Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April 1918), AKA the Red Baron, was a German fighter pilot with the Imperial German Army Air Service during World War I. He is considered the ace-of-aces of that war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories, more than any other pilot.
Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, becoming one of the first members of Jasta 2 in 1916. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger unit Jagdgeschwader 1 (AKA the "Flying Circus"). By 1918 he was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and was very well known by the other side.
Richthofen was shot down and killed near Amiens on 21 April 1918.
For decades after World War I, some authors questioned whether Richthofen achieved 80 victories, insisting that his record was exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Some claimed that he took credit for aircraft downed by his squadron or wing.
In fact, Richthofen’s victories are better documented than those of most aces. A full list of the aircraft the Red Baron was credited with shooting down was published as early as 1958—with documented RFC/RAF squadron details, aircraft serial numbers, and the identities of Allied airmen killed or captured—73 of the 80 are listed as matching recorded British losses. A study conducted by British historian Norman Franks with two colleagues, published in Under the Guns of the Red Baron in 1998, reached the same conclusion about the high degree of accuracy of Richthofen's claimed victories. There were also unconfirmed victories that would put his actual total as high as 100 or more.
Controversy and contradictory hypotheses continue to surround the identity of the person who fired the shot that actually killed Richthofen.
The RAF credited Captain Arthur Roy Brown with shooting down the Red Baron - but it is now generally agreed that the bullet that hit Richthofen was fired by someone on the ground. I know the truth.... It was Snoopy, with a Sopwith Camel, in the sky above Amiens.
All joking aside, deserved or not, The Red Baron had a reputation for chivalty and as a gentleman.
Dan Emplit WBFD