Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April 1918), also known as the “Red Baron,” flew with the German Air Force. He is considered the ace-of-aces in the war, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories.
Originally a cavalryman, Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915, where he quickly distinguished himself as an expert fighter pilot.
In 1917 he became the 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 colors of its aircraft.
That nickname may also have been because of the way the unit was transferred from one area of allied air activity to another – moving like a traveling 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, but regardless, he remains one of the most well-known fighter pilots of all time.