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Sanke card # 361: Oberleutnant Max Immelmann, “The Eagle of Lille”
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Image by drakegoodman
Nothing on reverse.

Possibly the most well known Sanke of them all – depicts Oberleutnant Max Immelmann in all his military regalia. Photograph taken in Lille / Douai sometime between 17 – 19 of January 1916 on the occasion of his promotion to Oberleutnant.

From Wiki:

Max Immelmann (21 September 1890 – 18 June 1916) was a great pioneer in fighter aviation and is often mistakenly credited with the first aerial victory using a synchronized gun. His name has become attached to common flying tactics, and remains a byword in aviation.

When World War I started, Immelmann was recalled to active service, transferred to the Luftstreitkräfte and was sent for pilot training at Johannisthal Air Field in November 1914. He was initially stationed in northern France.

Immelmann served as a pilot with Fliegerabteilung 10 from February to April 1915, and then in Flg Abt 62. On several occasions he engaged in combat while flying the L.V.G. two seaters with which his units were equipped, but never with any success. On 3 June 1915, he was shot down by a French pilot but managed to land safely behind German lines. Immelmann was decorated with the Iron Cross, Second Class for preserving his aircraft.

When two Fokker E.Is were delivered to the unit, Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke flew these, and it was with one of these aircraft that he gained the first confirmed air victory of the war for the Germans on 1 August 1915. Immelmann achieved his first victory, on 1 August 1915:

"Like a hawk, I dived… and fired my machine gun. For a moment, I believed I would fly right into him. I had fired about 60 shots when my gun jammed. That was awkward, for to clear the jam I needed both hands – I had to fly completely without hands… "

Lieutenant William Reid fought back valiantly, flying with his left hand and firing a pistol with his right. Nonetheless, the 450 bullets fired at him took their effect; Reid suffered four wounds in his left arm, and his airplane’s engine quit, causing a crash-landing. The unarmed Immelmann landed nearby, took Reid prisoner, and rendered first aid.

Immelmann became one of the first German fighter pilots, quickly building an impressive score of air victories. During September, three more victories followed, and then in October he became solely responsible for the air defense of the city of Lille. Immelmann became known as The Eagle of Lille (Der Adler von Lille). He gained two further victories during September, to become the first German ace.

Immelmann flirted with the position of occasionally being Germany’s leading ace, trading that spot off with that other pioneer ace, Oswald Boelcke. Having come second to Boelcke for his sixth victory, and thus second to be awarded the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern for this feat, on 15 December, Immelmann shot down his seventh British plane and moved into an unchallenged lead in the ace race.

Immelmann was the first pilot to be awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany’s highest military honour, receiving it on the day of his eighth win. The medal became unofficially known as the "Blue Max" in the German Air Service in honor of Immelmann. His medal was presented by Kaiser Wilhelm II on 12 January 1916. Oswald Boelcke received his medal at the same time.

Boelcke scored again two days later. Immelmann would chase him in the ace race for the next four months, drawing even on 13 March at 11 each, losing the lead on the 19th, regaining it on Easter Sunday (23 April) 14 to 13, losing it again forever on 1 May. It was about this time, on 25 April, that Immelmann received a salutary lesson in the improvement of British aircraft. As the German ace himself described his attack on two Airco DH.2s, "The two worked splendidly together…and put 11 shots into my machine. The petrol tank, the struts on the fuselage, the undercarriage and the propeller were hit… It was not a nice business."

On 31 May, Immelmann, Max Ritter von Mulzer, and another German pilot attacked a formation of seven British aircraft. Immelmann was flying a two-gun Fokker E.IV, and when he opened fire, the synchronizing gear malfunctioned. A stream of bullets cut off the tip of a propeller blade. The thrashing of the unbalanced air screw nearly shook the aircraft’s Oberursel engine loose from its mounts before he could cut the ignition and glide to a dead-stick landing.

In the late afternoon of 18 June 1916, Immelmann led a flight of four Fokker E.III Eindeckers in search of a flight of eight F.E.2b reconnaissance aircraft of 25 Squadron Royal Flying Corps over Sallaumines in northern France. The British flight had just crossed the lines near Arras, with the intent of photographing the German infantry and artillery positions within the area, when Immelmann’s flight intercepted them. After a long-running fight, scattering the participants over an area of some 30 square miles, Immelmann brought down one of the enemy aircraft, wounding both the pilot and observer. This was his 16th victory.

Later that same evening, Immelmann in Fokker E.III, serial 246/16, encountered No. 25 Squadron again, this time near the village of Lentz. Immediately, he got off a burst which hit the pilot of one of the pushers, killing him instantly. This was his 17th victory. The crew of the second aircraft he closed on, which Max Ritter von Mulzer downed a few minutes later, was piloted by Second Lieutenant G.R. McCubbin with Corporal J. H. Waller as gunner/observer, and was credited by the British with shooting Immelmann down. On the German side, many had seen Immelmann as invincible and could not conceive the notion that he had fallen to enemy fire. Meanwhile, British authorities awarded McCubbin the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Service Medal and sergeant’s stripes for Waller.

