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Sun Apr 21, 2019, 07:24 AM

101 Years Ago Today; The Death of the Red Baron

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manfred_von_Richthofen



Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April 1918), also known as the "Red Baron", was a fighter pilot with the German Air Force during World War I. He is considered the ace-of-aces of the war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories.

Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, becoming one of the first members of fighter squadron Jagdstaffel 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger fighter wing unit Jagdgeschwader 1, better known as "The Flying Circus" or "Richthofen's Circus" because of the bright colours of its aircraft, and perhaps also because of the way the unit was transferred from one area of allied air activity to another – moving like a travelling circus, and frequently setting up in tents on improvised airfields. By 1918, Richthofen was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and respected by his enemies.

Richthofen was shot down and killed near Vaux-sur-Somme on 21 April 1918. There has been considerable discussion and debate regarding aspects of his career, especially the circumstances of his death. He remains one of the most widely known fighter pilots of all time, and has been the subject of many books, films and other media.

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Death
Richthofen received a fatal wound just after 11:00 am on 21 April 1918 while flying over Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme River, 49°56′0.60″N 2°32′43.71″E. At the time, he had been pursuing a Sopwith Camel at very low altitude, piloted by novice Canadian pilot Lieutenant Wilfrid "Wop" May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. May had just fired on the Red Baron's cousin Lt. Wolfram von Richthofen. On seeing his cousin being attacked, Manfred flew to his rescue and fired on May, causing him to pull away. Richthofen pursued May across the Somme. The Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by May's school friend and flight commander, Canadian Captain Arthur "Roy" Brown. Brown had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.

It was almost certainly during this final stage in his pursuit of May that a single .303 bullet hit Richthofen, damaging his heart and lungs so severely that it must have caused a quick death. In the last seconds of his life, he managed to retain sufficient control to make a rough landing ( 49°55′56″N 2°32′16″E) in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector defended by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). There were several witnesses, including Gunner Ernest W. Twycross, Gunner George Ridgway, and Sergeant Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps. Each of these men later claimed to have been the first to reach the triplane, and each reported various versions of Richthofen's last words, generally including the word "kaputt".


Australian airmen with Richthofen's triplane 425/17 after it was dismembered by souvenir hunters. His Fokker Dr.I 425/17 was not badly damaged by the landing, but it was soon taken apart by souvenir hunters.

No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps was the nearest Allied air unit and assumed responsibility for the Baron's remains.

In 2009, Richthofen's death certificate was found in the archives in Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland. He had briefly been stationed in Ostrów before going to war, as it was part of Germany until the end of World War I. The document is a one-page, handwritten form in a 1918 registry book of deaths. It misspells Richthofen's name as "Richthoven" and simply states that he had "died 21 April 1918, from wounds sustained in combat".

Debate over the identity of the individual who fired the shot that killed Richthofen
Controversy and contradictory hypotheses continue to surround the identity of the person who fired the shot that actually killed Richthofen.


Arthur Roy Brown, in naval uniform, as a Royal Naval Air Service lieutenant.

The RAF credited Brown with shooting down the Red Baron, but it is now generally agreed that the bullet which hit Richthofen was fired from the ground. Richthofen died following an extremely serious and inevitably fatal chest wound from a single bullet, penetrating from the right armpit and resurfacing next to the left nipple. Brown's attack was from behind and above, and from Richthofen's left. Even more conclusively, Richthofen could not have continued his pursuit of May for as long as he did (up to two minutes) had this wound come from Brown's guns. Brown himself never spoke much about what happened that day, claiming, "There is no point in me commenting, as the evidence is already out there."

Many sources have suggested that Sergeant Cedric Popkin was the person most likely to have killed Richthofen, including a 1998 article by Geoffrey Miller, a physician and historian of military medicine, and a 2002 edition of the British Channel 4 Secret History series. Popkin was an anti-aircraft (AA) machine gunner with the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company, and he was using a Vickers gun. He fired at Richthofen's aircraft on two occasions: first as the Baron was heading straight at his position, and then at long range from the right. Given the nature of Richthofen's wounds, Popkin was in a position to fire the fatal shot when the pilot passed him for a second time, on the right. Some confusion has been caused by a letter that Popkin wrote in 1935 to an Australian official historian. It stated Popkin's belief that he had fired the fatal shot as Richthofen flew straight at his position. In this respect, Popkin was incorrect; the bullet which caused the Baron's death came from the side.

A 2002 Discovery Channel documentary suggests that Gunner W. J. "Snowy" Evans, a Lewis machine gunner with the 53rd Battery, 14th Field Artillery Brigade, Royal Australian Artillery is likely to have killed von Richthofen. Miller and the Secret History documentary dismiss this theory because of the angle from which Evans fired at Richthofen.

Other sources have suggested that Gunner Robert Buie (also of the 53rd Battery) may have fired the fatal shot. There is little support for this theory. In 2007, a municipality in Sydney recognised Buie as the man who shot down Richthofen, placing a plaque near his former home. Buie died in 1964 and has never been officially recognised in any other way.

No. 3 Squadron AFC's commanding officer Major David Blake initially suggested that Richthofen had been killed by the crew of one of his squadron's R.E.8s, which had also fought members of Richthofen's unit that afternoon. This claim was quickly discounted and withdrawn, if only because of the time factor. Following an autopsy that he witnessed, Blake became a strong proponent of the view that an AA machine gunner had killed Richthofen.

