Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April
1918), also known as the "Red Baron", was a fighter pilot with the
German Air Force during World War I. He is considered the ace-of-aces
of the war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories.
Originally a cavalryman,
Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in
1915, becoming one of the first members of fighter squadron
Jagdstaffel 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter
pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger
fighter wing unit Jagdgeschwader 1, better known as "The Flying
Circus" or "Richthofen's Circus" because of the bright colours of its
aircraft, and perhaps also because of the way the unit was transferred
from one area of allied air activity to another - moving like a
travelling circus, and frequently setting up in tents on improvised
airfields. By 1918,
Richthofen was regarded as a national hero in
Germany, and respected by his enemies.
Richthofen was shot down and killed near
Vaux-sur-Somme on 21 April
1918. There has been considerable discussion and debate regarding
aspects of his career, especially the circumstances of his death. He
remains one of the most widely known fighter pilots of all time, and
has been the subject of many books, films and other media.
1 Name and nicknames
2 Early life
3 Early war service
4 Piloting career
5 Flying Circus
5.1 Wounded in combat
6 Author and hero
7.1 Who fired the shot that killed Richthofen?
7.2 Theories about last combat
9 Number of victories
10 Honours, tributes and relics
11 Published works
12 See also
14 External links
Name and nicknames
Richthofen was a
Freiherr (literally "Free Lord"), a title of nobility
often translated as "baron". This is not a given name nor
strictly a hereditary title, since all male members of the family were
entitled to it, even during the lifetime of their father.[a]
Richthofen painted his aircraft red, and this combined with his title
led to him being called "The Red Baron" ( "der Rote
Baron" (help·info)), both inside and outside Germany. During
his lifetime, he was more frequently described in German as Der Rote
Kampfflieger, variously translated as "The Red Battle Flyer" or "The
Red Fighter Pilot". This name was used as the title of Richthofen's
Richthofen family coat of arms
Richthofen was born in Kleinburg, near Breslau, Lower
Silesia (now part of the city of Wrocław, Poland), on 2 May 1892 into
Prussian aristocratic family. His father was Major
Albrecht Philipp Karl Julius
Richthofen and his mother
was Kunigunde von Schickfuss und Neudorff. He had an elder sister,
Ilse, and two younger brothers.
When he was four years old, Manfred moved with his family to nearby
Schweidnitz (now Świdnica, Poland). He enjoyed riding horses and
hunting as well as gymnastics at school. He excelled at parallel bars
and won a number of awards at school. He and his brothers, Lothar
and Bolko,[b] hunted wild boar, elk, birds, and deer.
After being educated at home he attended a school at Schweidnitz
before beginning military training when he was 11. After completing
cadet training in 1911, he joined an
Uhlan cavalry unit, the
Ulanen-Regiment Kaiser Alexander der III. von Russland (1.
Westpreußisches) Nr. 1 ("1st Emperor Alexander III of Russia Uhlan
Regiment (1st West Prussian)") and was assigned to the regiment's 3.
Eskadron ("No. 3 Squadron").
Early war service
World War I
World War I began,
Richthofen served as a cavalry reconnaissance
officer on both the Eastern and Western Fronts, seeing action in
Russia, France, and Belgium; with the advent of trench warfare making
traditional cavalry operations outdated and inefficient, Richthofen's
regiment was dismounted, serving as dispatch runners and field
telephone operators. Disappointed and bored at not being able to
directly participate in combat, the last straw for
Richthofen was an
order to transfer to the army's supply branch. His interest in the Air
Service had been aroused by his examination of a German military
aircraft behind the lines, and he applied for a transfer to Die
Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches (Imperial German Army Air
Service), later to be known as the Luftstreitkräfte. He is supposed
to have written in his application for transfer, "I have not gone to
war in order to collect cheese and eggs, but for another purpose."[c]
In spite of this unmilitary attitude, and to his own surprise, his
request was granted. Manfred joined the flying service at the end
of May 1915.
From June to August 1915,
Richthofen served as an observer on
reconnaissance missions over the Eastern Front with Feldflieger
Abteilung 69 ("No. 69 Flying Squadron"). On being transferred to
the Champagne front, he is believed to have shot down an attacking
French Farman aircraft with his observer's machine gun in a tense
battle over French lines; he was not credited with the kill, since
it fell behind Allied lines and therefore could not be confirmed.
"I had been told the name of the place to which we were to fly and I
was to direct the pilot. At first we flew straight ahead, then the
pilot turned to the right, then left. I had lost all sense of
direction over our own aerodrome!...I didn't care a bit where I was,
and when the pilot thought it was time to go down, I was disappointed.
Already I was counting down the hours to the time we could start
John Simpson, quoting Richthofen's own description of his first flying
Richthofen had a chance meeting with German ace fighter pilot Oswald
Boelcke which led him to enter training as a pilot in October
1915. In February 1916, Manfred "rescued" his brother Lothar from
the boredom of training new troops in Luben and encouraged him to
transfer to the Fliegertruppe. The following month, Manfred joined
Kampfgeschwader 2 ("No. 2 Bomber Squadron") flying a two-seater
Albatros C.III. Initially, he appeared to be a below-average pilot. He
struggled to control his aircraft, and he crashed during his first
flight at the controls. Despite this poor start, he rapidly became
attuned to his aircraft. He was over
Verdun on 26 April 1916 and fired
on a French Nieuport, shooting it down over Fort
Douaumont—although he received no official credit. A week later,
he decided to ignore more experienced pilots' advice against flying
through a thunderstorm. He later noted that he had been "lucky to get
through the weather" and vowed never again to fly in such conditions
unless ordered to do so.
