Book Review: The Red Knight of Germany: The Story of Baron Von Richtofen
Reviewed by William Yates
12 January 2006
[The Red Knight of Germany, by Floyd Gibbons (Reprint of 1928 edition: Costa Mesa, California: The Noontide Press, 1991)]
I grew up hearing about "The Red Baron." Now I know that his legend had several elements, all rooted in the climate of the day. Little in this legend is myth. The romantic elements are standard male fantasies, and the political elements have obvious seeds because he was German. So there is the interest healthy men have in bold, aggressive men, and the System, which has staked its life on keeping the German people in the dark corner where Evil coils. Hence what Gibbons presents us in The Red Knight of Germany is still valid to us as citizens, or products, of an Anglo civilization, according to our rulers. We must be reminded of deadly challenges which come in forms such as Von Richthoven, lest we let our guards down and the Light of the Free World be extinguished. So Gibbons opens:
He killed a hundred men in individual combat: shot them, burned them, crushed them, hurled their bodies down to earth... He became the terror of battle fronts. he grinned at grim death in a hundred duels above the clouds. He fought fair, hard, and to kill, and the better his foeman fought to kill him, the better he liked him for it.
This is a standard grabber opening. Gibbons settles down and delivers a good read, but his pro-Anglo bias, while muted, cannot be missed. Keep in mind this was written between the wars, before Germany gathered herself to reclaim her honor. A matrix of gentlemanliness is detectable in Gibbons' attitutde, as if let's get it all behind us, the traditional forthright manner of forgive and forget, would set the West back to keel. But Gibbons did not know -- very few did -- that the West had been invaded by the viruses unleashed by international jewry under cover of world proletarian revolution through its tool of the day, the Soviet Union. That was indeed the portal-time to the labyrinth, a hall of mirrors we know now, just opening when Gibbons wrote.
Von Richtofen was not so complex as other veterans of the Great War who became notorious, but we can derive other lessons from his personality. he was a daredevil, attracted to adrenaline as all daredevils are, a young man with an extraordinary will and a talent with a new technology of war. If I seem to be hinting that Von Richtofen the man shorted his legend, I am jumping the gun. For he was extraordinary, most of all in the sense of the last of a breed -- or rather, the last chance in history wherein a man of his type could shine. For what we have here above all is a man whom Fate made extraordinary by the accidental intersections of personality and history. Von Richtofen would have excelled as a polo player, or bond trader or horse breeder, or anything he set on. But a war came, and he was of the last generation of believers in the old order. The Kaiser is long gone, and if the German nobility remains, and still believes in its secred heart that the old order deserves resurrection, it is staying under cover.
Gibbons does a prime job of researching and interviewing. He consulted records in British government archives. He interviewed RAF men Von Richtofen shot down. He traveled to Schweidnitz in Prussia and interviewed Von Richtofen's mother. He describes the great hall of the mansion and the hundreds of animal trophies upon its walls shot by generations of Richtofens. And most telling of all: in Manfred's bedroom are the headhunter relics of his kills: a propeller, an engine cover, something from many of the planes he shot down, whcih he always tried to recover if he could. He had these parts inscribed with commemorative information. One wonders what he would have done with them in later years. Gibbons raws conclusions none of which will offend your logic nor politics. No biographical information on him is given, but apparently he was an American. He writes in the style of a journalist, so one should assume he was. he does inject a type of text at tactical points t keep the reader's blood warm, and sometimes the facts of Von Richtofen's personality alone serve. Until Von Richtofen was assigned his own, single-seat fighter craft,
Only the killing of wild game seemed to lift him to a new interest in life. Through his letters there runs a note of joy when there is a prospect of a hunt in which he can bag new victims for his trophy wall and feel the craving which even war, so far as he then knew it, had failed to gratify...
"Struggling" was not Richtofen's strong point. He could sit up in a tree throughout a winter night and keep his eyes open watching through the hours for the approach of game. He could track a quarry hour after hour through a forest and never give up the hunt. But he could not play at the war of waiting. It broke his spirit.
But the value in the man came through. He struggled to find his place and because he persisted he finally did. From cavalry to infantry, to signal service, to supply -- he asked for transfer, or was transferred. He was a loyal misfit. He used his aristocratic demeanor and connections if he had to, and did. He addressed his superior officers in a manner which would have brought punishment on an unconnected soldier. Here are some lessons for a Euro man today. Richthofen was a Kaiser's soldier and the Fatherland had declared enemies. His duty was to kill them. We might call those men naive but, mind you, we today are the extrusions of 100 years of murder and propaganda, brought to the highest art. Yet Richtofen's traits are essential to us if we would prevail. His Great War ground on but the idea of giving in was blasphemy and scourge. We today will face a far worse consequence if we do. The payoffs of personal will and good breeding (manners) contribute to the psychology of victory. So do the eternal martial qualities: altruism, duty, valor. Now, it is not to be doubted that in our time of total propaganda these qualities in action will get your testicles blown off. The Euro man has not yet re-calibrated his instincts to the effects of his technology. It is a slow process. But it can be done, and is taking place now.
