The Red Baron – Manfred von Richthofen was born on May 2nd

The early 20th century was an interesting time in the world. As tensions escalated, the world erupted into war after Gavrilo Princip fired a shot that would start a chain of events, first of them being The Great War, as it was called at the time.

But in the aviation industry, the conflict sparked rapid development of the aircraft. Before the war, flying was still in its early stages. The first aircraft were fairly primitive and had limited capabilities. Piloting pioneers, such as Raymonde de Laroche would count their flying distances in meters. In contrast, the current longest flight is a Singapore Airlines flight SQ 21 and SQ 22 between Singapore Changi Airport and Newark Liberty International. The two airports are separated by 15,344 kilometers.

Anyhow, The Great War also saw the first widespread conflict in the air. The term “dogfight” was born, as both sides of the conflict started to discuss their differences in the sky. With bullets.

And the discussions ended up with only one winner, with the losing side falling out of the sky. Comparing the statistics of the Triple Alliance’s and the Entente’s flying aces, one pilot is credited with the most kills – Manfred von Richthofen or “The Red Baron”.

While historians debate the exact amount of aircraft The Red Baron has shot down, most people know the number to be 80 confirmed kills. If you were to add the unconfirmed kills, it is said that there are more than 100 of them.

But who was Manfred Von Richthofen? As we commemorate the birthday of, arguably, the most famous flying ace in history, we look back at his early life, flying career, death and the legacy of the Red Baron.

An actual baron

While some might think that the Red Baron is just a nickname, Manfred von Richthofen was actually a baron.

Manfred came to life on the 2nd of May, 1892 in Breslau (Wroclaw, Poland today) into a family of Prussian aristocrats. The boy had an older sister and two brothers, who were born later.

He started going to a military school at the age of 11 and when he finished it he became a lieutenant of the 1st Uhlan cavalry regiment.

As the war broke out, firstly he served in Russia. Later on, as 1914 continued, the German army transferred him to the Western Front. As the “freshness” of the war faded away and trench warfare became a trend, Manfred von Richthofen was sent to the back, in order to help with the supplies to the front lines.

Essentially, he became bored with his current role and wanted to make a name for himself somehow. Manfred requested a transfer to the German Air Force with the request letter saying “I have not gone to war in order to collect cheese and eggs, but for another purpose”.

The German military command granted his request and subsequently, he joined the Imperial Air Service in 1915.

Red Baron’s Early Struggles

At first, Manfred von Richthofen served in Russia as an aerial observer, capturing the images of enemy positions and trenches, in order to provide intel to the German land forces.

Later on, in 1915, Manfred moved fronts yet again – this time he settled in the Western Front. There, he met Oswald Boelcke, another famous German fighter pilot at the time. Oswald, one of the early air tacticians in history, inspired Manfred to become a fighter pilot. As he concluded his training, he joined a bomber squadron – Kampfgeschwader 2 and began flying above the trenches of the Western Front.