The Red Battle Flyer is German flying-ace Manfred von Richthofen’s autobiographical account of his career as a pilot in the Imperial German Army during the First World War. Known as “The Red Baron,” von Richthofen’s impressive skill as a fighter pilot was renowned, and with eighty aerial victories, he was the most decorated German pilot of the period. Der rote Kampfflieger, or The Red Battle Flyer, was written at the request of the German propaganda ministry while von Richthofen was recovering from injuries sustained after being shot down in combat.
The Red Battle Flyer was heavily censored by Germany’s propaganda board, so much so that von Richthofen voiced a desire to revise the book, and although he died in combat before he was able to do this, the very fact that the book was influenced by Germany’s propaganda machine makes it an interesting primary source in wartime social history.
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About the Author
Manfred von Richthofen, popularly known as the “Red Baron,” was a fighter-pilot and the greatest German ace of the First World War, with eighty victories in aerial combat.
In July 1917, von Richthofen was shot down by Captain Donald Cunnell of the Royal Air Force. Although he’d suffered a serious head injury, von Richthofen was able to land his plane safely. While convalescing, he wrote an autobiographical sketch, The Red Battle Flyer, at the request of the propaganda department of the German Air Force.
By the time of von Richthofen’s death, after being shot down again less than a year later, he was a national hero in Germany and widely known to his country’s enemies. His notoriety is attested to by the fact that his plane was quickly taken apart by souvenir hunters following the crash that took his life on April 21, 1918.