Wilhelm Frankl

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Wilhelm Frankl
File:Wilhelm Frankl in 1916.jpg
Frankl in 1916
Born 20 December 1893
Hamburg, Germany
Died 8 April 1917(1917-04-08) (aged 23)
Vitry-Sailly, France
Berlin-Charlottenburg Berlin, Germany
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branch Luftstreitkräfte
Years of service 1914–1917
Rank Leutnant
Unit FFA 40, KEK Vaux, Jasta 4
Commands held Jasta 4
Awards Pour le Mérite, Iron Cross, Royal House Order of Hohenzollern

Wilhelm Frankl (20 December 1893 – 8 April 1917), Pour le Mérite, Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Iron Cross, was a World War I fighter ace credited with 20 aerial victories.[1]

Personal life

Frankl was born the son of a Jewish businessman in Hamburg on 20 December 1893.[2] He later moved to Frankfurt am Main, and then to Berlin.[3] He graduated from school,[clarification needed] and pursued an interest in flying by attending Germany's hotbed of prewar aviation at Johannisthal. His instructor was Germany's first female pilot, Melli Beese. On 20 July 1913, Frankl earned pilot's license number 49.[3][4]

The outbreak of World War I sparked Frankl's volunteering to fly for his country. His flying ability and his personality both commended him to his superiors. While his professional life took off, so did his personal life. He fell in love with the daughter of Austrian Naval Kapitän zur See Edmund Stroll. Frankl converted to Christianity and married his love in early 1917.[4]

Aerial victories

Frankl began his career of aerial victories early in the war, before the concept of the synchronized machine gun firing safely through the plane's propeller became a practical reality.[5] On 10 May 1915, while flying as an observer in FFA 40,[clarification needed] he used a carbine to shoot down a French Voisin.[6] He was awarded an Iron Cross First Class for this feat.[2]

It took exactly eight months for his second triumph. On 10 January 1916, while flying a Fokker Eindekker with KEK Vaux, he downed another Voisin; this one was armed with a 37mm Hotchkiss cannon.[3] By 1 February, his victory total stood at four. Three months later, on 4 May, he finally became an ace. On 16 May, he was promoted from Vizefeldwebel into the officer's ranks as a Leutnant. He scored once more on 21 May. He was awarded the Knight's Cross with Swords of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern during late May, followed by the Hanseatic Cross.[2] By this time, Frankl was one of only eight aces in the German flying service.[7] Frankl's gallantry earned him the Pour le Merite after his eighth confirmed victory; the Blue Max was awarded on 16 July 1916.[2]

His guns rested until 2 August, when he tallied a Morane-Saulnier L. A double victory followed on 10 August. On 1 September 1916, he then transferred to Prussian Jagdstaffel 4 (Jasta 4) as it was formed from KEK Vaux, to fly Halberstadt D.Vs.[1][8] On 1 January 1917, he succeeded to command of the squadron.[2]

Four wins in September and two in October made him a triple ace. In late December 1916, Frankl succeeded to command of Jasta 4. Then, after a six month hiatus, he scored a quadruple victory on 6 April 1917, and his twentieth win on the following day.[2]

Killed in action

His end came the day after that. While battling Bristol F.2 Fighters of No. 48 Squadron RFC on Easter Sunday, 8 April 1917,[9] Frankl's Albatros D.III lost its lower wing under the stress of combat manoeuvres, and he and his collapsed craft fell 800 m (2,600 ft) to his death near Vitry-Sailly, France.[1][10] Wilhelm Frankl was buried in Berlin-Charlottenburg.[2]

His legacy

Frankl's Jewish heritage likely resulted in his name and exploits being omitted from the 1938 book by Walter Zuerl, Pour le mérite-Flieger - Heldentaten und Erlebnisse unserer Kriegsflieger (Pour le mérite-Fliers - Heroic Deeds and Experiences of our Wartime Fliers),[11][page needed] an account of World War I fliers who won the Blue Max. After the end of World War II, Frankl's name was restored to the roll of German aces.

On 22 November 1973, the Luftwaffe named the air force barracks in Neuburg an der Donau after Wilhelm Frankl.[12] The "Wilhelm-Frankl-Kaserne"[13] is home to the Luftwaffe's Fighter Wing 74.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wilhelm Frankl
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Franks et al 1993, pp. 108-109.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Early German Aces of World War I. p. 31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Orden Pour le Mérite
  5. Synchronizing Gear
  6. Early German Aces of World War I. p. 31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Early German Aces of World War I. p. 56.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Jasta 4
  9. Frequency of Occurrences of the Date of Easter 1875 to 2124
  10. Albatros Aces of World War I. p. 20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Bronnenkant, Lance J. The Blue Max Airmen: German Airmen Awarded the Pour le Mérite, Vol.1, with illustrations by Jim Miller (Indio, CA: Aeronaut Books, 2012)
  12. de:Wilhelm Frankl
  13. https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Wilhelm-Frankl-Kaserne/@48.734895,11.247245,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xebc56a6c1112e445
  14. de:Jagdgeschwader 74