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Udet Shoots Down Wanamaker - July 2, 1918

eddie rickenbacker ernst udet

Making Friends on the Field of Combat

It was on July 2, 1918, at dawn. Flak awakened me. It was quite near.

In Ace of the Iron Cross, Ernst Udet told how he ran for his airplane, changing from pajamas into flying suit on the way, took off, and climbed to where eight Nieuports fought seven Germans. One German was so intent on pursuit he didn't notice he himself was being pursued.

But the American in front of me was equally oblivious. Slowly I let him slide into my sights. At the next moment the Nieuport took my burst in its engine.
With gasoline trailing, he dived, flattened out, and dived again and hit the ground with force. I landed near him. The pilot was creeping from the wreckage.

Udet offered a cigarette and the pilot introduced himself as Lt Wanamaker.

Honest Enemies, Honest Friends

Udet, Wanamaker, and canvas from Wanamaker's aircraftYears later, Udet was at the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio, and was presented onstage with Eddie Rickenbacker, who told the crowd about meeting Udet previously over Soissons, and how only 52 Americans of 70 returned that day. Yet it was good that "we can now shake hands and show the American youth that honest enemies can become honest friends when the fighting is over."

Another onstage meeting arranged at the races was Udet with Lt Wanamaker, now a state attorney. Wanamaker was prepared with a speech, but Udet came prepared with a piece of canvas - his souvenir cut Wanamaker's plane that he shot down. "And suddenly, his well-prepared humor deserts him."

Udet found himself invited to the Wanamaker home in Akron, and contemplated the Wanamaker family pictures hanging on the wall. 

Had he died, I would never have come to this comfortable town. Then the woman with the blond hair would have hated me. Me, the one who killed her husband.

In Other News

The Romanov dynasty, in place since 1613, has about one week to live.

"Somewhere in war-torn France - we will never know exactly where or when - the Type A H1N1 virus of the first wave shifted, mutating into a mass murderer of humans. Now better able to evade the immune system and cling to cell walls, it lodged deep in the lungs, starting its attack there rather than, as usual, in the throat. Swiftly and savagely, the devil virus sent the second influenza wave surging across the planet."
-- Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Albert Marrin

"In London the week of July 8, 287 people died of influenzal pneumonia, and 126 died in Birmingham. A physician who performed several autopsies noted, 'The lung lesions, complex or variable, struck one as being quite different in character to anything one had met with at all commonly in the thousands of autopsies one has performed during the last twenty years.'"
-- The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry

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