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Andere (nieuwe) kijk op de dood van Richthofen
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Hauptmann



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BerichtGeplaatst: 19 Feb 2005 14:07    Onderwerp: Andere (nieuwe) kijk op de dood van Richthofen Reageer met quote

http://www.missouri.edu/~news/releases/ormeredbaron.html

Sept. 16, 2004
Contact: Cheri Ghan
Sr. Information Specialist
(573) 882-6217
GhanC@missouri.edu


WWI’s Red Baron Victim of Traumatic Head Injury Prior to Being Shot Down

MU Researcher Finds Prior Injury Actually Led to von Richthofen’s Demise

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Since he was shot down and killed in 1918, much speculation has been made of who shot down the German World War I flying ace dubbed the Red Baron. A team of researchers, including a University of Missouri-Columbia neuropsychologist, found that Baron Manfred von Richthofen never would have put himself in the position to be killed that day had he not suffered a severe head injury nine months earlier. The results will be published this fall in the international journal Human Factors and Aerospace Safety.

By comparing accounts of von Richthofen’s injury and medical records, MU Health Psychology Clinical Associate Professor Daniel Orme and retired neuropsychologist Thomas L. Hyatt of Cincinnati have concluded the Baron exhibited classic signs of traumatic brain injury, including personality and cognitive changes, leading to errors in judgment that made him a sitting target in what amounted to a shooting gallery behind British lines.

After suffering the head wound on July 6, 1917, Orme says von Richthofen was disinhibited, a common consequence of a head injury, and did things he never would have before. Among those, he laid his head on a dining table in a restaurant, displaying the open wound in his scalp. The Baron also exhibited “target fixation” the day he was shot down, locking a fleeing British pilot in his sights and pursuing him into British territory at tree line level, making himself an easy target to his enemy. Research has found frontal lobe injuries affect a person’s ability to adapt behavior to changing situations. Orme also said research indicates the Baron was more moody after suffering the head injury, another classic symptom of a traumatic brain injury.

“Why did he put himself in this position? That’s the unique twist,” Orme said. “It is a surprising thing that no one had connected the dots and arrived at this conclusion up to this point. He clearly should not have been flying. Perhaps credit for his being shot down should have been given to that machine gunner nine months before whose lucky shot creased the Baron’s skull.”

Orme and Hyatt have titled their research “Baron Manfred von Richthofen – DNIF,” playing upon the United States Air Force designation for pilots which means “duties not to include flying.” Orme, a retired Air Force officer who evaluated aviators for fitness to return to flying following head trauma or neurological illnesses that affect mental skills, said even with 80 “kills,” the Red Baron would not have been allowed back in a cockpit under today’s standards.

“DNIF is the last thing any pilot wants to hear,” Orme said. “His friends knew he was different, his mother complained he was different, even he complained he was different. They didn’t have the regulations we do now and there were loopholes around what they had. However, he never should have been allowed back in that plane.”
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BerichtGeplaatst: 19 Feb 2005 21:29    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

DNIF is the last thing any pilot wants to hear,” Orme said. “His friends knew he was different, his mother complained he was different, even he complained he was different. They didn’t have the regulations we do now and there were loopholes around what they had. However, he never should have been allowed back in that plane.”

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BerichtGeplaatst: 19 Feb 2005 21:32    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Er is al zoveel gediscusieerd over hoe deze "held" ,die meer dan 80 levens vernietigde en er nog "jacht" troffees van bijhield, gestorven is (of aan zijn einde gekomen is).

Ik hou het bij de Aussie versie. Neergeschoten door een Lewis bediend door een stel Aussies.
Het blijft de meest logische en aannemelijke versie.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 21 Feb 2005 14:55    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Maak ik uit jouw worden op dat jij het geen held vond Kristof?
Ik meende ergens gelezen te hebben dat ook zijn tegenstanders hem respecteerden, of ze hem een 'held' vonden is misschien het andere uiterste Smile
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Hauptmann



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BerichtGeplaatst: 21 Feb 2005 14:57    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Yvonne schreef:
Maak ik uit jouw worden op dat jij het geen held vond Kristof?
Ik meende ergens gelezen te hebben dat ook zijn tegenstanders hem respecteerden, of ze hem een 'held' vonden is misschien het andere uiterste Smile

Ik geloof dat hij een redelijk nette begrafenis heeft gekregen van de de geallieerden.
http://www.awm.gov.au/1918/people/203456.htm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 21 Feb 2005 16:12    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Yvonne schreef:
Maak ik uit jouw worden op dat jij het geen held vond Kristof?
Ik meende ergens gelezen te hebben dat ook zijn tegenstanders hem respecteerden, of ze hem een 'held' vonden is misschien het andere uiterste Smile


Een held, neen niet echt...
Ik heb niet veel begrip voor het bijhouden van trofees voor elke dode die je veroorzaakt hebt...
Is een soldaat die oren afsnijd van zijn slachtoffers ook een held???

Richthoffen was een bijzondere aas, maar een held? misschien, voor de duitsers toch. Hij was vooral een goed medium voor de Duitse propaganda.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2005 8:43    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hauptmann schreef:
Yvonne schreef:
Maak ik uit jouw worden op dat jij het geen held vond Kristof?
Ik meende ergens gelezen te hebben dat ook zijn tegenstanders hem respecteerden, of ze hem een 'held' vonden is misschien het andere uiterste Smile

Ik geloof dat hij een redelijk nette begrafenis heeft gekregen van de de geallieerden.
http://www.awm.gov.au/1918/people/203456.htm


Klopt, deze beelden ken ik,
hij werd door de tegenstander zeker gerespecteerd.
Correct me if i'm wrong,
maar heerste er tussen de piloten onderling ( dus alle patijen) niet een wederzijds respect,
wat niet wegnam dat men elkaar het leven zuur maakte trouwens?
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Hauptmann



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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2005 8:47    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Volgens mij zagen ze elkaar als een soort ridders?

Let wel dat ze veelal zonder parachute vlogen.

Daarbij, als hij Engels was geweest had hij vast een VC gehad en hadden we hem wel held mogen noemen.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2005 9:07    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Ff offtopic,
in algemeen heb ik een topic geopend over Muziek over WO1,
veel liedjes over von Richthofen!
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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2005 10:14    Onderwerp: Richthofen Reageer met quote

Ik denk dat je het begrip held moet zien in de tijd waarin alles plaats vond. In onze ogen is R. mogelijk geen held, misschien vinden we hem nu wel een idioot. maar in het licht van de tijd waarin dit alles plaatsvond werd hij zeker als een held beschouwd. Het heeft m.i dan ook geen zin om zijn daden in ons huidige tijdsbestek te plaatsen en hem dan als bijv. moordenaar o.i.d af te schilderen. Je moet de geschiedenis altijd plaatsen in de tijd waarin ze zich afspeelde en te proberen je in die tijd te verplaatsen. Dat is al erg moeilijk en soms zelfs onmogelijk.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2005 10:21    Onderwerp: Re: Richthofen Reageer met quote

Andriessen schreef:
Ik denk dat je het begrip held moet zien in de tijd waarin alles plaats vond. In onze ogen is R. mogelijk geen held, misschien vinden we hem nu wel een idioot. maar in het licht van de tijd waarin dit alles plaatsvond werd hij zeker als een held beschouwd. Het heeft m.i dan ook geen zin om zijn daden in ons huidige tijdsbestek te plaatsen en hem dan als bijv. moordenaar o.i.d af te schilderen. Je moet de geschiedenis altijd plaatsen in de tijd waarin ze zich afspeelde en te proberen je in die tijd te verplaatsen. Dat is al erg moeilijk en soms zelfs onmogelijk.


Ik heb geen van deze zaken gezegd... ik wil enkel aantonen dat zijn "held zijn" gebasseerd is op propaganda en de dood van anderen.
Ik denk niet dat de familie van de neergehaalde piloten en observators hem ook een held vonden. Ik vind hem wel eerder een legendarisch figuur.

Noel Chavasse, dat is voor mij een held!
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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2005 10:34    Onderwerp: richthofen Reageer met quote

ok, maar het een sluit het ander niet uit!
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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Feb 2005 10:41    Onderwerp: Re: richthofen Reageer met quote

Andriessen schreef:
ok, maar het een sluit het ander niet uit!


Ok,

maar wij leven vandaag... dus mogen we kritisch terugkijken. Een 'held' wordt gemaakt door de mensen of is er gewoon eentje, meestal bescheiden ook.
Chavasse was bescheiden en een echte held. Richthoffen was absoluut niet bescheiden en is een "gemaakte" held. Dit paste perfect in de tijdsgeest en in de Duitse propaganda.

Voor bepaalde mensen was/is Hitler ook een held... maar het draaiede anders uit (Richthoffen is natuurlijk niet te vergelijken, dit is gewoon mijn standpunt duiden).
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BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Jun 2005 10:09    Onderwerp: Re: Richthofen Reageer met quote

1stLF/SRD schreef:
Andriessen schreef:
Ik denk dat je het begrip held moet zien in de tijd waarin alles plaats vond. In onze ogen is R. mogelijk geen held, misschien vinden we hem nu wel een idioot. maar in het licht van de tijd waarin dit alles plaatsvond werd hij zeker als een held beschouwd. Het heeft m.i dan ook geen zin om zijn daden in ons huidige tijdsbestek te plaatsen en hem dan als bijv. moordenaar o.i.d af te schilderen. Je moet de geschiedenis altijd plaatsen in de tijd waarin ze zich afspeelde en te proberen je in die tijd te verplaatsen. Dat is al erg moeilijk en soms zelfs onmogelijk.


Ik heb geen van deze zaken gezegd... ik wil enkel aantonen dat zijn "held zijn" gebasseerd is op propaganda en de dood van anderen.
Ik denk niet dat de familie van de neergehaalde piloten en observators hem ook een held vonden. Ik vind hem wel eerder een legendarisch figuur.

Noel Chavasse, dat is voor mij een held!

Chavasse en Richthofen zijn beide van ene totaal andere orde.
Plaats het eens in de juiste tijd?
En kijk eens met andere ogen?
Of vind je per definitie dat de Duitsers,, de slechterikken, geen helden mogen hebben?
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BerichtGeplaatst: 15 Jul 2005 13:35    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hauptmann schreef:
Yvonne schreef:
Maak ik uit jouw worden op dat jij het geen held vond Kristof?
Ik meende ergens gelezen te hebben dat ook zijn tegenstanders hem respecteerden, of ze hem een 'held' vonden is misschien het andere uiterste Smile

Ik geloof dat hij een redelijk nette begrafenis heeft gekregen van de de geallieerden.
http://www.awm.gov.au/1918/people/203456.htm


In Kampfflieger des Ersten Weltkriegs Ezra Brown ISBN 3860470566, is min of meer eenzelfde foto te zien uit dezelfde hoek. Daarop is onder andere ook nog te zien: Fransse dorpsbewoners, een Australische officier, ongeveer 50 geallieerde vliegers en een dominee/pastoor. Verder staat er bij dat er op de kist een krans lag van de Britten met opschrift "Unserem ritterlichen und geschätzten Gegner".

Op twee andere foto's is te zien:
- Een erenwacht van het 3. squadron van de Australische luchtmacht waartussendoor de kist gedragen wordt voorafgegaand door de dominee/pastoor. De kist werd gedragen door mannen met dezelfde rang als von Richthofen.
- De rouwstoet met twee auto's onder begeleiding van Engelse en Australische officieren en manschappen. In de tekst staat verder nog.

Quote:
Viele Kränze waren von den in der Nähe stationierten alliierten Staffeln geschickt worden und schmückten nun den Sarg, den vier allierte Flieger trugen.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 16 Jul 2005 7:44    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Dat is dan wel een uiterst nette begrafenis, van wat ik erover gelezen heb, was er een wederzijds respect onder de piloten.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Aug 2005 17:27    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

In True Fest, Kronprinz Rupprecht. Boek 2 pagina 387

21. April 1918
Gestern noch errang Rittmeister v. Richthofen seinen 80. Luftsieg, heute musste er wegen Motordefektes auf der feindlichen Seite im Gleitfluge landen. Der Verlust Richthofens ist für uns äusserst schmerzlich: der Anblick seines gefürchteten roten Flugzeuges wirkte allein schon einfschuchternd auf die feindlichen Flieger.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Aug 2005 14:14    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hallo,

Wat betreft von Richthofen moet men zich inderdaad naar de tijdsgeest verplaatsen.
MVR was een koele doder, met een jachtinstinct, maar door hem neergeschoten piloten die het overleefd hadden, werden uitgenodigd in de Duitse mess. Types zoals MVR vond men ook bij de geallieerde luchtazen.

MVR was ook een geboren leider met een neus voor 'talent'. De piloten door hem uitgekozen voor zijn Jasta, gingen voor hem door het vuur.
Het is een feit dat hij 'veranderd' was na zijn hoofdverwonding, wellicht werd hij zich ervan bewust dat hij niet onsterfelijk was.
In feite begon de legende van MVR reeds kort nadat hij neergeschoten was. Zijn rode Albatros driedekker DR.I werd 'gepluimd' door souvenierjagers.

Het respect tussen Duitse en geallieerde piloten was wederzijds.
Toen de Duitse luchtaas Werner Voss op 23/9/1917 sneuvelde nabij Frezenberg, nadat hij het alleen opgenomen had tegen een overmacht, vond zijn overwinnaar Rhys-Davids het spijtig dat Voss het niet overleefd had.

Berichten over gesneuvelde piloten werden door beide zijden overgevlogen naar het vliegveld van de gesneuvelde tegenstander. Daartoe werden de vliegtuigen uitgerust met witte linten, waardoor ze ongemoeid werden gelaten. Soms ging het echter mis, als de linten niet bemerkt werden.

Van veel ridderlijkheid was er echter geen sprake in de lucht, de zwakke, onervaren of gewonde tegenstander kwam het eerst aan de beurt.
(MVR behaalde zo verschillende van zijn overwinningen)


Groeten,

Cnock.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 07 Aug 2005 17:01    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Oeps ....Verbetering

MVR vloog met een Fokker driedekker ipv een Albatros toen hij sneuvelde.

Groeten,

Cnock.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Aug 2005 23:56    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hi,

Even een kleine reactie. MvR had misschien wel geen VC maar hij kreeg wel o.a. de Pour le Mérite, zeg maar de Duitse tegenhanger van de VC, meer nog Duitslands hoogste onderscheiding (enkel wat aanvullingen waren mogelijk zoals het Eikenloof of diamanten).

Het bijhouden van trofëen door piloten was een bijna algemene bezigheid aan Duitse zijde. Niet iets die typisch was voor MvR. Dit is één van de dingen die over hem algemeen bekend was en is, maar totaal geen alleenstaand feit, integendeel.

Dat hij zijn tegenstanders wist 'uit te kiezen' is ook een feit als je kijkt naar zijn overwinningen.

Maar we moeten ook eens iets anders onder ogen durven te zien. Het Duitse systeem voor het toekennen van overwinningen was zeer streng en to the point.
Als we bvb kijken naar het Britse systeem is dit net het omgekeerde. Als alle claims en toegekende overwinningen moesten kloppen dat waren er meer toestellen neergehaald door de Britten alleen dan dat er Duitse toestellen rondvlogen.
Ik weet dat dit onderwerp om verschillende forums voor nogal wat controverse gezorgd heeft, maar het is een realiteit. Ik bestudeer luchtoverwinningen sinds ongeveer twaalf jaar en iedereen die daar intens mee bezig is komt tot dezelfde conclusie.
Bij de Britten vinden we o.a. Out of Control. Dit is zeer ruim te interpreteren ! Eventjes wat rare bewegingen maken met je toestel en je was Out of Control. Zo kan je veel overwinningen behalen...

Laat ons eerlijk zijn 80 overwinningen, je moet het maar doen, dit is niet eventjes Red Baron 3D spelen of Wings of War van achter de computer, dit waren echte kogels die rondvlogen, ook rond de oren van MvR.

Echter ik moet zeggen dat hij ook niet mijn geprefereerde aas is, wat al duidelijk moet geweest zijn in een paar andere topics hier op het forum.

Johan
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Aug 2005 23:59    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

A propos, Chavasse vindt ik ook een echte held, ik heb een paar keer zijn graf bezocht en zijn naam en faam staan in mijn geheugen gegrift !

