15 May 1894|
|Died||29 July 1978
|Years of service||1914–19|
|Unit||Fokkerstaffel West, FFA 11, Jasta 7, Jasta 12, Jasta 22|
|Awards||Pour le Mérite
House Order of Hohenzollern
Josef Carl Peter Jacobs was born in Kreuzkapelle, Rhineland, German Empire on 15 May 1894, and learned to fly in 1912, aged 18. As a schoolboy in Bonn, he had been fascinated by the activities he saw at the nearby flying school in Hangelar. There he learned to fly, under the tutelage of Bruno Werntgen. When war broke out, he joined up for the Imperial German Army Air Service to train as a pilot with Fliegerersatz-Abteilung (Replacement Detachment) 9.
On 3 July 1915, Jacobs was posted to FA 11 (a reconnaissance squadron) for a year, flying long-range sorties over Allied lines, his first flight occurring the evening of his arrival. His first victory over a French Caudron occurred in February 1916, however, it was unconfirmed, due to lack of independent witnesses. After leave in April, Jacobs was posted to Fokkerstaffel-West to fly a Fokker E.III Eindecker and he finally achieved his first official victory, over an enemy aircraft on 12 May when he shot down a two-seater Caudron crewed only by its pilot. At the end of July, Jacobs and his unit had been pulled back for what became a month's aerial bodyguard duty, protecting General Headquarters at Charleville. On 1 September, Jacobs left this duty that disgusted him, and returned to a front line assignment flying a Fokker E.III. On the 19th, he upgraded to a Fokker D.II. His old comrade in arms, Max Ritter von Mulzer, died in a crash a week later. On the 29th, Jacobs fell ill from dysentery; the sickness waylayed him for several weeks.
Fokker Staffel West became Jasta 12 on 6 October 1916, and Jacobs remained with it, although a month later he transferred to Jasta 22, then under the command of Oberleutnant Erich Hönemanns, who was a personal friend.
He achieved his second victory (this time over a Caudron RIV) in January 1917. He achieved three officially confirmed and eight more unconfirmed victories whilst at Jasta 22, where he remained until 2 August 1917, when he transferred to Jasta 7 as its Staffelführer (commander). On 10 September 1917 Jacobs shot down French ace Jean Matton.
From early 1918 onwards, Jacobs started flying the Fokker Dr.I triplane with Jasta 7, and had his aircraft finished in a distinctive black scheme. The Dr I was his favoured mount until October 1918 and he used its manouevibility to his advantage, becoming the triplane's highest scoring ace, with over 30 confirmed victories.
Jacobs' victory tally slowly rose, until at 24 victories (achieved on July 19, 1918) he was awarded the coveted Pour le Mérite. Jacobs would remain with Jasta 7 until the armistice; his final victory tally was 48 enemy aircraft and balloons. Jacobs continued to fight against the Bolshevik forces in the Baltic area in 1919, with Gotthard Sachsenberg and Theo Osterkamp in Kommando Sachsenberg.
Post World War I
After combat against the Bolsheviks, Jacobs briefly became a flying instructor in the Turkish Army, before completely withdrawing from military activity. In addition to aviation, Jacobs was a keen participant in bob sleighing and car and speedboat racing. He won the first AVUS (the forerunner of Formula 1) race in Berlin. Later he became a director in the Adler automobile works and in the 1930s owned his own aircraft repair and manufacturing company in Erfurt.
After Hitler came into power, Jacobs became a Major in the Luftwaffe Reserves, although he refused to join the NSDAP ("Nazi" Party) after being personally asked by Hermann Göring. Then after refusing to let Göring become a major shareholder in his company, Jacobs moved his company to the Netherlands, and for a time after the German invasion went into hiding, with the help of his old friend Friedrich Christiansen who was appointed the Military Governor of the Netherlands.
Jacobs moved to Bavaria after World War II. He owned a construction crane operation, became president of The German Bobsleigh Society, and aided aviation historians of World War I. He died in Munich on 29 July 1978, the last living aviation recipient of the Pour le Merite.
- Franks et al 1993, pp. 135-136.
- van Wyngarden, Early German Aces, p.54-55
- Early German Aces of World War I. pp. 82–83.
- Early German Aces of World War I. p. 83.
- Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W.; Guest, Russell. Above the Lines: The Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914–1918. Grub Street, 1993. ISBN 0-948817-73-9, ISBN 978-0-948817-73-1.
- VanWyngarden, G (2006). Early German Aces of World War I. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-997-5