Red Baron: The Life and Death of an Ace
by Peter Kilduff, David & Charles Ltd., Cincinnati, Ohio, 2007, $30.
As the highest-scoring fighter pilot of World War I, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, more widely known as the Red Baron, has been the subject of countless books—a good many of them focusing on the controversy surrounding his death. In his introduction to Red Baron, World War I aviation expert Peter Kilduff confesses he himself has already written four previous books on Richthofen and his “Flying Circus,” Jagdgeschwader I. Yet even as the 90th anniversary of his demise arrives, more information still turns up on the Baron, largely thanks to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the availability of documentation hitherto held in Silesia, where the Richthofen family lived.
Red Baron, then, incorporates the latest discoveries into a biography of Richthofen the man, as well as the ace, the leader and the tactical theorist who wrote his own dicta expanding on what he had learned from his mentor, Oswald Boelcke—and who violated much of it on the day of his death in April 1918. In addition to providing insights on the Red Baron’s personality, Kilduff explores claims made by local German soldiers to having seen Richthofen land intact, only to be murdered by British “colonial” troops. For buffs who can’t get enough of World War I’s ace of aces— and also for neophytes curious as to who the real Red Baron was— your prayers have been answered.
Originally published in the July 2008 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.