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1916 WWI flying ace The Red Baron of the German Luftstreitkräfte, wins his first aerial combat

September 17, 2021

1916 WWI flying ace The Red Baron of the German Luftstreitkräfte, wins his first aerial combat

On September 17, 1916, the pilot famously known as the Red Baron completed the first combat kill of his career by gunning down a British plane in Northern France. The Red Baron would go on to achieve 80 successful missions in aerial warfare.

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, was born in Poland to an aristocratic family, on May 2, 1892. At the age of 19, after military training for eight years, Richthofen joined the 1st Uhlan Regiment, Number 3 Squadron, in the Prussian army. Eventually, his unit was disbanded, and the men were reassigned to supply duty.

To escape this fate, Richtofen took the initiative to apply for a transfer as a fighter pilot in the Luftstreitkräfte. He quickly earned his pilot’s license, and after training under flying ace Oswald Boelcke, Richthofen excelled during World War I with the fighter squadron Jagdstaffel 2. Around this time, Richthofen gained the well-known nickname of the Red Baron because his family name Freiherr translated to baron, and he had painted his combat plane a bright red. Germany rewarded the Red Baron for his shooting precision with the Blue Max medal, a highly regarded military honor.

The Red Baron was ultimately killed during combat at the age of 25 on April 21, 1918. An unknown enemy aircraft shot Richthofen’s plane, and it crashed into a nearby field. The Red Baron of the German Luftstreitkräfte had a short but unforgettable career and was considered worldwide to be the deadliest fighter pilot of World War I.


  1. Bob Korte

    The Red Baron was shot down on April 21, 1918. However, he was at
    that time, on the tail of Lt. Wilfred May attempting to shoot him down. As May had arrived at the front recently and this was his first patrol, he was ordered by his squadron leader to stay above any dogfight that happened and just observe.
    But, after the dogfight commenced,
    Von Richthofen saw May staying above the fight and correctly guessed that May was a rookie to the front and would be a good opportunity for his 81st kill. Captain Roy Brown, leader of the British Squadron dogfighting with the German Squadron led by Von Richthofen, looked for May and saw that he was about to be shot down by Von Richthofen. Brown dived and was able to get on the tail of Richthofen’s plane and achieving a direct firing position began shooting.
    Being caught totally by surprise Richthofen was not able to take evasive action and was quickly shot down. Richthofen was given a full military funeral by the Royal Air Force on April 22, 1918. A picture of the funeral and a statement describing the same was placed in a metal container and airdropped at Richthofen’s airfield later that week.
    Roy Brown finished World War 1
    As a flight instructor in England and then returned to his home in Canada.

  2. P M

    Red Baron… born in Poland 1892…??? Get your facts straight, Poland did not exist then as a state, that came after WW1, Richthofen was German-Prussian, not Polish by any means…

  3. Clark Davis

    We all know who really shot down the Red Baron. Woof


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