Red Baron

ISBN: 1844152081
ISBN 13: 9781844152087
By: Manfred von Richthofen

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About this book

Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron - was the most celebrated fighter pilot of the First World War, and was holder of the Blue Max, Pour le M, rite, Germany's highest military decoration. He was credited with 80 victories in the air, before being shot down in disputed circumstances aged 26. In this autobiography Richthofen tells not only his own story but also that of his contemporaries, their duels in the sky, ever present danger, fame, honor and spiraling death.

Reader's Thoughts


I believe everyone has heard of Manfred Von Richthofen; the fabled German ace who flew a bright red Fokker triplane into battle and who shot down an astonishing 80 enemy aircraft between 1916 and 1918.The book does a very good job of accurately portraying the conditions and attitudes of the day not to mention the terrible danger facing those pioneering airmen of warfare among the clouds. The dogfights of the second world war are famous and have been well documented but I always felt the risks taken by first world war pilots were greater. They were just as likely to be killed in accidents or because of mechanical faults with their primitive aircraft than they were by enemy bullets. To give examples two of the highest scoring German aces of the time were killed in accidents; one shot off his own propeller because of a mechanical fault and the other was killed in a mid-air collision with another German pilot! Almost as shocking is the fact that, at least until late in the war, pilots were not issued with parachutes. Von Richthofen himself is obviously the main focus of the book and we do learn alot about his exploits in the air however I was disappointed as, apart from a few glimpses, we never see much of the man himself. I am left in no doubt that he was an exceptional flyer and a gifted hunter who seemed to feel no hatred or malice towards the men he killed however we don't see much of his personality in the pages. There are many official battle reports and some journal entires from Richthofen which I felt was a nice touch however they lacked alot of detail and left you feeling like you didn't get the full picture.The photographic section of the book was a nice touch but the pages did start to fall out before I finished the book.My biggest disappointment was the lack of detail in the descriptions of some of the battles. Richthofen famously fought in the air with a British ace named Lanoe Hawker. From what I have read previously I know the battle was epic and the two men were struggling to get the upper hand for quite a long time before finally Richthofen gained the advantage and killed Hawker. Afterwards Richthofen himself described the fight as his toughest challenge but only half a page was devoted to this fight. I appreciate it is difficult to find accurate information for a battle that was fought so long ago but I felt it could have been written better than that.Overall very interesting and answers lots of questions if you are interested in that period of history.

Jared Zehm

Interesting account of the Red Baron and the rise of the use of machinery in war ~ a quick read, gives you an overview of the planes used, the characters involved and has a few haunting images of air combat ~ it's good if you're interested in history/war.

Greg Lang

The most successful fighter pilot of the First World War, and it turns out, not a bad author. Besides the obvious combat and life in-between combat flights, there is an underlying feeling of Richtofen's slow slide into depression as he starts out a cocky young pilot anxious for action but is worn down by years of war and having witnessed the death of many of his brothers in arms and friends.

Joe Graham

Good book for history buffs, appropriate for early teen level. Interesting autobiography about becoming the finest fighter ace in history to date.

Bill Baer

Not the greatest writing in the world but itis in his own voice,that alone was enough to read the book.If you are interested in WW1 aviation, and the men that flewthe planes into battle read this book.

Jim Heivilin

A good read. The prefix spelled out some details about his life and the suffix summarized it as well as adding details about his death.

Shawn Martin

This autobiography shoots down the stereotypes of the ace. If you can read through the propagandized editing, you see a calculating individual who really didn't care about the politics of war. He was the last of the noble warriors.


Das Buch ist lesenswert! Es ist erstaunlich und fast schon amüsant, mit welcher Naivität der beste deutsche Luftkämpfer seinen Job, seine Leidenschaft verrichtet: "Heute vor dem Frühstück jagen gegangen und zwei Burschen heruntergeholt." Und wenn man sich dann verdeutlicht, dass der Mann über einen Krieg und von reihenweise Toten redet - eindrucksvoll (wenn auch keinesfalls bewundernswert).


Until I read this, I knew very little about the Red Baron. (I probably still thought he had that silly mustache from the pizza box). After, I was completely in love with him. I love how he didn't dwell on how awesome he is, and how genuine he seems. He knew he was good, but he really attributes most of that to how he used tactics that other pilots didn't (very risky tactics). He doesn't glamorize war, and there is part of the book (after a nasty crash) where he starts to doubt his position. (view spoiler)[He doesn't make it far after that, whether due to real injury or psychological injury isn't for certain. (hide spoiler)]Best of all is probably his descriptions of how dogfights occurred, their beginnings and their evolution into a more modern way of fighting.["br"]>

Michael Hołda (Holda)

Pour le Mérite example for life.


A great man and a book that goes a way towards revealing what it takes to be the most deadly ace.

Lee Pederson

This is a well written biography by Manfred Von Richthofen. This book is a fast read, but is very interesting throughout. It gives a good perspective of WWI from the life of a pilot.

