Manfred and Lothar Wounded
Lothar was wounded back in May one hundred years ago, but was still recovering when one hundred years ago last week, on the 6th of July, the Red Baron too was seriously wounded.
The Red Baron had been fighting alongside his brother Lothar, who was doing quite well in aerial victories, and had tricks such as a fake fall out of the sky: "Then suddenly his airplane looped and the red machine plunged straight down, spinning all the while. Not an expected movement, but a regular fall. This is not the nicest of all feelings for the watching brother. But I had to get used to it, for my brother used this trick." With the trick, Lothar was able to get above the enemy airplane which was not able come around as quickly, and shoot.
Hunters and Shooters
Manfred noted that Lothar was a shooter, whose only fun is shooting, while he himself was a hunter, a sportsman, who rarely tried to shoot down more than one at a time. While it sounds more gentlemanly, obviously hunting is less efficient for winning a war, so the Red Baron apologetically admitted, "Only much, much later did I overcome that and also become a shooter."
Contributing to Extinction?
In a biological side note to military aviation history, Manfred told of getting to hunt bison at this time at the invitation of the Prince of Pless, who owned a hunting preserve with some of the last European bison. He was particularly impressed because, due to wartime poaching, the bison was within a generation of becoming extinct, yet he was offered the opportunity to shoot one (and he did). In retrospect, it seems fitting, as the German nobility was also about to become extinct as a result of the war. But like the American bison (a.k.a. buffalo as in Bill), reports of the death of the European bison are somewhat premature, since one subspecies has been preserved and reintroduced into the wild according to Wikipedia.
The Almost-Fatal Wound
As for the wounding of the Red Baron - Manfred seems to have been somewhat miffed that it wasn't even exactly in combat. Though his enemy was already shooting, "I had not yet flicked the safety off my gun," and "I calmly let him fire, for his best marksmanship would not have helped at a distance of over three hundred meters. One just does not score at that distance!"
But suddenly he was hit on the head, in what turned out to be a four-inch long wound. It didn't penetrate his skull ("My thick Richthofen head once again proved itself"), but it did temporarily paralyze his arms, legs, and optic nerve, so that he was suddenly blind. He knew the plane was diving, but couldn't tell how far away the ground was and couldn't do anything about it.
By sheer force of willpower, it sounds, the Red Baron turned off the gas and ignition, and made himself see. The altimeter showed 800 meters, and he was able to glide in for a landing and start to climb out of the airplane before fainting and falling, semiconscious, onto a thistle.
Richthofen was taken to a hospital, X-rayed, and diagnosed with a skull fracture and brain swelling. Now he had to wait to heal, in a race with his younger brother to see who could get back up in the air first.
Will the Red Baron Fly Again?
It's been speculated that the Red Baron never fully healed from this wound, that depression and headaches he had after this point were related to his injury. But he remained an effective ace; he was only at 57 victories at this point, with 23 victories still to come.
Read more about it in the Red Baron's own words, or tell others about it with the products below.