Oswald Boelcke again in August 1916, after another
spell flying two-seaters on the Eastern Front. Boelcke was visiting
the east in search of candidates for his newly formed Jasta 2, and he
Richthofen to join this unit, one of the first German fighter
squadrons. Boelcke was killed during a midair collision with a
friendly aircraft on 28 October 1916, and
Richthofen witnessed the
Richthofen scored his first confirmed aerial victory in the skies over
Cambrai, France, on 17 September 1916. His autobiography states,
"I honoured the fallen enemy by placing a stone on his beautiful
grave." He contacted a jeweller in Berlin and ordered a silver cup
engraved with the date and the type of enemy aircraft.[d] He continued
to celebrate each of his victories in the same manner until he had 60
cups, by which time the dwindling supply of silver in blockaded
Germany meant that silver cups could no longer be supplied. Richthofen
discontinued his orders at this stage, rather than accept cups made
from base metal.[e]
His brother Lothar (40 victories) used risky, aggressive tactics, but
Manfred observed a set of maxims known as the "Dicta Boelcke" to
assure success for both the squadron and its pilots. He was not a
spectacular or aerobatic pilot like his brother or Werner Voss;
however, he was a noted tactician and squadron leader and a fine
marksman. Typically, he would dive from above to attack with the
advantage of the sun behind him, with other pilots of his squadron
covering his rear and flanks.
Lanoe Hawker VC
On 23 November 1916,
Richthofen shot down his most famous adversary,
British ace Major
Lanoe Hawker VC, described by
Richthofen as "the
British Boelcke". The victory came while
Richthofen was flying an
Albatros D.II and Hawker was flying the older DH.2. After a long
dogfight, Hawker was shot in the back of the head as he attempted to
escape back to his own lines. After this combat,
convinced that he needed a fighter aircraft with more agility, even
with a loss of speed. He switched to the
Albatros D.III in January
1917, scoring two victories before suffering an in-flight crack in the
spar of the aircraft's lower wing on 24 January, and he reverted to
Albatros D.II or
Halberstadt D.II for the next five weeks.
Richthofen was flying his Halberstadt on 6 March in combat with F.E.8s
of 40 Squadron RFC when his aircraft was shot through the fuel tank,
quite possibly by Edwin Benbow, who was credited with a victory from
Richthofen was able to force land without his aircraft
catching fire on this occasion. He then scored a victory in the
Albatros D.II on 9 March, but his
Albatros D.III was grounded for the
rest of the month so he switched again to a Halberstadt D.II. He
returned to his
Albatros D.III on 2 April 1917 and scored 22 victories
in it before switching to the
Albatros D.V in late June.
Richthofen's all-red Fokker Dr.I
Richthofen flew the celebrated
Fokker Dr.I triplane from late July
1917, the distinctive three-winged aircraft with which he is most
commonly associated—although he did not use the type exclusively
until after it was reissued with strengthened wings in November.
Only 19 of his 80 kills were made in this type of aircraft, despite
the popular link between
Richthofen and the Fokker Dr. I. It was
Albatros D.III Serial No. 789/16 that was first painted bright
red, in late January 1917, and in which he first earned his name and
Richthofen championed the development of the
Fokker D.VII with
suggestions to overcome the deficiencies of the current German fighter
aircraft. He never had an opportunity to fly the new type in
combat, as he was killed before it entered service.
Richthofen (in the cockpit) by his famous Rotes Flugzeug
("Red Aircraft") with other members of Jasta 11. His brother Lothar is
seated on the ground. Photographed 23 April 1917
Richthofen received the
Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite in January 1917 after his 16th
confirmed kill, the highest military honor in Germany at the time and
informally known as "The Blue Max.". That same month, he assumed
command of Jasta 11 which ultimately included some of the elite German
pilots, many of whom he trained himself, and several of whom later
became leaders of their own squadrons.
Ernst Udet belonged to
Richthofen's group and later became
Generaloberst Udet. When Lothar
joined, the German high command appreciated the propaganda value of
two Richthofens fighting together to defeat the enemy in the air.
Richthofen took the flamboyant step of having his Albatros painted red
when he became a squadron commander. His autobiography states, "For
whatever reasons, one fine day I came upon the idea of having my crate
painted glaring red. The result was that absolutely everyone could not
help but notice my red bird. In fact, my opponents also seemed to be
not entirely unaware [of it]". Thereafter he usually flew in
red-painted aircraft, although not all of them were entirely red, nor
was the "red" necessarily the brilliant scarlet beloved of model- and
Other members of Jasta 11 soon took to painting parts of their
aircraft red. Their official reason seems to have been to make their
leader less conspicuous, to avoid having him singled out in a fight.
