Karl Emil Schäfer was killed today. He is not a household name like Richthofen but at the time he was considered a big deal.
Schäfer served first with Reserve Jäger Bataillon 7 in Bückeburg. He won the Iron Cross 2nd class and was promoted to Vizefeldwebel during September 1914, before being badly wounded and hospitalised for six months. After returning to the front line he was commissioned in May 1915.
He the trained as a pilot and served over the Eastern Front with Kampfgeschwader 2 from July 1916 onwards. He moved to the west and now flew with Kampfstaffel 11, where he gained his first victory.
On hearing that Manfred von Richthofen was assembling a “top gun” squadron at Jasta 11, he telegraphed him “Can you use me?” Richthofen replied, “You have already been requested.”
Schäfer was then posted to Jasta 11 on 21 February 1917 and over the next two months he shot down 23 aircraft.
Schäfer was then given command of Jasta 28 on 26 April, and shot down seven more, the last being a DH4 (A7420) Lieutenant Douglas James Honer and Private G Cluney from 55 Squadron.
Today he led a patrol which came across 7 FEs from 20 Squadron RFC. He went after one FE and drove it down. He was then attacked by Lieutenant Harold Satchell and Lieutenant Thomas Lewis. What happened next is unclear. The RFC communiqué reported:
“a fight lasting about 15 minutes ensued in which the German pilot showed great skill and persistence. Eventually, however, after a burst of fire at very close range, the HA burst into flames and its wings were seen to fall off before it crashed”
However, German ace witness Max Ritter von Müller reported seeing it break up, but noted no fire. Photos of the wreckage show no scorching and the wings still attached to the aircraft. Nevertheless, his Jasta 28 comrades recovered Schäfer’s body, noting that it had no bullet wounds, but that every bone in his body had been broken.