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BerichtGeplaatst: 11 Aug 2005 0:18    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Uit 'Under the guns of the Red Baron' blijkt dat MvR niet bepaald schuw was. Wel merk ik er een verschil wordt gemaakt tussen Duitse en Britse overwinningen in de lucht. Laten we MvR niet al te makkelijk bagatalisren.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Okt 2005 22:40    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hauptmann schreef:
Hauptmann schreef:
Yvonne schreef:
Maak ik uit jouw worden op dat jij het geen held vond Kristof?
Ik meende ergens gelezen te hebben dat ook zijn tegenstanders hem respecteerden, of ze hem een 'held' vonden is misschien het andere uiterste Smile

Ik geloof dat hij een redelijk nette begrafenis heeft gekregen van de de geallieerden.
http://www.awm.gov.au/1918/people/203456.htm


In Kampfflieger des Ersten Weltkriegs Ezra Brown ISBN 3860470566, is min of meer eenzelfde foto te zien uit dezelfde hoek. Daarop is onder andere ook nog te zien: Fransse dorpsbewoners, een Australische officier, ongeveer 50 geallieerde vliegers en een dominee/pastoor. Verder staat er bij dat er op de kist een krans lag van de Britten met opschrift "Unserem ritterlichen und geschätzten Gegner".

Op twee andere foto's is te zien:
- Een erenwacht van het 3. squadron van de Australische luchtmacht waartussendoor de kist gedragen wordt voorafgegaand door de dominee/pastoor. De kist werd gedragen door mannen met dezelfde rang als von Richthofen.
- De rouwstoet met twee auto's onder begeleiding van Engelse en Australische officieren en manschappen. In de tekst staat verder nog.

Quote:
Viele Kränze waren von den in der Nähe stationierten alliierten Staffeln geschickt worden und schmückten nun den Sarg, den vier allierte Flieger trugen.


Ik kan het nog sterker vertellen. In Four Years of Thunder
http://www.forumeerstewereldoorlog.nl/viewtopic.php?t=1918
Alflevering: Bloody April, zitten videobeelden van de begrafenis.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Okt 2005 22:41    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Yvonne schreef:
DNIF is the last thing any pilot wants to hear,” Orme said. “His friends knew he was different, his mother complained he was different, even he complained he was different. They didn’t have the regulations we do now and there were loopholes around what they had. However, he never should have been allowed back in that plane.”

Trieste zinnen dit.


Was het niet zo dat hij een baan bij de staf heeft aangeboden gekregen door de keizer maar dat hij dat zelf afwees?
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Okt 2005 23:11    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Was hij nog wel handelingsbekwaam, maw, kon hij zijn daden nog wel overzien?
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BerichtGeplaatst: 11 Okt 2005 5:59    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Yvonne schreef:
Was hij nog wel handelingsbekwaam, maw, kon hij zijn daden nog wel overzien?


Nou ja, als je zelf al aangeeft dat je niet meer dezelfde bent denk ik niet dat je hem die keuze had kunnen laten maken.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 25 Okt 2005 18:50    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hauptmann schreef:
Hauptmann schreef:
Yvonne schreef:
Maak ik uit jouw worden op dat jij het geen held vond Kristof?
Ik meende ergens gelezen te hebben dat ook zijn tegenstanders hem respecteerden, of ze hem een 'held' vonden is misschien het andere uiterste Smile

Ik geloof dat hij een redelijk nette begrafenis heeft gekregen van de de geallieerden.
http://www.awm.gov.au/1918/people/203456.htm


In Kampfflieger des Ersten Weltkriegs Ezra Brown ISBN 3860470566, is min of meer eenzelfde foto te zien uit dezelfde hoek. Daarop is onder andere ook nog te zien: Fransse dorpsbewoners, een Australische officier, ongeveer 50 geallieerde vliegers en een dominee/pastoor. Verder staat er bij dat er op de kist een krans lag van de Britten met opschrift "Unserem ritterlichen und geschätzten Gegner".

Op twee andere foto's is te zien:
- Een erenwacht van het 3. squadron van de Australische luchtmacht waartussendoor de kist gedragen wordt voorafgegaand door de dominee/pastoor. De kist werd gedragen door mannen met dezelfde rang als von Richthofen.
- De rouwstoet met twee auto's onder begeleiding van Engelse en Australische officieren en manschappen. In de tekst staat verder nog.

Quote:
Viele Kränze waren von den in der Nähe stationierten alliierten Staffeln geschickt worden und schmückten nun den Sarg, den vier allierte Flieger trugen.


Dom, want uiteraard staan deze foto's in een iets andere vorm bij Rosebud op de site. De daarbij staande foto's van het lichaam zal ik jullie onthouden.







http://www.earlyaviator.com/archive5.htm#fallen

Verder hier ook nog.

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War/Air_War/Richthofen_01.htm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 31 Dec 2005 14:48    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

1stLF/SRD @ 19 Feb 2005 21:32 schreef:
Er is al zoveel gediscusieerd over hoe deze "held" ,die meer dan 80 levens vernietigde en er nog "jacht" troffees van bijhield, gestorven is (of aan zijn einde gekomen is).

Ik hou het bij de Aussie versie. Neergeschoten door een Lewis bediend door een stel Aussies.
Het blijft de meest logische en aannemelijke versie.


Nou, daar denken andere mensen toch wat anders over. Helaas ook daar niet 100% zeker aan te duiden wie het dan wel was.

Quote:
CONCLUSIONS
Who shot Baron Manfred von Richthofen? There can only be four possible answers.

1. Richthofen was shot by Captain Brown.
The postmortem examinations revealed entrance and exit wounds from a bullet which must have entered the body from the right, from the side, from behind and from below the body as it was sitting in the cockpit. Such a track means that the bullet would have passed through Richthofen’s heart. Although Captain Brown did approach from Richthofen’s right, it is difficult to see how, firing as he did from above, he could have inflicted such a wound unless Richthofen was steeply banking his triplane at the time that he was shot. For what it is worth, the newspaper article in the Chicago ‘Sunday Tribune’, attributed to Captain Brown, did not mention such a bank. In this article Brown referred to Richthofen looking back at him when Brown fired at him and a steep bank therefore seems most unlikely.

Be that as it may, there is ample evidence from eye witnesses that Richthofen continued to pursue Lieutenant May along the Somme valley for about a minute, firing his gun and concentrating on his target. This would have been impossible if Richthofen had been shot through the heart by Brown.

2. He was shot by Gunner Robert Buie.
Again the track of the bullet makes it very unlikely that Buie could have shot Richthofen. From the statement attributed to Buie by Titler, Buie was firing when the triplane: “was bearing frontal and just a little to the right of me” and he could not have inflicted the wound that entered the body from behind. Buie stated: ‘Still Richthofen came on firing at Lieutenant May with both guns blazing. Then just before my last shots finished at a range of 40 yards Richthofen's guns stopped abruptly...” Therefore at no time did Buie fire at Richthofen from behind.

3. He was shot by Sergeant Popkin.
Bean and Carisella both came to this conclusion and this is supported by abundant eye witness evidence and by the track of the bullet Popkin first fired when Richthofen was approaching him from the Somme valley but he failed to stop Richthofen. After coming under fire from Buie and Gunner Evans, at the Lewis gun emplacement, the German aeroplane turned away from the gunfire and it was then, when the triplane was flying away from Popkin, that he opened fire with his Vickers gun for the second time. (26) Popkin continued to fire while the triplane completed the turn, and actually flew towards the Vickers gun, but there is no doubt that Popkin could have inflicted a bullet wound that entered Richthofen from below, from the side and slightly behind, just as was found at the postmortem examination. Neither Captain Brown nor Gunner Buie could have inflicted such a wound and it is therefore more probable than not that it was indeed Popkin who fired the fatal shot.

I say “more probable than not” because it is impossible to exclude the fourth possibility.

4. Richthofen was shot by an unknown Australian soldier who fired his rifle at the triplane as it flew over him and who scored a lucky hit.
This can never be disproved as the .303 rifle bullet was used by the Lee-Enfield Service rifle as well as the Lewis gun and the Vickers machine gun.

All that we can be sure of is that the entry and exit wounds on von Richthofen’s body meant that the bullet passed through the heart, or great vessels, and he could not have remained conscious for more than about thirty seconds after being hit. The fatal bullet had therefore to have been fired at von Richthofen at the end of the pursuit and this is likely to have been at the time when the triplane was observed to turn away from the hill where the Lewis gun batteries were situated.

SUMMARY
The Official post mortem examination report is, in all probability, flawed and it is most likely that the bullet track was along a line joining the entrance and exit wounds. In other words the bullet came from behind, below and lateral to von Richthofen. There is little doubt that the bullet penetrated his heart and was fatal. Neither Captain Brown nor Gunner Buie could have inflicted such a wound.

The only known gunner that could have done so was Sergeant Popkin when he opened fire for the second time when Richthofen was turning away from him. Richthofen then lost control of his aeroplane and crashed, he was dead when his aeroplane hit the ground.

From the evidence of the postmortem examination and from eyewitnesses it was therefore most probably Sergeant Popkin who fired the fatal shot, although a lucky shot from an unknown soldier firing his rifle can not be excluded.



http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/comment/richt.htm
Daar staat ook de complete analyse van de verhalen.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Jan 2006 20:45    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote


Richard Raymond-Barker,
dernière victime de
Manfred von Richthofen




http://www.tao-yin.com/baron-rouge/cirque.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 19 Feb 2006 15:26    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hauptmann @ 31 Dec 2005 14:48 schreef:
1stLF/SRD @ 19 Feb 2005 21:32 schreef:
Ik hou het bij de Aussie versie. Neergeschoten door een Lewis bediend door een stel Aussies. Het blijft de meest logische en aannemelijke versie.


Nou, daar denken andere mensen toch wat anders over. Helaas ook daar niet 100% zeker aan te duiden wie het dan wel was.

Quote:
CONCLUSIONS
Who shot Baron Manfred von Richthofen? There can only be four possible answers. (...)


Slechts 4 mogelijke antwoorden? Ik kwam een tekst tegen waarin men tot wel 7 scenario's komt! Waarvan er overigens twee tot de meest voor de hand liggende worden gerekend. Kijk eens op: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/redbaron/theories.html.

Deze pagina maakt onderdeel van de site van een tv-programma, Who killed the Red Baron. De video van het programma is via de site te koop. Link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/redbaron/
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BerichtGeplaatst: 31 Mrt 2006 12:09    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Over zijn eerdere verwonding:

Quote:
Then, on July 2, he encountered the British RFC 20th Squadron, and two of its pilots: Flt. Cdr. A. E. Woodbridge and Capt. Pilot D. C. Cunnell. Woodbridge described the action:

Cunnell handled the old FE for all she was worth, banking her from one side to the other, ducking dives from above and missing head-on collisions by bare margins of feet. The air was full of whizzing machines, and the noise from the full-out motors and the crackling machine guns was more than deafening ... Cunnell and I fired into four of the Albatroses from as close as thirty yards, and I saw my tracers go right into their bodies. Those four went down ... Some of them were on fire - just balls of smoke and flame - a nasty sight to see.

Two of them came at us head-on, and the first one was Richthofen. There wasn't a thing on that machine that wasn't red, and how he could fly! I opened fire with the front Lewis and so did Cunnell with the side gun. Cunnell held the FE on her course and so did the pilot of the all-red scout [Richthofen]. With our combined speeds, we approached each other at 250 miles per hour ... I kept a steady stream of lead pouring into the nose of that machine.

Then ... The Albatros' pointed her nose down suddenly and passed under us. Cunnell banked and turned. We saw the all-red plane slip into a spin. It turned over and over, round and round, completely out of control. His motor was going full on, so I figured I had at least wounded him. As his head was the only part that wasn't protected by his motor, I thought that's where he was hit.

Indeed, a British bullet had creased and partially splintered his skull. Despite the best treatment available for the national hero, the wound never properly healed; the scar tissue, bone splinters and even thorns continued to cause Richthofen maddeningly painful headaches. He went home on leave, but when he returned, his skills were off. He went two weeks without a kill.

http://www.acepilots.com/wwi/ger_richthofen.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 30 Apr 2006 12:50    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Filmpje.
http://yvonne.fok.nl/[Video]%20Red%20baron.mpg

Haupt, bedankt!
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BerichtGeplaatst: 02 Jun 2006 22:19    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Beste,
De recentste onderzoeken hebben aangetoond dat von Richthofen dodelijk getroffen werd door een kogel komende van de grond dewelke ons vrijwel definitief laat concluderen dat we de andere pistes mogen uitsluiten.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 09 Jun 2006 6:36    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Ng een iets ouder artikel gevonden:

Red Baron brought down by a shot fired the previous year
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
(Filed: 22/09/2004)

A head wound suffered by the Red Baron the year before his death was the underlying reason he was eventually shot down, according to a study by neuroscientists.

There has been endless speculation over who killed the 25-year-old First World War flying ace but the new study suggests that more credit is due to the British airman who grazed his skull in 1917 than to the Australian gunner who eventually brought him down in 1918.

The killing machine feared by the Allies and revered by his countrymen suffered significant brain damage to his frontal lobes when a machinegun round fired by Second Lieutenant A E Woodbridge of the Royal Flying Corps splintered his skull.

Against the advice of doctors and despite suffering nausea, headaches and fatigue, the baron was driven by a sense of duty to resume command of his "Flying Circus".

The most successful pilot of the war was still unfit to fly - his head wound had not healed - when his red Fokker triplane was shot down nine months later, according to a study in a forthcoming issue of Human Factors and Aerospace Safety.

The authors, Prof Daniel Orme of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Dr Thomas Hyatt, a semi-retired neuropsychologist of Cincinnati's Veterans' Administration Medical Centre, were inspired to investigate by a television documentary on the death of Manfred von Richthofen.

Dr Hyatt came across an earlier review of the baron's medical record in the Lancet by Dr Henning Allmers, a German, who suggested that he may have been unfit to fly. Yesterday, the American team spelt out the consequences of his wound.

It made the baron "disinhibited", so he pulled childish and impulsive stunts that were out of character. He also showed target fixation, recklessly pursuing a fleeing British pilot over enemy lines. "The baron violated the basic principles set forth in the air combat operations manual he himself wrote," they said.

Had he been evaluated today, "he would have been given that pronouncement feared by all aviators, DNIF (Duties Not to Include Flying)," said Prof Orme.

Woodbridge inflicted the fateful wound on July 6, 1917, by which time the baron had been awarded the coveted Pour le Merite - the Blue Max - and had 57 victories.

He had attacked British biplanes and was nonplussed when Woodbridge opened fire from his FE2 bomber. The baron later recalled: "I calmly let him shoot, for even the best sharpshooter's marksmanship could not help at a distance of 300 metres. One just does not hit.

"Suddenly something struck me in the head. For a moment, my whole body was paralysed. My arms hung down limply beside me; my legs flopped loosely beyond my control. The worst was that a nerve leading to my eyes had been paralysed and I was completely blind."

Richthofen quickly regained power over his arms and legs and enough eyesight to land but then passed out. There was a 4in groove in his skull and his record refers to "severe concussion and even more probable, a cerebral haemorrhage".

Although he complained of head pains, dizziness and a buzzing in his ears, Richthofen was back in the air 40 days later and succeed in adding another kill to his record. But he experienced such nausea and weakness that, after a shaky landing, he had to be helped from his plane and put to bed by his batman. On the day he died, April 22, he chased a disarmed Sopwith Camel flown by a Canadian newcomer, Lt Wilfred May, down to treetop level and through enemy lines, while himself being pursued by a second fighter.

"There were bits and pieces of his aircraft flying off, but he persevered," said Dr Hyatt.

Richthofen was attacked by the Australian 24th machinegun battery along with the anti-aircraft batteries of the 53rd Australian Field Artillery. One of the gunners, Robert Buie, later wrote: "Had he not been so intent upon shooting down Lt May, he could have easily manoeuvred his machine."

This fixated behaviour is typical of damage to the frontal lobes, where "executive functioning" takes place, affecting reasoning, memory, and emotional control.

"The baron was a hunter, and this instinct became unbridled," said Dr Hyatt. "When he found himself in trouble he could not or would not break off the pursuit to save himself. This rigid behaviour is perseveration, associated with dysfunction involving the frontal lobes."

When one of the many gunners found his mark the baron's guns stopped abruptly, his goggles flew out of the plane and there was a change in the engine sounds. By the time allied soldiers reached the wrecked triplane, von Richthofen was dead.

Alan Bennett, a Canadian historian and co-author of The Red Baron's Last Flight, said that the injury may have affected von Richthofen's judgment but not his flying ability, pointing out that he had shot down two Sopwith Camels within a few minutes the day before.

Bennett points out that another critical factor was that the prevailing winds had reversed direction and clouds obscured the ground, so German pilots had inadvertently drifted into Allied territory. Dr Hyatt replied: "When you do an accident investigation, you usually find factors built upon each other. That is what happened with the Red Baron."


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/22/wbaron22.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/09/22/ixportal.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 28 Jul 2006 8:11    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Voor wie er niet genoeg van krijgt:

http://aerostories.free.fr/events/MvR/Richthofen-eng.pdf
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BerichtGeplaatst: 04 Aug 2006 13:55    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Oh, ik zie dat het opgelost is...

