Here’s an example of a way to teach some history. Picture a man, wearing the Ernst Udet “Du Doch Nicht!” t-shirt, who comes upon a boy young enough not to see any value to tact.
Tactless Boy: Duh doc night? What’s that?
History Guy: (in perfect German accent) Du doch nicht means, ‘no you don’t’, except stronger than that. Maybe like, ‘No way José!’ You know who said it?
Tactless Boy: Nah. Don’t really care, either.
History Guy: Ernst Udet [1896 -1941]. He was an ace in World War One. Ever heard of the Red Baron?
Tactless Boy: Was he an old guy like you?
History Guy: Well, he died ninety-nine years ago, in combat. He was Germany’s best ace. In fact, he was the best ace of that war. Ernst Udet was Germany’s next best ace, but he lived, and after the war he did things like show off how he could pick up a handkerchief off the ground with the wing tip of his airplane.
Tactless Boy: That’s stupid. An ace is a card.
History Guy: This kind of ace is someone in an airplane who shoots down five or more enemy airplanes. You know what airplanes were made of then? Cloth and wood. And wire. And an engine. And a gun. And that’s about it.
Tactless Boy: A gun. That would be cool.
History Guy: They would be flying in this airplane a mile or two up. They might not have a seatbelt, so sometimes they fell out. Mostly they didn’t have parachutes. But Ernst Udet did, so he lived when he got shot down in one of these airplanes [a Fokker D-VII].
Tactless Boy: I guess it wasn’t a very good airplane.
History Guy: Actually this was one of the best of its time. See this propeller? The pilot could turn the airplane straight up and have the airplane hanging from the propeller, and it would stay there and not fall down. Unless the engine quit.
Tactless Boy: Or got shot!
History Guy: Right. I can see you’re getting interested!
Written by my friend Karen Tallentire and reproduced with her permission. A technical writer and former USAF officer, Karen does website and promotional work for the Vintage Aero Flying Museum and its related Lafayette Foundation.