He achieved 80 victories, more than any other pilot of the World War I

The history of the Red Baron, the most famous fighter pilot of all time

The World War I saw the birth of the fighter aircraft we know today, and in those years the most famous of aviation aces flew.

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Manfred von Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892 in Breslau (then part of Prussia, today the Polish city of Wrocław), into an aristocratic Prussian family. His military training began as a child, and he began his military career in the cavalry. At the outbreak of World War I he was transferred to an infantry unit, where he did not feel comfortable, so he enlisted in the Luftstreitkräfte, the German Air Force. Initially employed as an observer, he later began his apprenticeship as a pilot, with somewhat unfortunate beginnings, despite the fame that came after him.

Manfred von Richthofen wearing the Blue Max around his neck.

In the German aviation he met the ace Oswald Boelcke, with whom he established a close friendship, joining his unit, the Jagdsstaffel (Fighter Squadron) 2. Thanks to Boelcke's advice and tactics, Richthofen improved and eventually surpassed his master. In 1917 he achieved the Pour le Mérite cross, better known as the Blue Max, and shortly after was given command of his own squadron, Jagdsstaffel 11, going on to achieve 80 victories, more than any other pilot in the World War I. However, on July 6, 1917 he was wounded in a dogfight, managing to land his Albatros D.II biplane.

A replica of the Fokker Dr. I, the famous triplane fighter piloted by the Red Baron (Photo: Valder137).

He managed to rejoin service a few weeks later, debuting the Fokker Dr.I triplane, an aircraft that he would make famous. A curiosity of his squadron, the Jagdsstaffel 11, is that it was known as the "flying circus", for the bright colors with which they had decided to decorate their planes, as if it were a recreation of medieval heraldry applied to aviation. In fact, the pilots of that war considered themselves knights of the air, and assumed their combats with standards of medieval chivalry, which made Richthofen both feared and admired by his enemies. Richthofen painted his plane red in a gesture of rejecting the camouflage that was already used on airplanes at the time, and thus seeking to make his enemies recognize him in combat. This is how he earned his nickname the Red Baron.

Soldiers of the 3rd Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps firing salutes of honor at the funeral of Manfred von Richthofen on 22 April 1918.

Richthofen was shot down on April 21, 1918 in Vaux-sur-Somme, France, by Canadian pilot Wilfrid "Wop" May. The Red Baron managed to land his plane, exhaling already on the ground. Members of the 3rd Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps buried the Red Baron with full honours, writing on his grave the following epitaph: "Here lies a brave man, a noble adversary and a true man of honor. May he rest in peace."

Australian soldiers presenting their arms and other Allied officers giving the military salute at the passing of the coffin of Manfred von Richthofen on April 22, 1918 in France.

The excellent YouTube channel Yarnhub has published a very good computer-animated video that tells the life of the Red Baron:

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