Jasta 18: The Red Noses
by Greg Van Wyngarden, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2011, $25.95
Although Jagdstaffel 18 wasn’t among the highest-scoring German fighter squadrons of World War I, it was among the earliest and had an exceptionally intriguing history, both for the notable characters in its ranks and for the equally renowned enemies they encountered. One of its first victories was over Harold Hartney, future commander of the American 1st Pursuit Group. The German fliers engaged Canadian ace William Barker, wounded first Indian fighter pilot Hardit Singh Malik, brought down nine-victory Lafayette Flying Corps ace Paul F. Baer and, equipped with the formidable Fokker D.VII, mauled both the U.S. Army Air Service and the bombers of Britain’s Independent Force.
A turning point in Jasta 18’s history occurred in March 1918, when its leader, Rudolf Berthold, became commander of Jagdgeschwader II. Unwilling to part with his men, he had them all transferred to JG.II’s Jasta 15, along with their aircraft, decorated in his dress uniform–inspired colors of Prussian blue fuselages and red noses. Jasta 18 then carried on with what had been Jasta 15’s personnel. From then on its planes had red noses and wings, and white fuselages decorated with black ravens, playing on the name of the unit’s new commander, Lieutenant August Raben.
In Jasta 18: The Red Noses, German aircraft expert Greg Van Wyngarden combines firsthand accounts from squadron members and many of their adversaries to tell an intriguing tale of Jasta 18’s odyssey from dueling the British over Flanders early in 1917 to battering Americans over St. Mihiel during the war’s last months. With a multitude of photographs supplemented by a splendid colorful array of 28 profiles and eight upper views, No. 40 of Osprey’s Aviation Elite Units series should make a welcome addition to any World War I aviation buff’s library.
Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.