Manfred von Richthofen” by C. J. von Dühren – Willi Sanke postcard #503 (cropped). Immediate source: The Wartenberg Trust. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https

The Red Baron was perhaps the best fighter pilot in history, credited with many victories in the air.

Manfred von Richthofen was his real name. He was born in 1892 in Lower Silesia, and trained to become a pilot, joining the German Army in 1916 during World War I.  He became friends with German ace pilot Oswald Boelcke, and that resulted in the Baron’s training. The Red Baron won his first aerial combat on September 17, 1916, and one month later witnessed the death of Oswald due to a collision with a friendly aircraft. The Red Baron used a different tactics than his also-famous brother Lothar, preferring to use the Sun to his advantage.

The Red baron received this nickname due to the plane he used near the end of World War I , which was painted bright red. He was a legend even in his own time, and won 80 air battles over his career.

He was not invincible, however. On July 6, 1917, his plane was shot down, but he survived the encounter with multiple surgeries. He was soon discharged from the hospital and continued to pilot, but was finally killed on April 21, 1918 while flying near the Somme River. It is not known for sure who shot him down.

The Red Baron was finally dead, but his legacy continues to this day. He was a hero to the Germans, and a villain to the Allies, but there is no dispute that he was one of the greatest fighter pilots who ever lived.