I celebrated  my 40th birthday on Greenly Island. My father certainly did not dream of this when I was born in Neu-Ulm, Bavarian Swabia, on April 15th, 1888, the second of eight children.

I spent my early childhood in this small Bavarian town, Neu-Ulm, which forms a part of my home town Ulm, which is built on the soil of Wuerttemberg. There I grew up around the impressive cathedral of Ulm, the magnificence and beauty of which impressed itself upon my soul.

My first school years which I spent in the Elementary School in Neu-Ulm were not a source of happiness either to me or to my father. Nor did things improve when I began to torture myself with Latin verbs in the High School in Ulm. My heart longed for freedom. I was much more disposed, to my teachers' great disapproval, to follow wild bandit and soldier games than to sit still on the forms in school.

When my father, who was then Captain and Battery Commander of the 1st Bavarian Foot Artillery Regiment, was transferred to Muenchen in 1897, I found that the knowledge I had acquired in 'Ulm was not sufficient to justify the Professors of the Ludwig High School in Muenchen in admitting me into the next highest class. I only succeeded in gaining admittance, on trial, in the lower class.

At this slow pace I continued my studies for another few years. Gradually, however, I began to realize how essential a good education was. Then to some extent I forsook my youthful tricks.

At this time I began to long to wear, like my elder brother, the smart uniform of the Bavarian Cadets. Perhaps this was the chief reason why a few weeks before the dreaded entrance examination I forced myself to sit down to acquire the necessary knowledge.

My brother Ludwig, who was killed in the war, was in the same class with me in the Luitpold High School in Muenchen. In our last

year in the school an unpleasant fate threatened me—the possibility that I should have to steep my mind a second time in the past year's studies. On the other hand, my brother, who was younger than I, had a strong chance of passing me. The days before and after the entrance examination were for me real days of ambitious study. I was rewarded. During the first days of our beautiful vacation I was full of fears, but these were dispelled when the news came through that both my brother and I had passed the entrance examination of the Muenchen Cadet Corps (Military School). I was inordinately proud when I learned, moreover, that in the examination results I had come out 9th, whereas my younger and so much more ambitious brother was 21st, the last but one.

How proud I was of my nice blue Cadet uniform, even though I did not often have the opportunity of displaying it on Sundays to my envious friends. I had to spend many Sunday afternoons in the Cadet Corps study rooms, either because my silver buttons were not polished, or because I had failed to show a sufficient understanding of the great irregularity of Latin verbs.

Mathematics and Gymnastics were my favorite subjects; to which in later years I added Drawing. I was rather bad at foreign languages, but managed somehow to pass the danger mark.

I must confess that I was not one of the best behaved or most industrious students. Nevertheless, even today I fail to see the expediency of one of the many punishments I received. I was kept at school for not knowing the irregular Latin verbs. For weeks and weeks I had to recite all these verbs over and over again. I had tried hard, but in vain, during four weeks to obtain by hard study one free Sunday afternoon. Above all, I wished to get off the Sunday that followed the fifth week, because this was the last Sunday that my parents were to spend in Muenchen, before moving to Ingolstadt, to which city my father had been transferred. That week I actually did succeed in escaping the strictures of my Latin Professor, by taking my irregular Latin verbs with me to bed where I recited them night after night.

Each Saturday at noon, when we left the classroom, the list of those permitted Sunday afternoon leave was hung up in the corridor. Possessed by the happy knowledge of my ability, I looked at the official list expecting to read the official acknowledgment of this ability. I was crushed by what I read. Not only was there no notation permitting me to have the Sunday afternoon off, but my name stood at the bottom of those who were to diet on Sunday. And at the call it was read aloud: "Cadet Hermann Koch! is punished with a fortnight's diet and interdiction of leave for continuous misbehavior in connection with the punishment of the last four weeks." I need not emphasize that this kind of pedagogy has remained a thorn in my flesh for the rest of my life. If in later years comrades or superiors considered that I was somewhat too kind and lenient in the treatment of my subordinates, then this fault of mine must be attributed to the unjust treatment I received, the memory of which remains deeply rooted in my heart. But all this tended to increase my energy and power of resistance.

