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Ramblings Over the Front

The End of a Baer

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Paul F. Baer in front of his SPAD S.VII

As members of the forum may know, I have some great interest in the Escadraille Americaine/Lafayette Escadrille/103rd Aero. I have a few planes to represent the various stages of this squadron, ranging from two Nieuport N.11 repaints, to the Thaw/Lufbery Nieuport N.17, to four SPAD S.VIIs for the 103rd Aero. Also, one of the interesting American pilots of the war, and one who was the American Ace of Aces for a short spell, was a member of the 103rd, that being Paul Baer from Indiana.

The flight log of the 103rd Aero is an interesting read. While it might not have all the details needed to flesh out scenarios, it does in some cases provide a framework to build a scenario upon. Hence the following scenario idea, based on Baer's last flight of May 22nd, 1918, in which he was shot down, captured, and was a prisoner for the remainder of the war.

The flight took place between 8:45 and 10:45. An hour into the patrol eight enemy fighters were spotted in the Laventie region (the term monoplace being used in the log to denote single-seater) - Laventie being a few miles west of Lille. According to the log, First Lieutenant William Dugan was attacked and in turn he performed a loop and fired but ten rounds until his Vickers jammed. Fellow flight member First Lieutenant Charles Wilcox "piqued" on two of the enemy fighters, which I believe means that he had a height advantage. After firing fifty rounds he was able to shoot down one of the fighters which fell en vrille - spinning out of control. Then First Lieutenant George Turnure piqued on the tail of another German, attacking it, following it for 2,000 meters, when the German appeared to be out of control. Dugan would state that he saw a German being hard pressed by a SPAD, which could have been Turnure's potential victim. It was also noted that the patrol saw a German piquing on a SPAD. Then the report simply states that Lieutenants (Paul) Baer and (Ernest) Giroux did not return. Baer was flying a SPAD S.VII, but Giroux was flying a SPAD SXIII. The 103rd, even when transitioning the the S.XIII would often prefer to fly the S.VII as it was more mechanically reliable.

So, how would one create a scenario from such information? We have five American pilots named to face off against eight Germans. We do not know the types of planes the Germans were equipped with, let alone their Jasta. Being that is was late May of 1918, there is a chance the fighters were Pfalz D.IIIas, Albatros D.Vas, or even Fokker D.VIIs (these being the most common types in service at the time, there could be other choices as well). Most likely the enemy was not using triplanes as this most likely would have been noted in the log. We do know that Baer was credited with an Albatros on this flight so can assume that the entire German flight was made up of Albatros D.Vas.

Dugan was attacked, seemingly even after the Germans had been spotted. Does this mean the Germans had a position advantage? Were they tailing the SPADs of the 103rd? How then was Wilcox able to pique on two Germans? Did he maneuver for a height advantage or was he already at a higher altitude?

I would almost suggest starting the various aircraft at random locations. Have each plane roll a die, loser starts in the middle, then next lowest die rolls, using the chart in THIS POST, to determine their place, then next plane starts based on that position, and so on. Would make a heck of a mess of planes on the table, to be certain!

I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this potential scenario!

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