Quote:

-Manfred von Richthoven was de bekendste Duitse jachtvlieger uit de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Zijn Engelse tegenstanders vreesden hem als een geduchte tegenstander. Von Richthoven kreeg de bijnaam De Rode Baron, omdat zijn driedekker bloedrood geverfd was en zijn gedrag respect afdwong door zijn ridderlijke gedrag.
De Britse kapitein Roy Brown liet zien dat ridderlijkheid in een moderne oorlog niet thuis hoorde. In april 1918 versloeg Brown De Rode Baron in een verbitterd luchtgevecht. De dood van Von Richthoven symboliseert volgens velen, het einde van de oude oorlogsopvatting, waarin het gevecht werd gezien als een sportief duel.
-


Geweldige bron:
http://www.absofacts.com/biografie/data/richthofenmanfredvon.shtml

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BerichtGeplaatst: 04 Aug 2006 15:17    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Quote:
Vaux-sur-Somme
Op 2 mei 1918 werd Manfred von Richthofen zelf neergehaald bij Vaux-sur-Somme in Frankrijk. Hermann Göring volgde Von Richthofen op als leider van het succesvolle eskadron.


Zelfde pagina, tsja...

We slaan gewoon iemand over

Quote:
Geschwader-Kommandeure:
Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (1892 - 1918)
26. Juni 1917 - 21. April 1918

Hauptmann Wilhelm Reinhard (1891 - 1918)
22. April 1918 - 03. Juli 1918

Oberleutnant Hermann Göring (1893 - 1946)
06. Juli 1918 - November 1918


http://www.frontflieger.de/2-jg1.html
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BerichtGeplaatst: 04 Aug 2006 17:53    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Hauptmann @ 04 Aug 2006 16:17 schreef:
Quote:
Vaux-sur-Somme
Op 2 mei 1918 werd Manfred von Richthofen zelf neergehaald bij Vaux-sur-Somme in Frankrijk. Hermann Göring volgde Von Richthofen op als leider van het succesvolle eskadron.


Zelfde pagina, tsja...

We slaan gewoon iemand over

Quote:
Geschwader-Kommandeure:
Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (1892 - 1918)
26. Juni 1917 - 21. April 1918

Hauptmann Wilhelm Reinhard (1891 - 1918)
22. April 1918 - 03. Juli 1918

Oberleutnant Hermann Göring (1893 - 1946)
06. Juli 1918 - November 1918


http://www.frontflieger.de/2-jg1.html


Zetten ze nu op 1 pagina dat hij in april en mei de dood vond?

"
Vaux-sur-Somme
Op 2 mei 1918 werd Manfred von Richthofen zelf neergehaald bij Vaux-sur-Somme in Frankrijk. Hermann Göring volgde Von Richthofen op als leider van het succesvolle eskadron."


"n april 1918 versloeg Brown De Rode Baron in een verbitterd luchtgevecht. De dood van Von Richthoven symboliseert volgens velen, het einde van de oude oorlogsopvatting, waarin het gevecht werd gezien als een sportief duel. "

http://www.absofacts.com/biografie/data/richthofenmanfredvon.shtml
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BerichtGeplaatst: 04 Aug 2006 19:06    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

En nog zo een:


De Rode Baron.

Manfred von Richthofen was de bekendste en meest succesvolste aas uit de eerste wereldoorlog. Vanaf September 1916 organiseerden de Duitsers hun "Jagdstaffeln" ofwel eskaders in grotere eenheden, die op de meest bedreigde plaatsen konden worden ingezet. Het eerste van deze nieuwe eskaders, Jagdgeschwader 1, stond onder commando van Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen. Zijn eskader trok als een reizend circus van de ene frontsector naar de andere. Met treinen en vrachtauto's werden de vliegtuigen in gedemonteerde staat naar de meest bedreigde gebieden getransporteerd. Waar Von Richthofens vliegtuigen, die in vele kleuren geschilderd waren in de lucht verschenen werden ze meteen herkend. Ze kregen van de Engelsen al snel de bijnaam 'Richthofens Flying Circus'. Von Richthofen zelf , wiens machine geheel rood was geschilderd, kreeg de bijnaam 'De Rode Baron'. Onder zijn leiding groeide het eskader uit tot een hechte eenheid, de prestaties van zijn vliegers oogsten alom bewondering. Von Richthofen zelf was bezeten van souveniers, vaak landde hij naast het toestel dat hij zo juist had neergehaald en sneed hij het serienummer uit de romp of nam hij het machinegeweer of de vleugelsteunen mee.
Na zijn eerste overwinning had hij bij een juwelier in Berlijn een kleine zilveren beker besteld waarin het vliegtuigtype van zijn slachtoffer en de datum van het wapenfeit waren gegraveerd. Na elke volgende overwinning bestelde hij een nieuwe beker. Toen de juwelier de zestigste had verstuurd, was zijn zilvervoorraad op en moest de baron het verder zonder dergelijke trofeeën stellen. In het laatste jaar van de oorlog vloog Von Richthofen bij voorkeur tegen de avond met 20 tot 40 van zijn mannen uitdagend boven de frontlijn heen en weer. Ze vlogen dan in drie groepen, trapsgewijs boven en achter elkaar, zo waren ze beschermd tegen vijandelijke vliegergroepen die hun van boven af zouden kunnen aanvallen. Toch begon Von Richthofen steeds riskanter en onoplettender te vliegen waardoor hij een aantal keer gewond raakte en zich ternauwernood kon redden. Helaas was 21 April 1918 de dag dat zijn geluk op was, er zijn verschillende verhalen verteld over hoe hij is gesneuveld, hij zou zijn neergehaald tijdens een luchtgevecht. Maar de echte waarheid zou zijn dat hij is neergeschoten door Canadese artillerie onderleiding van Captain Roy Brown. Manfred von Richthofen werd op 22 April 1918 door de Britten met volledige militaire eer begraven en zal altijd bekend blijven als de grootste gevechtsvlieger uit " The Great War ".

http://home.wanadoo.nl/greatwar14-18/rode%20baron.htm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 04 Aug 2006 21:16    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

schater schater schater

Seffens is er nog een slachtoffer en lach ik mij dood !
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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Okt 2006 7:52    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Inside the Baron's Mind

Manfred von Richthofen, aka the "Red Baron," was the highest-scoring fighter pilot of World War I. In 20 months of combat, he officially shot down 80 enemy aircraft, including 21 planes in the month of April, 1917, alone. For his achievements, Richthofen received 24 military decorations, more than any other German aviator of the Great War. Until he himself was shot down in April, 1918, Allied pilots had ample reason to dread the sudden appearance of the Baron's bright-red fighter sweeping towards them out of the sun, and many must have wondered what went on inside his head.

Here's your chance to find out. Below, we present excerpts from Richthofen's autobiography Der Rote Kampfflieger (The Red Air Fighter), which originally appeared in Germany in 1917. (The excerpts below come from an English translation published in London in 1918 by The "Aeroplane" & General Publishing Co.). While German propagandists and censors edited the book, it does provide insight into the Baron's thoughts. Two additional excerpts from other sources follow, one by Richthofen that reveals how his attitudes toward "the game" changed toward the end of his life, and the other by his mother that describes his eerie inscrutability on his final visit home. —Peter Tyson

Born on May 2, 1892, in Breslau, Lower Silesia (now Wroclaw, Poland), Manfred von Richthofen came from a distinguished Prussian family whose roots could be traced back to the Middle Ages. His father, a career army officer, felt Manfred (along with his two brothers) should follow in his footsteps, and he enrolled the future Red Baron in the Cadet Institute at Wahlstatt (now Legnicke Pole, Poland). Early hints of his adventurous spirit come out here.

As a little boy of 11 I entered the Cadet Corps. I was not particularly eager to become a Cadet, but my father wished it. So my wishes were not consulted.

I found it difficult to bear the strict discipline and to keep order. I did not care very much for the instruction I received. I never was good at learning things. I did just enough work to pass. In my opinion it would have been wrong to do more than was just sufficient, so I worked as little as possible. The consequence was that my teachers did not think overmuch of me. On the other hand, I was very fond of sport, particularly I liked gymnastics, football, etc. I could do all possible tricks on the horizontal bar. So I received various prizes from the Commandant.

I had a tremendous liking for all sorts of risky tricks. One fine day I climbed with my friend Frankenberg the famous steeple of Wahlstatt by means of the lightning conductor and tied my handkerchief to the top. I remember exactly how difficult it was to negotiate the gutters. Ten years later, when I visited my little brother at Wahlstatt, I saw my handkerchief still tied up high in the air.

Before he became a pilot, Richthofen, like many German officers, trained as an "observer." Assigned to an aviation training unit at Cologne, he accompanied an enlisted pilot in a two-seater Albatros, directing the pilot where to fly over the lines so he could gather intelligence. Here, Richthofen gives a frank description of his shaky first flight as an observer.

The next morning at seven o'clock I was to fly for the first time as an observer! I was naturally very excited, for I had no idea what it would be like. Everyone whom I had asked about his feelings told me a different tale. The night before, I went to bed earlier than usual in order to be thoroughly refreshed the next morning. We drove over to the flying ground, and I got for the first time into a flying machine. The draught from the propeller was a beastly nuisance. I found it quite impossible to make myself understood by the pilot. Everything was carried away by the wind. If I took up a piece of paper it disappeared. My safety helmet slid off. My muffler dropped off. My jacket was not sufficiently buttoned. In short, I felt very uncomfortable. Before I knew what was happening, the pilot went ahead at full speed and the machine started rolling. We went faster and faster. I clutched the sides of the car. Suddenly, the shaking was over, the machine was in the air, and the earth dropped away from under me.

“It was a glorious feeling to be so high above the earth, to be master of the air.”

I had been told where we were to fly to. I was to direct my pilot. At first we flew right ahead, then my pilot turned to the right, then to the left, but I had lost all sense of direction above our own aerodrome. I had not the slightest notion where I was. I began very cautiously to look over the side at the country. The men looked ridiculously small. The houses seemed to come out of a child's toy box. Everything seemed pretty. Cologne was in the background. The cathedral looked like a little toy. It was a glorious feeling to be so high above the earth, to be master of the air. I didn't care a bit where I was, and I felt extremely sad when my pilot thought it was time to go down again.

Richthofen's first posting as a pilot of single-seaters was to the eastern front. There, the German ace Oswald Boelcke—the first German pilot (along with fellow ace Max Immelmann) to receive the Orden Pour le Mérite, Germany's premier award for bravery—chose Richthofen and another young pilot, Erwin Böhme, to join his new fighter unit. Less than three months later, while chasing a British fighter, Boelcke and Böhme's planes collided. Böhme landed safely, but Boelcke's plane lost a wing and, as Richthofen later described it, he "rushed into the abyss." At his death, Boelcke had 40 victories to his name. Here, the green Richthofen describes first meeting the great Boelcke.

The Champagne battle was raging. The French flying men were coming to the fore. We were to be combined in a Fighting Squadron and took the train on the 1st of October, 1915.

In the dining car, at the table next to me, was sitting a young and insignificant-looking lieutenant. There was no reason to take any note of him except for the fact that he was the only man who had succeeded in shooting down a hostile flying-man, not once but four times. His name had been mentioned in the dispatches. I thought a great deal of him because of his experience. Although I had taken the greatest trouble, I had not brought an enemy down up to that time. At least I had not been credited with a success.

I would have liked so much to find out how Lieutenant Boelcke managed his business. So I asked him: "Tell me, how do you manage it?" He seemed very amused and laughed, although I had asked him quite seriously. Then he replied: "Well, it is quite simple. I fly close to my man, aim well, and then of course he falls down." I shook my head and told him that I did the same thing but my opponents unfortunately did not come down. The difference between him and I was that he flew a Fokker and I my big fighting machine.

I took great trouble to get more closely acquainted with that nice, modest fellow whom I badly wanted to teach me his business. We often played cards together, went for walks, and I asked him questions. At last I formed a resolution that I also would learn to fly a Fokker. Perhaps then my chances would improve.

My whole aim and ambition became now concentrated upon learning how to manipulate the stick myself. Hitherto I had been nothing but an observer. Happily I soon found an opportunity to learn piloting on an old machine in the Champagne. I threw myself into the work with body and soul, and after twenty-five training flights I stood before the examination in flying alone.

On November 22, 1916, Boelcke's successor as leader of Richthofen's unit was killed in a battle with British planes of No. 24 Squadron. The following day, the Baron and his compatriots ambushed that squadron, and Richthofen succeeded in shooting down its commanding officer, Lanoe G. Hawker. One of the top English aces, Hawker was the first British pilot to receive the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for valor. Richthofen's description of that dogfight hints at the great respect pilots on both sides had for their opponents.

I was extremely proud when one fine day I was informed that the aviator whom I had brought down on the 23rd November, 1916, was the English Immelmann.

In view of the character of our fight it was clear to me that I had been tackling a flying champion.

One day I was blithely flying to give chase when I noticed three Englishmen who also had apparently gone a-hunting. I noticed that they were interested in my direction, and as I felt much inclination to have a fight I did not want to disappoint them.

I was flying at a lower altitude. Consequently I had to wait until one of my English friends tried to drop on me. After a short while one of the three came sailing along and wanted to tackle me in the rear. After firing five shots he had to stop, for I had swerved in a sharp curve.

The Englishman tried to catch me up in the rear while I tried to get behind him. So we circled round and round like madmen after one another at an altitude of about 10,000 feet.

First we circled twenty times to the left, and then thirty times to the right. Each tried to get behind and above the other.

“The gallant fellow was full of pluck, and when we had got down to about 3,000 feet he merrily waved to me.”

Soon I discovered that I was not meeting a beginner. He had not the slightest intention of breaking off the fight. He was traveling in a box which turned beautifully. However, my own was better at climbing than his. But I succeeded at last in getting above and beyond my English waltzing partner.

When we had got down to about 6,000 feet without having achieved anything particular, my opponent ought to have discovered that it was time for him to take his leave. The wind was favorable to me, for it drove us more and more towards the German position. At last we were above Bapaume, about half a mile behind the German front. The gallant fellow was full of pluck, and when we had got down to about 3,000 feet he merrily waved to me as if he would say, Well, how do you do?

The circles which we made around one another were so narrow that their diameter was probably no more than 250 or 300 feet. I had time to take a good look at my opponent. I looked down into his carriage and could see every movement of his head. If he had not had his cap on I would have noticed what kind of a face he was making.

My Englishman was a good sportsman, but by and by the thing became a little too hot for him. He had to decide whether he would land on German ground or whether he would fly back to the English lines. Of course he tried the latter, after having endeavored in vain to escape me by loopings and such tricks. At that time his first bullets were flying around me, for so far neither of us had been able to do any shooting.

When he had come down to about 300 feet he tried to escape by flying in a zig-zag course, which makes it difficult for an observer on the ground to shoot. That was my most favorable moment. I followed him at an altitude of from 250 feet to 150 feet, firing all the time. The Englishman could not help falling. But the jamming of my gun nearly robbed me of my success.

My opponent fell, shot through the head, 150 feet behind our line. His machine gun was dug out of the ground, and it ornaments the entrance of my dwelling.

The legend of the "Red Baron" took flight after Richthofen decided to have his Albatros DIII painted entirely red; even the iron cross, the national insignia prominently displayed on each plane's fuselage, gained a crimson cast. On January 24, 1917, the Baron achieved his 18th victory when he brought down an English two-seater bearing Captain Oscar Greig and Second Lieutenant John E. MacLenan of No. 25 Squadron. The two Englishmen survived to chat with Richthofen, who crash-landed his own plane nearby when bullets from MacLenan's machine gun cracked his lower wing.

It occurred to me to have my packing case painted all over in staring red. The result was that everyone got to know my red bird. My opponents also seemed to have heard of the color transformation.

During a fight on quite a different section of the front I had the good fortune to shoot into a Vickers' two-seater which was peacefully photographing the German artillery position. My friend the photographer had not the time to defend himself. He had to make haste to get down upon firm ground, for his machine began to give suspicious indications of fire. When we notice that phenomenon, we say: "He stinks!" As it turned out, it was really so. When the machine was coming to earth it burst into flames.

I felt some human pity for my opponent and had resolved not to cause him to fall down but merely to compel him to land. I did so particularly because I had the impression that my opponent was wounded, for he did not fire a single shot.

When I had got down to an altitude of about 1,500 feet engine trouble compelled me to land without making any curves. The result was very comical. My enemy with his burning machine landed smoothly, while I, his victor, came down next to him in the barbed wire of our trenches and my machine overturned.

The two Englishmen, who were not a little surprised at my collapse, greeted me like sportsmen. As mentioned before, they had not fired a shot, and they could not understand why I had landed so clumsily. They were the first two Englishmen whom I had brought down alive. Consequently, it gave me particular pleasure to talk to them. I asked them whether they had previously seen my machine in the air, and one of them replied, "Oh, yes. I know your machine very well. We call it 'Le Petit Rouge' ("The Little Red")."

