24 June 1917 – Flying Circus

It has become apparent to the German High Command that they would always be outnumbered in air operations over the Western Front as the average Jasta could only muster some six or eight aircraft in total for a patrol, and would often face one Allied formation after another.

In order to maintain some impact and local command of the air the Jastas began to fly in larger, composite groups to carry out operations.

Today this was made official with the formation of Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) by combining Jastas 4,6, 10 and 11. Manfred Von Richthofen is in command. This became known to the British as the Flying Circus.

Its role is simple, to achieve localized air superiority wherever it was sent and to deny Allied air operations over a specific location. The unit will be mobile, and JG 1 and its supporting logistical infrastructure will travel to wherever local air superiority is needed.

Initially based at Marke (Jasta 11), Cuene (Jasta 4), Bissegem (Jasta 6) and Heule (Jasta 10), Richthofen has freedom to select his unit commanders and recruit individual pilots into JG 1, and alternately to transfer out any pilots he does not feel were up to standard.

In the longer run, this policy had the effect of making the Jagdgeschwader an elite unit, but robbing lesser Jastas of their best pilots also reduced the overall standard of the average unit. JG 1 itself suffered a dilution of talent when competent members were posted away to command their own Jastas in late 1917, when the number of Jastas were doubled from 40 to 80.


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