The Death of the Red Baron
Until recently, it would have been impossible to use the words 'hero' and 'german officer' in the same sentence, especially in Germany.
However, with the passage of time and a better perspective (90 years will do that), a new film is being made in time for the anniversary of his death in April, 1918.
Manfred Albrecht Freiherr Von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron, was a born fighter pilot, serving with the German air force in starting in 1915. The Baron flew many planes, but it was the bright red Fokker triplane that became his hallmark. A cool leader and superb marksman, he scored 88 kills before being shot down on April 21.
Rumours abounded that in the time before his death, he met a nurse working at an army camp and fell in love, and this changed his belief in what Germany was doing.
It is still uncertain as to who fired the fatal shot, whether it was one of two Canadian pilots who exchanged gunfire with the Baron, or Anti-Aircraft fire coming from an Australian soldier, though the latter theory is more widely respected.
Snoopy dreamed about fighting him. The English revered his chivalry in combat. His red Fokker Triplane holds an iconic place in the history of aerial "dogfights." But in Germany, Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, the World War I flying ace who downed 80 Australian, British, French and Canadian planes before being shot down himself 90 years ago this month, barely rated a mention in the history books. Postwar Germany, after all, was leery of celebrating legendary warriors. But now, the star of the "Red Baron" may be rising again.
Richthofen was killed just after 11 a.m. on 21 April 1918, while flying over Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River
At the time, the Baron had been pursuing (at very low altitude) a Sopwith Camel piloted by a novice Canadian pilot, Lieutenant Wilfrid "Wop" May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by a school friend (and flight Commander) of May, Canadian Captain Arthur "Roy" Brown, who had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May.
It was almost certainly during this final stage in Richthofen's pursuit of May that he was hit by a single .303 bullet, which caused such severe damage to his heart and lungs that it must have produced a very speedy death. In the last seconds of his life, he managed to make a hasty but controlled landing in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector controlled by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). One witness, Gunner George Ridgway, stated that when he and other Australian soldiers reached the aircraft, Richthofen was still alive but died moments later. Another eye witness, Sgt Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps, reported that Richthofen's last word was "kaputt" ("finished") immediately before he died.