Rudolf Windisch

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Rudolf Windisch
Born 27 January 1897
Dresden, Germany
Died After 27 May 1918
Missing in action in vicinity of Gouvrelles, France
Allegiance Germany
Service/branch Infantry, then aerial service
Years of service 1914 - 1918?
Rank Leutnant
Unit Infantry Regiment 177, FEA 6, FFA 62, Kagohl II, Jasta 32, Jasta 50
Commands held Jasta 66
Awards Prussian Order of the Crown (4th Class with Swords), Pour le Merite, Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Iron Cross, Gold Medal of the Military Order of St. Henry

Leutnant Rudolf Friedrich Otto Windisch was a World War I fighter ace credited with 22 victories.[1]

Early life and service[edit]

Rudolf Friedrich Otto Windisch was born in Dresden, Germany, the son of Bruno Windisch, who owned a pastry shop. During his childhood, Rudolf was very interested in aviation. He built model airplanes, and then a glider.[2]

On 14 September 1914, at the age of 17, he volunteered for a year's service with Infantry Regiment 177. After a short period of training, he was off to war on the Western Front. On 21 November, he was wounded by shrapnel and removed from front line duty. He recuperated first at a hospital in Laon, France, then at the Reserve Military Hospital in his home town of Dresden.[2]

In February 1915, he was assigned to the Military Aviation School in Leipzig-Lindenthal. He was promoted to sergeant and was a flight instructor[2] with FEA 6.[1]

1 May 1916 brought a front line flying assignment with FA 62 on the Russian Front.[2] On the night of 2/3 October 1916, he set out on what is arguably the first case of air-supported espionage. He landed behind Russian lines and dropped off Oberleutnant Maximilian von Cossel (1893-1967) near the Rowno to Brody rail line. Cossel destroyed a railroad bridge that was of strategic importance to the Russians. Windisch swooped in on the 3rd to pick Cossel up and carry him back to safety. This feat earned him the Prussian Order of the Crown (4th Class with Swords); the Kaiser himself presented it on 18 October 1916. Windisch would be the only pilot so honored.[1]

In November, he would transfer to Kagohl II to fly recon missions on the Western Front. On 20 February 1917, he moved up to flying fighters with Royal Bavarian Jasta 32.[1][3]

Aerial combat career[edit]

Even before his feat of espionage derring-do, Windisch had scored his first aerial victory. On 25 August 1916, while still flying a two-seater reconnaissance airplane, he became a balloon buster by shooting down one of the Russian observation balloons southeast of Brody.[1]

His next victory would be almost a year later, after he transferred to Jasta 32 on the French Front. On 18 September 1917, he shot down an AR2 near Fleury, France. That was the first of his five triumphs during 1917. The last of them, a Spad shot down near Laval, brought his count to six.[1]

He shot down another balloon on 3 January 1918, and another Spad the following day. On 10 January, he was transferred to Royal Prussian Jasta 50 for seasoning before taking command of Royal Prussian Jasta 66 on the 24th.[1]

Sometime during this period, Windisch wangled flying time in a captured Spad VII. It is unknown if he flew it in combat.[4]

He scored his first win with his new squadron on 15 March 1918. He had six victories in that month, including a triple on 24 March 1918. He scored three more times in April, and five in May, to bring his tally to 22. No fewer than 16 of his wins were over Spad fighters. A Sopwith and an AR2 completed his list of fighter planes. He also destroyed three balloons and a single two-seater reconnaissance plane.[1] The fact that he was one of the original pilots of Germany's best fighter, the Fokker D.VII, gave him tactical advantage over his foes.[4]

Disappearance[edit]

His last victory was on the afternoon of 27 May 1918.[1] Immediately after he shot down this last Spad, he was jumped by several other enemy scouts. A bullet through the gas tank forced him to land behind French lines, about 50 meters from his final victim.[2]

The International Red Cross reported Windisch was a prisoner of war on several occasions. French pilots who fell into German hands reported him in a French prison. On the assumption he was alive, he was awarded the Pour le Merite on 6 June 1918. The reports differed on whether or not he had been injured, with some rumors saying he had died in captivity.[1][2]

Nothing more would ever be heard of Windisch.[1][2] Date Time Unit Aircraft Opponent Location 1 25 Aug 1916 FA 62 Balloon SE of Brody 2 18 Sep 1917 1547 Jasta 32 AR2 Fleury 3 27 Sep 1917 1028 Jasta 32 SPAD Betheville 4 01 Nov 1917 Jasta 32 SPAD W of Bray 5 07 Nov 1917 Jasta 32 SPAD Brancourt 6 18 Nov 1917 Jasta 32 SPAD Laval 7 03 Jan 1918 Jasta 32 Balloon Villers 8 04 Jan 1918 Jasta 32 SPAD S of Staubecken 9 15 Mar 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Vitry-Reims 10 17 Mar 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Vitry-Reims 11 23 Mar 1918 Jasta 66 Sopwith 2 Le Bruin Ferme 12 24 Mar 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD 2 Bretigny 13 24 Mar 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Tergnier 14 24 Mar 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Tergnier 15 11 Apr 1918 Jasta 66 Bréguet 14 S of Noyon 16 21 Apr 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Guy 17 21 Apr 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Guy 18 03 May 1918 Jasta 66 Balloon Juvigny 19 04 May 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Carlepont 20 15 May 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD 2 Trosly-Loire 21 16 May 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD Thiescourt 22 27 May 1918 Jasta 66 SPAD 2 Couvrelles-Lesges

Sources of information[edit]

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