And it is to be seen that the ZOG security apparat is so powerful that it relies most of all on this propaganda. It serves to neutralize nearly all anti-Statist action.
May 1915: Richtofen ordered to service as supply officer. To escape applied for transfer to Flying Service. Granted. Training at Cologne. Richtofen didn't care for airplanes or being a pilot but the air service, according to Gibbons, would allow him the opportunity to hunt the enemy. He preferred horses and resisted technology. He had no interest in machines.
June 1915: Sent to air reconnaissance duty at Russian front. Here is a taste of what he was experiencing:
July 20, 1915
20 kilometers south of Cholm
I hope you are receiving the letters I am sending. I am here with the Makensen army and am attached to the Sixth Austrian Corps. Now we are again in the full war of movement. Nearly every day I fly over the enemy and report. I reported the retreat of the Russians three days ago.
It gives me great fun -- at least, more than when I had to play at being an orderly officer. We all live in tents. The houses are nearly all burned down, and the remaining ones are so filled with vermin that no human can enter them...
August 1915: Richtofen shot down over Russian front but landed in German lines. Not wounded. Transferred to Belgian front.
Autumn 1915: bombing missions against British. Richtofen lived well in Belgium. He was stationed at Ostend, on the sea. He visited the beach often. "Orderlies served coffee and drinks from the big Palace Hotel that the army had seized." The Belgian girls embargoed the beach. We see that war at this stage of technology could still be made a gentleman's game, or diversion.
Throughout the book one gets the sense of what formidable fighters the English -- or rather British -- were. Tenacious, ingenious, hard-hitting and valorous. So were the Germans. (The French seem in effect Latinized. I have concluded from my reading that the French are essentially Latinized Germans. Roman colonial settlement was thick south of the Rhine.) The French can be effective fighters, as other Latins, but they lack the great organizing drive of their distant cousins, the Germans. I am not criticizing the French nor any Latins, but critiquing them. It is terrible to read of these two most formidable tribes, the English and Germans, tearing each other to pieces. It is important to keep in mind that WWI brought Euro peoples to their present danger; WWI that broke the old systems of leadership and order. Technology would have altered them anyway -- but arguably not broken them. In Belgium Richtofen encountered new realities of air war. Gibbons writes:
Stalking a submarine from the air offered greater possibilities for results than aerial combat in the fall of 1915, when the tactics of air fighting were still undeveloped. Hostil airmen were almost immune for danger from one another, because air armament and methods of attack were inadequate...
This was one of the reasons why the chivalry of the air at the commencement of war permitted the airmen of opposing sides to fly about their duties without molestation from one another. Airplanes were considered primarily for the purposes of observation, secondly for bombing. Actual fighting in midair was almost unheard of, and the airman's chief dread was from machine gun or shell fire from the ground.
This state of affairs did not last long. Pilots began to take up rifles, carbines, revolvers and rifle grenades to attack one another. Air fighting commenced in that way, but with very little success. Machines moving past one another at several hundred miles an hour had little chance of winging one another with single shots. The machine-gun mounting had not been perfected.
September 1915: Richtofen trades rifle shots with a British observation plane. No injuries to either. And so on. On the Belgian front Richtofen met senior pilots, including the great Bolcke and Immelman, who taught him and who, most of them, died in combat. Mind you, the principal components of these aircraft, after the engine and fuel tank, were wood and fabric. Combat flying was extremely hazardous, with worse odds than the infantry. An airman went down with his craft. A round might puncture his crankcase and his engine would lose compression and quit. If he was lucky he might glide down to a safe landing. If enemy rounds shot away his controls he simply tumbled down to an impact death. The worst was fire -- which might be caused by tracer rounds in his fuel lines or reservoir, and he might burn to death on the way down.
Richtofen did not have a "humanities" disposition in the way that other notable veterans, such as Robert Graves or Ernst Junger, did. But Richtofen was a type which can inspire us to investigate greatness. He was no dullard, no prole on adrenaline, but a disciplined and cultured man who knew himself and his people. And he was a stone-cold killer. To his type death in combat was apotheosis. Here is an excerpt from a letter to his mother, dated Verdun, May 3, 1916:
... I love my new occupation as pilot. I don't think anything else can attract me in this war. I fly a Fokker -- a plane with which Boelcke and Immelmann have had great success. I was very much grieved about Holck's death.