Theories about last combat
Richthofen was a highly experienced and skilled fighter pilot—fully aware of the risk from ground fire. Further, he concurred with the rules of air fighting created by his late mentor Boelcke, who specifically advised pilots not to take unnecessary risks. In this context, Richthofen's judgement during his last combat was clearly unsound in several respects. Several theories have been proposed to account for his behaviour.

In 1999, a German medical researcher, Henning Allmers, published an article in the British medical journal The Lancet, suggesting it was likely that brain damage from the head wound Richthofen suffered in July 1917 (see above) played a part in the Red Baron's death. This was supported by a 2004 paper by researchers at the University of Texas. Richthofen's behaviour after his injury was noted as consistent with brain-injured patients, and such an injury could account for his perceived lack of judgement on his final flight: flying too low over enemy territory and suffering target fixation.

Richthofen may have been suffering from cumulative combat stress, which made him fail to observe some of his usual precautions. One of the leading British air aces, Major Edward "Mick" Mannock, was killed by ground fire on 26 July 1918 while crossing the lines at low level, an action he had always cautioned his younger pilots against. One of the most popular of the French air aces, Georges Guynemer, went missing on 11 September 1917, probably while attacking a two-seater without realizing several Fokkers were escorting it.

There is a suggestion that on the day of Richthofen's death, the prevailing wind was about 40 km/h (25 mph) easterly, rather than the usual 40 km/h (25 mph) westerly. This meant that Richthofen, heading generally westward at an airspeed of about 160 km/h (100 mph), was travelling over the ground at up to 200 km/h (125 mph) rather than the more typical ground speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). This was considerably faster than normal and he could easily have strayed over enemy lines without realizing it.

At the time of Richthofen's death, the front was in a highly fluid state, following the initial success of the German offensive of March–April 1918. This was part of Germany's last opportunity to win the war. In the face of Allied air superiority, the German air service was having difficulty acquiring vital reconnaissance information, and could do little to prevent Allied squadrons from completing effective reconnaissance and close support of their armies.

Burial

No. 3 Squadron AFC officers were pallbearers and other ranks from the squadron acted as a guard of honour during the Red Baron's funeral on 22 April 1918.

In common with most Allied air officers, Major Blake, who was responsible for Richthofen's body, regarded the Red Baron with great respect, and he organised a full military funeral, to be conducted by the personnel of No. 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps.

The body was buried in the cemetery at the village of Bertangles, near Amiens, on 22 April 1918. Six of No. 3 Squadron's officers served as pallbearers, and a guard of honour from the squadron's other ranks fired a salute.

Allied squadrons stationed nearby presented memorial wreaths, one of which was inscribed with the words, "To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe".

A speculation that his opponents organised a flypast at his funeral, giving rise to the missing man formation,[65] is most unlikely and totally unsupported by any contemporary evidence.

In the early 1920s the French authorities created a military cemetery at Fricourt, in which a large number of German war dead, including Richthofen, were reinterred. In 1925 von Richthofen's youngest brother, Bolko, recovered the body from Fricourt and took it to Germany. The family's intention was for it to be buried in the Schweidnitz cemetery next to the graves of his father and his brother Lothar von Richthofen, who had been killed in a post-war air crash in 1922. The German Government requested that the body should instead be interred at the Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery in Berlin, where many German military heroes and past leaders were buried, and the family agreed. Richthofen's body received a state funeral. Later the Third Reich held a further grandiose memorial ceremony at the site of the grave, erecting a massive new tombstone with the single word: Richthofen. During the Cold War, the Invalidenfriedhof was on the boundary of the Soviet zone in Berlin, and the tombstone became damaged by bullets fired at attempted escapees from East Germany. In 1975 the body was moved to a Richthofen family grave plot at the Südfriedhof in Wiesbaden.


for a worthy foe.

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Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply 101 Years Ago Today; The Death of the Red Baron (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Apr 21 OP
Clash City Rocker Apr 21 #1
underpants Apr 21 #2
TheBlackAdder Apr 21 #7
Hotler Apr 21 #3
Rhiannon12866 Apr 21 #6
rgbecker Apr 21 #4
tinymontgomery Apr 21 #5
struggle4progress Apr 21 #8
canetoad Apr 21 #9

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 07:36 AM

1. Here's the guy who finally got him


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Response to Clash City Rocker (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 08:00 AM

2. Royal Guardsmen

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Response to underpants (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 09:32 PM

7. I grew up listening to that song.

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Response to Clash City Rocker (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 10:35 AM

3. I bought that album as a kid and I stll have it. nt

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Response to Clash City Rocker (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 09:14 PM

6. That was my first thought, too!

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 01:34 PM

4. I've got an old book about the Red Baron that includes his auto-biography

written during the war....Obviously before his death.

I was struck while reading it how his enthusiasm for the fight slowly waned over time and towards the end he was quite low.

All the swagger of his first victories, when he would actually land at his enemy's crash site and take a souvenir, was long gone by 1918.

I also have a book compiled of letters written by a childhood friend during the mid 60's when he was in the army. It was put together by his sister in an attempt to learn more about her much older brother. His letters, like Richthofen's showed initial enthusiasm for the fight which soon turned to a decline in interest in the War and were quite depressing by the time he was killed in Viet Nam in 1967.

There is a lesson there for any young man thinking about joining in during the next fiasco.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 02:35 PM

5. Youtube

There is a decent movie on youtube about him.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 09:57 PM

8. My view of those blood-thirsty killers is somewhat colored by the fact that the Flying Circus

was eventually commanded by a fellow named Hermann Göring, who played a role in the Beer Hall Putsch

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2019, 10:58 PM

9. Extremely interesting

Thank you for posting.

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