Max Holtzem
Max Holtzem
Recuerdo de la arriesgada tournee en America de Sud
de los intrepidos;
Souvenir of the dangerous tournament in South America
of the intrepid
Aviator Max Holtzem
and Acrobat Eugen Geberth.

Photograph from Edgar B. Smith's estate collection,
submitted by his son, Donald M. Smith, holder of estate.

A Thumbnail Sketch of the Flying Adventures of
     To begin my story in aviation, I must go back to the time when flying was in its infancy and considered by most people to be both hazardous and foolhardy. When as a lad of 19 years of age in the land of my birth (1911 in the conservative Reich of the Kaiser), I was opposed severely by the anti-air attitude of my State-Tutor. This old gentlemen had empowered my stepmothers veto to use the funds from my small inheritance and forbade me to squander it on flying lessons. I wanted to be an aviator.... my Tutor called it a "Luftschiffer", which means lighter-than-air (a term incorrectly applied). In vain I had tried to reason with him and explain my enthusiasm for aviation, but this only bothered him all the more as it did whenever I spoke of aviation.
Autobiography from Edgar B. Smith's estate collection,
submitted by his son, Donald M. Smith, holder of estate.

To read the whole story, click on: Bavarian.


Editor's Note: This section includes four letters between Max and Peter Gross.
They are somewhat fragmentary, but I think you will find them to be very interesting.
Letter 3. Dec. 9, 1963
Letter 4. Jan. 22, 1964
Letter 5. Feb 1, 1964
Letter 6. Apr. 14, 1964

Max Holtzem
     One nice morning in the late summer of 1913 at the Military Airfield "Buttweiler Hof" at Koeln a/Rh. (Cologne), the commander of the Flieger Batallion No. 3, a Major Fridel, looked over his newly arrived volunteers for Company No. 1 stationed at Cologne.
     He, at the head of his staff, with his adjutant, pen and writing pad ready, walked down from the top of the line; he was in a good mood. When he came to me, I was about the sixth from the right, he looked at me, stepped back, looked at me again and said "Mensch, you do look like our Crownprinz! Any relationship...He asked me then "What brings you here?" He looked at his staff and laughed, then had his adjutant make notes of me. I stood at attention and answered "No Sir, no relationship...He asked me then "What brings you here?" And I said, "I hope to become a Military pilot." "Oh, Ho" he did say, "You have high ambition, what qualification can you show?" I said I can drive a car. "Hm," he said, "and do you have a license?' "Yes, I was chauffeur for Count Paul Wolff-Metternich." He turned to his adjutant with some orders that I felt gave me my first break to stardom...No longer Infantrie-drill; soon therafter I drove the commander's car and began flight trining in the old "Taube'.
     August 1st, 1914 WAR! - After six months with Feldflieger Abt. No. 9 and 34, I was commanded to the Pfalz Flugzeug Werke back in Speyer a/Ph. to get familiarized with their rotary engine powered fighter planes; later I became testpilot there and instructor for this type of planes at the Bavarian FEA (Flieger Ersatz Abteilung) Schleissheim near Munich. This lasted till Summer of 1917; it had not always been smooth and enjoyable and after a good clash with my last C.O., I went out again to the front on my request to Jasta 16.
     Here in front of Verdun at "La Foli Ferme", I cracked up an earlier captured Spad of the "Escadrille Lafayette". We pilots who flew this plane did not like the Spad. It was dangerous for the unskilled to make tight turns at full throttle as it would easily get inot a spin. It had the stability and the gliding angle like a "bloody brick" as the English would say...We shoud have long ago turned the ship in for evaluation. By now its motor would run on only ONE magneto, which would cause a drop of about ONE HUNDRED RPM with the result in a considerable loss of power. not enough with that, we had replaced the left landing wheel with one of our Albatros wheels which was LARGER in diameter. Till today I could never understand why none of us was bright enought to put Albatros wheels on both sides...As it was, the bloomen thing would turn to the right and never run straight... The last day I took it off, there was no wind; I gained lift only slowly, she run on the ground, curving to the right. I made almost a circle on the field; the hangars had been straight back at my start, now they came dangerously visible from the corner of my right eye. Too fast and no brakes to stop. I had to go around in a circle now or else crash into the hangars. I turned her on the right side wheel with the wing tip almost scratching the ground, not enough speed to take to the air but too mcuh to stop without a crash. I forced her now with the stick way back and in near stalling position off the ground; well, I was clear of the hangars but heading for the marsh easts of them alongside the field. I was hoping to reach the other shoreline only a few hundred feet away, I had my wings now straight but was only a trifle above the water. The engine did not pick-up and inch by inch I came lower, mushing down and splash......I made a perfect three-point landing in the swamp. Fortunately everybody had seen me and by now were back from their safe places to which they had been running when it looked that the Spad would charge them, and came running now to help me. The ship had nosed over but the tail was still way up; my head and knees were in the water but "in the middle" I was dry. I had some difficulty unlashing my belt as I was not familiar with the Spad's seat strap! But luckily I got out and was already standing on the wing when a comrade monteur came in the water to take me on his shoulder back to dry land.
     I guess I'm right in saying everybody felt relieved now that the Spad had found his end...
Story from Edgar B. Smith's estate collection,
submitted by his son, Donald M. Smith, holder of estate.


