Manfred von Richthofen was born in Schweidnitz, Germany in 1882. He was originally a cavalry officer in the German Army, but transferred to the German Army Air Service in May 1915. Initially an observer on reconnaissance flights over the Eastern Front, he became a fighter pilot on the Western Front in August 1916. He served under Oswald Boelcke and quickly became his star pupil.
By January 1917, Richthofen had shot down fifteen aircraft had been appointed commander of his own unit. He painted the fuselage of his Albatros D-III a bright red and was nicknamed the Red Baron. After the death of Oswald Boelcke and Max Immelmann, Richthofen became the most famous war ace in Germany. Richthofen was also well-known in Britain and became a hate-figure after Allied propaganda portrayed him as a man who enjoyed killing.
In June 1917, Richthofen was appointed commander of the German Flying Circus. Made up of Germany's top fighter pilots, this new unit was highly mobile and could be quickly sent to any part of the Western Front where it was most needed. Richthofen and his pilots achieved immediate success during the air war over Ypres during August and September. He also held strong opinions on aircraft design and was involved with Anton Fokker in the production of the Fokker D-VII.
Manfred von Richthofen was killed when he was was brought down by ground fire on 21st April 1918. Richthofen had been responsible for shooting down 80 allied aircraft, the highest score of any fighter pilot during the First World War.