I spent my last youthful years in the Colleges of the beautiful towns of Nuernberg and Augsburg. I always recall those times with great pleasure. The much greater freedom I there enjoyed, as compared with the Cadet Corps, was the nicest part of those school years. During all those years, my most fervent desire, naturally, was to become a soldier like my father. And finally when after many many school years the goal seemed close to me, I concentrated all my efforts in an endeavour to finish school definitely. I passed my final examinations in June, 1909. Away from school I joined the Pioneers of Ulm as an ensign.

I was attached to the Pioneer Battalion No. 13 of Wuerttemberg. The first months of training which I and two other privates underwent were not pleasant. We left early in the morning for training, and late at night we dropped exhausted upon our hard soldier's bed and sank into deep sleep. In the morning we were awakened by the sound of the reveille. I can hardly describe all the toil I went through during this time. We had to drill and carry on gymnastics to such an excessive extent, that 2 or 3 times a day, especially during the hot weather, we looked as if we had been literally dragged out of water. But this hard time only lasted until we became attached to the company, shortly before the maneuvers. Then we escaped the strict surveillance of our sergeant and began to like our soldiers life a little more.

After the maneuvers I was promoted to Corporal, and later to non-commissioned officer. Still later I was transferred to the military school in Hannover.

I returned from the military school in Hannover in the autumn of 1910 and soon afterwards I became Second Lieutenant. My first years as a Second Lieutenant were almost as hard as my months as a private. In order to be able correctly to carry out our company duties we were obliged to learn a fearful lot. The short training period we had had as privates and in the military school was not sufficient to turn us into old experienced soldiers. But we acquired a good deal of knowledge by paying the strictest attention to every detail of our duties. The many technical and tactical tasks required of officers made our lives rather sour. Nevertheless on the whole we were quite happy, and I have delightful memories of many joyful days in our quarters in Ulm, on our sporting grounds, in the barracks and water training camps on the Danube.

After two years' service in the field I was ordered to the Military Technical College in Berlin. There I was to undergo two years' theoretical training after my two years' field training. I saw for the first time Germany's greatest city. Berlin and the College awakened my highest interest. During those years I heard for the first time more exact facts about aviation. My wish to become an aviator was very great. However, I knew that while I was a Pioneer I could not succeed in getting into the Air Service because I knew that I would have to serve at least four full years before the Commander of my Battalion would endorse and forward my application.The Military Technical College in Berlin provided a two years' training period. At the end of the first year we returned for a short time to our Battalions for field service. From there we went straight to Strassburg for special pontonier drill. Then the world war broke out. We returned, singing roaring war songs, to Ulm. There we were mobilized.My first contact with our adversaries was in the Vosges. There I underwent my baptism of fire. With my pioneer squad I marched as a rule in the forefront of the division, in order to liminate all obstacles which might retard the progress of the march. It often happened that I found myself with my small faithful troup all of a sudden amidst the infantry and took part with great enthusiasm in all the charges at the head of the infantry.

At such a charge I sustained my first wound. We had rushed far ahead and all of a sudden found ourselves alone with the enemy. After the crossing of a brook, at the "Sprung auf marsch-marsch" (Jump up ; march, march) I received a shot in my left shinbone. To my great disappointment I was forced to return home. But it turned out happily for me, because it enabled me to fulfil my warmest wish. As I was temporarily unfit for foot troop service, I reported myself, in order to be able to return immediately to the front, to the aviation corps, which was just beginning to get going in those days. It was not too easy to get there, because although the Commander of my Reserve Battalion was willing to support my request, he hesitated to exchange the necessary telegrams with Headquarters. Then for the first time I actively interfered with my fate. I myself drafted the necessary report containing my special qualifications and technical knowledge, which was so essential in order to ensure a quick response to my request, and telegraphed it to headquarters. Eight days elapsed, and then I was called to join the aviation corps. In the meantime I had to face my commander's reproaches, who was seriously annoyed and expressed his deepest displeasure that I should have acted independently and personally approached the highest authorities. It was only because he was a good friend of my father's, that I escaped punishment.

