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Famous Pilots: The Red Baron

Written by on Thursday, May 24th, 2012

When it comes to ace pilots, none are as respected and feared as the legendary Manfred Alfred Freiherr von Richthofen, otherwise known as the Red Baron. This German fighter pilot terrorized the skies throughout World War I with such tenacity and unmatched skill that he is widely regarded as the best pilot in the history of mankind, and is now so famous that a number of movies have been made about him.

The young Von Richthofen began his military career early at the age of 11 when he enrolled in military training. After graduating as a cadet he moved on to become a cavalryman, but he eventually applied and was accepted into Die Fliegertruppen des deutscen Kaiserreiches, later known as the Luftstreitkrafte, or the German Air Force. It was then that his reign of terror began.

He scored his first unofficial kill over French airspace in August of 1915, starting a killing streak that included the famous British ace pilot, Major Lanoe Hawker VC. As with any famous historical figure, rumors enshroud Richthofen in mystery. Historians can’t quite agree exactly how many planes he destroyed, but the popular estimate is about 80, with more conservative historians placing the number at 63. To put that into perspective, the best Allied fighter pilot was the French Rene Fonck, who had 75 kills under his belt.

Whatever the exact diazepam online number was, it’s a true marvel that the Red Baron was able to down so many opponents. Richthofen’s secret to success may surprise many readers. He wasn’t a particularly amazing daredevil in the air  or a peerless pilot; he was, however, a shrewd tactician. He followed a rigid set of principles that ensured he approached every engagement with the utmost advantage. His preferred tactic was to approach a target with the sun behind him and fellow wingmen guarding his flanks.

Richthofen’s skill earned him the nickname Red Baron, partly because his plane, a Fokker Dr.1 triplane, was painted a blood red and because his title, Freiherr, translated loosely into Baron. Other nicknames include the Red Devel, the Red Falcon, the Jolly Red Baron, the Bloody Baron, Le Petit Rouge, and Le Diable Rouge.

It wasn’t until Richthofen was in pursuit of novice Canadian pilot Lieutenant Wilfrid “Wop” May that a lucky .303 round ended the Red Baron’s killing streak. The bullet passed through his body completely, puncturing his lung and injuring his heart. Somehow, in spite of his wounds Richthofen managed to bring his aircraft to a safe landing before finally passing away. He died April 21, 1918 at the age of 25. We can’t be sure who scored this historic shot, but most historians agree that it must have been someone on the ground.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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