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Karl Emil Schäfer

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Karl Emil Schäfer

Karl Emil Schäfer
Nickname(s) Karlchen (Charlie)
Born 17 December 1891
Died 5 June 1917(1917-06-05) (aged 25)
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branch Luftstreitkräfte
Years of service 1914 - 1917
Rank Leutnant
Unit Jasta 11, 28 (Commander), Kasta 8, 11
Awards Pour le Mérite, Iron Cross First and Second Class, Knight’s Cross with Swords of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Wound Badge

Karl Emil Schäfer (17 December 1891 – 5 June 1917) was a German pilot during World War I; he became one of the major German flying aces of the war, with 30 confirmed aerial victories.[1]

Early life and infantry service

Schäfer was born in Krefeld and joined the 10th Jäger Regiment of the Prussian Army for his military service. An engineering student who spoke fluent French and English, he was a fine drawer, and was studying in Paris when the war broke out but managed to return to Germany and was assigned to the 7th Jäger reserve Regiment. 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.

Flying service

Requesting flying duties Schäfer trained as a pilot and served over the Eastern Front with KG 2 from July 1916 onwards. He moved to the west and now flew with Kasta 11 of KG 2, where he gained his first victory. With just this single victory, he impudently telegraphed Manfred von Richthofen, who was assembling a "top gun" (kanone) squadron at Jasta 11, "Can you use me?" Richthofen replied, "You have already been requested."

Schäfer was then posted to Jasta 11 on 21 February 1917. In intensive operations during Bloody April he became a flying ace, being credited with 21 victories and awarded the Pour le Mérite. While a member of Jasta 11, "Karlchen" (Charlie) became known as the squadron's prankster and recorded many vivid incidents in combat and at play. He flew an Albatros D-III with red and black markings.[2] Somehow amidst all this he found time to pen his autobiography, Vom Jaeger zum Flieger - From Soldier to Pilot.

Command and death in action

Schäfer was then given command of Jasta 28 on 26 April, and after gaining further victories for a total of 30 claims Schäfer was shot down and killed in action on 5 June 1917 in combat with No. 20 Squadron, by ace crew Lt. Harold Satchell and Lt. Thomas Lewis. Satchell and Lewis' fire did not strike Schäfer, but disabled his plane, which broke in midair. They reported that the Albatos fell in flames; 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 plane.[3] Nevertheless, Jasta 28 comrades recovered Schäfer's body, noting that it had no bullet wounds, but that every bone in his body had been broken.

See also

List of World War I flying aces


  • Above the lines: the aces and fighter units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914-1918 Norman L. R. Franks, Frank W. Bailey, Russell Guest. Grub Street, 1993. ISBN 0-948817-73-9, ISBN 978-0-948817-73-1.
  • Pusher Aces of World War 1" Jon Guttman, Harry Dempsey. Osprey Pub Co, 2009. ISBN 1-84603-417-5, ISBN 978-1-84603-417-6.


  1. ^ Pusher Aces of World War 1. p. 81. 
  2. ^ Pusher Aces of World War 1. p. 81. 
  3. ^ Pusher Aces of World War 1. p. 80–82. 

External links

  • Karl Schäfer page at
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