Two Different Accounts of the Same Air Battle – part 2 of 2

Fokker E.III at the airport in Jaroměř, Pterodactyl Flight, Radka Máchová, 2016 – photo taken by “Portwyn” (from Wikipedia)

And then Boelcke’s letter continues, clearly referring to events on the same day (from same paragraph that says “on the 9th…”):

“The French were very cross with us about that; when the pair of us arrived at the front in the evening for a peaceful bit of hunting, practically all the French aircraft in the neighbourhood went for us. And suddenly those fellows really got megalomania and attacked me; among the assailants was a new type of biplane (with a cockpit and very fast). They appeared to be very astonished that we calmly let them attack us — on the contrary we were very pleased to run up against someone who didn’t bolt at once. After several futile attacks they retired, but we–being far from lazy–went after them, and each of us forced an enemy machine down in a glide.

As it was fairy late, we were satisfied with this success and flew off, side by side, in the direction of Douai [their home airfield]. But when I happened to look round, I saw two other machines circling about behind their lines. As I did not want to give our people in the trenches the impression that we were bolting, I signalled to Immelmann that we would fly round a couple of times, just to show that we were cock of the walk. But Immelmann misunderstood me and attacked one of the Frenchmen (Farman type, without a cockpit), who was not going to be drawn into a fight and so sheered off. But while Immelmann was busy with the Farman, the other Frenchman (a Morane-Saulnier Biplane) swooped down on him from behind. So then I had to turn back to help Immelmann, who could not see the second French machine. When the Morane saw me coming up, he turned round to meet me, I peppered his nose a bit, so that he got in a funk and turned back. That was his greatest mistake. I sat on his neck, and as I hung on and came up fairly close–up to fifty metres–it was not long before I hit him. I must have mortally wounded the pilot–suddenly he threw up both his hands and the machine went down vertically. I watched it fall, and saw it turn over a couple of times and crash about four hundred metres in front of our trenches. Our people ascertained that it was smashed to bits and both inmates dead. 

Meanwhile it had grown fairly late and was high time for us to fly home, especially as our petrol was running out. Finally we had to land about eight hundred metres in front of our aerodrome; as the corn had already been cut, we succeeded in making good landings in spite of the growing darkness.

There was much joy in the section over my new victory. Our infantry had already rung up from the trenches to announce the crash…”

Now Immelmann’s letter of 11 September;

“The following day [which would be the 10th] I forced two enemy aircraft to land. Boelcke joined in the fight with the second one.

We signalled to each other to fly home, because it was already dusk. Suddenly I saw an enemy biplane attack Boelcke from behind. Boelcke did not seem to have seen him.

As if by agreement, we both turned round. First he came into Boelcke’s sights, then into mine, and finally we both went for him and closed up on him to within 50-80 metres. Boelcke’s gun appeared to have jammed, but I fired 300 rounds. Then I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the enemy airman throw up both his arms. His crash helmet fell out and went down in wide circles, and a second later the machine plunged headlong into the depth from 2,200 metres. A pillar of dust showed where he hit the ground.

So then home. It was almost dark. Flares were burning when we reached our aerodrome, we could see nothing of the aerodrome itself. Suddenly my engine stopped–run out of petrol. So a forced landing. I made a smooth landing in the darkness, climbed out and looked round for Boelcke. He had been flying behind me. Nothing to be seen of him. Finally–he had he same bad luck. Ran out of petrol and made a forced landing. We were welcomed with congratulations on all sides, for everyone had watched the fight and the crash which ended it through their field-glasses.”


From Immelmann’s account:

  1. Immelmann victory on the 9th?
  2. 2nd Immelmann victory on the 10th?

From Boelcke’s account:

  1. Just a single Boelcke victory on the 9th or 10th?
  2. If Immelmann did shoot down a plane on the 9th or the 10th, which one was it?

By the way, with modern text messaging, emails, and tweets, will we be able to preserve these type of accounts of what happened in combat like they did with letters?

Two Different Accounts of the Same Air Battle – part 1 of 2

Fokker E.III at the airport in Jaroměř, Pterodactyl Flight, Radka Máchová, 2016 – photo taken by “Portwyn” (from Wikipedia)

On 9 September 1915, both Oswald Boelcke and Max Immelmann are credited with a kill, the 3rd kill for Boelcke and the 2nd for Immelmann. According to the Aerodrome website, Boelcke shot down a Morane two-seater in the P.M. at French lines. Immelmann shot down a biplane. We gather these claims are drawn from Norman Franks books.


Max Immelmann (

Now, I do have letters from both pilots that discuss these air battles. Unfortunately, they do not agree (bolding is mine).  