Joshua Gates

I acquired this book at a used book store shortly after my visit to the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian chose to immortalize the infamous WW1 ace through nostalgia in an exhibit entitled "Nostalgia Sells." The immortalized Charles Shultz rendition lives on in our hearts as the ace of dogfighting in Charlie Brown's backyard. This autobiography was written in a style that most heroes have and that is humility and compassion. Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron as he is more commonly known, is extremely modest about his flying record to civilians while maintaining the simplicity of true sportsmanship that he learned as a calvary officer. Even before he picked up horse racing he always a had a knack for excitement, adventure, and zeal. These aspirations often led him to braking his collar bone and performing several forced landings. Nonetheless, he managed to achieve a status in a period of flying that was relatively new while maintaing traditional modesty. He even contests to leaving a dinner function because according to him he was improperly dressed. That is different than the Americans and Englishmen who show up with unshaven dirt covered faces with cigar and whiskey breath. Manfred von Richthoffen gives a brilliant account of his flying career as well as early aviation.


The average man on the street may not know the first thing about the Great War, but he'll have heard of the Red Baron. Attribute that to a silly song, or a Peanuts comic trip, but in the Great War Germany had no hero like Baron Manfred von Richthofen, a true knight of the air. Beginning as a cavalry captain, von Richthofen joined the air service and soon proved a frightful natural. The Red Baron constitutes his memoir through the war, and what cannot be told by his death is told by others, namely his brother and an English pilot.Owing either to the author's military precision, German directness, or the consequences of translation, The Red Baron is short and to the point. The memoirs open with reports from his time riding with the Uhlans in Russia before he announces that he is joining the air service. His reports from time at the front are largely devoid of emotion, but they are aided by interspersed letters to friends at home in which the Baron reveals his joy at flying, his thoughts about his foes, and eventually his fear about the inevitable. His record was exceptional; before his own death, the Baron was responsible for no less than eighty kills in the air. He expresses little pleasure in this, aside from a hunter's quiet pride in having gone out and gotten his quarry, and never rails against his foes. The French he regards with a little disdain because they prefer ambushes in the air, and experienced pilots are too wise for that approach to work long; the English are far more worthy opponents, even if they enjoy theatrics a little too much. (So says the man with a bright red 'crate'). But having dispatched so many opponents himself, and seeing Germany lose ground and his many friends dead, the Baron could feel death coming for him. After expressing anxiety about what was to come -- and shoving it out of the way, knowing he must do his duty -- the memoirs end, followed by a narrative by his brother, the account of an English pilot, and an article about his burial. The appendices are quite good, including diagrams of all the major fighter planes mentioned throughout.The Red Baron takes a while to warm to a reader, being very staid for the most part and translated imperfectly, but it does have the virtue of being the thoughts of the man himself, and not just speculations and praises of him. That remains its chief selling point, though there are dashes of information that give interested readers a feel for what it might have been like to fight in the air."We found Richthofen. His face, particularly peaceful, had an expression of gentleness, of refinement. Suddenly I felt miserable, desperately unhappy, as if I had committed an injustice. There could be no feeling of joy that there lay Richthofen, the greatest of all! In my heart I cursed the force that is devoted to death. I gnashed my teeth. I cursed the war! If he had been my dearest friend, I could not have felt greater sorrow". - Captain A. Roy Brown, RFC/RAF


There is something always incredibly useful about reading the thoughts of someone who has achieved greatness. When reading Julius Caesar's Civil War or Gallic War, one knows one is reading, to a certain extent, propaganda. Still, tactics, strategy, and the overall worldview of Caesar inevitably leaks into those books, making those reads worthwhile. In the same way, The Red Fighter Pilot, the autobiography of the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, published in 1917 during WWI, a year before he died, is worth the read.Heavily censored and patriotic, there are still some useful insights that can be gleaned from this book. I was under the mistaken impression that air warfare was relatively primitive during the first world war, however very quickly we get a sense of the evolution and specialization of aircraft. The technological battle for air supremacy was eye opening too, though in hindsight I don't see how it could have been any other way. Planes, bi-Planes, tri-Planes, all with different speed and maneuverability effected how battles were fought in the air. Bombers, spy planes, ground support aircraft has all been developed by the end of WWI.The limited depictions of the Red Baron I have seen in my life portray him as an acrobatic flyer, but the fact was von Richthofen viewed such flying as showy and tactically useless (thus French). The Red Baron was methodical, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of his own and other planes and how to fight accordingly. He sought position and used numerous tactics to obtain that position, from which he could then close distance and bring down his enemy. The book is filled with bluster, perhaps not that surprising in the autobiography of a fighter pilot. The bluster has a distinctly Prussian/German flavor, as found also in the book Storm of Steel. Still, there are moments of innocence that remind you that this is a kid in his early twenties.In the end I think it was worth the read. Just expect the propaganda and try to read between the lines and you will gain a better insight into WWI air warfare.A funny side note, having never thought about it, it never occurred to me that the term "plane" was a description of the shape of the wing of an aircraft (you are flying on planes). One of those words I was born with and never considered critically. Of course to von Richthofen, the airplane is a new concept, so there is a very deliberate way he say's "plane" that made me realize the origin of the term that has become synonymous with fixed wing aircraft. I always enjoy moments like that in books.

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