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In 1917, when America entered World War I, Karl Kaufmann was eager to join the war effort. Kaufmann's rich Uncle Paul was fairly well connected with the government and found out about the formation of an RFC all-American volunteer squadron. He purchased Karl a ticket to France as well as a SPAD airplane from the manufacturer and gave him fake papers to get him into the squadron.[3]

So it came to be that Kaufmann arrived at the headquarters for the Eighty-Eight American Squadron, strangely garbed and piloting a garishly colored SPAD Seven, confusing the C.O., Major Roxburgh-Jones, who had not requested any replacement pilots for the squadron. His deception was discovered by Captain Clarke, the squadron's drunken adjutant, who came running out as Kaufmann was preparing to take off for his first patrol. Unfortunately for Clarke, he failed to slow down as he ran towards Kaufmann's plane. Both he and Kaufmann's fake orders paper were chopped to bits in Kaufmann's propeller blade. Kaufmann then took off, but got lost in the clouds on his first patrol with the squadron. He killed his first German pilot upon coming out of the thick cover, though this experience traumatized the young Kaufmann, causing him to get physically sick, as it held none of the chivalry or heroism that he imagined it would. He was the only plane to return from this patrol, the rest having been ambushed and shot down.[4]

Kaufmann soon regained his nerve, however, as he wanted to attack a pair of German aircraft on a subsequent patrol despite being given the order to stand down by Captain Booker. Later, on the ground, Booker gave Kaufmann some valuable advice, telling him to think harder while in the air or be prepared to get shot down.

Captain Franklin had developed some animosity towards Kaufmann due to his being the only pilot to survive his first patrol, as his good friend Tommy Proctor had been leading the flight. He played several pranks on Kaufmann, including having him look into a supposed "buggering" incident among the squadron's mechanics[5] and getting him to pass out drunk while he tattooed a large Union Jack across the American pilot's chest.[2] The young pilot also contracted pubic lice from a French prostitute that had been unknowingly solicited for Kaufmann by Captain Booker.[5] The itchiness caused by this ailment caused Kaufmann to get separated from the rest of his patrol, luckily allowing him to get position on several German planes that would otherwise have wiped out the rest of his squadron.[2]

Karl Kaufmann (Earth-200111) from All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe Vol 1 1

Major Karl Kaufmann

After the death of Franklin, Kaufmann was promoted to the rank of Captain and soon became one of the best pilots in the squadron, with over a dozen kills confirmed. As the war continued, Kaufmann became shocked at the inexperience of the pilots that wing command sent to their squadron, watching as mere boys were shot out of the sky.[6]

During a later mission, Kaufmann landed his plane on the battlefield in order to save his friend, Major Booker, who had been forced to land his own plane. Kaufmann's plane was subsequently destroyed, causing Booker to be hit by flying shrapnel. As Booker was dying, Kaufmann told him how he came to be in the military and how he had planned to take the name Phantom Eagle. Upon returning to the squadron after being in hospital, Kaufmann was promoted to Major and made the leader of the squadron, now renamed Sixteenth Aero Squadron, First Pursuit Group, United States Air Service. Upon being promoted, Kaufmann proceeded to use the same "buggering" prank on the new recruits that had once been used on him.[3]

Abilities

Phantom Eagle is a skilled combat pilot, has some mechanical aptitude, and is able to repair planes.



Equipment

He often wears flight googles, an aviator cap, and a leather bomber jacket.

Transportation

He often utilizes a variety of planes, including a Bristol F.2B Fighter Biplane, but generally destroys them very quickly.

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