In practice, red coloration became a unit identification. Other units
soon adopted their own squadron colors, and decoration of fighters
became general throughout the Luftstreitkräfte. The German high
command permitted this practice (in spite of obvious drawbacks from
the point of view of intelligence), and German propaganda made much of
it by referring to
Richthofen as Der Rote Kampfflieger—"the Red
Richthofen (center) with Hermann Thomsen, German Air
Service Chief of Staff (left) and Ernst von Hoeppner, Commanding
General of the Air Service (right) at Imperial Headquarters in Bad
Richthofen led his new unit to unparalleled success, peaking during
"Bloody April" 1917. In that month alone, he shot down 22 British
aircraft, including four in a single day, raising his official
tally to 52. By June, he had become the commander of the first of the
new larger "fighter wing" formations; these were highly mobile,
combined tactical units that could move at short notice to different
parts of the front as required. Richthofen's new command,
Jagdgeschwader 1, was composed of fighter squadrons No. 4, 6, 10, and
11. J.G. 1 became widely known as "The Flying Circus" due to the
unit's brightly colored aircraft and its mobility, including the use
of tents, trains, and caravans, where appropriate.
Richthofen was a brilliant tactician, building on Boelcke's tactics.
Unlike Boelcke, however, he led by example and force of will rather
than by inspiration. He was often described as distant, unemotional,
and rather humorless, though some colleagues contended otherwise.
He taught his pilots the basic rule which he wanted them to fight by:
"Aim for the man and don't miss him. If you are fighting a two-seater,
get the observer first; until you have silenced the gun, don't bother
about the pilot."
Richthofen was now performing the duties of a lieutenant colonel (a
wing commander in modern British Air Force terms), although he
remained a captain. The system in the British army was for an officer
to hold the rank appropriate to his level of command, if only on a
temporary basis, even if he had not been formally promoted. In the
German army, it was not unusual for a wartime officer to hold a lower
rank than his duties implied; German officers were promoted according
to a schedule and not by battlefield promotion. For instance, Erwin
Rommel commanded an infantry battalion as a captain in 1917 and 1918.
It was also the custom for a son not to hold a higher rank than his
father, and Richthofen's father was a reserve major.
Wounded in combat
Albatros D.V after forced landing near Wervicq. This
machine is not an all-red one
Richthofen sustained a serious head wound on 6 July 1917, during
Wervicq against a formation of F.E.2d two seat fighters of
No. 20 Squadron RFC, causing instant disorientation and temporary
partial blindness. He regained his vision in time to ease the
aircraft out of a spin and execute a forced landing in a field in
friendly territory. The injury required multiple operations to remove
bone splinters from the impact area. The air victory was credited
Donald Cunnell of No. 20, who was killed by German
anti-aircraft fire a few days later on 12 July 1917 near Wervicq,
Belgium; his observer Lt. A. G. Bill successfully flew the aircraft
back to base.
Baron returned to active service against doctor's orders on 25
July, but went on convalescent leave from 5 September to 23
October. His wound is thought to have caused lasting damage; he
later often suffered from post-flight nausea and headaches, as well as
a change in temperament. There is even a theory linking this injury
with his eventual death.
Author and hero
Portrait by Nicola Perscheid
During his convalescent leave,
Richthofen completed an autobiographic
sketch, Der rote Kampfflieger (1917). Written on the instructions of
the "Press and Intelligence" (propaganda) section of the
Luftstreitkräfte, it shows evidence of having been heavily censored
and edited. There are, however, passages that are most unlikely to
have been inserted by an official editor. "I am in wretched spirits
after every aerial combat. I believe that [the war] is not as the
people at home imagine it, with a hurrah and a roar; it is very
serious, very grim." An English translation by J. Ellis Barker was
published in 1918 as The Red Battle Flyer. Although Richthofen
died before a revised version could be prepared, he is on record as
repudiating the book, stating that it was "too insolent" (or
"arrogant") and that he was "no longer that kind of person."
Richthofen had become such a legend that it was feared that
his death would be a blow to the morale of the German people. He
refused to accept a ground job after his wound, stating that "every
poor fellow in the trenches must do his duty" and that he would
therefore continue to fly in combat. Certainly he had become part
of a cult of officially encouraged hero-worship. German propaganda
circulated various false rumours, including that the British had
raised squadrons specially to hunt
Richthofen and had offered large
rewards and an automatic
Victoria Cross to any Allied pilot who shot
him down. Passages from his correspondence indicate he may have at
least half-believed some of these stories himself.
209 Squadron Badge – the red eagle falling – symbolizes the fall
of the Red Baron
Richthofen received a fatal wound just after 11:00 am on 21 April
1918 while flying over
Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme River,
49°56′0.60″N 2°32′43.71″E / 49.9335000°N
2.5454750°E / 49.9335000; 2.5454750. At the time, he had been
Sopwith Camel at very low altitude, piloted by novice
Canadian pilot Lieutenant Wilfrid "Wop" May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal
Air Force. May had just fired on the Red Baron's cousin Lt.
Wolfram von Richthofen. On seeing his cousin being attacked, Manfred
flew to his rescue and fired on May, causing him to pull away and
saving Wolfram's life.
Richthofen pursued May across the Somme.
Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by May's
school friend and flight commander, Canadian Captain Arthur "Roy"
Brown. Brown had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and
then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen
turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.
