School Papers

Manfred family’s status, spending much of his youth

Manfred von Richthofen is a man in which many do not know him by name, but by his title the “Red Baron.” The legendary German pilot of the First World War is often viewed in a glamorous way by many who have heard of him and see him as a kind hero of the German people at the time, and others see him as a cold-blooded soldier who viciously murder many in the name of fame. The story of Manfred Von Richthofen is not as black and white as many tend to view him in; the only way to truly know of him is to look deeply in his past. Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892 into an aristocratic family, in which the men were expected to serve proudly in the military (Manfred von Richthofen page 3). Richthofen spent much of his youth taking advantage of his family’s status, spending much of his youth riding horseback and hunting. Keeping to his family tradition in the year1903 he entered a Prussian military school in Wahlstatt at the young age of eleven (Manfred von Richthofen page 4). His training taught him the skills needed to enter the military as a cavalry officer; he completed his training in 1911. From the military school he began his service in the Third Squadron of the Ulan Cavalry unit. As the Great War began in 1914 Richthofen’s unit was called into battle. “In 1914 Richthofen served as a cavalry reconnaissance officer on both the eastern and western fronts” (Manfred von Richthofen page 4). Early in the Great War tactics using cavalry units were often used to aid in combat. However, much like life warfare changes and as the new fighting conditions of machine gun fire, trench warfare, and eventually tanks has rendered horseback combat invalid. So instead of trying to sit out of the conflict Richthofen transferred to the air service division of the imperial German army, Fliegertruppn (Manfred von Richthofen page 4). The use of airplanes in warfare were revolutionary tactics of the time which could decide how the battle will fall to as air superiority is a key factor of preventing the enemy from having the advantage in battle. This may be so, however it is down to the pilots to achieve this control with their skill with their machines. Richthofen began his pilot career by crashing his plane on the first solo flight. Even with this failure his determination was what caused Oswald Boelcke to recruit Richthofen into the new Jasta 2 squadron (Andrews page 2). Richthofen’s determination to be an ace pilot was what set apart from the many others as this motivation is what drove him into the legend he was at the time. It did not take long for Richthofen to making a name as a pilot as shortly into his time in Jasta 2 he scored his first confirmed kill on September 17, 1916 (Andrews page 3). This dogfight was between a 2-seater British plane and himself. While Manfred was patrolling over France. Due to the harshness that is warfare Jasta 2 suffered the grievous misfortune of losing most of the squadron including the death of Oswald Boelcke, but out of the ashes of the squadron Richthofen thrived in aerial combat and continued to increase his kill count to eleven in November(Andrews page 3).  Upon achieving his 16th confirmed kill in January 1917, Richthofen was given command of the German squadron Jasta 11; to celebrate his promotion he painted his albatross biplane an attention grabbing shade of red (Andrews page 4). This paint scheme drew the attention of his adversaries in which they gave him many titles including most famously the “Red Baron.” Under Richthofen’s leadership Jasta 11 quickly grew into one of the deadliest fighter units of the Great War. Their skill was shown in the month of April 1917, a month that would go down in infamy as “Bloody April.” In that month the British Royal Flying Corps lost 245 aircraft; out of those Jasta 11 claims 89 confirmed kills and of that Richthofen chalked up 21 kills (Andrews page 4). Richthofen, a proclaimed hero of Germany, was given direct command of his own 4-squadron fighter wing of Jastas 4, 6, 10, and 11 which became Jagdgeschwander I. Jagdgeschwander I was packed with many of Germany’s top pilots such as Ernst Udet, Werner Voss, and Richthofen’s own younger brother Lothar; and soon was dubbed the “Flying Circus” due to the brightly colored aircraft (Andrews page 5). The brightly colored aircraft was used to prevent the enemy pilots from exclusively targeting Richthofen by adding red to the front of their aircrafts as Richthofen often flew planes with only red on the front instead of it being fully painted red. Though even with his skill Richthofen’s luck would soon start to wane.  Richthofen’s luck is shown to start to fail him on July 6, 1917 in a dogfight over France. He was struck by a bullet from a British biplane; “The slug grazed his head and fractured his skull, temporarily blinding and paralyzing him. Richthofen managed to regain his senses and make a rough landing behind German lines” (Andrews pages 5-6). The fact that Richthofen took a shot to the head and was still capable of making a landing, however rough, is a very impressive feat to add to his list of achievements. However, Richthofen was hospitalized until Mid-August of 1917 in which he ignored his doctor’s orders and returned to active duty (Andrews page 6). While still recovering from his injuries Manfred continued hi service for another eight months, during which he would transfer to his most iconic aircraft the Fokker Dr.1 triplane. “On April 20, 1918 he increased his tally to 80 by shooting down a British Sopwith Camel” (Andrews page 6). This dogfight proved to be his final victory during the war as the following day, April 21, he was shot down in a dogfight. Richthofen’s death is one that is debated on who killed him as he was struck in the torso by a bullet causing to crash land into beet field where he would breath his last(Andrews page 7). For many years Roy Brown has been credited for killing the Red Baron; however, in recent years evidence has been found indicating the bullet came from an unknown Australian gunner (Military History Now page 3). It has been found that the angle in which the bullet entered Richthofen’s body could have only came from the ground making it impossible for Roy Brown to have been the one to kill him. “Manfred Von Richthofen’s body was turned over to a nearby Australian fighter squadron who buried him with full military honours” (Military History Now page 3). It is only fitting for a man of his status to have been treated with respect even in death by his enemies; his body was later moved back to Germany in 1925 for a second funeral. Manfred Von Richthofen is a man you need to learn about before you pass judgment on him. He was raised in a military family, in which he was molded to serve in the military. In the Great War he began as a cavalry officer on both fronts only later to become a pilot where he gained his fame. He was the top pilot of the time where even in death he was treated with respect on both sides of the war. While Richthofen was not the kind man he was painted as in German propaganda he is a man that deserves to be treated with respect.