Gustav Dörr (5 October 1887 – 11 December 1928) was a German World War I fighter pilot credited with 35 victories. He went on to become one of the world's first airline pilots.
Early life and infantry service
Gustav Dörr was born in Blindgallen, East Prussia, the son of a building contractor. He completed trade school and began work at age 18 with Krupp AG. In 1908, he was drafted in the military and enlisted in Infanterie-Regiment 176, and mustered out as a non-commissioned officer.
In August 1914, with the start of World War I, he was recalled. On 20 August 1914, he was seriously wounded, taking until December to recover. Upon his return he fought in actions along the Rawka River near Warsaw. During an attack on 17 February 1915, he was bayoneted in his right hip. This wound put him in the garrison hospital at Naumburg. He was incapacitated for front line duty, and was recommended for service in the reserve battalion of his regiment.
Dörr saw a circular from the War Ministry asking for volunteers for pilot training. Dörr applied and was accepted despite his physical condition and relatively advanced age. He reported for training with FEA 2 at Döberitz in July 1915 and later at FEA 3 in Gotha.
On 18 March 1916, he was posted as a Vizefeldwebel to FA 68, an artillery observation unit engaged in artillery spotting. One of his comrades there was future ace Ernst Udet. Dörr earned an Iron Cross Second Class while assigned to FA 68.
Dörr and his observer Oberleutnant Serger were transferred to FA 6 to help counter heavy Allied air pressure. He stayed with the unit through its redesignation as FA 257 in May 1916, and participated in air operations prior to the Battle of the Somme in July.
In June 1917, the elevator on Dörr's plane failed in flight, and he crashed from an altitude of 1400 meters (4,600 feet). His observer, Leutnant Bohn, was killed; Dörr survived with his jaw broken in six places. This serious injury kept him out of action for three months.
He returned to duty at Althaus as a test pilot from November 1917 until February 1918, and was awarded an Iron Cross First Class on 22 December 1917.
In February 1918, he was then transferred from flying two seaters into Jagdgstaffel 45. His first victory was on 17 March, in a dogfight that saw six Germans tackle 26 French and British machines. Dörr knocked down a Sopwith 1½ Strutter.
He downed a French Breguet 14 on 28 May, only to be shot down in flames by others in the formation. Fortunately, his altitude was only 400 meters (1,300 feet); he crash landed in no man's land between the French and German trenchworks with minor burns and made it back to German lines under heavy fire.
He claimed an unconfirmed victory only three days later and added three confirmed claims for the rest of June. In July, he logged eleven more victories, scoring consistently and increasingly often through the month. August added six more victories, bringing his total to 23. On 29 August, he was awarded the Gold Military Merit Cross; this was the enlisted man's equivalent of the better-known Pour le Merite or "Blue Max" given to officers. He was commissioned a lieutenant. September saw seven confirmed victories—three Spad VIIs and four Spad XIs. His tally now stood at 30. By 25 October, he had added three more. On that day, he was proposed for the Pour le Merite. Two days later, he scored one and had another unconfirmed claim. Another probable came the next day. His last victory of the war came on 30 August. On 4 November, he had an indecisive bout.
Dörr was the most successful ace to fly the Fokker D.VII, accumulating 30 victories with it. He had been wounded four times in his country's service, twice as an infantryman, twice as a pilot. He had refused an assignment to the rear echelon to remain in the front line. Nevertheless, he did not receive his nation's greatest honor; the Kaiser abdicated without awarding Dörr's Blue Max. It was an embittering experience that may have been the root for false reports that he was given the Pour le Merite in January 1919.
After the war
Gustav Dörr became one of the world's original commercial airline pilots after the war. He flew 580,000 kilometers (360,000 mi) for Deutsche Luft Hansa.
On 11 December 1928, he was piloting a Junkers G 31 on a night flight from Cologne to Berlin. He attempted an emergency landing at Letzlinger Heide. His plane brushed a tree on final approach and crash landed. Spilled fuel caught fire and killed Dörr and his crew. Luft Hansa later commemorated him by naming one of its airliners after him.
|1||17. March 1918||Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter||Montzeville, Verdun||07:20h|
|2||11 April 1918||SPAD S.VII||Tracy le Mont|
|3||28 May 1918||Bréguet 14||Vendeuil||15:00h|
|n.a.||1 June 1918||RE8||La Ferte Milon|
|4||12 June 1918||SPAD S.VII||Haraumont|
|5||28 June 1918||SPAD S.XIII||Villers-Cotterets|
|6||28 June 1918||SPAD S.VII||Villers-Cotterets|
|7||5 July 1918||Bréguet 14||Brumetz||11:10h|
|8||8 July 1918||Bréguet 14||Villers-Cotterets||11:30h|
|9||15 July 1918||SPAD S.VII||Comblizy||16:45h|
|10||15 July 1918||Bréguet 14||Nr Comblizy||17:00h|
|11||18 July 1918||SPAD S.XIII||Pernant||06:50h|
|12||18 July 1918||Bréguet 14||Montigny||07:05h|
|13||21 July 1918||SPAD||Neuilly||14:25h|
|14||24 July 1918||SPAD S.XIII||Pernant||11:30h|
|15||25 July 1918||Bréguet 14||La Croix||11:00h|
|16||29 July 1918||Bréguet 14||Fere-en-Tardenois||17:00h|
|17||30 July 1918||SPAD S.VII||Coincy||11:50h|
|18||1 August 1918||Nieuport 28||Bruyeres||11:00h|
|19||4 August 1918||Bréguet 14||Nampteuil||08:10h|
|20||11 August 1918||Bréguet 14||Braisne||12:30h|
|21||21 August 1918||SPAD S.XI||Rosnay||11:45h|
|22||21 August 1918||SPAD||Branges|
|23||24 August 1918||Salmson 2A2||Vezaponin||13:30h|
|24||2 September 1918||SPAD S.XI||Ormes||11:25h|
|25||2 September 1918||SPAD S.XI||Reims||11:30h|
|26||4 September 1918||SPAD S.VII||N Fismes||14:00h|
|27||14 September 1918||SPAD S.XI||Blanzy|
|28||16 September 1918||SPAD S.VII||Fismes|
|29||24 September 1918||SPAD S.VII||Soissons||19:00h|
|30||26 September 1918||SPAD S.XI||Fismes 13:00h|
|31||3 October 1918||Salmson 2A2||Coucy le Chateau|
|32||5 October 1918||Salmson 2A2||Brimont|
|33||9 October 1918||Bréguet 14||Coucy le Chateau|
|n.a.||27 October 1918||SPAD S.XI||u/c Malmaison||10.00h|
|34||27 October 1918||SPAD S.XI||Amifontaine||15.40h|
|n.a.||28 October 1918||SPAD|
|35||30 October 1918||Salmson 2A2||Missy||11.00h|
|n.a.||4 November 1918||Einsitzer|