Paul Billik

Paul Billik (27 March 1891 - 8 March 1926) Royal House Order of Hohenzollern was a World War I fighter ace credited with 31 victories. He was killed in a flying accident while pioneering civil aviation.

His Life Before Aviation

Paul Billik was born in Haatsch in the Silesian region of what was then Germany, and is presently Poland. His father Franz was a farmer. He attended school in Ratibor until 1910.

In 1911, he joined the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 12th Division and was based in Brzeg. He was promoted up to the rank of corporal during the next two years. He was still in this regiment when World War I started, and he went into battle with it. In November, 1915, he received a commission, apparently on the battlefield, which suggests uncommon courage and ability. In May, 1916, he transferred to aviation training.

Flying Service

Billik trained with FEA 4. From January through March 1917, he flew defensive patrols with Schusta 4 in two seater aircraft. Immediately after this, he trained to fly single seated fighters. On 1 April 1917, he joined Prussian Jagdgstaffel 12, which was commanded by Oberleutnant (First lieutenant} Adolf Ritter von Tutschek. He was assigned an Albatros fighter to fly, which he personalised with his good luck insignia of a pre-Nazi swastika.

On 30 April, he scored a Sopwith Pup for his first victory; his victim was Royal Naval Air Service ace John Malone. Billik downed three more opposing fighters before being transferred, with number four being on 3 July 1917. He was reassigned the following day.

His new unit was Prussian Jasta 7, commanded by Josef Jacobs. With them, he flew a Fokker Dr.I and scored once in August, twice in September, skipped a couple of months after being wounded on 7 October, and racked up fighter opponent number eight on 12 December. This despite a squadron scoring table that shows Jacobs as being the "shooter" for his unit, with the other pilots covering him.

Billik's last change of squadron led him to command of newly formed Prussian Jasta 52 on 9 January 1918. He brought with him four pilots from his old unit, along with an aircraft color scheme of black fuselages for the squadron's Pfalz D.IIIs. The Pfalz was an underperforming airplane, but Billik was shrewd enough to tailor tactics to its limitations.

Beginning on 9 March 1918, he began a five month accumulation of successes. Scoring one or two wins per scoring day, without the four, five, or six plane splurges of some other aces, he ran up a tally of 23 with his squadron, including three successes over aces of the newly founded Royal Air Force.

On the 19th of May, in a dogfight where the Germans were outnumbered, he downed Canadian Albert Desbrisay Carter, who survived as a prisoner of war. Billik was slightly wounded in the encounter.

On 1 June, he shot the wing off of British ace William Cairnes' Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5a, plummeting it earthward in a high speed spin; needless to say, Cairnes did not live.

On 8 July, Billik killed English ace Arthur Claydon. It was about this time that Jasta 52 finally upgraded to Fokker D.VIIs and Dr.Is.

On 25 July, Billik was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern.

On 10 August 1918, in a swirling confused dogfight, Billik was shot down and taken prisoner. He had been recommended for a Pour le Merite when his score sheet reached 20 victories. This award was Germany's highest decoration for valor, and one very seldom awarded to men from humble origin or from the non-commissioned ranks. His fall into captivity scotched the honor.

In evaluating Billik's achievements as a fighter ace, it should be noted that he triumphed over few opponents in inferior airplanes, and many in superior ones. An Albatros or a Pfalz was considered a poorer fighter than the Sopwith Came or Dolphin, yet Billik shot down eight Camels and a Dolphin while under-equipped. Conversely, he shot down only six bombers among his 31 scores, and they were all modern well-armed craft.

Post War

Billik went into civil aviation after the war. He died in a landing accident in Staaken, Berlin, while piloting one of the world's first passenger liners, the Junkers F.13.

References/Websites

* http://www.flieger-album.de/geschichte/portraits/portraitpaulbillik.php Accessed 29 September 2008. Translated via Google.
* "Pfalz Scout Aces of World War 1". Greg VanWyngarden. Osprey Publishing, 2006.
* "Fokker D VII Aces of World War 1: Part 2". Norman Franks, et al. Osprey Publishing, 2004.
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12th_Division_(German_Empire) Accessed 29 September 2008.
* http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/germany/billik.php Accessed 29 September 2008.
* http://www.theaerodrome.com/services/germany/jasta/jasta7.php Accessed 29 September 2008.
* http://www.theaerodrome.com/services/germany/jasta/jasta12.php Accessed 29 September 2008.
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_F_13 29 September 2008.


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