, Russell Guest. Grub Street, 1993. ISBN 0-948817-73-9, 9780948817731.
  • British and Empire Aces of World War I. Christopher Shores. Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84176-377-2, 9781841763774.
  • Combat in the Sky: The Art of Aerial Warfare. Philip Handleman. Zenith Imprint, 2003. ISBN 0-7603-1468-3, 9780760314685.
  • First Air War: 1914-1918, The, Lee Kennett, Simon and Schuster, 1999. ISBN 0684871203, 9780684871202.
  • Fokker D VII Aces of World War 1: Part 2. Norman Franks, et al. Osprey Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-84176-729-8, 9781841767291.
  • German Fighter Aces of World War One, Terry C. Treadwell and Alan C. Wood. Stroud: Tempus, 2003. ISBN 075242808X.
  • SE 5a Vs Albatros D V: Western Front 1917-18, Jon Guttman, Osprey Publishing, 2009. ISBN 184603471X, 9781846034718.
  • Sopwith Camel Vs Fokker Dr I: Western Front 1917-18. Jon Guttman, Harry Dempsey. Osprey Publishing, 2008. ISBN 1846032938, 9781846032936.
  • Spad XIII Vs. Fokker D VII: Western Front 1916-18, Part 7. Jon Guttman. Osprey Publishing, 2009. ISBN 1846034329, 9781846034329.


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