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Archive for January, 2011

Winner: Coffee Bill

The nasty weather and the spreading flu season, resulted in a small turnout for the game. But a spirited battle between Coffee Bill and Droppin’ Dave livened things up. After 20 questions they both had only 2 wrong – the same 2! This game had to be decided by a playoff. In the elimination round Bill’s lifelong hero worship of Willard Scott came in handy and carried him to victory.

Good Question!: What fighter pilot flew World War I missions with his Great Dane “Moritz” next to him in the cockpit?

Answer: Monfred von Richthofen

Monfred von Richthofen, better known as ” The Red Baron”, was the top ace of WWI with 80 victories. In the popular mythology The Red Baron was one of those heroes whose life seemed almost scripted. Discipline, pride, hunting skills, and Teutonic patriotism all combined to bring him to the pinnacle of fame which long outlasted the man himself.

“Curse you, Red Baron,” cried Snoopy, the Mitty-esque canine ace of Charles Schultz’ Peanuts comic strip. But Richthofen was no caricature, methodically claiming 80 aerial victories, before falling himself, in a Wagnerian finale.

Legend has it that the German was a chivalrous fighter pilot, who let his enemies have a sporting chance. Instead, a recently published  book, The Whole Truth, by Joachim Castan, suggests that rather than giving his enemies a sporting chance, the fighter pilot was a cold-blooded killing machine.  “The truth is von Richthofen wanted to kill and destroy the enemy, which is what he did in cold blood and with formidable precision. “He was an efficient killing machine, a product of a strict Prussian upbringing that did not allow for too much compassion.”

Mr Castan said: “The myth about the Red Baron served well to create the wider myth of the battle of the skies being a matter of gentlemanly competition. But it was every bit as bloody, ruthless and inhumane as the butchery in the trenches.”

Early Service

His initial assignment to the quartermaster corps didn’t satisfy Richthofen. “My dear Excellency,” he wrote, “I have not gone to war to collect cheese and eggs …”. He asked to serve with a flying unit and determined to join the great hunt in the skies, he started pilot training in October, 1915, making his first solo on the 10th. He damaged the plane on landing and had to take more training at Doberitz.

The Flying Circus

After victory number 16, he was awarded the Pour le Mérite (the Blue Max). He then organized his own squadron the Jagdstaffel 11, dubbed by journalists “The Flying Circus.” His qualities showed. He was methodical; he figured the odds; with mathematical precision, he calculated position, angles, and fire control to kill his prey. He led his group with order and discipline, requiring his fliers to study and follow his tactics. About this time (late 1916), he painted his aircraft red, and began to be known as “The Red Baron.”

By March 26, 1917, the Baron had downed thirty-one Allied planes. By now however, he had become a cold, ruthless hunter and killer; machine gunning helpless pilots of crashed aircraft and blasting his victims as they tried to escape the cockpits of doomed airplanes. He carried with him a gruesome photograph of a British flier he had horribly shot apart, the photograph given to him by an admiring German infantry colonel.

The German press, eager for any good news or for any hero from the mindless, muck and blood-filled horror of the stagnant trenches, showered the Red Baron with adulation. After a short leave in May, he hurried back to rejoin The Flying Circus. By the end of June, 1917, his victims totalled fifty-six.

In July 1917 he was wounded in a furious dogfight described by his British opponents:

“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.

Last Dogfight

Canadian Capt. Roy Brown led a flight of fifteen Sopwith Camels on the morning of April 21, 1918, flying cover for some photo planes. When some Fokkers and Albatroses jumped the camera planes, a huge dogfight ensued, over thirty planes twisting, shooting, and tearing at each other. A scarlet Albatros got behind a young Canadian, Lt. Wilford May. Seeing his plight, Capt. Brown went after the Baron, firing his Lewis gun.

And then the aircraft of the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, dived and crashed near Sailly-le-Sac, an area held by Australian infantry. The Aussies immediately recovered the plane and were astonished to discover inside Richtofen’s body. Almost as quickly, the event became the subject of confusion. The low-key Captain Brown never officialy claimed the kill; and some Australian gunners did. To this day, no one knows for sure who brought down the greatest ace of The Great War.

Funeral

The British decided to hold a grand funeral for their late adversary. Laid out on a lorry, covered with flowers, escorted by RAF officers, his body was taken to a hangar, where it lay in state for a day. Hundreds of British soldiers filed past to view the Red Baron. The next day, the burial itself was another military pageant, with six RAF Captains as pallbearers, a fourteen-man firing party with rifles reversed, a flower-draped coffin, a service conducted by a robed chaplain, and a bugler blowing “The Last Post.”

Photographs were taken of the funeral, and British planes dropped them over his airdrome at Cappy with the message:

TO THE GERMAN FLYING CORPS:

Rittmeister Baron Manfred von Richthofen was killed in aerial combat on April 21st, 1918. He was buried with full military honours.

From the British Royal Air Force

Thanks to our special Guest Blogger this week – Rosebud.

source: acepilots.com, forums.canadiancontent.net

 

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