The 1933 edition of Der Rote Kampfflieger includes an essay "Reflections in a Dugout," which author Frank McGuire translated and published in his book The Many Deaths of the Red Baron: The Richthofen Controversy 1918-2000 (Bunker to Bunker Publishing, 2001). In this short piece, which we use with permission, Richthofen assumes a deeply introspective, almost resigned stance that stands in marked contrast to the cool, confident tone struck in his autobiography. A severe head wound he received in July 1917 may have contributed to his change of outlook. In any case, the entry smacks almost of a man's final confession.

From the ceiling of my dugout hangs a lamp which I made from the engine of an aeroplane I had shot down. I fitted small bulbs into the cylinders; and if I lie awake at night and leave the light burning, its glow is reflected on the ceiling, and God knows the effect is grotesque and weird. When I lie like this I have plenty to think about. I write it down without knowing whether anyone besides my nearest relatives will ever see it. I go around thinking of continuing Der Rote Kampfflieger and for a very good reason indeed. Now the battle that is taking place on all fronts has become really serious; nothing remains of the "fresh, jolly war" as they used to call our activities at the outset. Now we must face up to a most desperate situation so that the enemy will not break into our land. Thus I have an uneasy feeling that the public has been exposed to another Richthofen, not the real me. Whenever I read the book I smile at its brashness. I no longer have that brash feeling. Not that I am afraid, though death may be right on my neck and I often think about it. Higher authority has suggested that I should quit flying before it catches up with me. But I should despise myself if, now that I am famous and heavily decorated, I consented to live on as a pensioner of my honor, preserving my precious life for the nation while every poor fellow in the trenches, who is doing his duty no less than I am doing mine, has to stick it out.

“When I again set foot on the ground I withdraw to my quarters and don’t want to see anybody or hear anything.”

I feel terrible after every air battle, probably an after-effect of my head wound. When I again set foot on the ground I withdraw to my quarters and don't want to see anybody or hear anything. I think of the war as it really is, not "with a hurrah and a roar" as the people at home imagine it; it is much more serious, bitter.

In 1937, Richthofen's mother, the Baroness Kunigunde von Richthofen, published Mein Kriegstagebuch (My War Diary), a vivid memoir of the war years. In her diary, which was recently translated into English by Suzanne Hayes Fischer under the title Mother of Eagles: The War Diary of Baroness von Richthofen (Schiffer Military History, 2001), the Baroness recalls her son's last visit home in January 1918. He was killed three months later, on the 21st of April. The excerpt below is used with permission.

Together we inspected the pictures that Manfred had brought along from the Front. A very fine photo showed a group of young flying officers—his comrades from the first air action in Russia. In the center below them was Manfred. I looked at the picture of all the laughing young men and was pleased with it.

"What has become of him?" I pointed to the first: "Fallen." I indicated the second: "Also dead," and his voice sounded harsh. "Ask no further—they are all dead." All dead—except Manfred. As if he read my thoughts from my forehead: "You don't need to worry. In the air I have nothing to fear—not in the air. We can cope with them, even if there were many more."

And after a pause:

"The worst that could happen to me would be if I had to land on the other side."

He strode to the window. Lost in thought, his eyes looked outside, as if they saw something in the far distance.

"I certainly believe that the English would behave decently toward you."

It was a long time before he answered. He still stared out of the window.

Then it came slowly from his lips—as if he didn't wish to discuss it further:

"I believe it too."

Now ask no further, said a voice within me. If someone stands before one, who is so near to death, who stares him in the eye more than once every day—and this someone is one's own child—then one is careful and discreet with every word.

Should one admonish? That is useless, they do their best anyhow.

Should one pass on fears or worries to them? That would be intolerable for them.

Should one complain? No, I could not do that, I could not act so small and wretched.

So one keeps silent, one seeks to savor the moment, to enjoy the presence of the other, one was happy, as one must be with young men who spend a short couple of leave-days in the homeland and should like to think back on them—not encumbered with the thought of a sorrowful mother at home.

In this mind (of course, never spoken aloud) we always relished the visits of our young warriors. That way, one also had the greatest understanding with them; they became open and happy, they loved to be around us all the more.

Together we went to Rankau for my sister's birthday. I said to Manfred:

"You have already vanquished your opponents 62 times in aerial combat. Such an individual achievement is without example. Already now your name is immortal."

“I think he has seen death too often.”

Manfred said nothing, only a small, melancholy smile passed over his mouth. What he thought—I knew not.

He was serious—very serious—and quiet.

I found Manfred very changed, anyhow. Although he looked healthier and fresher compared to when he was on leave in the fall, certainly the high spirits—the lightheartedness—the playfulness—were lacking in his character. He was taciturn, aloof, almost unapproachable; every one of his words seemed to come from an unknown distance.

Why this change? The thought haunted me, turned over and over, while the wheels beneath me pounded monotonously, as if they had their own language.

I think he has seen death too often.

I pulled myself back into my corner and kept quiet. Listened to the relentless pounding of the wheels. One word would not get out of my mind, I wanted to banish it, scolded myself over it, over my despondency; but it kept on turning:

Manfred needed to go to the dentist, to have some sort of small, everyday treatment done. Then he said quietly to himself—but I still heard it:

"Actually, there is really no point in it any more." There was the word before me like a haunting ghost and would not be banished. Even the wheels under me beat it out on the rails in rattling, imperturbable tempo.

I closed my eyes, did it as if I wanted to rest. Actually, none of his movements eluded me. How hard his features had become; only the well-chiselled mouth, which could laugh so amiably, still retained the old charm.

Something painful lay around the eyes and temples, something that was hard to explain. Was it the presentiment of the future—the serious outcome of the war that he feared, that threw its shadows over him? Or was it indeed only an after-effect of the deep head wound that he had received in the summer?!

Certainly—he had never complained, but for a time it had crippled all his strength. He had looked altered; very wretched and sensitive, as I saw him again at that time. That was now past. But the solemnity, the formality, almost dignity, the enigma had taken his place.
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Americans Against the Baron
by Peter Tyson


"We fly very low, so you can imagine what two machine guns on each aeroplane, flying full in the face of the enemy, can do. It is very exciting work."

—Stephen Tyson, in a letter to his father dated May 1, 1918, ten weeks before he was shot down

Long before the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, the great aerial dogfights that took place between Allied and German pilots over Europe—a deadly arabesque whose leading avatar was Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron"—often as not involved American pilots. As early as August 1914, within weeks of the outbreak of war between France and Germany, young Americans began enlisting in France's Service Aeronautique, and by early 1916, an all-American squadron, the Lafayette Escadrille, had been formed.

But so many Americans volunteered that the Franco-American executive committee, which had established the Lafayette Escadrille, launched the Lafayette Flying Corps (LFC) to place would-be aviators from the U.S. with existing French escadrilles, or airplane squadrons. Individual or sometimes several American pilots joined any one of several dozen combat squadrons, which were called "Spads" because they used primarily Spad single-seat fighters.

By war's end, more than 250 American pilots had served in the LFC, and 63 had died either in combat, from wounds sustained in combat, or in airplane accidents.

What drove young Americans to risk their lives for France? What was it like to fly relatively primitive fighter planes less than 15 years after the Wright Brothers made the first powered airplane flight? How did it feel to engage the enemy high over the front lines? To crash planes, as most invariably did? To feel the threat of imminent, violent death?

To find out, I investigated the short life of my great-uncle Stephen Tyson. As a child I remember hearing that he'd been shot down over France by the Red Baron in 1918. As I looked into it, I determined several things: that my relatives had always spoken figuratively and Tyson wasn't shot down by Richthofen himself but by one (or possibly several) of the Baron's compatriots. That the circumstances of his death could hardly have been more spectacular had it been the Baron himself who'd brought him down. And that, most significantly in terms of my desire to know what it was like for the average LFC pilot, his experience in French aviation, including his short-lived tenure and the manner of his death, was typical, sobering as it was.

Giving oneself to France

Stephen Mitchell Tyson was born on March 12, 1898, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the second oldest of 12 children. (My grandfather, Stephen's younger brother, is the only one of those 12 still living, at age 99.) Stephen's father Stuart was a clergyman who moved the family five times in 14 years. This constant uprooting, combined with the untimely death of his mother Katharine in 1915, left Stephen feeling restless, and he did what many future pilots of the LFC did: he joined the American Ambulance Field Service in France, to drive ambulances at the front lines. He was fresh out of high school.

“I am wrapped up in the cause of France. I have decided to give myself to her.”

This was a time when America adored France, its long-time ally, and all things French, which represented the height of refined culture and society. Letters home from young Americans in the ambulance service reveal a boyish enthusiasm and a fervent if, in many cases, naïve desire to help save the Republic. On May 1, 1917, after six months at the front, Tyson wrote to his father:

I am delighted with my work here, in the ambulance service, and am wrapped up in the cause of France. I have decided to give myself to her . . . Knowing your sentiments on the war, I am sure you will have no objections to my doing what little I can for France. Dear Father, I realize that my chances for getting through are pretty slim, but it is well worth it by my having a chance to help crush those devils.

If his chances were slim in the ambulance service, they were far slimmer in the aviation service. But that fact hardly slowed him down, as was true with most future LFC pilots. Three weeks after he wrote the above letter, Tyson enlisted in the French Army as an aviator. All American candidates for the LFC had to present themselves to Dr. Edmund Gros, the head of the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris and founder of the LFC. Gros personally examined each candidate. Finding Tyson 15 pounds over the maximum allowable weight, Gros showed him the door. Even though it was "extremely irksome to his temperament," as James Norman Hall and Charles Bernard Nordhoff write in The Lafayette Flying Corps, the LFC's official history, Tyson spent the next month trimming off the extra weight with regular Turkish baths and exercise, and then passed muster.

Sent to aviation school, Tyson fell in with what Stuart Walcott, another LFC pilot-in-training, called "the oddest combination I've ever been thrown with: chauffeurs, second-story men, ex-college athletes, racing drivers, salesmen, young bums of leisure, a colored prize fighter, ex-Foreign Legionnaires, ball players, millionaires, and tramps." Such were the members of the LFC. "Not too good a crowd according to most standards," Walcott added, "but the worst bums may make the best aviators." They had come for different reasons. Some belonged to families who wished to protect property or other assets they owned in France. Others simply wanted to defend the much-admired Republic. Still others came with a thirst for adventure.

After five months of training at various aviation schools throughout France, Tyson earned his brevet, or military pilot's license. It was October 16, 1917, almost a year to the day after he had come to France. He'd earned his license on the Caudron, an obsolete and primitive plane, but by the spring he would be flying a brand-new, 180-horsepower Spad fighter, the latest French aerial fighting machine. (Its engine, one pilot wrote, "roars with a comfortable, heavy feeling of power.")

To the front

On December 19, Tyson was sent to the front as a member of Spad 85. He would become its longest-serving American member, lasting seven months before he was shot down. Seven months may not sound like a long time, but for a beginning LFC pilot it was significant. The most dangerous period for a pilot was his first month at the front, before he'd gained experience in spotting enemy aircraft. He had only a 50-50 chance of surviving that first month. Indeed, 80 percent of casualties in the LFC were suffered by pilots with fewer than 20 missions under their belt.

Spad 85's single-seat Nieuport and Spad fighters were housed in hangars along with those of several other squadrons, about 15 miles from the front lines. The pilots' mission was to patrol a given sector of the front as well as provide protection for Allied bombing formations and photographic planes. As chasse, or pursuit, pilots, Tyson and his companions were to chase and attack enemy aircraft.

When not flying, the pilots hung around the barracks. The living conditions were harsh. They slept on board boxes with straw mattresses, and they had to line the walls of their rooms with heavy paper to keep out the wind. "The cold is rotten," Tyson's roommate Alan Nichols wrote the day after he and Tyson arrived at Spad 85. "We are rarely warm at all, except when we get a fire going somewhere and hug it, or when we go to bed. My future program will be to read, write, eat, sleep, and shiver."

“He is just aimless until he flies —
then he is wild.”

The most frustrating aspect of daily life was the boredom. The slightest wind, rain, or snow kept the planes grounded, and the pilots nearly went out of their minds waiting for a chance to take to the air. Tyson, whom Nichols said "loves to fly more than eat," was no exception. "He frets and fumes until he is told he can fly," Nichols wrote his parents in mid-January 1918. "Then his eyes bug out and he grins like a platter . . . He is just aimless until he flies—then he is wild." Tyson's wildness would ultimately spell his doom.

In the air

When the pilots finally did get airborne, they came into their own. Some waxed philosophic about the sheer beauty of the skies. "One never tires of glorious cloud effects from the ground, but to be so privileged as to see them and be among them at the same time is a rare treat," Nichols wrote to his parents in April. "When the clouds are the rolling, piling white wind clouds, with the sun full on them, and one flies close to them, the effect is of a powerful, silent purity."

The height of flying for most pilots came when engaging the enemy. "We have been constantly moving from place to place, and are now right in the thick of the big battle," Tyson wrote to his father in May 1918, during Germany's last offensive:

What a sight it is, seen from the air. The endless train of men and supplies coming up from the rear, the narrow strip of No-Man's Land with its cloud of smoke and fire caused by the never-ceasing rain of shells, and above, the German planes circling, in and out of the clouds, like great birds waiting for a chance to strike. Our group has been assigned to shooting up the German column as they march up from the rear. We fly very low, so you can imagine what two machine guns on each aeroplane, flying full in the face of the enemy, can do. It is very exciting work.

In this as in many of the letters home, one gets the distinct sense that these relatively inexperienced pilots, those who had not yet seen significant action, considered it all somewhat of a game—dangerous, yes, but great fun. They were innocent, carefree, supremely cocksure. After learning how to do a vrille, or corkscrew maneuver, with his plane, Nichols wrote that "I feel like slapping the world in the face, I'm that cocky." Even airplane accidents, if they weren't fatal, were treated with levity. Cyrus Chamberlain, another American who briefly served in Spad 85, wrote this in a letter home on January 9, 1918:

Tyson had an amusing thing happen yesterday which was almost serious. He was on patrol and several kilometers the other side of the lines, when his motor stopped dead. Luckily he was quite high, so he headed for the lines and started coasting down, making such distance as he could, first firing his machine gun to attract the attention of the patrol leader, who followed him down far enough to see him land.

When he got nearly down, the ground below was a network of old and new trenches and was pockmarked with shell-holes, and he could not tell where the front-line trenches were, nor whether he was landing in French or German territory, but he thought it was German, as there were a lot of trenches still ahead of him. He landed, just missing two shell-holes, and ran into a bunch of barbed wire, taking off both lower wings and completely smashing his coucou [cockpit], but didn't hurt himself.

Then out of the apparently deserted fields emerged several hundred people, from shell-holes, dugouts, and trenches, and started for him on the run. He felt very lonely and discouraged, but thought up a greeting in his best German, looked up and waved good-bye to the patrol leader, who had come down to 150 meters, and when he looked around saw the most beautiful sight of his life—some sky-blue poilu [French soldier] uniforms. They took him to lunch with them, and he went from hors-d'oeuvres through roast chicken to liqueurs. After they had had a long visit one of the Generals sent him back here in his limousine, everybody along the road salaaming at the sight of the General's insignia on the car.

Stories like this that make light of extremely dire circumstances are common in the many surviving letters that frontline pilots wrote to family and friends. The pilots lived by a code of bravado, and they didn't want to alarm loved ones back home. But reading between the lines of their matter-of-fact, even nonchalant descriptions of events reveals just how perilous their situation usually was. "We are in the trajectory of shells from both sides, with anti-aircraft guns shooting up," Tyson wrote his father in May. "I have had awfully good luck. Not been touched yet, although my machine has been badly hit twice."

“He drove straight away, turned and came head on, a trifle above me. I saw his luminous bullets passing overhead . . .”

The pièce de résistance for all pilots was shooting down an enemy plane. Tyson was officially credited with one kill, Nichols with two. (To receive credit, the downing had to have been done single-handedly, witnessed by at least one other pilot, and achieved on the French side of the lines, so many LFC pilots, including Tyson, actually shot down more planes than they were officially credited for.) No surviving letters of Tyson's describe his one official victory, but Nichols detailed his own first downing of a German opponent in mid-May 1918:

...I found myself alone with one Albatros chasse [German chase] machine. We were both at our "plafond" [flight ceiling], where the machines were very wobbly. We started around in flat circles, but neither could get behind the other. Somebody had to break, and it was he. He drove straight away, turned and came head on, a trifle above me. I saw his luminous bullets passing overhead, as he had an enormous correction to make to allow for our speeds. To avoid running into me he had to redress and pass over my head, and all I had to do was pull up and pump the lead into the underside of the body. It was point blank, at 20 or 30 yards, and right in the center. I probably hit the gas tank, and probably the pilot, for he went up and over flat on his back, coming out in a long dive.

At that moment, Nichols was interrupted by two other German planes, which he eventually managed to shake. Only on landing did he learn that the plane he'd attacked had gone down in flames. He, like Tyson, was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm, an Army citation that rewards pilots for single-handedly bringing down an enemy plane. In telling of his victory and the upcoming award, Nichols summed up his thoughts in one line: "This is the acme of human life."