It was almost certainly during this final stage in his pursuit of May
that a single .303 bullet[f] hit Richthofen, damaging his heart and
lungs so severely that it must have caused a quick death. In
the last seconds of his life, he managed to retain sufficient control
to make a rough landing ( 49°55′56″N 2°32′16″E /
49.9321076°N 2.5376701°E / 49.9321076; 2.5376701) in a field
on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of
Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector controlled by the Australian Imperial
Force (AIF). There were several witnesses, including Gunner Ernest
W. Twycross, Gunner George Ridgway, and Sergeant Ted Smout of
the Australian Medical Corps. Each of these men later claimed to have
been the first to reach the triplane, and each reported various
versions of Richthofen's last words, generally including the word
Australian soldiers and airmen examine the remnants of Richthofen's
Australian airmen with Richthofen's triplane 425/17 after it was
dismembered by souvenir hunters
Fokker Dr.I 425/17 was not badly damaged by the landing,[h] but it
was soon taken apart by souvenir hunters.
No. 3 Squadron,
Australian Flying Corps
Australian Flying Corps was the nearest Allied air
unit and assumed responsibility for the Baron's remains.
In 2009, Richthofen's death certificate was found in the archives in
Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland. He had briefly been stationed in Ostrów
before going to war, as it was part of Germany until the end of World
War I. The document is a one-page, handwritten form in a 1918 registry
book of deaths. It misspells Richthofen's name as "Richthoven" and
simply states that he had "died 21 April 1918, from wounds sustained
Who fired the shot that killed Richthofen?
Controversy and contradictory hypotheses continue to surround the
identity of the person who fired the shot that actually killed
Arthur Roy Brown, in naval uniform, as a Royal Naval Air Service
RAF credited Brown with shooting down the Red Baron, but it is now
generally agreed that the bullet which hit
Richthofen was fired from
Richthofen died following an extremely serious
and inevitably fatal chest wound from a single bullet, penetrating
from the right armpit and resurfacing next to the left nipple. Brown's
attack was from behind and above, and from Richthofen's left. Even
Richthofen could not have continued his pursuit of
May for as long as he did (up to two minutes) had this wound come from
Brown's guns. Brown himself never spoke much about what happened
that day,[i] claiming, "There is no point in me commenting, as the
evidence is already out there."
Many sources have suggested that Sergeant
Cedric Popkin was the person
most likely to have killed Richthofen, including a 1998 article by
Geoffrey Miller, a physician and historian of military medicine, and a
Channel 4 documentary. Popkin was an
anti-aircraft (AA) machine gunner with the Australian 24th Machine Gun
Company, and he was using a Vickers gun. He fired at Richthofen's
aircraft on two occasions: first as the
Baron was heading straight at
his position, and then at long range from the right. Given the nature
of Richthofen's wounds, Popkin was in a position to fire the fatal
shot when the pilot passed him for a second time, on the
right. Some confusion has been caused by a letter that Popkin
wrote in 1935 to an Australian official historian. It stated Popkin's
belief that he had fired the fatal shot as
Richthofen flew straight at
his position. In this respect, Popkin was incorrect; the bullet which
caused the Baron's death came from the side (see above).
Officers and NCOs of the 24th Machine Gun Company in March 1918.
Cedric Popkin is second from the right in the middle row.
Discovery Channel documentary suggests that Gunner W. J.
"Snowy" Evans, a Lewis machine gunner with the 53rd Battery, 14th
Field Artillery Brigade,
Royal Australian Artillery
Royal Australian Artillery is likely to have
killed von Richthofen. Miller and the
Channel 4 documentary
dismiss this theory because of the angle from which Evans fired at
Other sources have suggested that Gunner Robert Buie (also of the 53rd
Battery) may have fired the fatal shot. There is little support for
this theory. In 2007, a municipality in Sydney recognised Buie
as the man who shot down Richthofen, placing a plaque near his former
home. Buie died in 1964 and has never been officially recognised
in any other way.
No. 3 Squadron AFC's commanding officer Major David Blake initially
Richthofen had been killed by the crew of one of his
squadron's R.E.8s, which had also fought members of Richthofen's unit
that afternoon. This claim was quickly discounted and withdrawn, if
only because of the time factor. Following an autopsy that he
witnessed, Blake became a strong proponent of the view that an AA
machine gunner had killed Richthofen.
Theories about last combat
Richthofen was a highly experienced and skilled fighter pilot—fully
aware of the risk from ground fire. Further, he concurred with the
rules of air fighting created by his late mentor Boelcke, who
specifically advised pilots not to take unnecessary risks. In this
context, Richthofen's judgement during his last combat was clearly
unsound in several respects. Several theories have been proposed
to account for his behaviour.
In 1999, a German medical researcher, Henning Allmers, published an
article in the British medical journal The Lancet, suggesting it was
likely that brain damage from the head wound
Richthofen suffered in
July 1917 (see above) played a part in the Red Baron's death. This was
supported by a 2004 paper by researchers at the University of Texas.
Richthofen's behaviour after his injury was noted as consistent with
brain-injured patients, and such an injury could account for his
perceived lack of judgement on his final flight: flying too low over
enemy territory and suffering target fixation.
