CHAPTER SIXTEEN - A NEW BOY DEPARTS, BALLOON HUNT, ENGINE FAILURE....
Konrad Berthold von Blumenthal August 13th, 1916. Sivry-sur-Meuse, Verdun. Fokkerstaffel Sivry
The pilots assembled on the field some twenty minutes before sunrise. Konrad spat on the ground, disgruntled at the early start and the atrocious weather conditions.
"Sheer lunacy going up in these conditions", growled Konrad to the pilot standing closest to him.
"What? Nothing but a light breeze", smiled Hess in return.
"I don't call twelve knots a light breeze, not by any stretch of the imagination. I don't care for this one bit! How the hell are we supposed to knock down a balloon if we can't fly steady?"
"Wind up of a different sort, perhaps?", mocked Hess. Konrad didn't wait to hear more. He stomped off in the direction of his Fokker. Yesterday had been bad enough. Just as they were taking off they were jumped by a pair of Nieport 17s that had been hanging around in the vicinity, waiting for a chance to stir up trouble. Young horse face had been shot to bits almost immediately. Konrad had circled valiantly around trying to get on the tail of one of their tormentors. to no avail, until suddenly the Frenchmen decided they'd had enough fun and games and took off for home. No point in chasing them, thought Konrad. Now he was thoroughly grumpy, with no one to bully until his next hapless wing man showed up.
Roughly forty minutes later Konrad and his flight mates were approaching the balloon when suddenly everything went wrong all at once. First, a powerful gust of wind tipped Konrad's machine violently sideways. As he fought the lurching movement, he noticed splatters of oil beginning to form on his windshield. Not a good time for engine failure, deep in enemy territory, with nothing but dense forest below. Konrad turned his machine northward, forced to abandon the balloon hunt. No sooner had he done so than he spotted two enemy aircraft off to the west. Sure enough, they were turning toward him. Konrad had no choice. He had to try to find a place to put down before he was shot down! The Fokker's engine coughed and spluttered as Konrad rapidly pointed the nose toward the forest below. He spied a reasonably wide road running through the trees, but they were awfully close. He glanced behind and saw the oncoming French scouts. It had to be now or never. Konrad tipped his machine sideways and angled in toward the road below. As he did so his left plane caught the top of a spruce tree. He managed to correct to the Fokker's direction but his descent was steep, too steep and too rapid. He braced himself as the road rushed up to greet him........