Little Bits of History

Snoopy v. The Red Baron

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 21, 2010

Manfred von Richthofen

April 21, 1918: Manfred von Richthofen a.k.a. The Red Baron is shot down by Allied pilots during the First World War. He is sometimes referred to as the most successful flying ace of World War I. He was credited with 80 confirmed air combat victories.

Von Richthofen was born in 1892 in Breslau which was then part of Germany but is now in Poland. He was a Freiherr or “Free Lord” which is a German aristocratic level equivalent to an English Baron. He began the war as a cavalry scout. He became bored with this job and asked to be transferred to the air service where he became an observer. He met Oswald Boelcke, a great fighting aviator and decided to become a pilot himself. He won his first air battle on September 17, 1916.

The Red Baron (due to his aristocratic rank and the color of his plane) was not considered to be exceptionally skilled, but rather he stuck to a very rigid set of rules of combat that served him very well. Today, he is known as Der Rote Baron in Germany, but at the time he was called Der Rote Kampfflieger or The Red Battle Flyer or The Red Pilot. His other nickname was Le Diable Rouge or Red Devil. During a dogfight in July of 1917 von Richthofen suffered a head wound that left him impaired and may have played a part in his death.

On this date, he was engaged in battle with two planes from the Royal Air Force and broke several of his own rules. The Red Baron was engaged with a Sopwith Camel piloted by Lt. Wilfred May, a Canadian pilot flying for the RAF. Cap. Arthur Brown entered into the fray to aid in combat. Brown was also a Canadian pilot flying for the RAF. Van Richthofen was shot through the chest, probably by an anti-aircraft machine gunner as Brown dived toward the red plane which was in hot pursuit of Lt. May. Von Richthofen managed to land his plane without crashing, but died shortly thereafter on the ground. His Fokker was not badly damaged in the landing, but was dismantled by those on the ground for souvenirs. Sgt. Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps rushed to aid the victim of the crash and claimed the Red Baron’s last word was “kaput” which means destroyed or broken. He was 25 years old.

“I honored the fallen enemy by placing a stone on his beautiful grave.” – Manfred von Richthofen

“He fought until he landed. When he had come to the ground I flew over him at an altitude of about thirty feet in order to ascertain whether I had killed him or not. What did the rascal do? He took his machine-gun and shot holes into my machine.” – Manfred von Richthofen

“I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war and no one will win the next.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.” – John Stuart Mill

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” – Jose Narosky

Also on this day, in 753 BC Rome was founded, according to legend.