Richthofen may have been suffering from cumulative combat stress,
which made him fail to observe some of his usual precautions. One of
the leading British air aces, Major Edward "Mick" Mannock, was killed
by ground fire on 26 July 1918 while crossing the lines at low level,
an action he had always cautioned his younger pilots against. One of
the most popular of the French air aces, Georges Guynemer, went
missing on 11 September 1917, probably while attacking a two-seater
without realizing several Fokkers were escorting it.
There is a suggestion that on the day of Richthofen's death, the
prevailing wind was about 40 km/h (25 mph) easterly, rather
than the usual 40 km/h (25 mph) westerly. This meant that
Richthofen, heading generally westward at an airspeed of about
160 km/h (100 mph), was travelling over the ground at up to
200 km/h (125 mph) rather than the more typical ground speed
of 120 km/h (75 mph). This was considerably faster than
normal and he could easily have strayed over enemy lines without
At the time of Richthofen's death, the front was in a highly fluid
state, following the initial success of the German offensive of
March–April 1918. This was part of Germany's last opportunity to win
the war. In the face of Allied air superiority, the German air service
was having difficulty acquiring vital reconnaissance information, and
could do little to prevent Allied squadrons from completing effective
reconnaissance and close support of their armies.
No. 3 Squadron AFC officers were pallbearers and other ranks from the
squadron acted as a guard of honour during the Red Baron's funeral on
22 April 1918.
In common with most Allied air officers, Major Blake, who was
responsible for Richthofen's body, regarded the Red
Baron with great
respect, and he organised a full military funeral, to be conducted by
the personnel of No. 3 Squadron AFC.
The body was buried in the cemetery at the village of Bertangles, near
Amiens, on 22 April 1918. Six of No. 3 Squadron's officers served as
pallbearers, and a guard of honour from the squadron's other ranks
fired a salute.[j]
Allied squadrons stationed nearby presented memorial wreaths, one of
which was inscribed with the words, "To Our Gallant and Worthy
The funeral of Manfred von Richthofen
A speculation that his opponents organised a flypast at his funeral,
giving rise to the missing man formation, is most unlikely and
totally unsupported by any contemporary evidence.
In the early 1920s the French authorities created a military cemetery
at Fricourt, in which a large number of German war dead, including
Richthofen, were reinterred.[k] In 1925 von Richthofen's youngest
brother, Bolko, recovered the body from
Fricourt and took it to
Germany. The family's intention was for it to be buried in the
Schweidnitz cemetery next to the graves of his father and his brother
Lothar von Richthofen, who had been killed in a post-war air crash in
1922. The German Government requested that the body should instead
be interred at the
Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery in Berlin, where many
German military heroes and past leaders were buried, and the family
agreed. Richthofen's body received a state funeral. Later the Third
Reich held a further grandiose memorial ceremony at the site of the
grave, erecting a massive new tombstone with the single word:
Richthofen. During the Cold War, the Invalidenfriedhof was on the
boundary of the Soviet zone in Berlin, and the tombstone became
damaged by bullets fired at attempted escapees from East Germany. In
1975 the body was moved to a
Richthofen family grave plot at the
Südfriedhof in Wiesbaden.
Richthofen's former grave at Fricourt, later Sebastian Paustian,
section 4, row 7, grave 1177
Richthofen family grave at the Südfriedhof in Wiesbaden
Number of victories
Main article: List of victories of Manfred von Richthofen
For decades after World War I, some authors questioned whether
Richthofen had achieved 80 victories, insisting that his record was
exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Some claimed that he took credit
for aircraft downed by his squadron or wing.
In fact, Richthofen's victories are unusually well documented. A full
list of the aircraft the Red
Baron was credited with shooting down was
published as early as 1958—with documented RFC/
details, aircraft serial numbers, and the identities of Allied airmen
killed or captured—73 of the 80 listed match recorded British
losses. A study conducted by British historian
Norman Franks with two
colleagues, published in Under the Guns of the Red
Baron in 1998,
reached the same conclusion about the high degree of accuracy of
Richthofen's claimed victories. There were also unconfirmed victories
that would put his actual total as high as 100 or more.
For comparison, the highest-scoring Allied ace, the Frenchman René
Fonck, achieved 75 confirmed victories and a further 52
unconfirmed behind enemy lines. The highest-scoring British Empire
fighter pilots were Canadian Billy Bishop, who was officially credited
with 72 victories, Mick Mannock, with 61 confirmed
victories, Canadian Raymond Collishaw, with 60, and James
McCudden, with 57 confirmed victories.
Richthofen's early victories and the establishment of his reputation
coincided with a period of German air superiority, but he achieved
many of his successes against a numerically superior enemy, who flew
fighter aircraft that were, on the whole, better than his own.
Honours, tributes and relics
Fokker Dr.I. Replica of the famous Manfred von
Richthofen triplane at
the ILA 2006
Memorial in Polish at Richthofen's former home in today's Świdnica
Engine of von Richthofen's Fokker DR. I
Captain Roy Brown donated the seat of the Fokker triplane in which the
German flying ace made his final flight to the Royal Canadian Military
Institute in 1920. The Royal Canadian Military Institute, in
Toronto, apart from the Triplane's seat also holds a side panel signed
by the pilots of Brown's squadron. The engine of Richthofen's DR.I was
donated to the
Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum in London, where it is still on
display. The museum also holds the Baron's machine guns. The control
column (joystick) of Richthofen's aircraft can be seen at the
Australian War Memorial, in Canberra.
