Monday, July 31, 2017

German Ace, Heinrich Bongartz


Bongartz was born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany on 31 January 1892. Bongartz was a schoolteacher in civilian life. At the outbreak of WW1 he enlisted in the infantry in August 1914 and saw action in the Battle of Verdun. He later transferred to the Luftstreitkräfte (German Air Service) in early 1915, to pilot training with Flieger-Abteilung (Flyer Detachment) 5 and was commissioned a Leutnant in March, 1916. Upon graduation in October, he was posted to a reconnaissance unit, Kampfgeschwader (Tactical Bomber Wing) 5. From there, he had a short lived tour with Kampfstaffel (Tactical Bomber Squadron) 27.

To his delight, Bongartz was finally assigned to flying fighter aircraft with Royal Prussian Jagdstaffel 36 in April 1917.
His initial success as a fighter pilot came during “Bloody April”, so called such because of the severe losses suffered by the Royal Flying Corps. Bongartz contributed to the British bloodshed by claiming four victories during April. He became an ace in May and ended the year with 10 victories. His aerial gallantry had earned him both classes of the Iron Cross.

On July 12, 1917, he shot down number 11 but the next day, Bongartz was wounded for the first time, the first of five wounds he would receive during the war. October and November saw him raise his count to 20 and he was awarded the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern.
On 23 December 1917, he was personally awarded the Pour le Mérite by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
By March of the following year he had run his total to 33 confirmed victories.

April 29 1918, saw his final combat flight when Bongartz' outnumbered Fokker Dr.1 Triplane engaged Royal Air Force planes of No. 74 Squadron. He was severely wounded but managed a crash landing in friendly territory. Later upon inspection of his plane, mechanics counted about 28 bullet holes in the cowling alone.
His wounds resulted in the loss of an eye which ended his combat career, however after recovering, he became the commander of the Aircraft Test Center at Aldershof.

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