Air Ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen
The Red Baron
As a young cadet Manfred von Richthofen climbed a church steeple at
Wahlstatt and tied his handkerchief to its lighting rod, just for fun. He
loved risk. He came from a wealthy Junker family and in his youth enjoyed
hunting and riding horses. When the war broke out Manfred was a cavalry
officer and saw duty on both the Eastern and Western fronts scouting for the
German Army. By May of 1915 he was bored with scouting and asked to be
transferred to the Flying service.
On September 17, 1916, Richthofen recorded his first aerial combat victory.
Before his career was over he shot down eighty allied aircraft and was the
leading ace of the war. As his success increased so did his popularity with
the German people. He was showered with military decorations and treated
like a hero by the Germans. His flaming red Fokker airplane became infamous
to the troops in the trenches. In the air he embodied deadly grace and his
experience as a hunter helped him as a pilot. By 1918 he had become such a
legend that it was feared that his death would be a blow to the morale of
the German people. His superiors asked him to retire, but he refused as long
as there were still troops in the trenches. He began to get more depressed
and the emotional weight of being responsible for so many deaths began to
press on him. On April 21, 1918, his career ended when he was shot down over
enemy lines by Roy Brown of Canada. His opponents had so much respect for
the noble flyer, that he was given a hero’s funeral.
Source: Ulanoff, Stanley M., The Red Baron: The Autobiography of Manfred von Richthofen, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1969.
- ""I think of this war as it really is, not as the people at home imagine, with a hoorah! and a roar. It is very serious, very grim…"
- Manfred von Richthofen
- "What the youthful leader accomplished in aerial combat will never be forgotten by Me, My army and the German people."
- Kaiser Wilhelm II