Decorations and awards
Prussian Order Pour le Mérite: 12 January 1917 (in recognition of his
16th aerial victory).
Prussian Order of the Red Eagle, 3rd Class with Crown and Swords: 6
April 1918 (in recognition of his 70th aerial victory).
Prussian House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight's Cross with Swords: 11
Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class (1914): 23 September 1914
Prussian Iron Cross, 2nd Class (1914): 12 September 1914
Bavarian Military Merit Order, 4th Class with Swords: 29 April
Honour cup for victory in aerial combat
Duke Carl Eduard Medal with Swords clasp: 9 November 1916
War Merit Cross for heroic act (Lippe)
Brunswick War Merit Cross, 2nd Class
Wound Badge (1918) in Black
Saxon Military Order of St. Henry, Knight's Cross: 16 April 1917.
Württemberg Military Merit Order (Württemberg), Knight's Cross: 13
Saxe-Ernestine House Order, Knight 1st Class with Swords (issued by
the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha): 9 May 1917.
Hesse General Honour Decoration, "for Bravery"
Lippe War Honour Cross for Heroic Deeds, 2nd class: 13 October 1917.
Schaumburg-Lippe Cross for Faithful Service: 10 October 1917.
Bremen Hanseatic Cross: 25 September 1917.
Lübeck Hanseatic Cross: 22 September 1917.
Hamburg Hanseatic Cross
Austrian Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd Class with War Decoration: 8
Austrian Military Merit Cross, 3rd Class with War Decoration
Bulgarian Order of Bravery, 4th Class (1st Grade): 12 June 1917
Imtiaz Medal in Silver with Sabres
Liakat Medal in Silver with Sabres
Turkish War Medal ("Iron Crescent" or "Gallipoli Star"): 4 November
German Army Pilot's Badge
German Army Observer's Badge[m]
Austrian Field Pilot's Badge (Franz Joseph pattern)
At various times, several different German military aviation
Geschwader (literally "squadrons"; equivalent to Commonwealth air
force "groups", French escadrons or USAF "wings") have been named
after the Baron:
Jagdgeschwader 132 "Richthofen" (1 April 1936 – 1 November
Wehrmacht aviation unit
Jagdgeschwader 131 "Richthofen" (1 November 1938 – 1 May
Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (1 May 1939 – 7 May 1945)—Luftwaffe
Jagdgeschwader 71 "Richthofen" (from 6 June 1959)—the first jet
fighter unit established by the post-World War II German Bundeswehr
("federal defence force"); its founding commander was the most
successful air ace in history, Erich Hartmann.
In 1941 a newly launched
Kriegsmarine (German navy) seaplane tender
received the name ''Richthofen'' (de).
von Richthofen, Manfred, Captain; Barker, T. Ellis, translations;
Grey, C. G.preface and notes, editor of The Aeroplane (July 1918). The
Red Battle Flyer. New York: Robert M. McBride & Co. at
Baron in popular culture
World War I
World War I flying aces
^ For example, his brother Lothar also used it.
^ Not to be confused with Bolko von
Richthofen the archaeologist, a
Richthofen quotes this famous piece of insubordination in his
autobiography, but hints that he did not actually write it –
claiming that "evil tongues" report that he did
^ Similar cups had been officially awarded to some earlier pilots on
their first victories, although the practice had been discontinued by
^ Burrows has suggested that he was simply bored with the procedure
and that this was an excuse to discontinue it.
^ The actual bullet lodged in Richthofen's clothing. It was apparently
recovered, but it has not been preserved for examination by modern
historians. It was apparently a normal ball round, as fired by all
British rifle-caliber arms, and thus would not be any help in
determining the controversy of who fired it.
^ The definition of "kaputt" is often in contention.
^ The undercarriage and fuel tank were smashed, at least.
^ Sensational accounts have been systematically discredited by several
writers, even though they describe the attack in great detail and are
allegedly given by Brown.
^ The official caption of the photograph on the right reads The
Baron M. Von Richthofen. Firing party
presenting arms as the coffin passes into the cemetery, borne on the
shoulders of six pilots of No. 3 Squadron A.F.C. Bertangles, France
22nd April, 1918. The Padre is Captain Reverend George H. Marshall,
^ Among other reasons to protect the graves from vandalism by
disgruntled villagers, understandably resentful of former enemies
being buried among their own relatives.
^ For many years,
World War I
World War I aviation historians believed Richthofen
had received the 3rd Class with Crown and Swords of the Bavarian
Military Merit Order prior to his submission for the Military Max
Joseph Order. Recent research has proved that he received the usual
class of that order common for an officer of his rank: the 4th Class
with Swords of the Bavarian Military Merit Order.
^ No record or photographic evidence has been seen to indicate
Richthofen qualified for this badge. He successfully completed the
training and served for nearly five months as an observer before
retraining as a pilot
^ a b Kilduff, p. 6.
^ "Freiherr". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
^ Richthofen, Manfred von. Der Rote
Baron (The Red Baron).
Norderstedt, Germany: BOD, 2008 (reprint).
