Monday, February 11, 2008
Age 25, 145 lbs; An athletic German with pale eyes and close-cropped dark hair, usually waring an avators cap at a jaunty angle, the “Blue Max” (Ordre Pour le Merite) over a scarf, and a grey uniform.
After shooting down 16 planes, in November 1916, he was granted his own squadron. Almost all the pilots were aces, and everyone painted their craft in wild colors; Richthoftens was red. It was a roving unit, moving whenever observation plane activity was its highest. Richthofens squadron was nicknamed “The Flying Circus” by the British. Richthofen gained the nom de guerre, “The Red Baron”.
In July he was shot down again by two British pilots; though he landed safely, he received a head wound. He recovered, but suffered severe headaches for the rest of his life. The High Command, recognizing the morale boost his death would give the Allies, pressured him to leave front-line service, assigning him to administration and publicity tours. Eventually, the apparently realized they had to let him do what he did best.
In combat, Richthofen will try to out-think an opponent, and then go for the kill. (This assumes comparable aircraft; faced with an evidently superior foe, even he may know when to retreat). On the ground, he is a military gentleman, slightly cocky, but willing to give any worthy flyer a slap on the back, a smile, and a drink. He could be the model for a dashing pilot in any number of settings.
The Red Baron was an excellent shot, but not such a great pilot. He received little training, as was typical of the day, but neither did the pilot on the other side. His tactics, helped define much of the machine-gun era of air-to-air combat. Attacking from out of the sun, the advantage of higher altitude, and his adage “the quality of the box matters little. Success depends upon the man who sits in it”, are ideas familiar to fighter pilots to this day.
He was hardly infallible: he crashed a number of undamaged aircraft, was shot down three times, and made some very foolish mistakes in his final encounter. Good press and a high number of kills establiehsd much of his retputation.
Kilduff, Peter: Richthofen: Beyond the Legend of the Red Baron
von Richthofen, Manfred: The Red Fighter Pilot, trans. By J. Ellis Barker
[edited for removal of game specific content]