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Simonov
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This Day in History: April 21, 1918

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by Simonov
This Day in History: April 14, 1927
This Day in History: April 28, 1944
On April 21, 1918, German aviator Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron) was killed in action near Melancourt, France. Perhaps the most well-known fighter pilot in the world, Richthofen was born May 2, 1892, in Kleinburg, German Empire (now Wrocław, Poland). When the First World War began, Richthofen was a member of the Uhlans, a type of light cavalry; however, he soon sought and was granted a transfer to the fledgling German air corps Luftstreitkraefte due to not being able to partake in combat as the cavalry became obsolete.

It was during his time a pilot which brought Richthofen to fame. A strict adherent to the Dicta Boelcke (a set of maxims regarding aerial combat developed by fellow German aviator Oswald Boelcke and still followed by fighter pilots to this day), Richthofen would eventually score 80 confirmed kills, more than any other fighter pilot of the war. He would also come to be known for flying aircraft painted bright red which, combined with a noble title he had been born into, resulted in the name "The Red Baron."

On July 6, 1917, Richthofen suffered a severe head wound during combat against British aviators in Belgium. During his convalescence, Richthofen wrote his autobiograpy Der rote Kampfflieger. Though he would soon return to combat, his injury has been theorized to have played a role in his later death as he continued to show dizziness and nausea post-flight and started to show growing recklessness in combat, even neglecting Boelcke's guides in the process.

On April 21, 1918, Richthofen engaged in combat with Canadian fighter pilots Lieutenant Wilfrid May and Captain Arthur Brown. Richthofen was hit by a single .303 round which mortally wounded him. The round was fired by an Australian machine gunner on the ground with Sergeant Cedric Popkin generally cited as the machine gunner in question. Despite his wound, Richthofen managed to make a rough landing nearby before passing. He was buried with full honors by No.3 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps. His remains were later relocated to the Invalidenfriedhof cemetery in Berlin in 1925 and relocated once more to the Richthofen family plot in Wiesbaden where the legendary aviator rests to this day.

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