Tuesday 8 November 2016

The Red Baron

Snoopy, wearing a cap, scarf and flying goggles, sneaks over farmers' fields and barbed wire fences in France in a Halloween Peanuts Special written by Charles Schulz.  Piloting his doghouse like a Sopwith Camel, Snoopy takes to the air, dodging the enemy under a hailstorm of bullets, in search of the Red Baron.

Manfred von Richtofen, the Red Baron, after whom my husband's uncle was named, was a World War I flying ace officially credited with 80 victories during his years with the Imperial Germany Army Air Service.  Born in Breslau, Germany, the young boy used to go hunting for elk, deer and boar with his brothers.  Von Richtofen was given the title of "Freiherr" or Free Lord which loosely translates as Baron. 

In 1911, he joined the army as a calvaryman.  Donning pilot's goggles in 1915, he painted his plane red and hence was given the nickname the "Red Baron".  The pilot first shot down an enemy plane on September 17, 1916, after which he ordered a silver cup engraved with the date and name of the aircraft.  His cup collection totalled 60 at which time Germany was running low on silver and therefore he discontinued his orders.  He shot down RAF Major Lance Hawker, his most famous adversary, in November of 1916.

Von Richtofen achieved over 20 medals for his efforts including the Prussian Iron Cross and the highest military honour, "Pour le Merite".  In April of 1918, the German pilot was shot down near the Somme River in France.  Although fatally wounded, he managed to maneouvre his plane to a controlled landing, but died shortly after.  RAF Captain Roy Brown is credited with the victory.

In the comic strip, World War I flying ace Snoopy was shot down by the Red Baron, his doghouse full of bullet holes.  He hung up his cap, scarf and goggles and returned to his doglike existence.

Cartoon courtesy http://images.macdesktops.com

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