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Dogfight Trophy of 1918 Returned

Dogfight Trophy of 1918 Returned

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Spad XIII 95 Aero
Spad XIII 95 Aero
Lieutenant Walter Lindsey Avery wasn’t an ace. In fact July 25, 1918 was to become his first time in aerial combat. He was flying a SPAD S.XIII, a French biplane fighter. It would have looked very similar to this one flown by American fighter ace Edward Vernon Rickenbacker. 
German ace Karl Menckhoff.
German ace Karl Menckhoff.
Avery came across a German two seater aircraft and attacked. Both of Avery’s machine guns jammed. While he was clearing the jams German ace Lieutenant Karl Menckhoff snuck up on him. It takes 5 victories to be considered an ace. Karl had 39. Menckhoff’s attack tore up Avery’s tail, left wing and, damaged his engine. Avery pulled back hard on his stick and climbed hard. A vapor trail tailing him as the coolant drained from his damaged engine. His plane slowed the higher he went. Just before the plane was about to stall he hit the rudder hard, spinning his plane 180 degrees. He was now diving down with Menckhoff trapped in his sights! 
Fokker D.VII of Jasta 72 at Bergnicourt 1918.
Fokker D.VII of Jasta 72 at Bergnicourt 1918.
Menckhoff flew a Fokker D.VII German fighter. He was assigned to the Royal Saxon Jagdstaffel 72, commonly abbreviated to Jasta 72. 
Lieutenant Karl Menckhoff.
Lieutenant Karl Menckhoff.
The state of the art for a WWI fighter plane is that of a kite with a motor. They had wooden frames that were covered by cloth. Menckhoff survived the crash and was quickly captured by French soldiers. On the sides of his plane and on the wings he had painted the letter “M”. This is because when you’re the top dog there’s no one to tell you no and, he knew it would inspire fear in other combatants. As soon as he could land Avery had someone drive him out to the crash site. He took a pocket knife and cut the “M” off the side of the plane. 
95th Aero Squadron Operations Report.
95th Aero Squadron Operations Report.
The war went on for Avery. Because of this battle Avery was awarded the Distinguished Cross. The citation said it was for extreme bravery and staying in the battle despite how badly damaged his aircraft was. He went on to claim one more victory. On October 3, 1918 Avery was shot down and captured. He returned to his squadron the following month when the war ended. 
Lt Walter L Avery Distinguished Cross.
Lt Walter L Avery Distinguished Cross.
In August 1919 Menckoff escaped the French POW camp in an escape worthy of Steve McQueen. He made it to Switzerland where he spent the rest of his life. He married and, had a son. His son was eleven years old when his dad died. It wasn’t until then that he learned of his father’s earlier life. One can only speculate but, it’s not hard to imagine that his decision to leave the war behind had everything to do with the great ace being downed by a newcomer! 
Walter L Avery Heroism.
Walter L Avery Heroism.
Altoona (Pennsylvania) Tribune, Thursday, October 31, 1918 page 6.

After the war Avery became the manager of an airport in Long Island, NY. Latter he became Superintendent of Passenger Services for Eastern Airlines. While he was there it was the standard practice that the airlines would only hire stewardesses under the age of 25. He had other ideas as to what constituted quality service. He would only hire male stewards over the age of 25! 
Wartime Souvenir Returned.
Wartime Souvenir Returned.
Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, Sunday, May 13, 2007 page 14.  
Bette Applegate & Gerhard Menckhoff.
Bette Applegate & Gerhard Menckhoff.
The cloth with the painted “M” sat for decades in a trunk undisturbed and unknown until Walter died in 1978 and his family discovered it. The cloth was then in the hands of his daughter Bette (Avery) Applegate. In 2007 her daughter Jeanne (Applegate) Ferrari learned that Karl’s son Gerhard Menckhoff had moved to the United States and was living in Washington D.C.

Bette felt for sure that the right thing to do was to return the “M” to the family it came from. In May 2007 the families got together and the “M” changed hands. Gerhard said he was going to give the “M” to his son Carl who was named after his grandfather. 

Linked to Bette Virginia Avery (21050), Walter Lindsey Avery (16400)