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Manfred von Richthofen

Soldier / Aviator

Born: 2 May 1892
Died: 21 April 1918 (shot to death)
Birthplace: Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland)
Best known as: WW I flying ace known as "The Red Baron"
Baron Manfred von Richthofen was the most famous flying ace of World War I, a German fighter pilot who was known to the English as "The Red Baron." Von Richthofen joined the army in 1911 and was a lieutenant in the German cavalry when the war broke out in 1914. He transferred to the air service in 1915 and joined Jagdstaffel 2, a new squadron of fighter pilots, in 1916. Within two months he had already scored a dozen victories in the air, including a win over Britain's leading ace, Major Lanoe Hawker. At the beginning of 1917 Richthofen was made commander of Jagdstaffel 11, later known as the "Flying Circus" for their brightly colored aircraft. Richthofen, who had painted his plane red, was known in Germany as "Der Rote Kampfflieger" ("the red fighter pilot") and he became a national hero for his derring-do in the skies. In June of 1917 he was made commander of the first independent fighter wing, Jagdgeshwader I, and was shot down two weeks later, shortly after his fifty-seventh victory. He recovered from a head wound quickly and returned to duty three weeks later. Richthofen recorded a total of 80 victories before being shot down and killed on 21 April 1918 over the Somme Canal in France. Canadian pilot Captain Roy Brown was originally credited with shooting down Richthofen, but some accounts credit Australian forces on the ground.
Extra credit: The fame of The Red Baron was resurrected in the 1960s, thanks to the popular novelty song "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" (1966, by The Royal Guardsmen), in which he is the imagined enemy of Snoopy, a character from the newspaper comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz.

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