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Social Studies Biographies
Manfred "The Red Baron" von Richthofen
|edHelper's suggested reading level:||grades 6 to 8|
|Flesch-Kincaid grade level:||5.78|
Curses! Foiled Again!
By Toni Lee Robinson
1 Manfred von Richthofen was Germany's top flying ace. In fact, he was called the "Ace of Aces." In his career, von Richthofen had 80 victories in air combat. He was awarded 24 medals. He was known and dreaded by Allied pilots. They called him "the Red Baron." He was the most decorated German airman of World War I.
2 Von Richthofen was the son of a nobleman. He was born on May 2, 1892, in Breslau, Germany. (This area is now a part of Poland.) He had an older sister but was the first-born of three sons. Von Richthofen's father was a military man. He decided that his sons would follow in his footsteps. All three were enrolled in a military academy.
3 The man who would become the Red Baron was not an ace student. He was a good athlete. He excelled at daredevil stunts. He admitted later that he caused his school masters no end of frustration.
4 "I had a...liking for all sorts of risky tricks. One fine day I climbed...the famous steeple of Wahlstatt...and tied my handkerchief to the top. I remember exactly how difficult it was to negotiate the gutters. Ten years later, when I visited my little brother at Wahlstatt, I saw my handkerchief still tied up high in the air." Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron," from his autobiography Der Rote Kampfflieger (The Red Air Fighter).
5 His skill as a horseman earned him a position as a cavalry officer. Even before von Richthofen left school, however, war horses were being replaced by machines. There was little use for horse cavalry in modern warfare.
6 Where would the daredevil young cavalry officer find his next challenge? The heroes of the day were experimenting with a new machine, the airplane. Von Richthofen quickly trained to be an observer. These men flew with pilots of WWI scouting planes. The observer's job was to direct the pilot and to help gather data on enemy troops. In The Red Air Fighter, von Richthofen described his first flight:
7 "I was naturally very excited, for I had no idea what it would be like... Before I knew what was happening, the pilot went ahead at full speed and the machine started rolling. We went faster and faster. I clutched the sides... Suddenly, the shaking was over, the machine was in the air, and the earth dropped away from under me.
8 I began very cautiously to look over the side at the country. The men looked ridiculously small. The houses seemed to come out of a child's toy box. Everything seemed pretty. It was a glorious feeling to be so high above the earth, to be master of the air... I felt extremely sad when...it was time to go down again."
9 Von Richthofen met early German air hero Oswald Boelcke. Boelcke was a very successful air warrior. He was the first to organize air combat into tactics and rules. After meeting his hero, von Richthofen talked a friend into training him as a pilot. He rashly took his first solo flight after only 24 hours of training. He had to crash-land the plane.
Paragraphs 10 to 18:
For the complete story with questions: click here for printable
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