German pilot (1892-1918). After graduating from a military school, he began his career in World War I as a scout in his native Silesia and Polish Russia, then as a messenger in France. He was assigned to an experimental twin-engine bomber in 1915, but the project was scrapped after it was discovered how poor the large biplane was at maneuvering.

In October of 1915, Richthofen was transferred to pilot training. He was an adequate, but not outstanding, pilot--after 25 training flights, he crashed while trying to land on his first solo flight. He was posted to the front in March of 1916, and in April, he rigged one of the first machine guns set up to be fired by the pilot, rather than the observer. He shot down his first plane on April 26, 1916, though the kill was unconfirmed because the plane fell behind British lines.

After shooting down 16 planes, Richthofen was granted his own squadron, which moved wherever they were needed, living in tents as they traveled constantly. Most of the pilots were aces, and everyone painted their planes in wild colors--Richthofen painted his Fokker triplane red. The squadron was nicknamed "The Flying Circus" by the British, and Richthofen was tagged "The Red Baron".

He was shot down in March of 1917, but survived. He came back the next month with an astounding 21 confirmed victories, including four in one day.

By May 1, 1917, he had 52 kills and was called home, where he met the Kaiser and top German commanders, was promoted to captain, toured Germany as a celebrity, and wrote his autobiography. When he returned to the front at the end of June, his squadron was enlarged and renamed the Richthofen Squadron.

He was shot down again in July by two British pilots. He landed safely, but received a head wound which caused him severe headaches for the rest of his life. German High Command pressured Richthofen to leave front-line service, recognizing that the Allies would benefit from a morale boost if he were killed, but Richthofen fought his assignment to administration and publicity tours and was re-assigned to the front after only a short period.

By March of 1918, Richthofen had 80 confirmed kills. On April 21, he pursued Wilfred May's Sopwith Camel far behind British lines. Flying low, he was hit in the chest, either by gunners on the ground or by a Canadian flying to May's aid. He crashed and was buried with full military honors by the British. In the 1920s, his coffin was disinterred and transported to Germany for reburial, again with full honors.

Though Richthofen is recognized as the best ace of World War I, he was not a very good pilot--most of his success was due to his innovative battle tactics and excellent shooting. He was also admired by pilots on both sides of the conflict as a professional and chivalric airman, if a bit cocky.

Research from GURPS Who's Who 2, compiled by Phil Masters, "Manfred von Richthofen, 'The Red Baron'" by David Walker, pp. 114-115.

Transitional Man says: "The Canadian who may have shot the Baron down was Sopwith Camel pilot Capt. Roy Brown, and the tactics used were designed by Oswald Boelcke to overcome Germany's inferiority in the air."