The end

That was the final letter Nichols' parents received from him. Two weeks later, on June 2, 1918, Nichols was killed in action. Shot through the stomach during a patrol, he managed to land his plane on the French side of the lines. But it was nine hours before he made it onto the operating table, and by then it was too late. He died just before midnight, at age 21.

Tyson's luck did not hold much longer. Actually, his death had little to do with bad luck and everything to do with brazenness. Nichols had once written to his parents that "it is a very safe job if you stick with the patrol." On the day in question, this is exactly what Tyson didn't do.

It was the 19th of July, and the Germans had begun their historic second retreat from the Marne. Around 5:30 in the afternoon, Tyson was flying back and forth at 15,000 feet between Dormans and Château-Thierry, about 50 miles northeast of Paris. He was part of a small patrol of Spads, providing protection for some photographic two-seaters. Suddenly, the patrol noticed a group of eight, single-seat German planes approaching, and they dove to the attack. The Germans, whose mission was to defend German territory and who were forbidden to attack over French soil, refused to engage and started heading back into their lines. As the French leader of Tyson's patrol turned to continue his squadron's mission of protection, Tyson made his fatal mistake. As Hall and Norman write,

...Tyson was seen to detach himself from the patrol and head swiftly after the retreating Germans. It was over in an instant. As the enemy turned at bay, he attacked them from beneath, one against eight, both guns spitting fire and lead. Next moment, caught in the concentrated fire of the enemy at point-blank range, the Spad was seen to veer wildly, whirl downward in a vrille, and burst into flames and explode while still 6,000 feet above the Earth.

In their history, published in 1920, Hall and Norman, making ample use of the hyperbole characteristic of the day, called Tyson "a born flyer" who "flew carelessly and naturally as a hawk, man and machine welded into a single swift and intelligent creature of the skies. Supremely confident, always on the offensive, and with the born fighter's love of desperate odds, his last combat was a thing to make every American thrill with pride."

“Poor old Tyson. I guess they all think he’s crazy. I think he’s a little crazy myself . . .”

In fact, his solo attack against eight planes was at the least ill-advised, at the most extremely foolish. Was his rash decision a product of his wild streak? His exasperation at so many lost hours on the ground? His eagerness for another victory? Perhaps it was due to all three. In any event, the decision was his last. Nichols, who was described as "a quiet and rather serious boy," likely offered a more accurate portrait of Tyson than Hall and Norman painted, in a letter to his parents sent the previous January:

Poor old Tyson. I guess they all think he's crazy. I think he's a little crazy myself . . . He is in aviation mostly for the speed! The fastest thing calls him. He came for the ambulance, and is now in wrong at home because he promised he would not enter aviation. He always got hurt, and I expect him to get hurt soon here. He is a rotten pilot. He just slams the machine around. I keep clear of him in the air.

In the end, Tyson, like all LFC pilots, was only human, bearing his own set of character strengths and flaws. And these, as with those of all LFC pilots who met their end in the Great War, are all he had to draw upon on his fateful last day.

Peter Tyson is editor in chief of NOVA online.

Postscript: Stephen Tyson was eventually entombed in the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial, an elaborate monument with a half-size Arc de Triomphe that was dedicated on July 4, 1928, in a park outside Paris. His remains joined those of Alan Nichols and 40 other LFC pilots, along with those of six or seven of the original Lafayette Escadrille flyers—all of whom died in the course of duty.

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Explore Competing Theories
by Evan Hadingham


Like the Kennedy assassination, the death of Manfred von Richthofen is clouded by dozens of often conflicting eyewitness accounts and has inspired a mountain of speculative theories. NOVA's "Who Killed the Red Baron?" is based partly on a notable recent investigation of those theories, The Red Baron's Last Flight, by Norman Franks and Alan Bennett. Another important recent book, The Many Deaths of the Red Baron, by Frank McGuire, surveys the literature supporting the competing claims. Below is a brief sampler of the many versions of the events of April 21, 1918, discussed in detail by these two sources.

Mortally Wounded in Air Combat?

The Royal Air Force (RAF) gave official credit for the Baron's death to No. 209 Squadron's Captain Roy Brown, whose combat report gives only the barest outline of the action: "Went back again and dived on pure red triplane which was firing on Lieut. May. I got a long burst into him and he went down vertical and was observed to crash by Lieut. Mellersh and Lieut. May."

In 1927, after gaining access to British Air Ministry files, Floyd Gibbons published a vivid account of Brown's victory in his best-selling popular book, The Red Knight of Germany. That same year, a first-person narrative of the action, "My Fight With Richthofen," was published in Liberty magazine. Although supposedly in Brown's own words, the article was clearly influenced by Gibbons and embroidered by Liberty's copywriters.

While these popular accounts of Brown's attack are of doubtful value, his claim is supported by testimony from another 209 Squadron Captain, O. C. LeBoutillier, and from a few key eyewitnesses on the ground. However, most recent analysts conclude that the attack came at least a minute before the Baron's final crash, probably too early to have inflicted the fatal wound.

Murdered On the Ground?

In 1925, a New York-based magazine called The Progressive published an article titled "Richthofen Was Murdered." The article reported rumors circulating in Germany that Richthofen had landed unscathed and that Canadian soldiers had jumped from their trenches and killed the Baron before he could climb out of his triplane. The rumors may have begun when German pilots from the Baron's "circus" reported witnessing the triplane's relatively smooth crash landing; at first, this fueled hopes that the Baron had been captured alive, and later, the speculation that he had been murdered. However, eyewitness accounts by the first ground troops to reach the crash site make this highly implausible.

Chasing Two Sopwith Camels?

In accounts collected in the 1930s, at least three eyewitnesses claimed that the Baron was pursuing two Sopwith Camels at the time he was brought down by ground fire. One of the most detailed of these claims was by Sergeant A. G. Franklyn, who was in charge of an Australian antiaircraft battery and claims to have shot down the Baron with his Lewis gun. Subsequent research has suggested that Franklyn probably confused the Red Baron's demise with his battery's downing of a German airplane the day after the Baron's death in a slightly different location.

Shot Down by a Two-Seater?

On the morning of April 21, 1918, the crew of two RE8 observation planes of the Australian Flying Corps' No. 3 Squadron reported a skirmish with two red-nosed Fokker triplanes. The squadron's commanding officer, Major D. V. J. Blake, submitted his squadron's report with other details implying that one of the attackers was Richthofen and that fire by an RE8 observer had brought the Baron down. However, the attack was at too high an altitude and too early to have been connected with the Baron's death. One explanation is that a pair of triplanes from the Baron's "circus," perhaps including the Baron himself, briefly dived on the two RE8s prior to encountering the Sopwith Camels of RAF No. 209 Squadron.

An Unknown Rifleman on the Ground?

P. J. Carisella and James W. Ryan's popular book Who Killed the Red Baron?, published in 1969, includes an account by Lieut. R. A. Wood of the 51st Battalion asserting that an unknown gunner from his unit brought down the Baron. "As soon as the planes had passed overhead my platoon opened up with rifle fire, and two sets of [Vickers] machine or Lewis guns on my left opened fire. Richthofen was seen to crash soon after one of these bursts." Another eyewitness interviewed in detail in 1975, Private V. J. Emery of 40th Battalion, supported Wood's claim. Emery believed that an unknown rifleman from Wood's platoon was in a better position to have fired the fatal shot than any of the other gunners in the area.

Shot Down by a Machine Gunner on the Ground?

NOVA's program focuses on the two best-known claims attributing Richthofen's death to machine gun fire from the ground. These were made by two different Australian antiaircraft crews who were stationed on the Morlancourt Ridge. In 1956, Gunner R. Buie, a Lewis gunner of the 53rd Battery, wrote to Australian newspapers about how he and Gunner W. J. Evans had opened fire on a German plane chasing a British one toward their position. "I started firing at the body of the German pilot directly through my peep sight," Buie wrote. "Fragments flew from the plane and it lessened speed. It came down a few hundred yards away." Most researchers reconstruct Buie and Evans' firing position as facing the oncoming triplane, making it unlikely that either could have fired the side-on shot that killed the Baron.

Sergeant C. B. Popkin, a Vickers gunner with the 24th Machine Gun Company, was in a more plausible position had he fired, as he claimed, when the Baron gave up chasing May and turned back toward the German lines. According to Popkin's statement recorded soon after the event: "As it came towards me, I opened fire a second time and observed at once that my fire took effect. The machine swerved, attempted to bank and make for the ground, and immediately crashed. The distance from the spot where the plane crashed and my gun was about 600 yards."

While Popkin's position seems the best match for the evidence of the Baron's wound, the long range and wide deflection angle required has led some to doubt the plausibility of his claim. Even Popkin himself had doubts; he told the Brisbane Courier in 1964 that "I am fairly certain it was my fire which caused the Baron to crash but it would be impossible to say definitely that I was responsible...As to pinpointing without doubt the man who fired the fatal shot the controversy will never actually be resolved."

Evan Hadingham is NOVA's senior science editor.

Books cited in this article:

The Red Baron's Last Flight: A Mystery Investigated
by Norman Franks and Alan Bennett
London: Grub Street, 1997

The Many Deaths of the Red Baron
by Frank McGuire
Calgary: Bunker to Bunker Publishing, 2001

The Red Knight of Germany: The Story of Baron von Richthofen, Germany's Great War Bird
by Floyd Gibbons
Garden City, New York: Garden City Publishing, 1927

Who Killed the Red Baron?
by P. J. Carisella and James W. Ryan
New York: Fawcett, 1969

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PBS Airdate: October 7, 2003
Go to the companion Web site

NARRATOR: April 20th, 1918: In the skies over northern France, Allied and German fighter aircraft are locked in a ferocious dogfight. One of the contenders in this aerial battle is the legendary German ace, Manfred von Richthofen: the Red Baron. His distinctive red Fokker triplane is in hot pursuit over the Somme Valley; in its sights are two British Sopwith Camel fighters. First one, and then the second are swiftly eliminated by the deadly marksman. They are the 79th and 80th kills of the Red Baron's career.

Below, the Germans are engaged in a final, massive offensive to end the First World War. German troops and supplies pour into the Somme Valley in northeastern France. To counter them, British and Australian soldiers set up defensive artillery and machine-gun positions on high ground overlooking the River Somme. Part of their job is to watch out for German reconnaissance planes. Both armies need to know the position of each other's forces. This vital intelligence can only be gathered properly from the air.

Protecting German reconnaissance flights, Manfred von Richthofen, Germany's greatest ace, has brought his feared "flying circus" up to the front. Opposing them are Royal Air Force squadrons flying the Sopwith Camel, one of the nimblest fighters ever built. Both sides are flying airplanes vastly more advanced than the primitive machines at the outset of the First World War.

Back then, in 1914, the fragile air forces of Europe's opposing nations were little more than a sideshow. But after four years of rapid innovation, the first fighter airplanes were now efficient killing machines and their pilots, celebrated "knights of the air."

The cost was horrific. Thousands of airmen burned bright but died young. The most famous and feared of all was Manfred von Richthofen.

Now, in April, 1918, with 80 kills to his name, von Richthofen is due to go home on leave. But his final day of active duty will end in death, clouded by mystery and controversy. Only now has new evidence surfaced that may answer the question that has persisted for more than eighty years: Who Killed the Red Baron? Up next on NOVA.

Major funding for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation, dedicated to education and quality television.

We see 400 employees in three years. At Microsoft, your potential inspires us to create software that helps you reach it. Your potential, our passion.

Science: it's given us the framework to help make wireless communications clear. Sprint is proud to support NOVA.

And by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

NARRATOR: In 1917, the U.S. entered World War I, and the first American troops landed in France. Eventually, American arms would turn the tide against Germany, but in the spring of 1918, the Germans launch one final offensive to break the stalemate of the trench war.

On the morning of April 21st, Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, takes off with a formation of Fokker Dr 1 fighters. Meanwhile, a British Royal Air Force patrol of Sopwith Camel fighters is climbing high over the front lines. A dogfight begins and Allied troops in the trenches below see a Sopwith Camel break away, chased by a distinctive red Fokker triplane.

The Red Baron pursues his quarry, piloted by Lieutenant Wilfrid May, deep into Allied territory. But as the Baron prepares to strike, a second Camel piloted by Captain Roy Brown dives steeply to intercept him. Bursts of machine gun fire from ground and air erupt across the Somme Valley. But instead of Lieutenant May spinning to his death, it is the red triplane that has plummeted from the sky.

Ten days before his 26th birthday, Manfred von Richthofen is dead. The great pilot and tactician had broken one of his own key rules, pursuing a risky low-level chase into enemy territory.

BARON HERMANN VON RICHTHOFEN (Great Nephew of Manfred von Richtofen): Manfred, of course, was a human being, and a human being is not without faults. And he had been very serious about the question of life and death, and he must have known that one day he would be a victim himself.

SUZANNE FISCHER (Historian): At the end he was feeling very fatalistic. On his last leave, his mother was going with him to a family gathering and he mentioned that he had a toothache. She told him to go to the dentist, and he said, "No, it really doesn't matter anymore." He knew then that he would never come back.

NARRATOR: A feeding frenzy of souvenir hunters scavenged the red triplane as rumors flew that von Richthofen was dead. It was a huge propaganda coup for the Allies. But who shot down the legendary Red Baron?

That question has divided aviation buffs and historians for decades.

Wasting no time, RAF 209 Squadron pressed home the claim of their man, Captain Roy Brown, citing his combat report as evidence.

CAPTAIN ROY BROWN (RAF Pilot, in written report): I dived on a pure red triplane which was firing on Lieutenant May. I got a long burst into him, and he went down vertical and was observed to crash by Lieutenant May.

DENNY MAY (Son of Lieutenant Wilfrid May): My dad was totally convinced, to his dying day, that Roy Brown was the person that shot down the Red Baron. He never wavered from that, nor did he have any facts to tell him any different from that.

NARRATOR: For his daring attack on von Richthofen's tail, Captain Roy Brown was officially credited by the Board of Inquiry with the famous kill. The Canadian airman became celebrated as the pilot who shot down the Red Baron, but there were dissenting voices. Several Australian gunners claimed to have brought down the triplane when they fired on it from the Morlancourt Ridge overlooking the river Somme.

On the day of his death, several medical officers examined von Richthofen's body. The Baron had been killed by a single .303 bullet that entered below the right armpit and passed forward and up through his chest, emerging just below the left nipple.

On his return to base, Captain Roy Brown discussed his attack with Lieutenant May, the Baron's intended victim.

DENNY MAY: Roy and my dad had talked, and Roy had told him that he had brought his aircraft down at a very steep angle to intercept them as they were going along. And he came in from behind and attacked, made a quick pass at the Red Baron, fired some shots and was out of the picture almost immediately.

NARRATOR: The crucial question that has perplexed investigators is whether Captain Brown, attacking from above and behind, could have fired the fatal shot. And if Brown were not responsible, which of the many Allied soldiers on the ground was in a position to have killed the legendary Red Baron?

Manfred von Richthofen was born into minor Prussian nobility. His father was a cavalry officer and young Manfred inherited the hunter's appetite and instinct.

BARON HERMANN VON RICHTHOFEN: He had a very happy youth. He was athletic, he was strong, he was joyful, and he very much liked shooting, riding, swimming—all that young boys do.

SUZANNE FISCHER: His father used to take him hunting as a small boy, and he was very successful, even as a child. His sister once said that he had the eyes of an eagle.

NARRATOR: His destiny seemed clear. He would join the Imperial German Army, where his athleticism and horsemanship would lead him into the cavalry.

When the Great War began, the traditional role for cavalry was reconnaissance. But a new war demanded new tactics. Stalemate between the trenches and miles of barbed wire soon made mounted troops obsolete. So the new technology of aviation took on the vital role of spotting enemy trenches, artillery and troop movements. Aircraft became the eyes and ears of battle.

BRADLEY M. KING (Imperial War Museum): They were scouting pilots. And of course there was some reticence from high command—especially from the old cavalry officers—that aircraft would be of any use whatsoever. And they were very much seen as something experimental, something fancy, and, "we will stick with the tradition, thank you very much."

NARRATOR: But in only the second month of the war, air reconnaissance revealed the hidden direction of the German advance on Paris. The early air forces had proved their worth. Yet these aircraft were still fragile, underpowered and unarmed. Pilots and observers took to the skies brandishing rifles and service revolvers. The aerial arms race was about to begin.

SIMON MOODY (RAF Museum, Hendon): As they tended to meet aircraft in the air more often, these pilots and observers decided to take it on themselves to have a pop. As a soldier, it was a natural thing to do, to try and shoot at your enemy who, after all, is the opposing side and you're supposed to be killing.

