On April 21, 1918, the Red Baron's plane was finally brought down, ending his reign of terror in the skies of World War I. See if you can answer these trivia questions about this daring pilot...
Who Was the Red Baron?
He was Manfred von Richthofen, who came from a noble family. He was born
in Kleinberg, Lower Silesia, which is now a part of Poland. At the
beginning of World War I, he served in the German cavalry in France,
Russia, and Belgium. However, trench warfare made the cavalry
ineffective, so he transferred to the Imperial German Army Air Service
in mid-1915. In the fall, he entered the pilot training program. Near
the end of 1916, he joined with a fighter squadron and shot down his
first plane in September and had downed 15 planes by year’s end.
Von Richthofen was awarded the Blue Max in January 1917 for a confirmed number of 16 kills, an honor conferred upon military and civilians for extraordinary achievement. By the time his own plane was shot down, he was credited with 80 “kills” and won the reputation as the number-one flying ace in the world. This did not include the number of kills for which he did not receive credit because the planes had landed behind enemy lines and confirmation was not possible.
What Kind of Plane did the Red Baron Fly? For most of the war, von Richthofen did not fly his signature Fokker Dr.I. Most of the time during the war, he flew some version of the Albatross or the Halberstadt D.II. The plane he was shot down in was a Fokker Dr.I, which he piloted during the early part of 1918. While flying the triwing Fokker, which he was a staunch advocate of, von Richthofen had shot down his last 19 planes.
Why Was Richthofen’s Plane Painted Red? Von Richthofen, knowing that his status was growing as a fighter pilot, began painting his airplane’s wings a brilliant red in 1917, supposedly in tribute to his earlier cavalry regiment but eventually he began painting the entire plane. In that same year, he already surpassed all flying ace records by both sides during the war. Because of the bright red added to his plane, which made him distinguishable from other pilots, people started calling him names such as “the Red Devil” and the Red Knight.” Eventually, the name “the Red Baron” stuck.
Who Shot Down the Red Baron?
Von Richthofen’s plane was shot down close to the Somme River in France
while he was chasing after a young Canadian flyer named Wilfred May,
nicknamed “Wop.” The dogfight between the two was at a low level, and
von Richthofen was shot in the torso with a weapon fired either by one
of the Canadians or one of the Australian machine gunners who were in
the trenches on the ground. However, the angle of the wound suggested
that the fatal fire came from someone on the ground. Force landing his
plane, he died of his injuries shortly afterward. The plane was largely
intact, but souvenir hunters pulled off many pieces. Interestingly
enough, von Richthofen was discovered to be wearing pajamas underneath
his flight suit.