The German Air Service at the time claimed the loss was due to (friendly) anti-aircraft fire. Others, including Immelmann’s brother, believed his aircraft’s gun synchronisation (designed to enable his machine gun to fire between the whirling propeller blades without damaging them) had malfunctioned with catastrophic results. This is not in itself unreasonable, as early versions of such gears frequently malfunctioned in this way. Indeed, this had already happened to Immelmann twice before (while testing two- and three-machine gun installations), although on each occasion, he had been able to land safely. McCubbin, in a 1935 interview, claimed that immediately after Immelmann shot down McCubbin’s squadron mate, the German ace began an Immelmann turn, McCubbin and Wall swooped down from a greater altitude and opened fire, and the pioneer German ace fell out of the sky. Wall also pointed out later that the British bullets could have hit Immelmann’s propeller.

In fact, damage to the propeller seems unlikely to have been the primary cause of the structural failure evident in accounts of the crash of his aircraft, although it is possible that a sudden stall and spin resulting from the sudden loss of motive power could have caused structural failure. At 2,000 meters, the tail was seen to break away from the rest of Immelmann’s Fokker, the wings detached or folded, and what remained of the fuselage fell straight down, carrying the 25-year old Oberleutnant to his death. His body was recovered by the German 6 Armee from the twisted wreckage, laying smashed and lifeless over what was left of the surprisingly intact Oberursel engine (sometimes cited as under it), but was only identified because he had his initials embroidered on his handkerchief.

Immelmann was given a state funeral and buried in his home of Dresden. His body was later exhumed, however, and honorably cremated in the Dresden-Tolkewitz Crematorium.

The present-day Luftwaffe has dubbed Squadron AG-51 the "Immelmann Squadron" in his honor.

pandora’s aquarium
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Image by mehmet nevzat erdoğan
(c) mehmet erdoğan

You saw Pandora in fifth grade writing love notes on scraps of paper and thought her to be impossibly romantic. On the first day of school she wore a pink shirt that showcased two red hearts inside one another, and when she took some time getting up after the bell rang, you fell in love with her. She liked shivering early mornings; she collected cut outs of movie stars from magazines. You stayed consistently curious throughout high school – perhaps insistent on your crush particularly so it would get you through three years of otherwise mind-numbing world of academe. She would pack so much grace in small movements in the tiniest of moments it confused you. Which is why when she smiled at you, it warmed you, made you want to sing, made you want to dance – until you saw her smile at Josh, too, and then at Phil, and even at Casey. When Titanic came out, Leo DiCaprio was all she’d talk about, so you grew your hair. You got your braces taken out, much to your mother’s chagrin. You tried writing poems, but it wasn’t in you; you watched your brother play the guitar in his room and felt sorry for yourself. You jerked off in the bathroom quietly trying to think of anything but her, almost succeeding but only up to the last second; and when you got up and flushed, guilt covered your ankles like a pair of jeans glued to the floor.

There was a point where you were supposed to become a stronger version of yourself, when the older relatives in the family should notice a crack in your voice and contemplate the growth of your bones. Instead, it felt as though the tides of time took a little bit more sand from your shores every day; each "good night!" left you a little smaller, and you grew quieter, especially around her, especially when she walked up and down the hallway, as you pretended to look for a pencil or your soccer shoes in that locker. Eventually where others were filled with excitement, with danger, with history, with intellectual awakenings, you found yourself drawing blank. It seemed that just when that breakthrough moment had come for you, just when it was your turn to shine and you’d opened your mouth to celebrate, someone had put you on pause and left you there, waiting.

But you wanted it. Of course you wanted it.
The excitement, the danger, the history, the intellectual awakenings.
Instead you started to skip breakfast and opted to dive to the very bottom of yourself, every morning digging without an idea of what to do dig for but still yearning, hoping you’d recognize it if you could just spot it – though always having to resurface, always at the wrong times, breathless and aching.

She was bigger than everyone else combined – even her own shadow couldn’t live up to it; she outdid everyone and everything. As if a bird overlooking them all, in an instant flash, you saw it: all those boys (and Jacqueline, perhaps,) overwhelmed and scribbling in their respective corners, with her head raised high in the front seat, occasionally palming the pairs of eyes on the back of her head, in her hair, then lowering her arm to the floor and opening her palm, as if feeding stars to the fish in an aquarium.

Strangely enough, she never dated anyone. Everyone dated her – in their heads, in their stories, at night in dreams. It was the way it was those days: she smiled to you and you melted. She said hello and your appetite grew stronger. It was through her the plaids made a comeback. Then headbands. She wore one to a school party and next week the style went through the locker rooms like gonorrhea.

You grew suspicious of everyone who was smiling at the cafeteria.