NARRATOR: Stranded in the cavalry, von Richthofen envied the exploits of the new knights of the air, the young men who took to the skies to gather vital information for the ground forces below.

BARON HERMANN VON RICHTHOFEN: He got bored, and he wanted to have a more exciting role in this war. And he thought to be trained as a pilot would take much too long a time. He wanted to have it now, and therefore he was quite happy going on reconnaissance and bomber flights as a companion but not as a pilot.

NARRATOR: Von Richthofen transferred to the German Air Service and in May, 1915, traveled to Cologne to join an observer flight-training program.

BARON MANFRED VON RICHTHOFEN (The Red Baron, German Air Service Pilot, excerpt from his autobiography The Red Air Fighter): I sat in an airplane for the first time. The blast of wind from the propeller disturbed me greatly. Everything flew away from me. My flying jacket slipped off, my muffler was too loose. In short, I was miserable.

NARRATOR: It was an unpromising debut. But von Richthofen would soon get the chance to show his true talents, his hunter's instinct and deadly marksmanship.

The machine gun had transformed the ground war. Was there a way to somehow get it airborne?

ALEX IMRIE (Aviation Historian): They had to devise some means of firing a gun through the rotating propeller, rigidly fixed to the airplane so that it could be steered by steering the airplane. And of course the big problem was propeller avoidance.

NARRATOR: The breakthrough came with a dashing young French aviator named Roland Garros, already famous for winning a string of air races in the pioneer days before the war. Now he had become a test pilot for Raymond Saulnier, a leading aircraft designer.

Saulnier was experimenting with various devices that would allow a gun to fire safely through the path of a rotating propeller. One simple, though crude solution was to fix metal deflector wedges to the propeller blades of his airplane.

BRADLEY M. KING: The idea being that when the machine gun fired, if a bullet hit the steel wedge, it would be deflected away from the wooden propeller. Sometimes it split the bullet, sometimes it came back at you, so this was gutsy stuff.

NARRATOR: In February 1915, Garros intercepted a German reconnaissance aircraft. Within seconds he sent it burning to the ground. The kill was followed by at least two more victories.

ALEX IMRIE: Garros absolutely confounded the Germans, this airplane coming towards them with a rotating propeller, they thought they were perfectly safe, and suddenly it started spouting bullets. So there was confusion in the ranks.

NARRATOR: But his success was brief. Soon after, his engine failed behind enemy lines and Garros was captured. Meanwhile, a brilliant young Dutch designer working for the Germans, Anthony Fokker, came up with an improved solution to the firing problem. Capturing Garros aroused German interest in Fokker's work.

Fokker thought the steel wedges were too crude and risky. A better idea was a mechanism that linked the spinning of the propeller to the firing of the gun. In a few weeks Fokker perfected his so-called "interrupter" gear, an engine-driven system of cams and push-rods which operated the trigger of a Spandau machine gun. The mechanism allowed the gun to fire only when the bullet would miss the propeller blades.

Fokker had delivered to the Germans the Holy Grail of the air war: a synchronized forward-firing machine gun.

ANDY SEPHTON (Pilot, Shuttleworth Collection): You could put the line of the gun close to the line of the airplane, directly in the pilot's eye view. So when he is actually pointing his airplane at the target, he was effectively looking straight down the line of his gun.

NARRATOR: By the autumn of 1915, the German Air Service had the upper hand. With their synchronized front-firing gun, the Fokker monoplanes or "Eindekkers" were arriving at the front with their ambitious young pilots. Among them were Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke.

PETER HART (Imperial War Museum): Boelcke and Immelmann did begin to learn the language of aerial warfare. The aircraft wasn't that good, but it was reasonably maneuverable, reasonably fast and best of all, it was great at diving, and that was what they actually used to devise some of the early fighter tactics.

NARRATOR: The young German aces were admired and envied by Manfred von Richthofen, who was still stuck as a gunner in twin-engine bombers. He wanted to become an aerial fighter like Oswald Boelcke.

Then a chance encounter with his idol changed Manfred's life.

BARON MANFRED VON RICHTHOFEN (The Red Baron, German Air Service Pilot, excerpt from his autobiography The Red Air Fighter): Among us, Boelcke was the only one who had shot down an enemy airman. I asked, "Tell me honestly, how do you really do it?" To which he laughed and replied, "Good heavens, it indeed is quite simple. I fly in as close as I can, take good aim, shoot, and then he falls down."

NARRATOR: Von Richthofen saw his destiny.

BARON HERMANN VON RICHTHOFEN: Boelcke told him, "If you want to have my experience, you must fly, and you must become a pilot." And then he decided to go through the training and become a pilot.

NARRATOR: While von Richthofen learned to fly, Boelcke and Immelmann were preying on Allied reconnaissance planes and inventing the first fighter tactics.

HAUPTMANN OSWALD BOELCKE (German Air Service pilot, excerpt from "Boelcke's Dicta," published in 1916): "Try to place yourself between the sun and the enemy. Attack when the enemy least expects it. Never turn your back and try to run. Foolish acts of bravery only bring death."

PHILIP SABIN (King's College, London): Boelcke was really the father of aerial tactics. The early years of the air war were the era of the lone hunters. You had aces, in particular, who would go up, hide in clouds, look for a lone victim, pounce, try and take them by surprise and shoot them down.

NARRATOR: Slow two-seater spotter planes like the British BE2C were particularly vulnerable.

BRADLEY M. KING: "Beware of the Hun in the sun." The British really had a problem on their hands. They were being shot down to such an extent, actually, that the pilots were calling themselves "Fokker fodder." It was having an effect on morale, and we really needed to come up with some idea of how to tackle this.

NARRATOR: To counter the threat, Brigadier General Hugh Trenchard responded with a new tactic. He ordered that all Allied reconnaissance planes had to be supported by at least three other armed aircraft.

PETER HART: People realized that they had to work together in the air; they couldn't just fly willy-nilly about as they wished. This was the whole idea of a formation. You may have been weak on your own, but in numbers you were strong.

NARRATOR: Greater safety in numbers gave the Allies a better chance. But more aircraft in the skies meant an escalation of aerial combat, or dogfighting.

ANDY SEPHTON: There is one rule really, which is to kill the other guy before he can kill you. And if you can see him before he can see you, then that's ninety percent of the battle over.

NARRATOR: As the Great War entered the spring of its third year, both sides launched major offensives to break the stalemate between the trenches.

First came the German push of Verdun, then the Allied counter-offensive of the Somme. Both failed. Epic, unrelenting slaughter would haunt a generation. This was war unlike anything seen before.

Eyes in the sky now counted more than ever to the armies on the ground. New reconnaissance aircraft could transmit Morse code by wireless to the ground, delivering real-time intelligence that could help turn a battle.

PHILIP SABIN: The reconnaissance aircraft were the only ones that carried wireless during the first world war. And they were willing to pay the very significant weight penalty involved for these fragile aircraft, because of the tremendous military advantage it gave to be able to talk in real time to the artillery battery, to coordinate their fight, rather than having to spot the target and fly back and tell them where the target was, by which time, of course, it could well be too late.

NARRATOR: Into this arena stepped Manfred von Richthofen. Now qualified as a pilot, he cut his teeth flying support sorties, first in a two-seater, then in an Eindekker fighter. But, as the carnage of Verdun and the Somme dragged on below, Allied pilots began flying new, speedy biplane fighters armed with synchronized machine guns. The seesaw of technological advantage now swung back to the Allies.

The Germans, on the defensive, needed a new plan. All eyes looked to their top ace, Oswald Boelcke.

PHILIP SABIN: People like Boelcke had the idea of forming dedicated fighter groups—the so called "Jastas," with the best pilots and the best machines—which would go off and hunt the Allied aircraft and could be concentrated on particular sectors of the front, so that even if the Germans were outnumbered overall, at the key points and the key times they might have at least numerical parity if not, sometimes, superiority.

NARRATOR: Boelcke hand-picked his flyers. One was the young man he'd inspired to become a fighter pilot, Manfred von Richthofen. Boelcke drilled his new protégés with his tactical principles. His Jasta 2 squadron quickly notched up victory after victory.

PHILIP SABIN: Boelcke was looking for aggressive, capable pilots with the killer instinct that really characterizes all successful fighter pilots. They needed to have the situational awareness to know what was going on around them in a dogfight. They needed to have good marksmanship. All those things I think he saw—particularly the marksmanship and the ruthlessness—in von Richthofen.

NARRATOR: Toward the end of 1916, the new Jastas were gaining the initiative. With the arrival of the fast Albatros fighters in September, German air supremacy was regained.

Boelcke doubled his score to 40 victories. But at the height of success, he was killed in a mid-air collision with one of his own men. A month later, Boelcke's successor was shot down by a British patrol. Its leader, the skillful ace Lanoe Hawker, would soon be drawn into a fateful aerial duel. His adversary was Manfred von Richthofen.

In just two months, Manfred had notched up his first ten kills. Now the rising star took off in his Albatros and ambushed Hawker's DH2 squadron. The wheel of fortune was about to turn again.

SIMON MOODY: I think you can see this combat as being the end of an era in a sense. It's marking the end of the aerial superiority that the British had managed to achieve over the battlefields of the Somme. The DH2 is incredibly maneuverable and Hawker, obviously very talented. Richthofen had the advantage of speed and armament, so what then happened was a deadly game of tail chasing.

BARON MANFRED VON RICHTHOFEN (The Red Baron, German Air Service Pilot, excerpt from his autobiography The Red Air Fighter): Both of us flying like madmen in a circle, first left then right. I was acutely aware that I was not dealing with a beginner. Finally, he tried to escape by flying in a zigzag course. That gave me my chance. My opponent fell, shot through the head, a mere 150 feet behind our line, another few minutes and he might have escaped.

BARON HERMANN VON RICHTHOFEN: Here Manfred really found somebody who was matching him, and he was the lucky one because in the end he could bring him down, but he really respected his competence and talent.

NARRATOR: Hawker, the daring British ace, was buried beside the wreckage of his airplane. He was von Richthofen's eleventh kill.

SUZANNE FISCHER: He shot to kill whenever possible, because that was the best way of eliminating an enemy. If you shoot down the plane, you still have to contend with the pilot, but if you got the man, then you got both.

NARRATOR: On January 10th, 1917, Manfred von Richthofen was appointed leader of his own squadron, Jasta 11. Fast gaining a fearsome reputation, the new commander painted his Albatros bright red. The legend of the Red Baron was born.

BRADLEY M. KING: You needed to recognize each other. And it's from that, that you start getting aircraft being painted either in squadron colors or in individual colors. And for Richthofen to actually paint his aircraft completely red...it did become a talisman.

SUZANNE FISCHER: One of the things that his men liked about him the best was that he would not let them down. He was always there, always watching, always trying to get them to improve. He would keep his eye on all of his men at the same time. He could be engaged in a very difficult single combat, yet, when he came down on the ground, he was able to tell each man what he had done right and what he had done wrong.

NARRATOR: Throughout the spring of 1917, the German Jastas wreaked havoc. On the ground, the Allies launched an attack on the stronghold of Vimy Ridge that cost both sides a total of some 30,000 casualties.

The killing in the air was equally brutal. Allied reconnaissance and fighter support for the offensive below was annihilated. In a single week of what became known as "Bloody April," the Royal Flying Corps lost 75 aircraft. Its teenage pilots were often going into combat with as little as 18 hours flying time. They learned fast or died.

The life expectancy of a new pilot in 1917 was a matter of weeks. Man for man, the proportion of those killed in action in the skies may have even exceeded the carnage in the trenches below.

ALEX IMRIE: In the whole month they shot down 362 allied airplanes. Richthofen and his men, and chaps in other units, they created havoc in April '17. The Royal Flying Corps never had such serious losses; it was the worst month of the war for them.

NARRATOR: In Bloody April, Allied losses in the skies outnumbered the Germans' by four to one. Von Richthofen's personal tally was now 52 kills. He was the leading ace of the war.

PHILIP SABIN: He didn't mind having a kill which was completely defenseless. Indeed, he preferred it. He would tend to avoid combat where he perceived any risk, but he would go in when he thought he was able to achieve his kill. He would go in very, very close and fill the enemy with lead.

NARRATOR: In the wake of their severe losses, the British began delivering new aircraft to the front: the SE5A, a fast and powerful climber; the Sopwith Camel, one of the most maneuverable fighters ever; and the Bristol, a versatile two-seater that could hold its own as a fighter. The pendulum of war began to swing back to the Allies.

PETER HART: These aircraft were almost as good if not better than the Germans'. There was an essential parity of technology in the sky. One British aircraft may have done something slightly better than another German aircraft, but it was swings and roundabouts. And from that time on the war in the air was more about numbers.

NARRATOR: The Germans couldn't replace aircraft as quickly as their opponents could, so they tried a new tactic. They combined Jasta squadrons into larger units that could be moved around to key pressure points on the front line. These mobile fighter wings, the famed "flying circuses," proved highly effective. The first one was led by von Richthofen.

BRADLEY M. KING: They were like a fire fighting service, because they didn't have the numbers to be able to take on the British and the French everywhere along the line. So what they did was, they would pack up their aircraft, go by road, set up camp around three or four airfields around a town, and fight until the danger was over and then move elsewhere. So they were like a traveling circus.

NARRATOR: Despite the great success of the "flying circus," von Richthofen was no longer so sure of his own invincibility. In a skirmish with British two-seaters, the Baron suffered a severe head wound that nearly cost him his life.

SUZANNE FISCHER: The head wound affected his personality pretty severely. He started to have headaches frequently, depression. He'd had a concussion, of course, and that affected his brain a little bit, but he started to become a little more grouchy, and for the first time he had a sense of his own mortality. He knew that he was not going to survive the war.

NARRATOR: But in the remaining months of his life, the Baron acquired a vital new combat advantage. Anthony Fokker, the designer, had been working on a revolutionary new fighter aircraft, the Dr 1 triplane. In August 1917, he delivered it, personally, to von Richthofen. The Dr 1's triple wing gave it the ability to climb rapidly and turn on a dime. In von Richthofen's skillful hands, it was a lethal machine.

PHILIP SABIN: It had tremendous advantages in maneuverability and von Richthofen would have liked it for that, because he was able to fly it to its limit and make almost certain that nobody could ever get on his tail.

NARRATOR: As the war entered its fourth year, the aerial arms race reached a climax.

War had transformed the fragile flying machines of 1914 into high-powered, heavily armed fighter airplanes. By 1918, the skies above the western front witnessed a terrifying dance of death.

BRADLEY M. KING: This is the era of the dogfight. And some pilots said, actually, that by 1918, if there weren't sixty aircraft involved, you couldn't call it a dogfight. A great swirling beehive of activity and danger, in a box of air a mile square—quite an extraordinary sight to see.

NARRATOR: Such deadly aerial warfare was unimaginable back in 1905, when the Wright brothers' offer to develop a military aircraft had been rejected. The United States had fewer than 300 unarmed airplanes when President Wilson declared war on Germany in April 1917.

It took a year before regular U.S. squadrons arrived at the front, flying mostly French-built fighters. Two American squadrons flew British Sopwith Camels and were attached to the RAF. Aces like Eddie Rickenbacker would soon become America's first war heroes of the air.

Germany was determined to counter the mounting Allied threat before American arms could prove decisive. The final German offensive of the war began in the spring of 1918. More than ever, the German forces relied on their mobile flying circuses to clear Allied planes from the skies.

The Baron's own circus was soon in action, and on Saturday, April 20th, von Richthofen scored his 79th and 80th kills, shooting down two Sopwith Camels.

Billeted at this small chateau, von Richthofen was just two days from going on leave. But, fatefully, he had one more day of flying combat.

The morning of Sunday, April 21st, 1918, was unusual. The wind, which normally ensured that most air combat occurred over German lines, had reversed direction. At 9:45, the Baron took off with two small formations of Fokker triplanes.

A little after 10:40, they spot a patrol of five Sopwith Camel fighters from RAF 209 Squadron and turn to face them. As the dogfight begins, two novice pilots, one German, one Allied, are under strict instructions to remain above the fray—von Richthofen is babysitting his young cousin Wolfram. Likewise, Wilfrid May, a new recruit from Canada, has been ordered by Captain Roy Brown not to engage the enemy.

DENNY MAY: Roy told him to not get involved in any fight, to get up on top, watch, get used to seeing other aircraft in the air, don't do anything stupid, and come back alive. He was frightened out of his mind, I'm sure, at that point.

NARRATOR: As fighting erupts, May stays above the combat as instructed. But when he sees a triplane tantalizingly close, adrenaline takes hold and he decides to attack. The pilot is Wolfram von Richthofen.

But the Red Baron's eagle eye quickly spots the danger. Suddenly finding himself under attack, May breaks away from the fight and dives desperately for home. Sensing his 81st victory, von Richthofen closes in to get behind May. Eyewitnesses on the ground spot the two fighters heading down the Somme Valley.

