Paul Freiherr von Pechmann
Oberleutnant, 33rd Field Aviation Unit, German Flying Service
He was award the Pour le Mérite for distinguished military service and leadership while serving as a flight artillery observer. At the time of the award, he had completed over 700 artillery observer missions against Allied positions on the western front.
Born December 18, 1889 in Gauchsmühle near Nuernberg
Fliegerabteilung A 215 and A 217
Over 700 missions flown
Awards: He was first Observer to receive the Pour le Mérite.
He choose to become a carrier-soldier, and the Army List of 1914 lists him as 2nd Lieutenant of
the 5. coy Westfaelisches Fussartillerie-Regiment Nr 7 in Cologne. (The Fuss-Artillery was the heavy Fortress-Artillery).
He managed to move up to become an artillery-observer, directing artillery-fire from aboard of an airplane. When
he was awarded the plm on 31 July 1917 as Oberleutnant. He had passed the margin of more than 400 successful
battle-flights in Fliegerabteilung A 215 and A 217 all in Flandres. He thus became the first Observer to receive the order.
In a 1938 book "The Pour le Mérite flyers" by Walter Zuerl he cites a personal
report by Baron Pechmann from March 1918, at which time he had been
transferred to 2. Army in the Cambrai area (Nov 1917), where the great
German summer-offensive was ending.
"the day of 21. March started with a clear star-sprangled sky. There was no
time for any sleep. Without interruption the telephone worked and spitted
out orders, which immediately had to be worked on or at least required some
preparation. The Artillery-fire along the entire front started unilateraly
already, when it was still deep dark, we could feel the windows shiver in
our quarters, which were separated from the front-lne by 20 km. In the
meantime the weather had changed much to our disadvantage, dense ground-fog
prevented nearly all flying till about 8 o´clock.
The crews waited impatiently at the flight line and developed new hope with every flickering.
At 0900 sunbeams penetrated the fog-layer for a few seconds, my pilot and I
grabbed the opportunity, to hop over the only 50m thick layer. The
church-spire of Moretz was the only thing, which extended through the
cloud-cover with its very top, while otherwise nothing could be seen from
the soil. With the aid of the compass we headed west, very much alone in
bright sunlight, and we hoped that by the force of fire, at least the lines
could be seen. It however turned out to be impossible to gain the most
After some searching we managed to locate our airfield, which
was marked by fired rockets. About 1000 it became lighter again, we again
were lead astray to start, again with the same misfortune. We only
encountered two German fighter-aircraft, which shortly afterwards incenerated
two balloons, which were flying above the clouds, the only members of the
English air force.
Finally at lunch-time the fog-patches tore up and on a third mission, we
were just capable to identify that our Infantery in the sector of the
division had gained about 3 km and applied for artillery support, by firing
red charges, just out of the village of Epehy. The artillery-fire, due to
the heavy fog had not succeeded in extinquishing the machine-guns
established within the ruins. Before our artillery could attack the
village (without any ground-observation), it was of utmost importance to
verify the extent of our forward line. An experienced Infantry-flyer crew
started, went down as far as 50m and managed to arrive at a complete
report, which was transferred into map-drawings , which were dropped near
the artillery and staff positions. We returned unharmed with 125
bullet-wholes in the fuselage."
At that time Paul von Pechmann´s Abteilung was one of the first, which supported
the fighting forces by nutrition and medical-supplies. Sand-sacks with
attached black-white-red streamers, carrying 60 rounds of ammunition, 2
loafs of bread, 2 meat-tins, 12 flares and 10 first-aid-packs, were dropped
over the lines. Every air-craft carried 8 to 10 of those sacks and such an
Abteilung of 10 aircraft at average could transport about 4 to 5000 rounds,
150 to 200 loafs of bread as well as tinned meat and respective first
aid-kits into the most forward front-line. "Those nutrition-flights",
Pechman wrote, "were especailly welcome by the Infantery and gained more
recognition as victorious air-battles than our tiring reconnaissance-flights."
After the end of the war Baron von Pechmann stayed in flying til 1921 when he
retired to Cologne as a Captain.