My first activity in aviation was to report myself at the Adlershof Flying Reserve Detachment at the Johannisthal aerodrome. I was put down as airplane observer for Flying Detachment 41. In those days no special training was provided for observers. I jumped into every machine that took off, and I did not care who flew her, whether the pilot was making his first solo flight or his examination landings. The only thing I wanted was to get up into the air and to see what the earth looked like from above; to follow on the map the many roads, houses, rivers, &c., thus learning how to see from the air. Naturally I was especially interested from the very beginning in the traffic on railroads and roads as seen from low and high altitudes.

I made my first long distance flight with Second Lieutenant Flascha to Leipzig. I acquired the necessary maps for this flight and on them I made all the necessary notations. The plane we flew was an Albatros training machine. In those days we did not know that it was advisable to get weather reports before starting on such a flight. Near Wittenberg, halfway between Berlin and Leipzig, a thick ceiling of clouds rose. We flew over the clouds, timing ourselves as we did so. When I judged that we were in the vicinity of the aerodrome Leipzig-Mockau, I gave my pilot the sign to descend. He promptly and bravely descended through the clouds. We emerged exactly in front of the Zeppelin hangar in Leipzig. Rain was pelting down, and it was impossible to take our bearings. As we did not know the field itself and could not find it in the bad weather, we landed on a favourable stubble field. Later on we discovered that we had brought our machine down in the immediate vicinity of the flying field. After refuelling for the further flight, Flascha took off again. At the end of the field there was a tall row of trees. A strong gust of wind caught us soon after the take-off, and we side slipped. This was the first crash I had experienced. Apart from the smashed plane, everything was all right. We packed our camera and started sadly towards the railroad station in Leipzig.

Shortly afterwards I made another flight with Flascha to Leipzig. The flight there was successful, but on the return flight we had to make several forced landings on account of engine trouble, and were finally compelled at a forced landing near Windisch-Wilmersdorf to dismantle the plane.

Such was my training as an observer. It was crowned with a short stay in Schwerin where the Fokker Works were then situated. There we were trained in starting the Oberursel Motors. Equipped with such knowledge we arrived with our Fokker monoplanes in Gent, where the planes were assembled. In the flight to the aerodrome only my pilot and I managed to land on the field provided. It was days before the other planes succeeded in reaching their destination. Two of the planes even had to be towed there by truck. Because I succeeded in finding the field immediately, I was dubbed a "Beobachter Kanone" ( observer-gun), and this title has stuck to me ever since.

I had the opportunity to acquire special experience in every phase of an airplane observer's duties, and the various branches filled me with immeasurable interest. I succeeded everywhere in achieving good results and in winning the goodwill of my superiors. But I must state frankly that I experienced great difficulties in my first reconnoitering flights and in directing artillery fire, as I was unable during my first flights to discern the numerous roads and railroads which intersect each other in front of Ypres. I was almost unable to locate on the map the batteries firing below us and especially to direct the fire of our artillery upon them. It often happened in the beginning that we returned from our artillery flights rather unsuccessful. However, the artillery was to be blamed for this in many instances, because they did not always fire. After repeated flights, however, became more experienced. My activities as "Bild-Offizier" (Picture Officer) for the detachment helped me in becoming a well-trained and experienced observer since in that capacity I had numerous opportunities to study photographs which showed how the field across the line looked when seen from airplanes. I worked day and night to perfect myself as an airplane observer. My greatest sorrow was that sometimes days passed without my being ordered into a plane. Yet I saw that many others were unable to accomplish the tasks set them by Headquarters because they lacked the necessary experience. My own desire to train as a pilot came to nothing because I could not be spared as an observer.

