The Red Baron: A Lesson in Literally Altering History

Baron Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron) was a WWI German flying ace who altered the books in order to give himself 80 confirmed air combat victories. He was a member of an aristocratic family with many famous relatives who pressured him into his dishonest actions.

Richthofen was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his high school classmates. Mysteriously, nobody claims to have voted for him. Manfred tallied the election votes and declared to his dying day that he was the unanimous decision.

He was schooled in Schweidnitz, Germany for a period of time in which he began to develop a habit of not cheating, but altering his score when the teacher was not looking. On one occasion, he broke into the school late at night and changed everybody’s scores for the past four weeks in mathematics. Confused, but optimistic, the professor rewarded the class handsomely throughout the rest of the semester for their great work in mathematics.

From 1911 to 1915, Richthofen served in the German cavalry and infantry before requesting to be in the flying service. For the first two months, he was an observer on reconnaissance missions, which is when he recorded his first kill. The sensation was intoxicating for Richthofen. Manfred’s devious ways began to rush back into his veins.

Manfred would often fly solo and return, reporting that he had downed an enemy craft. The field staff were confused many times as Richthofen often came back with a cool gun and multitudes of ammunition. He would also sneak into the field office and change his flight records to reflect a higher number of kills than was truthful.

In the end, Richthofen’s sin found him out. It was on April 21, 1918 when he was killed while flying near the Somme River. He was shot through the lung and died shortly after making an emergency landing. Not until recently was it discovered that Richthofen accidentally shot himself in a field as he was trying to adjust his triplane’s guns.

Author’s Suggested Reading: The Red Baron Update

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6 Responses to “The Red Baron: A Lesson in Literally Altering History”


  1. 1 B. Martinez August 5, 2008 at 8:56 am

    So funny. This kind of stuff really makes History fun.

  2. 2 Pete M. B. August 5, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Good job man! This is a great article -really made me think. I’ll be coming back

  3. 3 Brian R. August 6, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    And how did he shoot himself while adjusting his guns? Was he standing in front of his propellor while sitting at the same moment in the cockpit pulling the triggers?
    As I recall, he was hit by 3 or 4 bullets.

  4. 4 Dave Newell August 6, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Historians are unsure of how The Red Baron managed to do that, Brian. Somehow though, that is what happened. The actual number of bullets that he was hit with is unknown.

  5. 5 D Boone August 10, 2008 at 11:34 am

    That still does not expain how he got his own pizza named after him. ;]

  6. 6 Dave Newell August 10, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Thank you for broaching the subject of how he got his own pizza…

    That answer can be found in this post:
    http://thehistorybluff.com/2008/08/10/the-red-baron-update/


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