Fokker Dr.I Triplane:

A World War One Legend

by Paul Leaman

Published by Classic Publications


Book review by Steve Jantscher


The Fokker Dr.I is arguably the most easily identifiable and well known plane of the First World War. Paint that plane red, and most people who know anything about aviation will say it's the mount of the "Red Baron" Manfred von Richtofen. While the fame of the aircraft may be do to the tie it has to being the last mount flown by the top scoring ace of that war, the Dr.I was the mount of many famous and important German pilots.

The history of the Dr.I is a short one by the standards of later times, but in the steep learning curve that was aviation science and the art of aerial combat during WWI, a relatively short service life from October 1917 to June 1918 was the norm. The 320 triplanes built by Fokker were supposed to ultimately equip three Jagdgeshwader (fighter wings, each with four twenty aircraft squadrons) but problems in development led to all three jagdgeshwadern still having a mixed assemblage of aircraft when the Dr.I started being officially phased out of service life for newer, more advanced designs.

This new book from Classic Publications continues the fine work for which they are known. The author comes across as an enthusiast of WW I aviation, and of the Fokker aircraft, and the Dr.I in particular. Mr. Leaman is not known personally to me by any other work, however I've heard from others that Mr. Leaman has published previously on WWI German aviation topics. Still indicative of an expert staying in his field of knowledge.

When I first saw this book, I wasn't all that impressed, as I'm not normally "into" WWI aviation (I don't collect Windsock publications, for instance). I flipped through the pages, noted some of the nice color artwork by Harry Dempsey (there are color multi-view representations for 13 different Dr.Is and some more of other aircraft), the many line drawings of various sections of the aircraft, some color photographs of original parts of different triplanes as well as photographs of near authentic flying reproductions. On top of all that were the hundreds of black and white photographs that make up the bulk of page space throughout this book.

It was only later when I was asked to review this book, and started reading the text, that I decided to purchase it for myself. While I learned more about the Dr.I that I had ever known before by reading into the first few pages, the author's style kept me reading. I found that I was becoming fascinated with this plane, and later in the book of course, with the men who flew the Fokker in combat. The final (fatal) flight of Werner Voss makes for fascinating reading. In that combat, he took on major elements of two RFC squadrons of SE5as. Before he went down he managed to put bullets into eight enemy planes, finally running out of fuel, becoming easy prey for an experienced British pilot. The author portrays this combat to show just what the Dr.I could do in a close quarter fight, and how wary the Allied pilots who fought against the Fokker were.

The author divides the book up into ten chapters, with additional appendixes. The first four chapters deal with the history of Fokker Flugzeugwerke GmbH, development and deployment of the Dr.I. Next follow two chapters devoted to analysis of the flight characteristics of the triplane and its construction. These chapters have many line drawings and photographs of the airframe without the fabric skin as well as interesting accounts of the Fokker in flight. For the modeler looking to superdetail a kit, this chapter will be most welcome, as well as the many photographs throughout the book showing the various markings and colors of some of those deployed Dr.Is. The next two chapters are almost exclusively visually based, centering around the very many photographs and their extensive captions. These chapters are titled "Factory Finish, Unit and Individual Markings" and "View from the Flight Line : Jasta aircraft". Chapter Nine is titled simply "The Pilots" and includes some 77 photographs of various pilots either sitting in or standing in front of their fighters. If there was ever an answer to the need to put a face with a name, this chapter answers that need. Finally chapter ten's three pages hold 15 photographs of Dr.Is in post war livery. The appendixes include forty pages of various information, lists, photographs and drawings. These are the pages in which the author poured the "rest of the stuff" he had on the Fokker Dr.I, most of it being very interesting and informative.

As I said in the beginning, I've come around on this book, and have purchased my "review" sample. I think the combination of text and photos would appeal to the modeler as well as the average historian. If you're at interested in WWI aviation, or the Dr.I and the men who flew it, this book is a must have addition to your library!

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