Moments later, a third airplane is seen: it is Captain Roy Brown, giving chase to protect his young recruit. Von Richthofen attacks. Although the Camel can fly faster than the triplane, May shows his inexperience by zigzagging, which slows him down.

DENNY MAY: He was doing things that probably you shouldn't do with an aircraft. He was really frightened at that point and didn't know what to do. So he started flying very erratically. He was doing tight turns. He was zooming around trees, very...down very close to the river.

NARRATOR: Von Richthofen fires again, but at least one of his guns jams, and May is reprieved.

Now over Allied territory, ground gunners are trying to get the red triplane in their sights. Over the village of Vaux, both planes narrowly miss the church belfry. Meanwhile, Captain Brown dives steeply to make his attack on the Baron. He unleashes a quick burst of fire and pulls up and away sharply to avoid hitting the ground.

The Baron continues his pursuit of May up the steep slope of the Morlancourt Ridge. Over the crest of the ridge, Australian gunners Buie and Evans let rip with their Lewis machine guns. And just below the crest of the ridge, another Australian, Sergeant Cedric Popkin swings his Vickers machine gun into action.

The red triplane makes a sharp turn back toward the German lines, then stalls and lands roughly in a nearby field. Lieutenant May is saved.

DENNY MAY: There was a cloud of dust, and then, at that point, my dad quickly flew over the scene, and then headed back to Bertangles to the aerodrome.

NARRATOR: Manfred von Richthofen, the greatest ace of World War I, was dead, shot through the chest by a single bullet.

Why did Germany's master tactician break his own rules, pursuing Wilfrid May far into enemy territory, low down and all alone?

A crucial factor may have been the change in the wind direction. Instead of the normal west to east, it had turned east to west and it probably carried von Richthofen over the Allied lines far more quickly than he anticipated.

BRADLEY M. KING: It's very easy to get incredibly disorientated when you are that low down, because all your landmarks have gone. You can't see that village. You can't see that church spire. You can't see the enemy battery over there.

PHILIP SABIN: Von Richthofen is at fault in not watching behind him and taking care of his own security as he usually did. It's a case of target fixation. And he's got tunnel vision, focused exclusively on his target.

SUZANNE FISCHER: I think he broke his own rules because he was suffering from post-traumatic stress, and he didn't care anymore. He didn't really want to fight, but he was not able to let himself be taken away from combat. He didn't want to shirk his duty so he just let whatever happened, happen.

BARON HERMANN VON RICHTHOFEN: Yes, he disobeyed his own rules for reasons which we do not know, which we cannot pursue nowadays, but he did, and he paid for it with his life.

NARRATOR: Von Richthofen's uncharacteristic errors have perplexed scholars, but above all, controversy continues over who brought him down. The RAF officially credited the kill to Captain Roy Brown of 209 Squadron. But was it, in fact, a bullet from Brown that struck the Baron?

DENNY MAY: My dad didn't see Roy Brown attack the Red Baron's aircraft. All he saw was that the Red Baron all of a sudden turned away and broke off the fight. After he talked to Roy, and Roy said, "I came in and I shot at the aircraft," he said, "Then you saved my life."

NARRATOR: Von Richthofen's body was taken to an RAF base at Poulainville where several medical examinations were carried out. They showed that he had been mortally wounded by a single .303 bullet that entered several inches below the right armpit and passed up through the chest, emerging just below the left nipple. Both Allied aircraft and ground gunners used the same .303 ammunition.

The direction, distance and timing of this fatal shot are vital clues that have been constantly debated. Starting from the medical reports, author and aviation historian Norman Franks has been re-investigating the mystery.

NORMAN FRANKS (Aviation Historian): Once we looked at the pathology, we interviewed two or three eminent pathologists, and they said that the sort of wound that he would have suffered would have given him no more than 12 to 20 seconds of life once he was hit—just enough to get down.

ALEX IMRIE: I've spoken...I've asked a few pilots about this—those that were there—and one in particular, Rudolph Stark, a Bavarian, he was flying that morning, and he reckons that Richthofen was still alive when he landed because he said the triplane was so touchy to fly, it was absolutely impossible for it to land smoothly on its own.

NARRATOR: Although mortally wounded, had von Richthofen somehow managed to wrestle his aircraft safely to the ground? Eighty years after the event, an important new piece of evidence surfaced in a letter from the son of an Allied soldier who claimed to be the first to reach the crashed triplane.

SON OF GUNNER ERNEST TWYCROSS (Excerpt from 1973 letter): My father's officer sent my father down to take the pilot prisoner, which my father did. My father was the first man to the aircraft and the pilot tried to say something in German to my father. The pilot then sighed and died.

BRADLEY M. KING: This added a whole new dimension to the final moments of Richthofen's life and confirmed that the aircraft came down intact. It was practically flown down. Richthofen was still alive, which nobody had known about before.

NARRATOR: If von Richthofen was still alive on the ground, the shooter must have fired at him no more than 20 seconds or so before he landed. Was Captain Brown at the right spot and at the right angle to have fired the fatal shot?

A second new piece of evidence now emerged. It was a large collection of correspondence from the 1930s between a former World War II RAF officer and surviving witnesses of the Baron's last flight. It had lain neglected for 60 years.

In the collection was a letter from an Australian engineer called Darbyshire who was watching the action from the Somme canal. Crucially, he was in a position to see both von Richthofen and Captain Brown.

SERGEANT GAVIN DARBYSHIRE (Excerpt from 1937 letter): I turned to look at the two leading planes just going over the ridge, heard a burst of gunfire, and the Fokker stopped in its stride and did the first half of a loop, then straightened out and fluttered down out of sight as if doing a pancake landing. By this time the third plane was just approaching the ridge. I was amazed later to hear that the Hun was brought down by a plane, as the chaser was not firing at the time the German stopped.

NARRATOR: Darbyshire's statement was a vital clue.

NORMAN FRANKS: He saw the triplane coming back over the ridge rear-up and then crunch down in a forced landing. That, to us, indicated when he was hit, which was way past Brown's attack.

NARRATOR: After the war, Captain Roy Brown chose not to make further statements about his attack on the Red Baron.

DENNY MAY: Roy was quite convinced he had shot that red triplane down. He never wavered from that. If there was any reticence, it's just that he hated the war. He was a sick man at this point. He was looking out for his men, worried about them all, and not wanting to become a hero in anybody's eyes. He was just doing a job.

NARRATOR: When contacted in the 1930s, Roy Brown continued to refuse to answer any direct questions.

CAPTAIN ROY BROWN (excerpt from letter): There is no point in my making any statement when official records are in existence.

NARRATOR: Captain Brown probably fired on von Richthofen from behind and above left. But as the medical reports showed, the Baron was hit by an upward-traveling shot to the right side. After more than eighty years, most of the evidence fails to support Brown's claim. So who did fire the fatal shot?

Ballistics tests can reveal the effect of a bullet fired from different ranges. When a human body is hit there's an explosive effect called hydrostatic shock—the closer the range, the greater the wound damage.

PETER FRANKS (Ballistics Consultant): If the bullet had struck von Richthofen at close range, I would have expected a more explosive-type wound. Now the evidence is that the wounds were actually probed by the medical staff after he had been shot down, and they were actually able to follow the bullet-path through the body.

NARRATOR: A low-damage, low-velocity hit would indicate a long range shot. Moreover, one of the medical orderlies actually found the .303 bullet that had killed the Baron.

PETER FRANKS: The fact that the bullet was found intact inside the clothing of Richthofen is another indicator that it was a long range shot. And I would say that would be probably 600 yards plus.

NARRATOR: Australian Gunners Buie and Evans were in range and could have hit von Richthofen, as they claimed, some 20 or 30 seconds before he is known to have died. But, by their own testimony, they were firing face on to the triplane so they could not have hit von Richthofen on the right hand side.

NORMAN FRANKS: So we asked our gun expert, what do we need to look at? He said, "Have you got somebody who knows what they're doing, 600 yards away, and he's firing at Von Richthofen's right side?" We said "yes." He said, "There's your man."

NARRATOR: Perched on the slope was the Australian gunnery sergeant, Cedric Popkin. He had followed the fight and now swung his Vickers gun through 180 degrees in case the red triplane re-appeared. He was in luck.

NORMAN FRANKS: In our view and final analysis, the best candidate for bringing down von Richthofen was Cedric Popkin, Australian Sergeant machine gunner.

NARRATOR: Though he was their greatest foe, the Allies buried Manfred von Richthofen alongside their own dead on April 22, 1918, with full military honors.

BARON HERMANN VON RICHTHOFEN: It is very sad and ironic that he was killed at the height of his competence and success. On the other hand, he would not have survived as a kind of symbol for chivalrous warfare as he has in being killed.

NARRATOR: With the new evidence about von Richthofen's death, we may be closer to the truth, but eyewitness testimony always leaves room for doubt. The circumstances surrounding the Baron's death will continue to be shrouded in mystery.

DENNY MAY: I don't think that the world will ever know for sure who shot the Red Baron down. That's a question that will go on in the minds of people for years and years and years.

NARRATOR: In death, Manfred von Richthofen became an icon of a period that saw the dawn of aerial combat and modern warfare. His legend grew, not merely because of his 80 victories, a score which would not be beaten until World War II, but because his dashing career recalls a brief era of innovation and heroism, although it came at unthinkable cost to human life.

SUZANNE FISCHER: I think the Red Baron's real achievement was his legacy of squadron tactics. And it wasn't just that he developed them, but he actually wrote them down so that people could use them and still do use them today. His other achievement was his love of technology and pushing to get the best aircraft produced as quickly as possible.

NARRATOR: In four short years, aerial combat had evolved from an amateurish sport to a deadly efficient killing operation. But now the evidence of von Richthofen's death suggests a final irony. If he indeed was killed in action by an old fashioned gun from the ground, the Red Baron may never have lost a dogfight.

On NOVA's Website explore the aviation arms race launched by the fighter planes of World War I. Find it on PBS.org.

To order this show or any other NOVA program, for $19.95 plus shipping and handling, call WGBH Boston Video at 1-800-255-9424.

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PRODUCTION CREDITS

Who Killed the Red Baron?

Produced and Directed by
Peter Nicholson

Produced for NOVA by
Evan Hadingham

Editors
Stephanie Munroe
Simon Battersby

Narrated by
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Online Editor and Colorist
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Audio Mix
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Research
Will Aspinell
Shehani Fernando

Consultants
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Peter M. Grosz
Frank McGuire
Philip Sabin

Special Thanks
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Bianchi Aviation Film Services Ltd
Bolton Hall Farm
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
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A 3BM Television Production for NOVA/WGBH and Channel 4

© 2003 WGBH Educational Foundation

All rights reserved
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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Okt 2006 9:02    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

ik zag juist afgelopen weekend dat von richthofen werd doodgeschoten door Lord Flasheart terwijl deze Blackadder bevrijdde uit een Duitse gevangenis. Of is de betreffende serie niet waarheidsgetrouw?
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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Okt 2006 9:18    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

[As the group moves to leave, von Richthoven appears at the cell door.]

von Richthoven
Not so fast, Blackadder.

BA
Oh, damn! Foiled again! What bad luck!

[von Richthoven enters the cell.]

von Richthoven
Ah, and the Lord Flasheart. This is indeed an honour. Finally, the two greatest gentleman fliers in the world meet. Two men of honour, who have jousted together in the cloud-strewn glory of the skies, face to face at last. How often I have rehearsed this moment of destiny in my dreams.The panoply to encapsulate the unspoken nobility of a comradeship.

[Flasheart shoots von Richthoven.]

Flasheart
What a poof! Come on!

[All exit the cell, cheering.]

Dit lijkt mij het onomstotelijke bewijs. Deze hele discussie kan híer dus eindigen...
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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Okt 2006 11:45    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

zie je nou wel
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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Okt 2006 12:25    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Tijd voor iets nieuws, dunkt me...
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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Feb 2008 10:08    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

The Death of Manfred von Richthofen:
Who fired the fatal shot?

by Dr M. Geoffrey Miller


First published in "Sabretache", the Journal and Proceedings of the Military History Society of Australia, Vol. XXXIX, No. 2, June 1998, and © 1998, M. Geoffrey Miller


It is now eighty years since Baron Manfred von Richthofen, Germany’s greatest WW1 fighter pilot, was shot down and killed over the Australian lines in the Western Front in France on 21 April 1918.

Captain Brown, a Canadian pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, flying a Sopwith Camel single seat fighter, was known to have attacked von Richthofen and he was officially credited with shooting him down, eventually receiving a bar to his DSC for the feat. Brown’s claim to have shot down von Richthofen was immediately contested by the Australians because von Richthofen had flown at a very low height directly over their lines and had been fired on by Australian anti-aircraft machine gunners, as well as by many Australian soldiers.

The controversy as to who was responsible for shooting down von Richthofen has continued over the years. C E W Bean, the author of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914 to 1918, carried out considerable research into the death and devoted an Appendix, in Volume V of the Official History, published in 1935, to describe the circumstances in detail (1). Bean was of the opinion that Sergeant Popkin, an Australian Vickers machine gunner, was responsible for shooting down von Richthofen and that Captain Brown had not fired the fatal shot.

There have been many books and articles published since then on the subject of who was responsible for shooting down von Richthofen. Most authors agree that it was an Australian, but disagree as to his identity, however Markham, (2) as late as 1993, did not consider that any Australian was responsible and wrote an article re-attributing the death of von Richthofen to Captain Brown.

This present paper will refer in particular to two books. DaleTitler (3) published a book agreeing that Australian machine gunners were responsible but considered that Gunner Robert Buie, firing a Lewis gun, shot down the German triplane. Carisella and Ryan (4) disagreed with Titler, and supported Bean’s opinion that it was Sergeant Popkin who was responsible.

Although the various authors have drawn different conclusions about who was responsible for Richthofen’s death, it is apparent that all previous accounts of the postmortem examinations made on Manfred von Richthofen have been taken from Bean’s account in Volume V of his Official History. It must be emphasised that Bean did not quote the reports in their entirety but left out some of the original text of the reports. The original complete reports are in the Richthofen section of the Bean Papers (the Bean Papers) held in the research section of the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra (5) and a consideration of these throws important new light on the controversy. There is also an unpublished letter from Popkin to Bean in the papers, clarifying an original newspaper report about Popkin that has been used by Titler and Carisella and Ryan in their books and by Markham in his article.

Using these primary sources in the Australian War Memorial, wherever possible, a critical analysis of the postmortem examination and a reconstruction of the probable events of 21 April 1918 has been made.

The Postmortem Examination
The details of the postmortem examinations of von Richthofen’s body are more than a little confused. Referring to the contradictory medical examinations made on the body of von Richthofen, Newton (6), in 1986, wrote:

The different conclusions reached in the two medical reports were to start a controversy which, to date, has never been unquestionably resolved. Who fired the fatal shot? Did it come from the air or the ground?

However a careful assessment of the documents in the Bean Papers seems to clarify the confusion.

It is accepted that Manfred von Richthofen was flying an all red Fokker triplane when he crashed in the Somme Valley near Corbie on the 21 April 1918. His body was taken to a hangar belonging to the No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps at Poulainville, where an examination of the body was held. The body was washed by an orderly and the first superficial postmortem examination was made by a panel of doctors. According to Bean (7), the panel consisted of Colonel T Sinclair, consulting surgeon to the Fourth army, Captain G C Graham, RAMC and Lieutenant G E Downs, RAMC, attached to the Air Force. Newton, however, refers to the presence also of Colonel J A Dixon, consulting physician to the British Fourth Army.

Colonel Sinclair’s report is in the Richthofen file of the Bean papers at the AWM and is as follows:

Copy extract from A.H.File No. 21/13/506
In the Field
22nd April 1918
We have made a surface examination of Captain Baron von Richthofen and find that there are only the entrance and exit wounds of one rifle bullet on the trunk. The entrance wound is on the right side about the level of the ninth-rib, which is fractured, just in front of the posterior axillary line. The bullet appears to have passed obliquely backwards through the chest striking the spinal column , from which it glanced in a forward direction and issued on the left side of the chest, at a level about two inches higher than its entrance on the right and about in the anterior axillary line.

There was also a compound fracture of the lower jaw on the left side, apparently not caused by a missile - and also some minor bruises of the head and face.

The body was not opened - these facts were ascertained by probing from the surface wounds.

(Sgd) Thomas Sinclair
Colonel AMS
Consulting surgeon IV Army
BEF


According to Sinclair, therefore, assuming that von Richthofen was sitting straight in his cockpit and the aeroplane was in level flight, the bullet must have struck him from the right side, was fired from an angle that was slightly in front of the body and was fired from below.

Captain Graham and Lieutenant Downs submitted a separate report on von Richthofen's death, a copy of this was also in the Bean papers at the AWM:


“Copy extract from AH File No. 21/13/506
We examined the body of Captain Baron von Richthofen on the evening of the 21st instant. We found that he had one entrance and one exit wound caused by the same bullet.

