Richard Hess

Richard Hess was born on the 31st of December 1892 at Mährisch-Weißkirchen. Considering that both his father August, who had retired as a Generalmajor on the 25th of May 1914 and his uncle Richard, who had retired as a military official with a rank equivalent  to an Oberst on the 25th of February 1914, had both completed a military career, it was therefore without question that he should also became a professional officer. After attending the Realschule and 4 years at the cavalry cadet institute he was posted as second of his age class to Landwehr Ulanen Regiment number 5 (in 1917 renamed as Reitendes Schützen Regiment Nr.5) in Stockerau near Vienna. When the war started in August 1914 Kadett Hess was employed as a  patrol commander within the 3rd division of this regiment. He soon become well known for his dashing reconnaissance patrols and was honored with the Silver Bravery Medal 2nd class in October 1914. Beside his knowledge of German, English and French his fluent Polish, learnt from his mother, helped him during his long range reconnaissance patrols. On the 2nd of December 1914 he received serious wounds which forced him to remain in hospital for some weeks. During this time he received accelerated promotion to Leutnant on the 1st of January 1915. Fully recovered he returned to his regiment in February 1915 being further employed as a platoon commander and later as commander of the Reserve Squadron. For his outstanding performance he received the commendation of the Kaiser which allowed him to wear the bronze Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis) with war ribbon and when the swords were introduced he received them retroactively for this decoration.

Being a young and healthy officer, fond of riding and motorcycling, he volunteered for the air service. In June 1916 he wish was granted and after successfully graduating from the observer's training course for officers he was attached to the newly raised Fliegerkompanie (FliK) 36 at the airfield of Braila on the 22nd of October 1916. This FliK was a general service unit whose primary role was reconnaissance missions using the new cameras producing aerial photographs. On the 1st of November 1916 Richard Hess received his promotion to Oberleutnant. During the following year he performed 51 reconnaissance sorties, 3 successful bombing raids and was involved in 6 air combats and one forced landing. On the 12th of March 1917 he received the Air Crew Badge and his successful bombing raids were recognized by the award of the Military Merit Cross 3rd class with war decoration and swords on the 31st of July 1917. After his 39th sortie he received the newly introduced Karl-Truppen-Kreuz in August 1917. Seeing action in concert with allied troops on the eastern theatre led to the awards of the Prussian Iron Cross 2nd class and the Ottoman Iron Crescent in the same period. However his real desire in aviation was to be a fighter pilot and so, as far as his duty allowed him, he used every minute and every available instructor, like Oberleutnant Gawel, Feldwebel Rumiha and Zugsführer Wiesmayer to improve his skills as a pilot. Finally he completed 64 training flights when he was transferred to the fighter pilots' course in early November 1917. The awarding of the Fieldpilotes Badge was published on the 22nd of December 1917; it seems that his previous experience gained on combat missions as an observer was credited to immediately qualify him for the award of the  pilots' badge after the successful completion of his pilot's training.

At this time his evaluations described him - starting with his perfect health, commenting on his excellent social manners and his fine character, and ending with his great talent and skills as a pilot - as a perfect future fighter pilot. After some weeks on leave at home he arrived at FliK 60J on the 20th of February 1918. This fighter unit was located at the airfield of Grigno in the southern theatre, under pressure from the permanently increasing support of British and American air-units to the anyway already numerically superior Italian air forces. Between the 20th and 22nd of February he took part in 3 combat missions always involved in heavy air combat. His plane number 228.06 was so often hit that it was deemed beyond repair on the 23rd of February! On the 24th of February 1918 Oberleutnant Richard Hess took off with plane number 328.12 for his last combat mission. Near the frontlines his squadron met superior enemy forces. A wild dogfight started and it was reported that Hess was wounded just at the beginning but did not refrain from attacking the enemy. Soon he was surrounded by 4 planes, it seems that he was able to hit one of them seriously but the others finished him off. His plane was seen spinning down out of control and crashed into the ground near Cismon (Valsugana). On the 18th of March 1918 Oberleutnant Richard Hess was honored by the award of the 3rd class of the Order of the Iron Crown with war decoration and swords - posthumously.

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