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.