Washing your hands in the sink and catching a glimpse in the mirror, you became suspicious of yourself…


Seven years later, now, a few minutes after you step out of the train on 72nd and start walking on Amsterdam, you will see her sitting at a café, wearing a beret, holding a mug to her lips, keeping it there for warmth. She will appear frozen for a tiny second, then move ever so slightly. (Still graceful – some things never change.) She won’t see you, so you will walk by, without a wave, and then you will think: all those seven years will come to you, jump to you, heavy as marshmallow, light as lead, stir you, shake you. Seven years of dirty towels under your bed will say: There is an incomplete scene here, this is your cue. Then in a rush, as in a run-on sentence, you will turn around and go in and stop by her table, wave awkwardly, all white teeth and good hair, the wave uncharacteristic of a 22 year old, a wave seven years late; you will say "hi – " then stop, frustrated with the word itself as if there should be more to it. You will make small talk, only the tips of your fingers inside your pockets, your little pockets unable to contain more, you cursing your fashion choices. You will step back and forth, throw the hair out of your face, take a quick peek at her notepad as she is talking to you – two scribbled hearts inside one another – and then you will both laugh at something she said, or you said, and then you will leave. Seven years of foreplay for such a short climax; so worth it, you will think. That’s the way it goes in the world with her in it. That’s the way it will go: After you get home you will think about her, though only briefly and after that only once in a while, only sometimes, like a secret box of chocolate you take out to enjoy only on special occasions.

What you didn’t know: She did date this boy for a very short time, but asked him to please keep it a secret while she continued flirting with other boys. She was the anti Santa Claus, collecting from children; she sucked out your hearts, all of them, as if she were a gigantic vacuum cleaner only NASA knew of. She was never all that romantic, though she was obsessed with the faint idea of it. She would not have appreciated a poem, or a song. She would have been flattered by your gesture, yes, and she would have been struck by its beauty, but it would not actually have entered her. It would have hit her, and bounced back off. She had no entrances; she was a vault. For you to fondle the lock and curse was eventually what she wanted. For you to knock and ask, Is anyone home? so she could peek her head out of the shower for a whole second and smile, before she went back in to reach for the bottle of shampoo. The attention, the effort, the eyes on her chest: she wanted these things, but only them, and in moderation. High school kids had been an army she could control. Had she let a willing guest come in, she would have had nothing to show, but to everyone looking in from the outside, the clean windows, the pink curtains had been full with the promise of something utopian and perfect.

Even now, as you lie head buried in blankets, still skipping breakfast, waking up listlessly to each morning, drawing days out like savings from a bank, you think she added to you.

One day you’ll figure out she is the reason you stopped making friendships.
One day you’ll figure out she is the reason you secretly think of jerking off as perverse, which is why you wish so desperately to stop it.
One day you’ll notice the girl in the apartment below yours sitting with the TV off when you’re home; then the blinking light on the answering machine, then the dehydrated house plant in your window.

I hope, eventually, someone at least tells you often you have the most beautiful hands.

Her Name Was Wendy
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Image by vasta
She was dancing with someone else when I first walked in.

I must admit, I originally paid her no attention — well, maybe a furtive look at her figure as I passed by on the way to the bar — until I realized who she was: by then, it was too late. Women like that don’t wait for you to sweep them off their feet; waiting is a game they don’t know how to play.

I stood by the bar, quickly chasing my drink while I made casual banter with the pretty bartender behind the counter. It was my first time there, but she seemed pretty comfortable pouring me an endless supply of Bombay Sapphire while I flirted unsuccessfully; she was probably thinking of the potential tip at the end of the night on my quickly increasing tab. I didn’t mind. I hadn’t come there to make friends. I downed another drink.

The woman on the dance floor had left her dancing partner and was surrounded by friends — all feigning dancing in a group but really only periodically shaking their hips as they bombarded her with questions about her latest suitor. A few of them glanced over at the bar, never looking at me, but scanning the room for anything or anyone that would catch their eye. She wasn’t the leader of the pack, or even the true center of attention from amongst her friends, but something about her made her seem like a woman worth meeting. Usually, women like that barely even acknowledged my existence. I didn’t mind. I turned to face my pretty bartender again, as she poured me yet another drink.

Her name was Wendy. Not my pretty bartender — she had a name that I didn’t bother to remember — but the once-dancing woman. She had broken away from her circle of friends to get a drink, maybe to tear herself away from the orchestrated chaos of the dance floor. I said hello as she stood there waiting for her vodka-cranberry, thinking that buying her a drink would have been a bit too forward. I wasn’t that type of guy. We chatted; small talk mostly, but I became enthralled with her intellect, captivated by her sense of humor. Small talk led to a swapping of phone numbers. She asked me to dance: I wasn’t in the mood.

And with that, she kissed me on the cheek and walked out of my life forever.

It wasn’t until then that I realized who she was: the woman of my dreams. I tried to stop her, but it was too late. Women like that don’t wait for you to sweep them off their feet; waiting is a game they don’t know how to play.

I turned towards the bar and quickly downed my last drink the bitterness burning all the way down my burning throat. I motioned that I was ready to settle my tab, but my pretty bartender could see the desolation in my face: the drinks were on the house.

She kissed me on the cheek and began calling for a cab just as I collapsed on the bar from the pain in my head, my body, my soul.


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