From Boelcke’s letter dated 18 September 1915:

“On the 9th, we succeeded in getting on either side of huge French fighting machine, so that it did not know what to do and only escaped us by a hasty dive.”

From Immelmann letter dated 11 September 1915:

“Only yesterday and the day before yesterday it was different. I forced an artillery flier down. At first there were three enemy fighters in the neighbourhood, but after a while only me. The machine was a huge thing, with two engines and two machine guns; it was 3,400 metres up and I was 3,200. I therefore screwed myself up a bit higher on our side of the lines, and crossed when I reached 3,400.”

“Suddenly I caught sight of Boelcke, who wanted to attack, but was much lower. He followed me. After I had fired 100 rounds, the enemy began to go down. Then Boelcke was able to attack him as well. The enemy as now between two fires; he went down in a series of very risky turns. He could not escape us.”

“After I had fired 250-300 round he made a hasty landing. Unfortunately he succeeded in reaching his own ground. Meanwhile we had come down to 1,900 metres, and it was pitch dark. So home! When we landed, we found they knew all about our success. Someone had telephoned that two Fokkers had shot down an enemy fighter.”

This story continues….


Justinianic Plague

I have always had a certain morbid fascination with plagues. For example:

Plagues and Peoples | Mystics & Statistics (

The London Plague of 1665 | Mystics & Statistics (

And of course:

Plague? | Mystics & Statistics (

Coronavirus – One year later | Mystics & Statistics (

Anyhow, saw the following article yesterday and felt it was worth re-posting: We May Have Underestimated the First Known Outbreak of Bubonic Plague


  1. May have killed up to half the population of the Mediterranean region at the time.
  2. “Some historians remain deeply hostile to regarding external factors such as disease as having a major impact on the development of human society…”

Some Polling on Taiwan

This article showed up on my yahoo news feed that caught my attention:


  1. 86% of Taiwanese oppose “one country, two system” policy of Deng Xiaoping.
  2. 85% of Taiwanese support maintain the status quo, 7% say Taiwan should declare independence, and 1.6% expressed support for reunification.
  3. 69% of Americans support the recognition of Taiwan as an independent nations. 
  4. 53% of Americans support a formal alliance between the U.S. and Taiwan.

This last finding kind of surprised me so I pulled up that article:

The interesting aspect of that survey is: 60% of Republicans support sending U.S. troops to Taiwan’s defense, as do 50% of Democrats and 49% of Independents.

Casualty Effectiveness versus Combat Effectiveness

I have been involved in an off-line discussion related to combat modeling. This is a discussion relevant to that conversation. It is from page 56, Chapter 7: Measuring Human Factors in Combat, of War by Numbers.


Casualty Effectiveness versus Combat Effectiveness

            Much of the above analysis was based upon a measurement of casualty effectiveness. This is an outcome. The actual factor we are trying to measure is combat effectiveness. We have no means of directly measuring that. For his combat models, Trevor Dupuy was able to produce a Combat Effectiveness Value (CEV) based upon comparing the results of the model runs to the historical outcomes. The CEV served as a force multiplier for one side. As such, if a force with the CEV of two was attacking at even odds, it would be treated the same as if it was attacking at two-to-one odds. This would then result in better outcomes, more favorable casualty exchange ratios, and higher advance rates. While there was a not a direct linear relationship in the model between combat effectiveness and casualty effectiveness, a higher combat effectiveness value clearly improved casualty effectiveness. Casualty effectiveness was usually higher than the combat effectiveness value.

            There is a sense that one can determine “combat effectiveness” as the square root of casualty effectiveness. In this construct, a casualty effectiveness of four would mean a combat effectiveness value of two. In effect, being twice as good as your opponent results in a favorable casualty exchange being four times better. This has not been systematically tested.[1]

            Added to that there are some armies that are “casualty insensitive.” This certainly describes the Soviet Army in World War II, which was more than willing to take casualties for the sake of completing the mission or fulfilling their orders. The failure to encourage individual initiative at the lower levels and the insistence that orders must be followed regardless just amplified this tendency. It appears that the Soviet Army rather needlessly suffered additional casualties above and beyond that which other armies would suffer in the same scenario, and that this “casualty insensitive” regime also influenced the casualty effectiveness figures. This certainly also applies to the Japanese Army in World War II, especially with their “banzai charges” and tendency to fight until exterminated.

            Still, casualty effectiveness is an important metric and one that gets the analyst closer to combat effectiveness; it is just not a perfect measure.


[1] And we do not know how to test this outside of using a combat model structure.

Pratas Island

Noted an article yesterday:

Basically, Taiwan is saying that China is considering invading Pratas island in 2024 or after (but not before 2024).

