Phantom Eagle was a young ace pilot named Karl Kaufman whom lived in America during the early days of the First World War. His parents, of German decent, had returned to Germany some years before the war. After America joined the war, Karl left his home and went to Great Britain in hope of helping out the Allied forces of France, Great Britain and America.
The Phantom Eagle was created by Gary Friedrich and Herb Trimpe and first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes issue 16 (1968).
Major Story Arcs
Gathering of the Five
After Karl Kaufman had entered Great Britain, he soon asked to join the Allies against the German Empire. He was accepted into their ranks, but at first, many of his new squad-members where reluctant to trust an American of German decent, which caused him a lot of grief. Eventually Karl, together with his new team mates, was given the chance to fight German Empire. He started using a secret identity, the Phantom Eagle, in hopes that people, from both sides of the war, would not recognize him. He was afraid that, if the Germans found out his identity, that they would harm his parents, whom where still living there. As the Phantom Eagle, he soon established a name for himself as one of the best pilots in the air force and gained great fame. Not soon afterwards Karl became a member of the Freedom's Five, a group of heroes who fought alongside the US forces during World War I.
Karl fought many more air-battles, increasing his fame even more. Fate unfortunately had different plans for him. During the end of the war, Karl secretly entered Germany, hoping to rescue his parents from the German Empire. It was there and then that a skilled German pilot named Hermann von Reitberger discovered Karl's secret identity and managed to shoot down the airplane which had Karl and his parents in it. While going down, Karl swore vengeance on Von Reitberger.
While Karl Kaufman had died, trouble for his killer, pilot Hermann von Reitberger, had just begun. The spirit of the Phantom Eagle started haunting him in visions and did so for most of his life. Years later, an aged Von Reitberger met the Ghost Rider as they both encountered the spirit of the Phantom Eagle. Von Reitberger had had enough of the tautning spirit and accepted a duel in the skies, in which the spirit of the Phantom Eagle managed to finally kill his murderer, and with that avenge the death of his parents. With his vengeance taken, the spirit of Karl Kaufman, the Phantom Eagle, was finally ready to move on.
In another universe, Karl Kauffman was quite different from his 616 counterpart. While he was the same ace-pilot, his character was sometimes described as being somewhat of a 'jerk'. He fought during World War 1 and even gained fame as the Phantom Eagle. He however also had a much more careless side to himself which caused to him some problems over time. An example was when he gained a venereal disease while visiting a prostitute whom he had fallen in love with while he was on leave in England. Karl fought for his country for a number of months, but eventually found out that war, truly was, hell.
Many months later, this Karl Kauffman was seen once again after the events of Secret Wars, in which an incursion had resulted in many different realities being brought together in one patchwork planet. Here, Karl encountered a beautiful young woman named Clementine "Clemmie" Franklin-Cox whom had to be flown to China. As Karl was smitten with the girl's beauty, he offered her to fly here there. The couple however crash-landed in a savage land after a huge storm. It was then that Karl learned that Clemmie was more font of the girls then of the boys. The two eventually encountered a group of tribes women, which had it in for Karl, but liked Clemmie so much they asked her to join them, and she did.
Phantom Eagle is a normal human with great piloting skills. He is also a decent hand-to-hand combatant.