Manfred von Richthofen, most famously known as the “Red Baron” was a well-known German fighter pilot in World War I. He soared through the skies of Europe in a crimson red plane where he successfully shot down many aircraft —until April 21, 1918 when he was gunned down and killed. Read on to learn more about the life and death of this specially skilled pilot.
Manfred von Richthofen was born to Prussian Aristocrats on May 2, 1892, in Kleinburg — an area that is now part of Wrocław, Poland. When he was 11 years old, he enrolled in military training, which he completed in 1911 and then joined the Prussian army.
World War I
Richthofen began his career in WWI as a cavalry reconnaissance officer — until his regiment was dismissed due to the diminishing need for cavalry. Richthofen then began serving in noncombat positions, which he found so boring it drove him to apply for a position in the Imperial German Army Air Service. He received a position in May of 1915, and by October of the same year, he began training to become a pilot.
He successfully shot down his first enemy aircraft in September of 1916, and by the early months of 1917, Richthofen had earned the titles of “flying ace” and “Blue Max.” He was then made a commander of his own squadron — and it was at this point in his career he decided to paint his Albatros D.III the iconic crimson color. By spring of 1917, Richthofen had shot down 52 enemy planes, and by the end of his career, he had personally shot down a total of 80.
He had his first serious injury during a dogfight in 1917, where he received a fractured skull that affected him for the rest of his life. Although, it wasn’t until April 21, 1918, when he was gunned down by Arthur Roy Brown — a man from Carleton Place, Canada — that he crashed his plane and lost his life.
Manfred von Richthofen, or the “Red Baron,” will forever be known for claiming the most aerial victories of anyone in the First World War. A title he earned at only 25 years of age and with less than three years of piloting experience.