Now, Pratas Island is located 200 miles (310 kilometers) southeast of Hong Kong. It is 276 miles (444 kilometers) from Taiwan.

It is a circular atoll with a single island that is crescent-shaped (see picture).  It is that little piece of land in the western part of the atoll with a lagoon.

Map of Pratas Island (1969)

The island is about 430 acres (174 hectares) and measure 1.7 miles long (2.8 kilometers) and is only about a half-mile wide (0.537 miles or 0.865 kilometers). Not exactly a prize the size of Taiwan. There are “numerous” oil wells to the west of island. Not sure how much, if any, oil is being pumped there. 

The height of the island at the base of the “The Pratas Triangulation Point” is 2.4875 meters (8.16 feet). Sea levels are currently projected to rise 2-3 feet by the end of this century, so I gather this island is going to get smaller over time.

According to Wikipedia there are about 500 Taiwanese marines stationed there. The island has no permanent inhabitants. (see: Pratas Island – Wikipedia).

Pratas Island Lagoon

Now, I am not sure I am going to loose a lot of sleep over this one.

  1. It is a fairly insignificant piece of terrain.
  2. No one lives there.
  3. Is China really going to take the political and economic hit to take this?

If China grabbed the island, they were certainly take a political hit. They are not exactly the most popular country in the world right now, and this would have a negative impact to their world image and standing. I assume the local defense force would defend it, making it a bloody conquest. What would be the cost of this?

Militarily, it would serve to justify increases in the U.S., Taiwanese, South Korean and Japanese defense budgets.

Economically, it might have little impact, but two of China’s major trading partners are the United States and Taiwan. There might be limited or extensive economic sanctions.

Is this a hit that China is willing to take? 

Does this mean that we are four-for-four in our predictions?

Afghan village near Kunduz, 5 May 2008 (photo by William A. Lawrence II).

Well, I took the time over the last few weeks to post up most of my Chapter on Afghanistan from my book America’s Modern Wars. It was interesting to revisit what I had written. The 13 blog posts are summarized here:

Summation of Afghanistan Chapter | Mystics & Statistics (

Note that our fourth to last sentence on the subject is: If history is a guide, then this government will be replaced one way or the other several years after we withdraw. This was written in early 2015.

I then continue: What will replace it is hard to determine, but will probably include a return to some extent of the Taliban, or perhaps with them leading the new government. It is also distinctly possible that the country will return back into civil war. None of this fulfills our objectives.

So, does my chapter on Afghanistan in America’s Modern Wars make us four-for-four?

I like to claim that we are three-for-three in our predictions…

We have discussed on this blog before our analysis for the Gulf War, the casualty estimate for Bosnia peacekeeping mission, and the casualty and duration estimate for Iraq. In each case, we were either the closest public estimate or pretty much dead on. Just as a reminder:

Predictions | Mystics & Statistics (

Now, back in late 1990 Trevor Dupuy made his predictions on the Gulf War. They are discussed here:

Forecasting the 1990-1991 Gulf War | Mystics & Statistics (

Assessing the TNDA 1990-91 Gulf War Forecast | Mystics & Statistics (

Assessing the 1990-1991 Gulf War Forecasts | Mystics & Statistics (

In 1995 we provided the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) with our predictions for Bosnia. This was, as far as I know, the first formal attempt to make a prediction of casualties for an “operation other than war.” This prediction is in Appendix II of America’s Modern Wars and is discussed here:

Forecasting U.S. Casualties in Bosnia | Mystics & Statistics (

In 2004 we provided the Center for Army Analysis (CAA) and OSD Net Assessment our predictions of casualties and duration for the war in Iraq. Again, as far as I know, this was the first formal attempt to make an analytically based prediction on casualties and duration for a insurgency. This prediction is discussed in depth in Chapter 1 and Appendix I for America’s Modern Wars and is discussed here.

Forecasting the Iraqi Insurgency | Mystics & Statistics (

And then there are these posts:

President Obama’s Casualty Estimates | Mystics & Statistics (

Casualty Estimates for a War with North Korea | Mystics & Statistics (

The CRS Casualty Estimates | Mystics & Statistics (

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran | Mystics & Statistics (

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran – Killed and Wounded | Mystics & Statistics (

How Common are Casualty Estimates? | Mystics & Statistics (

Casualty Estimates for Conflict with Iran – Summation | Mystics & Statistics (

I always like to claim that we are three-for-three, in that we have published three predictions before conflicts occur that are fundamentally correct. As significant, in my mind, is that we were correct, based upon historical analysis and using combat models build upon history for not only a conventional war, but for an unconventional or guerilla war and for a peacekeeping mission. This is a wide range of scenarios. We are not aware of anyone else who has done this.