there is something i have to tell you

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: July 21, 2016

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Submitted: July 21, 2016

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There is something I have to tell you – by Mark Miguel

The aftermath of war demands a terrible price. It is nothing like the glamorous life which is portrayed to boys. Both my friend, Manfred, and I were victims of this terrible deception. Even though the Great War turned me into the man I am today, it did not come without great sacrifice.

Manfred and I became good friends serving in the Imperial German Army during the First World War. At first, we served together as reconnaissance officers in the cavalry, but before long our regiment was disbanded and we were reduced to being dispatch runners. We took this as a slight against our honour, and still being blinded by a lust for glory and renown, we constantly badgered our commanding officers, demanding they transfer us to a post where we’d be able to see action and fight for the German Empire. Manfred and I had become quite enraptured by the new aircraft which the military had started to use. I still remember vividly the enthusiasm with which Manfred told me, “In these machines, we will make a name for ourselves, my friend,” as though it had been cast in stone already. And so we incessantly demanded to be reassigned to a fighter squadron.

The next year, much to our surprise, our requests were granted. Manfred and I were the proud, and amongst the first, additions to the No. 2 Fighter Squadron. We were eager to be counted amongst Germany’s finest fighter pilots. I shall never forget the first time that I ever flew. I felt truly free in the sky with the fresh wind in my face as I watched, mesmerised, as the quilted landscape slipped past beneath me. In the air I was hindered by no-one and each moment was filled with exhilaration. These simple yet deadly flying machines had a rugged beauty about them, each aircraft having its own personality which only its pilot would know and understand. We all loved to fly our planes.

It was finally time to go into combat. That morning I got into the cockpit, completed all my checks, flipped the magneto switches on and yelled, “Contact!” The ground crewman heaved on the propeller and my Albatros came to life with a deafening report. We took off and were flying as though it were just another training mission.  I could never have been more unprepared for what was to come next. In this, the cruellest jest that fate played on me in teaching me a lesson on the realities of this new war in the air. English and French fighters came out of nowhere and were diving on us from all directions, bullets flying through the air, tearing through canvas, wood and pilots without discrimination. Throttles were shoved forward all the way to their stops, the heavens resounding with the thunderous roar of aircraft and of staccato machine gun fire. My heart sat in my mouth and never had I known fear, bordering on panic, grip me so intensely. It was through that very same fear, however, and the instinct for survival through which courage was born and in my very first combat sortie I shot down my first enemy. My view of war, however, was not the same as the one I had when I took off that morning. Only once I got out of my plane did I realise what had happened. Only then did I see all the death around me and realised of the death that I had dealt with my own hands. The gruesome dogfights took their toll on everyone, friend and foe alike. Yet, the death-defying manoeuvres at dizzying heights and the intense battle had an intoxicating appeal which always had me coming back for more. Staring death closely and so squarely in his face made me feel the most alive.

As the war progressed we became better aviators. I became an ace and even exceeded triple ace by the time the war was over, but Manfred outclassed all of us and became known as the “Red Baron”. He was the master of the skies, a true artist in his plane and in battle a most fearsome opponent. He and I became the best of friends with a bond between us stronger than steel and closer than that between brothers. An unspoken understanding of one another formed between us, making us the deadliest force to roam the skies. Then, on a day I shall never forget, the unthinkable happened. My closest friend, Manfred von Richthofen, was shot down. I saw all that happened as if time itself had slowed down. Those fateful bullets tore through his plane and ripped through his chest. He slowly turned his head, looked at me flying beside him and his eyes said the final goodbye. I watched as though transfixed as his aircraft smashed into the ground with a heart-rending crash. My eyes were fixed on that hopeless wreckage, my heart pierced too deep even to take revenge. The “Red Baron” was no more.

Donned in my full uniform I walked up to the place where Manfred’s father lived. When the door opened I stared into the face that would have been my friend’s, had he grown old. The words stuck in my throat finally escaped, “Herr von Richthofen, there is something I have to tell you.”

 

Author’s note: I realise that this story may not be fully accurate with regards to the life of Manfred von Richthofen, but used creative licence to create this story which followed a fictional, unnamed friend of von Richthofen and his experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Mark Miguel. All rights reserved.

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