Thursday, April 21, 2011

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Shot down and Killed in Action this day in 1918 by Australian groundfire, near Amiens, France.

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (2 May 1892 – 21 April 1918), the Red Baron.

Quite possibly the most widely known fighter pilot of all time, von Richtofen is considered the ace-of-aces of World War I, being officially credited with 80 air combat victories, more than any other pilot.

Originally a cavalryman, von Richthofen transferred to the Air Service in 1915. He quickly distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and during 1917 became leader of Jasta 11 and then the larger unit Jagdgeschwader 1 (better known as the "Flying Circus"). By 1918 he was regarded as a national hero in Germany, and was very well known by the other side.

Death of von Richthofen

Richthofen was fatally wounded just after 11 a.m. on 21 April 1918, while flying over Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River.

At the time, the Baron had been pursuing at very low altitude a Sopwith Camel piloted by novice Canadian pilot, Lt. Wilfrid May of No. 209 Squadron, Royal Air Force. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by May's flight Commander, Canadian Cpt. Arthur "Roy" Brown.

It was during this final stage in his pursuit of May that Richthofen was hit in the chest by a single .303 bullet - analysis points to a group of Australian machinegunners as the dealers of the death-blow.

Anti-aircraft (AA) machinegunner Sgt. Cedric Popkin of the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company, most likely killed Richthofen using a Vickers gun. He fired at Richthofen's aircraft on two occasions: first as the Baron was heading straight at his position, and then at long range from the right. Given the nature of Richthofen's wounds, Popkin was in a position to fire the fatal shot, when the pilot passed him for a second time, on the right.

In the last seconds of his life, von Richthofen managed to make a hasty but controlled landing in a field on a hill near the Bray-Corbie road, just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector controlled by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). One witness, Gunner George Ridgway, stated that when he and other Australian soldiers reached the aircraft, Richthofen was still alive but died moments later. Another eye witness, Sgt Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps, reported that Richthofen's last word was "kaput!".

Replica of Manfred von Richthofen's red Fokker Dr.I triplane - 425/17; the original was not badly damaged by the final landing, but it was taken apart by souvenir hunters.

Decorations and Awards

* Prussian Order Pour le Mérite: 12 January 1917 (in recognition of his 16th aerial victory).

The "Blue Max"

* Prussian Order of the Red Eagle, 3rd Class with Crown and Swords: 6 April 1918 (in recognition of his 70th aerial victory).
* Prussian House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight's Cross with Swords: 11 November 1916.
* Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class (1914)
* Prussian Iron Cross, 2nd Class (1914): 12 September 1914.
* Bavarian Military Merit Order, 4th Class with Swords: 29 April 1917.[62][N 6]
* Saxon Military Order of St. Henry, Knight's Cross: 16 April 1917.
* Württemberg Military Merit Order, Knight's Cross: 13 April 1917.
* Saxe-Ernestine House Order, Knight 1st Class with Swords (issued by the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha): 9 May 1917.
* Hesse General Honour Decoration, "for Bravery"
* Lippe War Honour Cross for Heroic Deeds: 13 October 1917.
* Schaumburg-Lippe Cross for Faithful Service: 10 October 1917.
* Bremen Hanseatic Cross: 25 September 1917.
* Lübeck Hanseatic Cross: 22 September 1917.
* Austrian Order of the Iron Crown, 3rd Class with War Decoration: 8 August 1917.
* Austrian Military Merit Cross, 3rd Class with War Decoration
* Bulgarian Order of Bravery, 4th Class (1st Grade): June 1917.
* Turkish Imtiaz Medal in Silver with Sabres
* Turkish Liakat Medal in Silver with Sabres
* Turkish War Medal ("Iron Crescent"): 4 November 1917.
* German Army Pilot's Badge
* German Army Observer's Badge[N 7]
* Austrian Field Pilot's Badge (Franz Joseph pattern)

Today's Bird HERE



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