The entrance wound was situated on the right side of the chest in the posterior folf (sic) of the armpit; the exit wound was situated at a slightly higher level near the front of the chest , the point of exit being about half inch below the right (sic) nipple and about three-quarter of an inch external to it. From the nature of the exit wound we think that the bullet passed straight through the chest from right to left, and also slightly forward . Had the bullet been deflected from the spine the exit wound would have been much larger.

The gun firing this bullet must have been situated in the same plane as the long axis of the German machine and fired from the right and slightly behind the right of Captain von Richthofen.

We are agreed that the situation of the entrance and exit wounds are such that they could have not have been caused by fire from the ground.

Sgd G. C. Graham
Capt. RAMC
MO i/c 22nd Wing RAF
Sngd G. E. Downs
Lieut. RAMC.
In the Field
22/4/18

Graham and Downs referred to the exit wound being on the right side; Bean made a note that this is likely to be in error. If the exit wound was on the right side, it is unlikely that such a wound would have been mortal and it is generally accepted that Graham and Downs had made a mistake.

However there still remains the last paragraph of their report attributing the fatal bullet to a shot from the air, not the ground. If, as they considered, the bullet had not been deflected by the vertebral column, then the track of the bullet must have been laterally from below and behind the midline. However the only way that their statement that: “The gun firing this bullet must have been situated in the same plane as the long axis of the German machine” could be correct would be if von Richthofen had been twisting his trunk almost 90 degrees to the right and looking sideways or backwards when he was struck.

According to Newton, a Medical Board consisting of Colonel Barber, Major C. L Chapman, Australian Medical Corps, Major D Blake and Captain E G Knox of No 3 Squadron , AFC, examined the body a second time. This must be the inquiry under the presidentship of the Director-General of the Australian Army and Air Force Medical Services (Colonel Barber) referred to by Titler but Titler’s account is at variance with that of Newton when he stated that Colonel Nixon, Colonel Sinclair and Major C L Chapman were the medical officers present.

There is no record of any report made by this Medical Board in the Bean Papers. However, in 1935, Colonel Barber wrote to Bean and this letter is now quoted in its entirety, apparently for the first time. The underlining is original:


Oct 23 1935
My dear Bean,
With reference to your letter of October 14th. asking for information.

I was inspecting this Air Force Unit and found the medical orderly washing Richthofen's body so I made an examination. There were only two bullet wounds, one of entry, one of exit of a bullet that had evidently passed through the chest and the heart. There was no wound of the head but there was considerable bruising over the right jaw which may have been fractured. The orderly told me that the consulting surgeon of the Army had made a post-mortem in the morning and I asked how he did it as there was no evidence. The orderly told me that the cons. surgeon used a bit of fencing wire which he had pushed along the track of the wound through over the heart. I used the same bit of wire for the same purpose so you see the medical examination was not a thorough one and not a post mortem exam in the ordinary sense of the term. The bullet hole in the side of the plane coincided with the wound through the chest and I am sure he was shot from below while banking.

I sent a full report to General Birdwood at Australian Corps and I have often wondered what became of it.

With kind regards,
Yrs sincerely
George W. Barber

Colonel Barber enclosed a diagram of the bullet wounds on the body with his letter. In this he clearly showed the entrance wound in the left posterior axillary line at about the level of the ninth rib, and drew a cross over the right chest, internal to the nipple on the AP view. Under the diagram he wrote:


“Richthofen approximate sites of exit and entry of bullet. I forget now which was which but think the site of entry was the one in the back. G. W. B.”

(This diagram, however, is at slight variance with the other medical reports, quoted above, as both agree that the exit wound is external to the nipple. )

Barber’s letter clarifies the probe used by Sinclair; a surgical probe is a rigid piece of metal with a smooth rounded bulbous tip that is designed to avoid making false passages in the tissues. A ‘piece of fence wire’ is flexible and has a cut end, this would certainly not have been rounded and would have been prone to catch in the tissues, particularly the light air filled tissues of the lung. Barber’s letter, therefore, casts profound doubt on the accuracy of Sinclair’s report. It would have been possible to have used such a probe to examine the exit wound and determine that the bullet track involved the heart, but it would have been quite impossible to determine the track of the bullet to the vertebral column by using such a probe from the entrance wound.

Other difficulties in Sinclair’s report that the bullet was deflected by the vertebral column have been carefully addressed by O’Dwyer in 1969 (8). Dwyer sought medical opinions on the extreme difficulty in probing lung tissue. The elastic lungs would collapse as soon as air enters the pleural cavity (the space between the lungs and the chest wall), and it would be impossible for a probe to detect any perforation of the lungs made by a bullet.

From a consideration of the above, one is drawn to the conclusion that the fatal bullet must have passed directly through the chest from its entry wound at the posterior axillary line (the back of the armpit) at the level of the 9th rib (that is at about five inches below the lower level of the outstretched arm). As there is no real evidence that the bullet hit the vertebrae the most probable trajectory of the bullet would have to be along a line joining the entrance and exit wounds. Such a line indicates that the bullet was fired from the side, behind and below the pilot’s body, notwithstanding his position in the cockpit.

As the exit wound was about three-quarters of an inch external to the left nipple this means that the bullet would have passed through the heart and would have been rapidly fatal. Von Richthofen would have lost consciousness within 20 to 30 seconds, and certainly could have not continued to fly his aeroplane and fire on Lt. May for over a minute (9).

It is possible to correlate the medical evidence with that of the eyewitnesses of the last flight. Fortunately, as the events took place at low altitude, directly over the Australian lines, the chase and crash were witnessed by many eye witnesses.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 03 Feb 2008 10:09    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

EYEWITNESS REPORTS OF 21 APRIL 1918.
Bean's quoted reports are taken from official documents available in the Bean Papers or are from correspondence with the protagonists. Titler accepted many of Bean's quotations but also corresponded directly with Gunner Buie and Carisella and Ryan also corresponded directly with many of their witnesses.

There are several unpublished, or only partly published documents, in the Bean Papers, these have either been omitted or only partly quoted in Volume V of the Official History, and the originals of these documents cast new light of the events of that day. From the Bean Papers, and the Carisella accounts, it is now possible to advance the following description of what actually happened.

There is no doubt that von Richthofen followed a Sopwith Camel, flown by a relatively novice Canadian pilot, Lt Wilfred May, down from a dogfight that occurred when two British photographic reconnaissance R.E. 8 aircraft were attacked by von Richthofen’s Jasta west of Hamel. Carisella and Ryan describe the attack in detail quoting from a letter to the authors from Lieutenant Banks, (10) the observer and gunner aboard the second R. E. 8. The presence of the German triplanes was seen by a formation of eight Sopwith Camels, led by Captain A Roy Brown, DSC, a Canadian flying with the newly formed Royal Air Force.

Lieutenant May, who had been told by Brown that he should observe any action, but should run for home if attacked, was seen by von Richthofen and pursued. According to his instructions May dived away and flew low over the Australian lines, flying down the valley of the Somme, closely pursued by Richthofen. Captain Brown saw the chase and dived from behind on von Richthofen’s triplane at about 11 AM.

Brown's combat report, written after his return to Bertangles airfield, is partly quoted in Bean but fully quoted in Carisella and Ryan (11). According to them, Brown wrote:

At 10:35 A. M. I observed two Albatross burst into flames and crash. Dived on large formation of fifteen to twenty Albatross scouts D. V.’s and Fokker triplanes, two of which got on my tail and I came out. Went back again and dived on pure red triplane which was firing on Lt. May. I got a long burst into him and he went down vertical and was observed to crash by Lieutenant Mellersh and Lieutenant May. I fired on two more but did not get them.”

Carisella refers to a five part article entitled “My Fight with Richthofen” which was published in the late 1920s and attributed to Brown. Brown was quoted as having said:


I was in a perfect position above and behind. ... neither plane, (Richthofen or May) was aware of me ... I had dived until the red snout of my Camel pointed fair at his tail. My thumbs pressed the triggers. Bullets ripped into his elevator and tail planes. The flaming tracers showed me where they hit. A little short! Gently I pulled back on the stick. The nose of the Camel rose ever so slightly. Easy now, easy. The stream of bullets tore along the body of the all-red tripe. Its occupant turned and looked back. I had a flash of his eyes behind the goggles. Then he crumpled - sagged In the cockpit ... Richthofen was dead. The triplane staggered, wobbled, stalled, flung over on its nose and went down. The reserve trenches of the Australian infantry was (sic) not more than 200 feet below. It was a quick descent. May saw it. I saw it as I swung over. And Mellersh saw it."

Carisella and Ryan are disparaging about this article and stated that Brown was not the author. In fact they stated that it was: “Dramatic copy but obviously so much humbug. Brown was not a professional writer; the above report is written in the colourful slick manner of the hackwriter of the period.”

There is a reference in the Bean Papers to this article. Bean wrote to Brown in Canada on the 14 October, 1935 drawing attention to Richthofen flying for a considerable distance and still firing at May, “according to an article in a newspaper, the Chicago ‘Sunday Tribune’ of 22 April 1928".

Brown replied in a letter of 7 November 1935 that he had never read the account and wrote: “It is impossible for me to state how accurate the article had been” and referred Bean to the Official History of the RAF.

Although Bean had researched, and corresponded, widely in preparing his appendix on Richthofen, there is very little supportive evidence for Brown’s report in the Bean Papers. Indeed there is only one witness who suggests that Captain Brown shot down the red Fokker triplane, and even this is an indirect statement. 2nd Lt Mellor, RFC was quoted in the Melbourne Herald newspaper of 26 February 1930 and the clipping is in the Bean papers:


...Captain Brown seeing May’s predicament, followed the red Fokker and closing up to a range of about 100 yards, fired a long burst from both guns. I could see his tracer hitting the cockpit of the Fokker. The German machine zoomed, banked steeply and obviously crippled glided down to land between the Allied and German lines. He landed under control so the machine was not damaged.... The Australian Lewis gunners certainly hit the machine but their bullets hit about two inches behind the pilot’s seat.”

The only reference to 2nd Lt Mellor in the voluminous literature on the death of von Richthofen is a footnote to Bean’s Official History (12) . Bean wrote:


A Lieutenant Mellor wrote to the Melbourne Herald on 26th February 1930, giving as an officer of No. 200 Squadron a similar account. Efforts to confirm his account by reference to the Squadron’s records in London have, however proved fruitless despite a search kindly made by the authorities there.”

Lieutenant Mellersh, who was flying with Brown, was a witness to the crash of the triplane but he did not see Brown engage the Fokker. His account, printed in Titler, describes Mellersh as having engine problems and “...I was forced to spindive to the ground and return to our lines at about 50 feet. Whilst so returning a bright red triplane crashed quite close to me and in looking up I saw Captain Brown’s machine.”

Despite Brown’s statement that the triplane crashed after he had fired on it, von Richthofen did continue to follow May down the Somme valley at a low altitude. He appeared to be completely absorbed in his chase and, as he came within range, he came under fire from Australian anti-aircraft machine guns. In particular there was a Vickers heavy machine gun, under the command of Sergeant Cedric Popkin, which was situated about 1000 yards west of the village of Vaux on the northern bank of the Somme River, and the 53rd and 54th Batteries of Lewis guns, on anti-aircraft pole mountings, on the eastern slope of a shallow hill about 1000 yards east of Bonnay.

(The diagram below is based on that in Bean's Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. Published by permission of the Australian war Memorial.)

As he came to the hill, Lieutenant May, hugging the ground contours, rose to clear the rise and flew on in a straight line after passing it. The red triplane, still following May, also rose to clear the hill but then came under Lewis gun fire from the 53rd and 54th Batteries. It then performed an Immelman turn to return back to the German lines. This aspect of the fight was observed by Gunner George Ridgway, from Lang Lang in Victoria, who was on top of the Heilly brick stack near the Bray-Corbie road and who had an excellent view. Part of Ridgway’s statement is in Bean, (13) the full statement, taken by the Lang Lang correspondent of the Melbourne Herald, after being rejected by his newspaper editor, was sent to Bean. It is available in the Bean Papers. The full text is as follows:


He states that he was about 200 feet from the ground. The first plane passed to the right and rapidly began to climb. As soon as it was out of danger the machine gunners opened out on the German. Von Richthofen, he claims, came within 200 feet of the ground and to save himself he swerved to the left and immediately banked at an angle of 75 degrees. He was sitting upright in the cabin and could be seen plainly at the controls. All this occurred within 100 yards of the Heilly chimney stack.

The first plane having reached a safe altitude, the German plane provided an excellent target for the machine guns who were in a circle around him at Vaux-sur-Somme, Bonney (sic) and Corbee (sic) and thousands of rounds were fired at him, to use Gunner Ridgway's words, "A rain of death bespattered him."

The plane seeking frantically to escape only rose about 500 feet when it turned over to its left, and crashed to the ground.“Gunner Ridgway, who still retains the number plate of the machine was one of the first at the scene. On the number plate are the words: “Militar Fluzzeug (sic) Fokker DR. 1525/17". (14) He is emphatic that the Baron was alive when he banked after the other planes had gone . The nearest plane to him was at least half a mile away. He states that there was plenty of evidence to show that Captain Brown did not get him and hopes that the official War History will be amended even at this late date.

A. W. Madge
Lang Lang correspondent.”

However, although an indirect quotation, Ridgway’s reported statement is confirmed by Lieutenant G. M. Travers MC who wrote a report that is partly quoted in Bean (15) and is continued in the Bean Papers. Travers was observing near 11th Brigade HQ when he heard planes approaching from the direction of 26 central, and heard a Vickers gun firing from the ground. He wrote:


April 1918.
The first plane that came into view was one of our own, and less than 20 paces behind him was an enemy plane painted red. The red plane was overhauling our plane fast and both were flying so low that they almost crashed into trees at the top of the hill. Almost directly over the spot where I was lying the enemy plane swerved to the right so suddenly that it seemed almost to turn over. Our plane went straight on, from that moment the enemy plane was quite out of control and did a wild circle and dashed towards J.19.b.34 where it crashed. I went over with other officers and had a look at the plane and also the driver, who was dead, a machine gun bullet had passed from the left side of his face and near bottom of jaw and came out just behind the right eye (16)...The Vickers gun mentioned was the only gun firing at the time the driver first lost control of his machine. I made enquiries and found the gun was handled by No. 424 Sergt. Cedric Basset Popkin, 24 Australian Machine Gun Company.

G. M. Travers Lieut
Company 52nd Bat AEF

Further confirmation that Ridgway’s story is correct also came from Lieutenant J. A. Wiltshire, MC who wrote a letter to Bean on 9 June 1934. This is only partly reproduced in Bean and the relevant parts of the original letter (17) are as follows:


Dr C. E. W. Bean
Dear Sir,
In reference to Richthofen’s death. Standing on a ‘Farm Track’ close to the Mericourt, Corbie road about two kilos almost due south of Heilly.

Looking east I saw a fight in progress in the air. Three planes, two British and one German dived out of the fight. The German on both their tails, (18) one British plane dived out towards the Somme, the other with the German on his tail, continued toward the ground out of my sight. Within minutes, from the east, they appeared over the rise and flying about 40 feet from the ground. Passed almost over head.

The British plane was flying up and down the German flying to imitate and giving quick bursts with his gun. The German pilot seemed to crouch forward as he gave each burst. The British plane had apparently no tail gun as he did not reply.

The British plane steeplechased a group of trees and swooped down over the Ancre and continued his course between Bonnay and Heilly to the rear lifting over the trees the German plane gave up the chase and banking to his left straightened his plane toward his line and commenced to climb. He now came under machine gun fire from the ground. His plane would be just about overhead of the artillery. The plane seemed to steady and then headed slowly for the ground. Landing on the Somme side of the high ground...”

Sergeant Popkin’s Vickers gun position was situated at the foot of the hill at Bonnay, one kilometre to the south-east of the Lewis gun battery manned by Gunners Buie and Evans, and just to the south of the German triplane’s flight path. Popkin was ideally situated to fire on von Richthofen when he turned to the right away from the fire of the Lewis gun battery on the hill.

Popkin wrote a letter to Bean (19) on the 16 October 1935:


The planes would be travelling in a North East direction straight towards my gun position. I opened fire immediately the British plane left my gun sights and followed the fritz around. He would be perhaps 100 to 120 yards in front of me when I opened fire and about 200 to 400 feet in the air. He would be below the top of the ridge which is about 500 to 600 feet high. I opened fire the second time at the peak of his turn marked X. I dont think that I was firing so long the second time as the first. I would be firing at him the second time while he was travelling the line between the two crosses (20).

I would be firing about half to three-quarters a minute each time.

I reached the plane just when they were about to place a guard on it.

A chap named Marshall my No. 3 on the gun at the time who was afterwards killed got a bullet off Richthofen’s body which had just penetrated his clothes and half sticking in his skin right on his belt line.

Yours faithfully
C B Popkin
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