Berthold joined the German Army in 1909, serving with the infantry. He turned his attention to the fledgling air technology three years later, learning to fly in 1913. He was thus well-placed to request (and receive) a transfer to the German Air Service once war broke out in August 1914.
He was one of the pioneer aviators of World War I, flying crucial reconnaissance missions, as an observer, during his nation's 1914 invasion of France.
In 1915, he began flying single-seat fighters and was credited with five victories before crashing a Pfalz E.IV on April 25, 1916. Injured and wounded several times throughout the war, Berthold earned a reputation as a ruthless, fearless and very patriotic fighter. His perseverance, bravery, and willingness to return to combat while still wounded made him one of the most famous German pilots of the war.
On August 10, 1918, he shot down his final two victims on his final flight before being downed when his Fokker D.VII crashed into a house after colliding with an enemy aircraft.
After two days in the hospital, he would once again flee treatment and return to combat. Only a direct order from Kaiser Wilhelm II returned him to medical care for the rest of the war.
Between 1916 and 1918, he shot down 44 enemy planes—16 of them while flying one-handed.
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