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The Presumption of Painting Du Doch Nicht!! on Your Airplane

ernst udet field kindley

Second Best Ace, Second Best Known Aircraft

Udet with Du Doch Nicht FokkerAnyone who knows the Vintage Aero Flying Museum knows the "Du Doch Nicht!!" airplane. In fact, after the Red Baron's tri-plane, it is probably the most famous single German airplane of WWI, because tail art has been uncommon over the past century, and because the pilot who had it painted on his plane, Ernst Udet, was himself the second highest German scorer after the Red Baron, and had his picture taken with the tail of the plane. Presumably, the message was intended for whomever might be pursuing Udet, trying to shoot him down. 

But What Does It Mean?

It sounds as if Udet assumed his pursuer would not only be able to read German but would even understand German idioms. The words are not particularly offensive; they are just "you [intensifier] not!!" and could be translated "Certainly not you!" or in the English idiom, "You and who else!" or "You and what army!" However, it seems there was a barroom emphasis to the words that doesn't come across a hundred years later, so it was intended to be very insulting. That makes it an early example of offensive aircraft tail art, but not in the way nose art became known for being offensive!

VAFM Du Doch Nicht FokkerOf course, Udet probably expected his pursuer to figure out that whatever was painted on the tail of the airplane was not an essay on Kultur, and Udet didn't necessarily expect it to be read. It would have been more in the spirit of writing on bombs, "With love to Saddam Hussein, from America." The other distinctive decoration on the Du Doch Nicht!! aircraft was the "Lo!" written on the side, his nickname for his girlfriend (later his wife, and a few years later, his ex-wife!) Like some of us writers today, Udet really enjoyed exclamation points!

It Didn't Scare Off Enemies

The fame of the Du Doch Nicht!! Fokker was particularly fleeting. As the caption of the famous picture reads in Ace of the Iron Cross, "Arrogance precedes the downfall - the machine from which I was forced to bail out on the next day."

It was around this date in 1918, a few weeks after Lufbery died falling from his burning airplane, that Udet became one of the first to prove the value of giving a pilot a parachute. Udet attacked a Breguet, and apparently assumed the observer was dead when he flew into the observer's line of fire. 

Shot Down

My Fokker rears like a shying horse and turns into a sitting duck. The elevator is shot up, its binding at the stick is severed, and the cable flaps in the propwash.
My machine is shot lame, drooping to the left and circling, always circling. I can't steer it. Below me is the torn landscape, being turned over anew by the impact of new shells. There is only one possibility to get back. Every time the Fokker heads east, I carefully open the throttle. In this way the circles are elongated, and I can hope to work my way back to our lines.
It is a slow, tortuous process. Suddenly the machine stands on end and dives straight down like a rock. 
Parachute - pull up the legs - stand on the seat! In a moment the air pressure throws me to the rear. A blow in my back. I'm stuck to the rudder. The straps of the parachute harness, secured too loosely, have become fouled with the equalization flap, and the falling machine is dragging me along with irresistible force. 

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

Udet t-shirtAt the last moment, Udet was able to get free of the airplane and his parachute opened. He wasn't sure which side of the lines he had landed on, but made his way east, with shells bursting around him. He found the German lines, and was greeted by a German artillery officer, who gave him a cigarette, with "Observed your jump, Herr Kamerad, that was something."

Udet continued back from the front lines, but not to rest and recover. 
Late in the afternoon I go up again with a new machine. Among the craters below I see the Fokker in which I crashed that morning. The ribbing, burned bare, sticks up into the air. It looks like the skeleton of a bird.

In Other News

Field Kindley's first victory was June 26th. (No, the names are not reversed. However, there was a Kindley Field named for Field Kindley.) He was one of the highest-scoring US aces, a movie projectionist who became a pilot. Famous at the time, he was one of those along with Billy Mitchell arguing for a separate U.S. Air Force, and might be remembered along with Billy Mitchell today, if he hadn't died in a crash not long after the war. More on Kindley later.

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