Editor's Note: The quality of these three pictures is only marginal,
but perhaps a little better than nothing. You can view them
by clicking on: Photographs

Max Holtzem

image from the website.
To visit the site, click on the name.

Detailed Listings and Histories, August 1916-November 1918
by Norman Franks, Frank Bailey, Rick Diuven.

Max Holtzem

     Died on 5 January 1980 in Torrance, California, at the age of 87 years. Holtzem was born on 1 December 1892 in Eberfield, Germany, and later moved to Koln (Cologne). He was educated at the Hochschule and served as an apprentice to an architect but he had exhibited an aptitude for mechanics. He worked in the Delfosse automobile assembly plant where he had indicated a desire to learn to fly. At the age of 20 he abandoned the architectural field and began his flying lessons under the tutelage of Bruno Werntgen. In 1912 Holtzem designed and built his own aircraft -- a contraption patterned after the Bleriot and Depurdussin designs and powered with a Delfosse rotary engine. The design did not fly! In 1913 Holtzem entered the Imperial Army Air Service with the 1. Kompagnie of the 3. Flieger Bataillon at Koln. He was given flight training in Rumpler Tauben monoplanes. After training he was assigned to Flieger Abteiling 9. When the war erupted in August 1914 Holtzem and his unit (Rumpler Tauben) were sent to Luxemburg. In October 1914 he was transferred to Fl.Abt. 34 where he flew unarmed Aviatik B-type machines. In April 1915 Holtzem was ordered to the Pfalz Flugzeugwerke for duty as a test pilot. This service was briefly interrupted when he was sent to the Military Observer's School at Juterbog as a pilot. A brief tour of duty with FEA Posen followed by his recall to the Pfalz factory in October as a test pilot and flight instructor. He remained here for nearly two years before requesting active combat flying duty. He was posted to Jagdstaffel 16 in the Verdun sector where he flew Pfalz DD.III aircraft (and later the Fokker D.VII). In that same month he helped in downing a Spad VII flown by Harold Buckley Willis of Escadrille Lafayette, Spa 124. In March 1918 he downed a British S.E.5A (squadron unknown) for which he did not receive official confirmation. Moving to Flanders in May, Holtzem had an undecisive combat with a Sopwith Dolphin on No. 7? Squadron, RAF. He remained with Jasta 16 until the end of the war.
     Holtzem emigrated to Argentina in 1920 and began a barnstorming career that lasted until 1928. He formed his own "Flying Circus" and it was known throughout the Argentine as Circo del Aire. He became a well-known figure in the aviation history of Argentina. He was the first to train a girl for wing-walking duties and is believed to be the first pilot in South America to transfer an acrobat from a flying aircraft to a moving car. In 1928 he emigrated to the U.S. as a test pilot for Anthony H. G. Fokker at the Teterboro Airport, New Jersey. The Fokker factory later became North American Aviation. Holtzem, now an American citizen, became an airport manager and flying instructor for two years at Newport, R.I., and then the same instructional duties with the Nyack Airport. Moving to Manhattan Beach, CA, in 1936, he was a flight inspector on the P-51 Mustang assembly line at North American Aviation in Los Angeles. He retired from active flying in 1942 and from North American Aviation in 1957. Very active in flying groups and organizations, Holtzem was a member of Germany's Alte Adler and France's Les Viele Tiges, America's Early Birds, Quiet Birdmen and other organizations. He was a member of the CROSS & COCKADE (Southern California Chapter) and had appeared at countless meetings and programs. As an active participant in the CROSS & COCKADE, Max Holtzem presented many lectures to the Society's members and to other fraternal organizations as well. His countless friends in Southern California mourn his passing. "The Holtzem Story" was a subject article published in the CROSS & COCKADE JOURNAL, Vol. 12, Summer 1971, pp. 169-186. Der Bayerischer Komet has "Gone West" to join his companions.
Article from Edgar B. Smith's estate collection,
submitted by his son, Donald M. Smith, holder of estate.

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