This blog entry was posted on 1/15/2017. It was accidentally deleted while we’re in the process of updating the website.
It is really easy to get bogged down while doing research for a passage in a manuscript. The internet can take you down rat holes that while interesting are really irrelevant to the story line. You can literally spend hours reading interesting stuff.
That happened to me about a month ago. The scene I was writing at the time is an interview by one of the main American characters by German officers because he may be assigned as a liaison officer to the new Luftwaffe. This passage takes place in 1958 when the Bundeswehr – the new armed forces of West Germany – were just being formed. The government brought back many World War 2 aces including the top three of all time – Erich Hartman (353 kills), Gerhard Barkhorn (301 kills) and Günther Rall (275 kills).
The first fighter-bomber squadron in the new Luftwaffe was Jagdbombergeschwader 31 (Fighter-Bomber Squadron 31) and it is named after the father of air combat, World War I ace Oswald Boelcke. After the first round of interviews, Lenny Almer, the American is at the officer’s club to have lunch with Rall and Steinhoff. He is told about the pictures on the walls of the headquarters building. On one side, there are the German aces who are now members of the Luftwaffe. On the other, photos of selected German aces who earned Germany’s top decoration in World War I, the Pour La Mérite, one of whom was Wilhelm Frankl, 20 victories.
There were two reasons that this is significant. First, they wanted to commemorate the recipients who distinguished themselves during the war. Second, Frankl was Jewish.
That revelation led me to another research thread, i.e. were there other Jewish aces in the Imperial German Flying Corps? There were more than I thought. I came across a list of all the German pilots and aircrew members, known in those days as observers. In the list, one name caught my eye – E. Liebmann.
Hmmmm. My father’s father, Michael Liebmann came from Germany as a young man. Right after World War I, he dropped the second ‘n.’ I wonder if they were related. There’s not a lot available on E. Liebmann except in a book called “Jewish Fliers in the World War.” I’m trying to find an English translation of the book.