The Fokker D.VII in Profile
By Bob Pearson
The Fokker D.VII was arguably the best aircraft of the First World War ... it has been said it made a mediocre pilot good, and a good pilot great. While this may be an exaggeration, the D.VII was the only German aircraft specifically mentioned in the terms of the Armistice that ended WW1, with all examples to be turned over to the Allies.
The D.VII was built by three different factories - Fokker itself, Albatros and the Albatros subsiduary of OAW. Each had its own style of cowl and engine cooling louvres. These louvres were installed after a series of inflight fires in which aircraft spontaneously caught fire with disatrous results. This was thought to be due to the temperature of the engine compartment setting off the phosphorous ammunition. Once these tribulations were worked out, the D.VII went on to equip most German Jastas. Some colourful examples of which are shown here.
Fokker D.VII 234/18
Ltn Friedrich 'Fritz' Friedrichs
The first three D.VIIs were finished in the same manner as the Fokker Dr.I with olive streaks over the clear-doped linen (CDL) fabric on all upper-surfaces. Lower surfaces were in turquoise. The first production examples had the wings covered in 4-colour lozenge. Note that the first ones in service also carried the old style 'eiserne kreuz' (iron cross), which were later modified to 'Balkan kreuz' form by the simple expedient of joining the arms of the cross at their widest point. The fuselage and tail crosses of 234/18 show this application. The upperwing crosses are still in orginal form.
Friedrich was a victim of the aforementioned engine compartment fires when on 15 July 1918, his D.VII (309/18) suddenly burst into flames, possibly due to the ammunition overheating and exploding. Friedrichs attempted to save himself by parachuting, however the parachute caught the tailplane and ripped, sending him to his death. He had been awarded the Pour le' Merite (aka the 'Blue Max') but it wasn't announced until 20 July.
Fokker D.VII 365/18
Ltn Josef Jacobs
JAFU, Jasta 7
Better known as the leading exponent of the Fokker Dr.I, Jacobs also flew this D.VII on occasion. More information on it is welcomed. So far all I have been able to find is one indistinct photo showing it off in the distance in a Jasta 7 lineup.
Fokker D.VII (early production)
Ltn Ernst Udet
JAFU, Jasta 4
If von Richthofen's red triplane is the most modelled WW1 aircraft, Udet's candy-striped D.VII would have to be in the running for second. However much is still unknown about this aircraft, including just which aircraft it is. The next point of contention is are the stripes red or black? I have chosen red, but black is also a valid option.
Despite being the best known of Udet's D.VIIs, "Du Doch Nicht" (loosely translated as "surely not you"), had a brief service life with Udet being shot down in it on 29 June 1918 by the rear gunner of a French Breguet 14. Udet was more fortunate than Friedrichs with his parachute - although it was a near thing as he jumped from 500 metres. Udet's later D.VIIs (and SSW D.III) bore the red fuselage and Lo! markings, but none were as elaborate as this one.
Fokker D.VII 4250-5399/18
Ltn Oliver von Beaulieu-Marconnay
When Rudolf Berthold took over command of Jagdgeschwader Nr.II, he brought along all the pilots and aircraft from his old unit, Jasta 18, and had them exchange with Jasta 15. One other change he instituted was that all aircraft of the Jagdgeschwader would have a JG marking of a blue tail and the various jastas would have a different colour nose; Js 12 (white), Js13 (green), Js15 (red), Js19 (yellow). These are among the most striking of unit markings, and must have been quite some sight in the air.
Formerly serving with the 4th Dragoons, von Beaulieu-Marconnay used their branding iron insignia on his aircraft. Later transferred to Jasta 19, which he would take command of on 2 September. On 16 October 1918 he was shot down and severely wounded by another German pilot. As it was understood that he was dying, his Pour le Merite was hurriedly awarded. He had turned 20 the month before . .
Fokker D.VII (OAW)
After exchanging pilots/aircraft with Jasta 15, the ex-Jasta 15 aircrew now adopted a unit marking based on their commanding officer's name - raven in German is 'raben' - and marked their aircraft accordingly. In addition they also took the opportunity to add red noses and wings and a white rear fuselage. Individual markings were carried on teh fuselage an tailplane. The aircraft shown here had a white chevron on its black tailplane, unfortunately the pilot/serial number is unknown.
Fokker D.VII (OAW) 4523/18
Ltn Rudolf Stark
JAFU, Jasta 35b
One other D.VII that has seen a fair amount of print of late is Rudolf Stark's 4523/18, The USAF Museum chose to do its D.VII in these colours. Stark is best known as the author of "Wings of War", which describes his time with Jasta 34b and Js35b.
Jasta 35b had different coloured noses and tails as its unit markings. Stark used lilac on his as continuation of the colour he had used at Js34b.
Fokker D.VII (OAW)6428/18
Ltn Hans Joachim von Hippel
JAFU, Jasta 71
Another familiar name to those studying aviation in the years 1914-1918 is that of Hans Joachim von Hipple. Although best known for his flight in an Albatros D.V with only three wing panels, von Hippel also flew D.VIIs while in command of Jasta 71.
This aircraft is interesting in that it carried five-colour lozenge - proving that not all D.VIIs were in four-colour. Also of note is the typical OAW cowl of mauve and green. Stark's D.VII originally had he same pattern on its cowl. Red/white tail stripes were the colours of Jasta 71.
- The research of Dan-San Abbott
- Various issues of Over the Front, Cross and Cockade, Windsock and WW1 Aero
- Greg VanWyngarden: von Richthofen's Flying Circus, Albatros Productions Ltd
- And many other sources consulted during my own research from the past 10 years
For other D.VII profiles click here