ON THIS DATE in 1916, nineteen-year-old German flying ace Werner Voss shot down two Allied aircraft to launch one of the most remarkable wartime flying careers. In just 11 months, the World War I ace recorded 48 aerial victories, fourth most among German flyers.
On September 24, 1918, seven British aces ended Voss’s brief-but-brilliant flying career. “As long as I live, my admiration for this flyer shall never cease,” said James McCuddon, one of the pilots who brought the German down. “For ten minutes he alone held seven of us at bay, and kept hitting all of us. The flying skills of the German were masterly, his boldness extraordinary.”
Voss would have lived to fight again if he’d simply fled on spotting the seven British biplanes. Instead, the German in the silver-blue Fokker triplane took the fight to the enemy, peppering all of their planes with bullets. Voss then went into a shallow dive for unknown reasons — he may have been out of fuel or ammunition — and took fire from a plane flown by nineteen-year-old Arthur Rhys David. “I saw him go into a fairly steep dive and so I continued to watch,” said McCuddon, the British Flight Leader, “and then saw saw the triplane hit the ground and disappear into a thousand fragments.”