What happened to the Red Baron?

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The Red Baron
Born Manfred von Richthofen in May of 1892, the German fighter pilot known as The Red Baron was the most celebrated flying ace of World War I
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Discover the Red Baron's story.

Born Manfred von Richthofen in May of 1892, the German fighter pilot known as The Red Baron was the most celebrated flying ace of World War I and credited with over 80 military victories. Also known as "der rote Kampffliefer" by the German people and "le petit rouge" by the French, The Red Baron continues to be recognized as one of the best fighter pilots to ever navigate the skies, his young death a subject of fascination for history buffs everywhere.

Although Richthofens' military career started out on a sour note (he crashed his plan upon landing after his first solo flight), the young pilot quickly redeemed himself. On his second solo flight, Richthofen exchanged fire with a French plane, which eventually succumbed and crashed. Because the plane fell behind enemy lines and couldn't be confirmed, he wasn't awarded a victory however in later years Richthofens' stellar reputation earned him the right to claim this success.

Richthofen went on to bring down 80 planes, earning him respect and fame amongst the allied forces. As others began to recognize him, Richthofen had his Fokker Albatros painted bright red. Almost instantly, French fliers began to speak of "le Diable Rouge" or "the red devil" and The Red Baron was born.

Richthofen became notorious and earned the reputation for being untouchable, so what happened to The Red Baron came as a surprise. On April 21, Richthofen had followed the Sopwith Camel of Wilfred May far into British territory. The German air fleet had taken a beating and competing with the British and their superior airplanes was difficult.

Added to this challenge was the fact that their own air force was dwindling in numbers; the Germans were facing a dire situation. Perhaps tired of the war and the constant irritation of his injuries, Richthofen chased the Canadian plane further into enemy territory than was permitted, flying lower than was considered safe. Richthofen followed the erratic flight pattern of the novice pilot (who later said it was his inconsistent flying that saved him) until a single bullet from behind passed through his chest. Many believe that the shot came from Australian gunners on the ground; still others say it came from Canadian flier Arthur "Roy" Brown who was coming to help May.

Responsibility for shooting down the notorious Red Baron hasn't officially been assigned and controversy and argument continues. One of the Australians believed to have taken a shot was gunner 3801, Robert Buie, however many insist the plane was brought down by Canadian fire. What happened to The Red Baron continues to be one of the greatest aviation mysteries of World War 1.

The Red Baron crashed into a field, his body recovered by British forces. Manfred von Richthofen was buried with full military honors.

Although there are many combat pilots deserving of honor and remembrance, The Red Baron continues to be one of the most celebrated thanks to his signature red plane, his fierce combat style and the controversy surrounding the question, what happened to The Red Baron? His death and the world's inability to assign responsibility for it, continues to be a subject of fascination for history lovers around the world.

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