Luck and Death: WWI Pilots and their Superstitions

Cheating the Grim Reaper at the dawn of aerial combat.

In 1918 France, the 13th Aero Squadron painted a skeleton on the side of their SPAD, a stark reminder of their own mortality. (US Army)

The First “Angry Birds”

Some WWI pilots, like this German bomber crew, gave their aircraft a distinctive “face,” the more menacing the better. Werner Voss, a close friend of Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the “Red Baron”), painted eyes on the front of the cowling of his Fokker Dr1 triplane. Before that, Voss had painted a heart and swastika on his Albatros D III for luck. In September 1917, six British aces flying S.E.5 a’s—including James McCudden—finally shot him down.


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