In the beginning my aviation activities took place mainly in Flanders. The battle of the Somme brought me for the first time into the surroundings of the Somme in a different capacity. I was promoted to Lieutenant, and transferred as echelon leader to the combat squadron No. 4. For the first time I was in an independent position as a flier and could lead my echelons to the best of my judgment. My field of activity was limited to the artillery defense of our artillery planes. This, however, did not appeal to me in the least. I would have liked to attack myself instead of being a mere onlooker observing how other young artillery observers missed the chances for attack that the good weather afforded. And so I turned my echelon to other tasks, to night flights. We made use of the beautiful clear moonlight nights, and began systematically to develop night bombing flights. Because of the excellent results we achieved during our occasional night flights, the fighting squadrons were within a short time gradually transformed into night bombing squadrons.

Here I must mention how, in spite of all the opposition of my detachment chiefs, I finally succeeded in becoming a pilot myself.

My first detachment chief was in charge of the Flying Reserve Detachment in Boeblingen. He invited me to pay him a visit on my next leave. I accepted the invitation upon the condition that during my stay he would permit me to undergo a training at the Flying Detachment he was in charge of. Upon his promise to do so, I immediately took the leave which had been due to me for a long time, and left at once for Boeblingen. In three days, during the morning and evening hours, I managed to get in about 40 training flights, and then made my first solo flight, the re. suit of which, however, was not to my entire satisfaction. My somewhat timid and nervous teacher had never really let me take full charge of the controls during the preceding days; so I felt rather queer sitting all alone in the plane, and knowing that I alone was responsible for everything that might happen. My salvation seemed to lie in giving my plane the gun, but I did not then know that at such a speed it would be rather difficult to bank the plane. My first curve around the Boeblingen field, preceding my landing, was rather sharp and at a high speed, and I did not reach the point from which I had intended to land. I started too high, but knowing that in such cases it was necessary once more to give the engine more gas, I did so, but two or three seconds too late, with the result that upon landing the under carriage collapsed and my propeller was damaged. And so my first solo flight was behind me. Though I did not land quite smoothly, the damage was slight. The following morning at 5 o'clock things went much better. I passed on this same day my pilot's examination, which consisted of flying three figure eights at an altitude of 500 meters. My subsequent landings were all fairly good.

With this knowledge of flying I returned from DIY leave. However, I was unable further to perfect it, for reasons I have previously mentioned, so that my fervent desire to become a "Jagdflieger" (pursuit flyer) was baulked.

But after a time, as I was an echelon leader, the opportunity presented itself to me to resume pay interrupted flying studies. I equipped a training plane in my echelon, again made several training flights and then proceeded to fly myself all the various types of planes in my echelon. However, as pilot I had several unpleasant experiences with the observers sitting behind me, and when it came to action I found that it was better for me to resume the command of my squadron in the capacity of an observer. And I flew as a pilot only with pursuit-planes.

At the end of 1916 I got into a fight with two enemy Nieuport pursuit planes. One of them succeeded in getting me into the range of the machine-gun. Our plane was hit so vitally that the motor was shot to pieces and we at once fell down into the clouds. I myself received a serious shot in my upper thigh. We succeeded, however, in gliding over the front lines of the enemy and in reaching the first line of our trenches, behind which we landed, capsizing our machine as a result of the shell holes. After two hours barrage upon our machine, during which I was thrown back and forth by the pressure of the exploding shells, I dragged myself into shelter, from which I was later rescued by my wounded pilot and soldiers from the trenches. They dragged me back to safety, and I spent a quarter of the year in hospital. While still on crutches I reported myself at my old squadron for duty and received another echelon.

We had just received the first of the two engined giant planes. These were not very useful, but those that followed were quite good. We proceeded to develop this type of plane further, and made many more night flights.

At the beginning of March, 1918, I was due for promotion and was made a Captain. On the same day I obtained the command of a Bombing-Squadron. My activities in this capacity were, however, of short duration, because during the night of May 20-21, I was hit by a shell and forced down behind the enemy lines. This literally meant the end of my war activities.