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Red Baron's first victory - September 17, 1916

red baron

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Red Baron's first victory. In commemoration, here are the highlights from the description in his autobiography The Red Baron: The Story of the Fabled Ace in His Own Words (email subscribers received the entire description today):

The Englishman near me was a big, dark-colored barge. I did not ponder long and took aim at him. He shot and I shot, but we both missed. The fight then began. I tried to get behind him because I could only shoot in the direction I was flying. This was not necessary for him, as his observer's rotating machine gun could reach all sides. But this fellow was no beginner, for he knew very well that the moment I succeeded in getting behind him, his last hour would be sounded. At the time I did not have the conviction I have now that "he must fall," but, rather, I was much more anxious to see if he would fall, and that is a significant difference. After the first or the second or third miss, it occurs to one: "So that's how you do it."

My Englishman twisted and turned, crossing my line of fire. It did not occur to me that there were other Englishmen in the squadron who could come to the aid of their hard-pressed comrade. There was only the growing thought: "He must fall, come what may!" Then, finally, there was a brief but advantageous moment. The enemy had apparently lost sight of me and flew straight ahead. In a fraction of a second I was sitting on his tail. I gave him a short burst from my machine gun. I was so close I was afraid I would ram him. Then, suddenly, his propeller turned no more. Hit! The engine was probably shot to pieces, and he would have to land near our lines.

Reaching his own positions was out of the question. I noticed the machine swaying from side to side; something was not quite right with the pilot. Also, the observer was not to be seen, his machine gun pointed unattended up in the air. I had no doubt hit him also, and he must have been lying on the floor of the fuselage. 

The Englishman landed near the airfield used by a neighboring squadron. I was so excited that I could not resist coming down, and I landed with such eagerness on this strange field that I almost went over on my nose. I landed near the Englishman and jumped out of my airplane. A group of soldiers was already streaming toward the fallen enemy. Arriving there, I found that my assumption was correct. The engine was shot to pieces, and both crewmen were severely wounded. The observer had died instantly, and the pilot died while being transported to the nearest field hospital. Later I erected a gravestone to the memory of my honorably fallen enemies. 

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