^ Stars and Strips Forever: "Von Richthofen's mother, actress Fern
Andra meet"; November 14, 1954 Kuningunde von
Richthofen and Fern
Andra Retrieved November 17, 2016
^ Wright 1976, p. 31.
^ Burrows 1970, p. 36.
^ Burrows 1970, pp. 37–38.
^ Wright 1976, p. 30.
^ Preußen 1914, p. 400.
Richthofen 2007, pp. 49–51.
^ a b c McAllister 1982, p. 52.
Richthofen 2007, p. 51.
^ McAllister 1982, pp. 53–54.
^ McAllister 1982, pp. 52–53.
^ a b c d McAllister 1982, p. 54.
^ Kilduff 1994, p. 41.
^ McAllister 1982, pp. 54–55.
^ a b McAllister 1982, p. 56.
^ Swopes, Bryan (17 September 2013). "This Day in Aviation —
September 17, 1916". The Red
Baron Archives. Retrieved 4 June
^ a b von Richthofen, Manfred et al. "Der rote Kampfflieger."
Deutscher Verlag (Ullstein), 1933.
^ English 2003, p. 62.
^ a b Burrows 1970, p. 103.
^ McAllister 1982, p. 57.
^ Guttman 2009, p. 64
^ Guttman 2009, pp. 64–65
^ Grey and Thetford, 1970, p. 100.
^ "Richthofen." Theaerodrome.com. Retrieved: 10 August 2010.
^ Guttman 2009, p. 63.
^ Baker 1991
^ "The Blue Max." American History, Volume 38, No. 1, April 2003, p.
9. ISSN 1076-8866.
^ Richthofen, The Red Knight of the Air, (n.d.) pp. 164–165.
^ Der rote Kampfflieger, open.cit., (n.d.) p. 120.
^ a b McAllister 1982, p. 59.
^ Bodenschatz 1998
^ McAllister 1982, p. 61.
^ McAllister 1982, p. 60.
^ Guttman, 2009 pp. 86–88
^ Guttman & Dempsey (2009), pp. 88–89.
^ Burrows 1970, p. 154.
^ Burrows 1970, pp. 160–163.
^ Burrows 1970, pp. 162–163.
^ Johnson, Karl (Contributing Editor for WTJ). "'The Red Fighter
Pilot' by Manfred von
Richthofen (online edition)." The War Times
Journal. Retrieved: 27 May 2007.
^ Burrows 1970, p. 152.
^ Burrows 1970, p. 163.
^ Burrows 1970, p. 131.
^ Franks and Bennett 1997, p. 126.
^ a b c d McAllister 1982, p. 63.
^ Franks & Bennett (1997)
^ McAllister 1982, p. 64.
^ a b c d e f g h Miller, Dr. Geoffrey. "The Death of Manfred von
Richthofen: Who fired the fatal shot?" Sabretache: Journal and
Proceedings of the Military History Society of Australia, vol. XXXIX,
no. 2, 1998.
^ a b c d e f Dogfight – The Mystery of the Red Baron, Channel 4,
Secret History, 22 December 2003. US broadcast as "Who Killed the Red
Baron? Explore Competing Theories." Pbs.org, (Public Broadcasting
Service) Nova, 7 October 2003.
^ a b Unsolved History: Death of the Red Baron, 2002, Discovery
^ "Synonym für gestorben – Synonyme Antonyme (Gegenteile) –
Fremdwörter von gestorben." google.com, 17 May 2009. Retrieved: 13
^ "Definition: Kaputt." Ego4u.com, German-English dictionary, 22 April
2009. Retrieved: 13 June 2009.
^ Robertson 1958, p. 118.
^ "Polish historian finds death certificate of WWI German flying ace
'Red Baron'." Daily News (New York). Retrieved: 8 December 2009.
^ Dr Geoffrey Miller, 1998, "The Death of Manfred von Richthofen: who
fired the fatal shot?", in Sabretache: Journal and Proceedings of the
Military History Society of Australia, vol. XXXIX, no. 2
^ Day, Mark. "Unsung No.1 with a bullet." The Australian, 7 April
^ a b Franks and Bennett 1997
^ Allmers, Dr. Henning. "Manfred
Freiherr von Richthofen's medical
record—Was the "Red Baron" fit to fly?" The Lancet, 354 (9177), 7
August 1999, pp. 502–504. Published online by anzacs.net. Retrieved:
23 September 2007.
^ "Georges Guynemer: Beloved French Ace, 53 victories." acepilots.com.
Retrieved: 2 July 2009.
^ Guttman, Jon. "Georges Guynemer: France's
World War I
World War I Ace Pilot."
historynet.com. Retrieved: 2 July 2009.
^ "A Gallant and Worthy Foe: The Death of the "Red Baron"".
www.thursdayreview.com. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
^ "Histories: The Missing Man Formation." Archived 21 November 2000 at
the Wayback Machine. aiipwmia.com. Retrieved: 11 March 2010.
^ "Biography: Lothar
Freiherr von Richthofen." Frontflieger.de.
Retrieved: 13 June 2009.
^ Burrows 1970, p. 196.
^ Franks and Bennett 1997, p. 9.
^ a b Robertson 1958, pp. 150–155.
