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Manfred von Richthofen

Baron Manfred Albrecht von Richthofen (May 2, 1892 - April 21, 1918) was a German pilot. He is regarded today as the "ace of aces". He was a very talented airplane pilot, who won 80 air combats during World War I.

He was known as der rote Kampfflieger (The Red Battle-Flyer) by the Germans, petit rouge (The little Red) or le Diable Rouge (The Red Devil) by the French, and the Red Knight or the Red Baron. by the English.

Born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), Manfred moved with his family to Schweidnitz (now Swidnica, Poland), when he was 9 years old. In his youth, the Red Baron enjoyed hunting and riding horses. He joined the Uhlan regiment no. 1 - Kaiser Alexander - as a cavalryman, after completing his cadet training, in 1911.

When the World War I began, he was a cavalry officer and was engaged in duty on both Eastern and Western fronts, as scout for the German Army. Near May, 1915, bored with this duty, Manfred asked to be transferred to the Flying service. He became an aircraft observer.

Inspired by the chance of meeting the great air fighter Oswald Boelcke, he decided to become a pilot himself. Later, Boelcke selected von Richthofen to join his elite JASTA 2[?]. He won his first aerial combat over Cambrai, France on September 17, 1916.

With his 16th victory, von Richthofen was put in command of JASTA 2 and two days later, after his 18th kill, received the "Blue Max", an important Pour le Merite Medal. He had just downed Lanoe Hawker, sometimes referred as "the British Oswald Boelcke[?]", of course not yet aware of that. It happened in November, 1916, when he was still flying an Albatros D II. However, after this engagement, he was convinced that he needed a fighter airplane with more agility, although this implied in a loss of speed. At the beginning of 1917, Manfred von Richthofen was already flying with his Fokker_Dr.I.

When von Richthofen learned he had shot down "the British Boelcke", the Baron painted his plane of red out of joy, after what he received the legendary epithet of Red Baron. In a rapid fire succession of victories and promotions, the squadron became the terror of its opponents in the Western front.

In January, 1914, von Richthofen founded a new squadron, the JASTA 11, comprehended by the elite of Germany's pilots, which some say the Red Baron trained himself in his JASTA 2.

The JASTA 11 squadron featured a unique color scheme of its aircraft. Their tails* were painted with bright red, with individual marking in every plane. This was not a matter of "personal taste", nor anything related to "blood". The German noticed that the bright colors gave the pilots a tactical advantage because the enemy gunners got disoriented, although initially one could think this could make the red planes better targets. But why red? Simple. Every Allied pilot, experienced or not, was looking after the fame of shooting down the Red Baron. So, all JASTA 11 aircraft was painted in red in a way his plane could not be that easily identified (This also may have worked another way - the terror of the famous flying red machine probably affected the opponents of the other JASTA 11 airplanes, acting in their favour against the Allied pilots).

JASTA 11 planes and men were quartered in tents, in order to get closer to the front and gain mobility to avoid Allied bombing. This way, the JASTA 11 became "the Flying Circus" or "the Richthofen's Circus".

Some say that, in 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. So, his superiors asked him to retire, but he refused considering there were still many troops in the trenches.

It is also said that the deaths he caused began to cause von Richthofen serious depression.

In April 21, 1918 he was shot down. While pursuing a Sopwith Camel plane piloted by Lieutenant Wilfrid "Wop" May of Canada, and being chased by a plane piloted by another Canadian, Captain Arthur "Roy" Brown, the Red Baron stood and turned to check the tail of his airplane, that is, his hunter. He was then caught by a bullet, shot from behind, passing diagonally through his chest. He may have been shot by Captain Roy Brown or also by an Australian anti-aircraft battery from the ground.

There was so much respect between his opponents, that he was given full military honored funeral by the British Royal Flying Corps.



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