No screenies, alas, but hopefully I can describe it.

June 10, 1917


Today, I killed a man in cold blood. Duty says I had no choice, but I am not so sure. It goes against everything you taught me. There was no glory in it, and I can only wonder what I could have - should have done differently.

I led a flight of five in a simple patrol to La Selve, an aerodrome only an hour or two's walk from here. Baumer was on my wing: You remember, the tall man with the greasy hair who came on leave with me in April. We flew Albatros scouts. I'm sure you've heard the rumors about their wings being fragile, but I assure you I've had no trouble nor have my men.

In no time at all we were some two kilometers over La Selve circling slowly in the warm, morning light. Few clouds, the sun bright somewhere over Berlin, the breeze slanting into the cockpit a welcome relief from the humidity. Then I saw three French built SPADs some distance above us. We saw them first and climbed, but soon they realized their error and turned to engage.

It was beautiful, father. I wish you could have seen it. So often in these engagements it's over in the first seconds: One side has the disadvantage and dives or runs. This was mutual, and for several minutes we all climbed, dove, turned and danced around each other. One tried to get behind me, but a controlled spin took care of that. I fired on one until he drifted out of range with one of my cohorts in pursuit, turned on a second until he passed under me, then found my target.

He was a plain enough looking SPAD: Brown canvas, and at my angle I couldn't see any insignia. He had the speed advantage and I fired somewhat haphazardly hoping for the best. I must have hit the engine from behind at 600 meters, for a thick stream of black, oily smoke arced back in my direction. He ran of course, and most of my shots were futile gestures.

He ran out of oil. His engine began sputtering and I closed the distance rapidly. He was in a hopeless situation, some ten or fifteen kilometers behind the front lines and should of landed. Instead he ran, and so I shredded him at sixty meters: Great holes appeared in his wings, chunks of wood flew from his fuselage. Surely, I thought, he'd realize the futility of his situation.


As I turned, the Frenchman was hurt badly. He could barely keep aloft. His nose would jerk up for a bit, then fall away like a wounded bird. I watched him for a moment, waiting for a signal of surrender, but it never came.

It was with a heavy heart then I came around for another pass, lining up behind him and slowing down to give him time to realize his predicament. Still the crippled SPAD rose, dipped, rose again, sputtered, dipped.

I waited as long as I could, father. If he had tried to land. If he'd lost his engine. Hell and Death, if he had simply signalled....but he did not. He kept trying to leave, and that I could not allow. I hoped one more burst, perhaps knock away a spar or disable his engine, would break through.

Thirty meters. I fired and spun away. I think I saw the spray of blood, though perhaps that's my imagination. Regardless, by the time I swung around he was in a terminal dive.

You taught me never to hit a man from behind. You taught me never to hit a man once he was beat. Now I have done both, and rather than censure me or ignore it, my squad wants to celebrate my 'victory.'

What in the name of God has happened to war?