^ a b Franks and Bailey 1992
^ Ordre de la IVe Armée, n°1599, 23 January 1919
^ "Distinguished Flying Cross Citation", London Gazette, 3 August
^ "Mannock". The Aerodrome.com. Retrieved: 13 April 2009.
^ Franks et al 1993, pp. 255–256.
^ Shores et al. 1990, pp. 115–116
Royal Canadian Military Institute
Royal Canadian Military Institute Canadian Encyclopedia
^ O’Connor 1999, pp. 371–374 (errata and addenda).
Baker, David. Manfred von Richthofen: The Man and the Aircraft He
Flew. McGregor, Minnesota: Voyageur Press, 1991.
Bodenschatz, Karl. Hunting With Richthofen: Sixteen Months of Battle
with J G
Richthofen No. 1. London: Grub Street, 1998.
Burrows, William E. Richthofen: A True History of the Red Baron.
London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1970. ISBN 0-15-177172-3.
English, Dave. The Air Up There: More Great Quotations on Flight.
Chicago, Illinois: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2003.
Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W.; Guest, Russell. Above the Lines: The
Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service
and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914–1918. Grub Street, 1993.
ISBN 0-948817-73-9, ISBN 978-0-948817-73-1.
Franks, Norman and Frank W. Bailey. Over the Front: A Complete Record
of Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air
Services, 1914–1918. London: Grub Street, 1992.
Franks, Norman, Hal Giblin and Nigel McCrery. Under the Guns of the
Red Baron: Complete Record of Von Richthofen's Victories and Victims.
London: Grub Street, 2007, First edition 1995.
Gibbons, Floyd, The Red Knight of Germany: The Story of
Richthofen, German's Great War Bird. New York: Doubleday, Page &
Grey, Peter and Owen Thetford. German Aircraft of the First World War.
London: Putnam, 2nd ed., 1970. ISBN 0-933852-71-1.
Guttman, Jon. Pusher Aces of World War 1 (Aircraft of the Aces #88).
Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Co, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84603-417-6.
Kilduff, Peter. The Red Baron: Beyond the Legend. London: Cassell,
1994. ISBN 0-304-35207-1.
McAllister, Hayden, ed. Flying Stories. London: Octopus Books, 1982.
O’Connor, Neal W. The Aviation Awards of the Grand Duchies of Baden
and Oldenburg Foundation of Aviation World War I: Aviation Awards of
Imperial Germany in
World War I
World War I and the Men Who Earned Them – Volume
VI. Stratford, Connecticut: Flying Machines Press, 1999.
Preußen, Kriegsministerium, Geheime Kriegs-Kanzlei. Rangliste der
Königlich Preußischen Armee und des XIII. Berlin: Ernst Siegfried
Mittler und Sohn, 1914.
Robertson, Bruce (ed.) von
Richthofen and the Flying Circus.
Letchworth, UK: Harleyford, 1958.
Robertson, Linda R. The Dream Of Civilized Warfare:
World War I
World War I Flying
Aces and the American Imagination. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University
Of Minnesota Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-8166-4271-7.
Shores, Christopher; Norman Franks; Russell Guest. Above the Trenches:
A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire
Air Forces 1915–1920. Grub Street, 1990. ISBN 0-948817-19-4,
Von Richthofen, Manfred. The Red Baron. Norderstedt, Germany: BOD,
2008 (reprint). ISBN 978-3-8370-9217-2.
Von Richthofen, Manfred. Red Fighter Pilot: The Autobiography of the
Red Baron. St Petersburg, Florida: Red and Black Publishers, 2007
(reprint). ISBN 978-0-9791813-3-7.
Wright, Nicolas. The Red Baron. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1976.
Allmers, Dr. Henning. "Manfred
Freiherr von Richthofen's Medical
Record: Was the "Red Baron" fit to fly?" Lancet 1999, 354:
Day, Mark. "Unsung No.1 with a bullet –
World War I
World War I ace Manfred von
Richthofen seems to have met his match in an Australian gunner." The
Australian News Corporation, 30 April 2007. Retrieved: 30 April 2007.
Franks, Norman and Alan Bennett. The Red Baron's Last Flight: A
Mystery Investigated. London: Grub Street, 2007, First edition 1997.
Miller, Geoffrey. "The Death of Manfred von Richthofen: Who fired the
fatal shot?" Sabretache: Journal and Proceedings of the Military
History Society of Australia, Vol. XXXIX, No. 2.
Titler, Dale. The Day the Red
Baron Died. New York: Ballantine Books,
1970. ISBN 0-345-24923-2.
Freiherr von Manfred
Richthofen at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about Manfred von
Richthofen at Internet Archive
Works by or about Red
Baron at Internet Archive
Works by Manfred von
LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
Complete text of
The Red Fighter Pilot
The Red Fighter Pilot by Manfred von
The War Times Journal
Historic footage of Manfred von
Richthofen posing and conversing with
fellow pilots, circa 1917.
Silent historical film of the 1918 funeral of Captain
Richthofen provided by Australian Screen Online
Footage of the reburial of The Red
Baron in 1925
Richthofen at Find a Grave
Commanding Officer of Jasta 11 (German Empire)
Commanding Officer of Jagdgeschwader 1 (German Empire)
ISNI: 0000 0001 0917 6879
BNF: cb13007686g (data)
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