Friedrich Ritter von Röth
|Friedrich Ritter von Röth|
|Born||29 September 1893
|Died||31 December 1918(aged 25)|
|Service/branch||Artillery, Air Service|
|Unit||FF(A) 296, Jagdstaffels 34, 16, and 23|
|Commands held||Jasta 16|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
|Awards||Pour le Merite
House Order of Hohenzollern
Military Order of Max Joseph
Oberleutnant Friedrich Ritter von Röth (29 September 1893 – 31 December 1918) was a German World War I fighter ace with 28 victories. He was the most successful German pilot at shooting down enemy observation balloons; 20 of his triumphs were against them.
Friedrich Röth served originally in an artillery regiment. He was seriously wounded early in the war. Once he was again fit for duty, he was commissioned, in May 1915. He transferred to the aerial service, only to be severely injured in a crash. Because of his extended recuperation, he did not win his wings until early 1917. His initial assignment was to a Bavarian artillery spotting unit, FA(A) 296. At some point, he served in Jagdstaffel 34, but did not down any enemies until he was assigned to Jagdstaffel 23.
Balloon busting ace
Röth did not enjoy any success as a fighter pilot until he decided to concentrate his effort on observation balloons. He was a poor shot, and took up firing upon balloons because they were a large target. He also loaded his guns to maximize his effectiveness against balloons; his left-hand machine gun would be loaded with 80 percent incendiaries and 20 percent armor-piercing, and the right-hand gun vice versa. His decision meant he took upon himself one of the most hazardous duties of World War I fighter aviation. Because balloons flew at a known altitude, antiaircraft guns ringing them were extremely accurate. The balloons were low enough that an attacker was exposed to small arms fire as well. Protective fighters also lurked in the vicinity. The balloons were so well defended because they were an important part of the artillery fire direction systems of World War I.
On 25 January 1918, as a member of Jasta 23, Röth scored his first victories, downing three balloons in eight minutes. He shot down a British observation plane on 26 February and downed another pair of balloons on 21 March. On 1 April, he downed four balloons in ten minutes, to become an Überkanone.
Röth was assigned to command Jagdstaffel 16 on 8 April 1918, just four days after the previous Jastaführer, Heinrich Geigl, died in a midair collision with a Sopwith Camel. During this assignment, he established a reputation as a modest idealist, pious and courageous. On 29 May 1918, Röth became the only World War I pilot to down five balloons without assistance; there was only one other instance of it happening at all. The attack took 15 minutes.
He would go on to bag three balloons each on 13 August and 10 October, along with seven enemy airplanes on various dates. His most notable victory was over 16-kill Irish ace Sgt. John Cowell, whose 20 Squadron Bristol F.2b he shot down on 30 July 1918, killing Cowell in the process. Röth was also honored with Germany's highest decoration for valor, the Pour le Mérite, on 8 September 1918. Röth's last victory was on 14 October 1918.
On 31 December 1918, Röth shot himself to death. He was reportedly depressed by Germany's defeat and the subsequent ongoing revolution, as well as troubled by his killings during the war. He was buried in Saint Johannis Friedhof in Nuremberg. His family refused to mark his grave because his suicide was considered a sin.
In 1919, Röth was posthumously awarded the Military Order of Max Joseph. This award knighted him, thus posthumously changing his name to Friedrich Ritter von Röth. There is a street named after him in his native city.
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- The Aerodrome Friedrich Ritter von Roth
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- Pfalz Scout Aces of World War 1. Greg VanWyngarden. Osprey Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-998-3, ISBN 978-1-84176-998-1.
- Albatros Aces of World War 1. Norman Franks. Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-85532-960-3, ISBN 978-1-85532-960-7.
- Fokker D VII Aces of World War 1: Part 2. Norman Franks, Greg VanWyngarden, Harry Dempsey. Osprey Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-84176-729-8, ISBN 978-1-84176-729-1.
- Balloon-Busting Aces of World War 1. Jon Guttman, Harry Dempsey. Osprey Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-84176-877-4, ISBN 978-1-84176-877-9.