MANFRED VON RICHTHOFEN
Manfred von Richthofen
Autograph of "The Red Baron" - c1917
Extremely scarce autograph, boldly signed "Frhr. v. Richthofen, Rittmeister" in ink on brown paper. Known as the Red Baron—owing to his aristocratic title and the color of his distinctive triple-winged airplane—von Richthofen did not become famous enough to be asked for autographs until 1916, and he was dead just two years later at age 25. In and around that time he was usually in combat at the front, and was otherwise quite reclusive—so comparatively few people were given the chance to meet him. The combination of these circumstances account for the extraordinary rarity of this signature.
MANFRED FREIHERR VON RICHTHOFEN (1892-1918) was a German fighter pilot known as the "Red Baron", and was the most famous flying ace of World War I. Von Richthofen joined the army in 1911 and was a lieutenant in the German cavalry when the war broke out in 1914. He transferred to the air service in 1915 and joined Jagdstaffel 2, a new squadron of fighter pilots, in 1916.
Within two months he had already scored a dozen victories in the air, including a win over Britain's leading ace, Major Lanoe Hawker. At the beginning of 1917 Richthofen was made commander of Jagdstaffel 11, later known as the "Flying Circus" for their brightly colored aircraft. Richthofen, who had painted his plane red, was known in Germany as "Der Rote Kampfflieger" ("the red fighter pilot") and he became a national hero for his spectacular skill and bravery in the skies.
In June of 1917 he was made commander of the first independent fighter wing, Jagdgeshwader I, and was shot down two weeks later, shortly after his fifty-seventh victory. He recovered from a head wound quickly and returned to duty three weeks later. Richthofen recorded a total of 80 victories before being shot down and killed on 21 April 1918 over the Somme Canal in France.
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