Oblt Erich Löwenhardt OPM

The third-highest scoring German ace of World War 1 was born in Breslau on 7 April 1897. After the outbreak of war he had served in the Kulmer-Infanterie Regiment Nr 141, and was commissioned a Leutnant before he was seriously wounded in Russia at the end of October 1914. In early January 1915 Löwenhardt returned to his unit, and served with distinction in a ski troop in the Carpathians, saving the lives of five wounded comrades. He was then transferred to the Alpenkorps and saw further action in the Dolomites.

Löwenhardt then requested a transfer to aviation in October 1915, serving as an observer on the Western Front. After pilot training he was posted to Fl. Abt. (A) 265 in 1916, and later went to Jasta 10 in March 1917. His first victory was a balloon flamed on 24 March 1917, and nine of his initial victories would be balloons. Jasta 10 pilot Friedrich Rüdenberg wrote that 'Löwenhardt had the right cold-bloodedness for this job'. His first was succeeded by a long dry spell, his second coming on 14 August. On 20 September he was lightly wounded, but made a smooth emergency landing near Roulers, and destroyed a balloon the very next day. Another emergency landing followed on 6 November when a wing broke - the aircraft was demolished but Löwenhardt was unscathed. By the end of 1918 he had eight kills, and was appointed commander of Jasta 10 on 1 April- a week before he turned 21. Seven kills in May brought his tally to 24, and he received the 'Hohenzollern' on the 11th of that month and the 'Blue Max' on the last day.

When Jasta 10 acquired the Fokker D VII in May Löwenhardt scoring rate began to increase, and once he obtained the BMW version things really heated up.

He is said to have engaged in a friendly competition with Ernst Udet in the summer of 1918, and the two ravaged both French and British aerial forces for two months. Eight aircraft fell to him in June, and 16 more in July. He could also display single-minded ruthlessness, as on 30 June when he flew with Gabriel of Jasta 11 on a two-man patrol. Löwenhardt dived on a British fighter and forced it to land behind German lines. He saw the pilot fumbling in the cockpit, trying to set the machine on fire. Löwenhardt repeatedly dived on the machine and drove the pilot away, who kept returning to his aircraft. The German finally killed the RAF airman with a short burst. He then landed, took the dead man's wallet and returned to the airfield. He later showed Gabriel the wallet, saying 'this is proof'

Löwenhardt brought his prodigious score to 54 on 10 August, when his yellow D VII collided with the Fokker of Alfred Wentz. He took to his parachute, but it failed to open and he fell to his death.

©2004 Osprey Publishing Limited

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