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 Manfred von Richthofen

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Manfred von Richthofen

  • Birth 2 May 1892 Poland
  • Death 21 Apr 1918 Morlancourt, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France
  • Burial Berlin-Mitte, Mitte, Berlin, Germany
  • Memorial ID 8682454

German World War I Military Figure. He is best remembered as the famous "Red Baron" German fighter pilot and was the top ace of World War I with 80 combat aerial victories to his credit. He was born Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen in Kleinburg, near Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), the 2nd of four children of a prominent Prussian aristocratic family where his father was a Prussian military officer. After being educated at home, he attended a school at Schweidnitz (now Swidnica, Silesia, Poland) and started his military training at the age of eleven. In 1911 he finished his cadet training and joined an Uhlan cavalry unit. When World War I broke out in 1914 he served as a cavalry reconnaissance officer both the Eastern and Western Fronts, where he saw action in Russia, France, and Belgium. With the was bogged down to trench fighting which made traditional cavalry operations outmoded, he became disenchanted with and requested a transfer to the army's supply branch. After viewing a German military aircraft behind the lines, he became interested in aviation and applied for a transfer to the Imperial German Army Air Service, later known as the Luftstreikrafte. From June to August 1915 he served as an observer on reconnaissance missions over the Eastern Front. After being transferred to the Western Front, he managed to shoot down an attacking French aircraft with his observer's machine gun over French lines but was not credited with the kill because it fell behind Allied lines and could not be confirmed. In October 1915 he entered pilot training and in March 1916 he joined the Kampfgeschwader 2 Squadron, flying a two-seater Albatross C.III aircraft. At the beginning he appeared to be a less than average pilot, struggling to control his aircraft and crashing during his first flight. However, he quickly became attuned to his aircraft and in April 1916 he downed a French aircraft over Fort Douamont, near Verdun, France, but did not receive any official credit for the kill. In August 1916 he was selected by German ace fighter pilot Oswald Boelcke to join his newly formed fighter unit, the Jagdstaffel 2 and the following month he won his first official aerial combat over Cambrai, France. On November 23, 1916 he downed his most famous adversary, British ace Major Lanoe Hawker after a long dogfight. In January 1917 after his 16th confirmed kill, he received the Pour le Merite (also known as "The Blue Max"), the highest military honor in Germany at that time. That same month he became a squadron commander and took the flamboyant step of having his aircraft painted red and other members of his unit followed suit in order to make him look less conspicuous and to avoid him being singled out in aerial combat. He led his new unit to unparalleled success, peaking during "Bloody April" 1917 in which he downed 22 British aircraft, including four in a single day. On July 6, 1917 he received a serious head wound in aerial combat near Wervicq, in northern France. Disoriented and temporarily blinded, he managed to pull his aircraft out of a free-falling spin and executed a rough landing in a field within friendly territory. After receiving medical treatment, he returned to duty on July 25th against doctor's orders but then went on convalescent leave from September 5 to October 23, 1917, during which time he completed an autobiographical sketch "Der Rote Kampfflieger," with an English translation published by J. Ellis Barker in 1918 as "The Red Battle Flyer." By 1918 he had become such a legend that it was feared his death would become a major blow to German morale. He continued flying combat missions after his convalescent leave and refused to take a ground job. On April 21, 1918 he was fatally wounded in aerial combat over Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River in France. In spite of receiving a fatal wound (a single bullet to the chest that that penetrated from the right armpit and exited next to the left nipple, severely traumatizing his heart and lungs), he managed to make a quick but controlled landing without any serious damage to his aircraft and died moments later at the age of 25. Although the British Royal Air Force credited Canadian pilot Captain Arthur "Roy" Brown with the kill, it is now generally agreed that the fatal bullet was fired by someone on the ground. After World War II, the Berlin Wall passed directly over his original grave site, and the family had the remains moved to Wiesbaden, Germany. He was immensely respected by friends and foes alike and when he was exhumed and reburied in Wiesbaden, he was given full military honors by both the Germans and British.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Geoff Walden
  • Added: 26 Apr 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8682454
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Manfred von Richthofen (2 May 1892–21 Apr 1918), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8682454, citing Invalidenfriedhof, Berlin-Mitte, Mitte, Berlin, Germany ; Maintained by Find A Grave .