A former graduate of the Dresden Cadet School, Immelmann was called to active service when World War I started. He soon transferred to the Imperial German Flying Corps and was sent for pilot training at Johannisthal Air Field in November 1914. He was initially stationed in northern France.
The twenty four year old Immelmann was an introvert; his closest friends seemed to be his mother and his dog, Tyras. No carousing and dancing with the young girls for him.
Immelmann served as a pilot with Field Flier Detachment 10 from February to April 1915, and then in FFA 62 by early May 1915. On several occasions he engaged in combat while flying the L.V.G. two-seaters with which his units were equipped, but never with any success. On 3 June 1915, he was shot down by a French pilot but managed to land safely behind German lines. Immelmann was decorated with the Iron Cross, Second Class for preserving his aircraft.
Immelmann quickly built an impressive score of air victories. During September, three more victories followed, and then in October he became solely responsible for the air defense of the city of Lille. Immelmann became known as The Eagle of Lille. He gained two further victories during September, to become the first German ace.
Immelmann flirted with the position of Germany's leading ace, trading that spot off with Oswald Boelcke. Having come second to Boelcke for his sixth victory, he was second to be awarded the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern for this feat.
Later the Order of Hohenzollern medal became unofficially known as the "Blue Max" in the German Air Service in honor of Immelmann.
On 15 December, Immelmann shot down his seventh British plane and moved into an unchallenged lead in the competition to be Germany's leading ace.
By the end of May of 1916, Immelmann's victories had mounted to 15.
On June 18, Immelmann engaged some aircraft of RFC Squadron 25. According to British accounts, gunfire from an FE-2 piloted by Lt. G.R. McCubbin and gunned by Cpl. J. H. Waller hit Immelmann's Fokker and it dived into the ground, resulting in his death.
Perhaps the notion that a lowly two-seater FE-2 had brought down their leading ace, the Germans announced that he had been downed by anti-aircraft fire. This explanation also suited Tony Fokker, who filed a report noting that "the fuselage had been shot in two by shrapnel fire."
Other sources, including Max's brother Franz, blamed the interrupter gear, and claimed that amongst the wreckage, his propeller had been found, shot away right in line with his own guns. Most authorities concur with this explanation, but like so many events of World War One's aerial combat, the death of Max Immelmann remains obscured by conflicting reports and uncertainty.
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