Three days before he was killed, he visited me and we were very gay together. He told me of his imprisonment in Montenegro. One really can't imagine that this fine, healthy and strong fellow doesn't exist any more.
I witnessed his last air fight. First, he shot down a Frenchman in the midst of a hostile squadron. Then he evidently had a jam in his machine gun and wanted to return to the air above our lines. A whole swarm of Frenchmen were on him. With a bullet through his head, he fell from an altitude of 9,000 feet -- a beautiful death. One cannot imagine Holck crippled, with one arm or leg. To-day I am going to fly at his funeral.
If Euro men are to survive, their warriors must develop a beserker psychology like this -- an essentially healthy psychology. Fortunately, ongoing changes are leaving Euro peoples in spiritual hiatus; Christianity is essentially passed, and now we must endure empty decades until the return of our instincts under a structure of natural religion, the energies of Nature. Danger of annihilation by the colored races, and the deteriorating ecology, will force it on us.
The proto-tactic of the dogfighter was to get above the enemy and press him down while gunning. The craft under could not fire back (unless it carried an assistant and a rondo machine gun), and lost altitude. The pilot, stressed by both the enemy pursuer and the onrushing ground, might panic and make mistakes. Most dogfight kills were effected in this configuration. The new flying service was attracting the daring, misfit types. Many were from aristocratic families. This is consonant with the metaphor of the knight and his war horse: speed, power, elevation and mobility. This is from a letter to Liebe Mamma, dated June 22, 1916:
What did you say about Immelman's death? In time, death comes to us all -- also to Boelcke. The leader of Lothar's [Manfred's younger brother] fighting squadron also did not return from the bombing flight. The day before, the leader of my old fighting squadron No. 1 was also shot down. He was the Baron von Gerstoff, one of the most effecient squadron leaders. I liked him very much.
August 1916: Transferred back to the Russian front. Flying two-seater recon bombers. Service here was dangerous in an additional way: the Russians didn't take prisoners. To go down behind Russian lines meant execution. The Russians had no air force of their own, no effective anti-aircraft weapons. They were nearly at the mercy of aerial attackers, and their frustration became hatred. Richtofen bombs railroad stations, lines, troop columns and supply depots.
That season on the Russian front was a carnival of unimpeded daily slaughter for the young sky Uhlan. Computation of the lives he took on the ground is obviously not possible, but it is quite possible that he killed many more men in this manner than he did in his entire career of combat in the air. It was wholesale. He liked that. It fed the killing hunger, but his spirit of combat starved. It was all killing and no fighting. Richtofen preferred a mixture of the two.
Meanwhile, the British had nearly driven the Germans from the sky over the Western front. In August 1916, with the war gone on two years, Richtofen was recruited for a new squadron, Jagdstaffel No. 2, formed to reclaim air superiority. This was to be Germany's special hit team. At last, after two years in the wilderness, Richtofen had arrived where he wanted to be. He was to get his own mount, his coterie, worthy enemies and the imperative of fighting for the glory of the Fatherland -- on his own terms. "An Englishman for breakfast!" became the motto of his squadron.
Von Richtofen shot down his first enemy in single combat on September 16, 1917, over Cambrai, a British FE two seater. he followed it all the way; it came down behind German lines. He landed beside it andpulle dthe two airmen, Morris and Rees, from the craft and called for medics. Too late; both were mortally wounded by Richtofen's Spandau. They were buried in Cambrai the next day. Von Richtofen places stones on their graves. His war was personal, that of the hunter, of personal combat. Here is a toast Von Richtoven gave one evening at the officers' mess:
"A glorious death. Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of benzine -- to the last beat of the heart and the last kick of the motor: a death for a knight -- a toast for his fellows, friend and foe."
Richtofen had a small cup inscribed by a Berlin jeweler with the data from each of his kills: kill number, type of plane, number of enemy, date downed. His first: "I. Vickers 2. 17.9.16." He accrued 60 cups -- 60 aircraft shot down in a single combat -- confirmed kills only. He shot down over 80 planes altogether, killing over 100 men. In modern combat only a sniper could accrue so many personal kills. And so Richtofen carried on while the Allies, massive now with the arrival of America, hulked up for the final campaign to bring the Germans under control. This went on, and you know about it: the carnage and destruction below, and you know also that several times throughout the war saner leaders on both sides tried to arrange armistices, but were shut up by the ultimate powers. Guess who they were? The awful murder, counter-murder in the air covered by a residual chivalry went on. Individuals of the highest quality, these ferocious and penetrating men who centuries earlier had united to repel Asiatic invaders, now were inveigled into killing each other, enraptured by technology, and found themselves like their comrades on the ground caught in a momentum which could be ended only by exhaustion or decisive victory.
Hauptmann Manfred Von Richtofen was shot down April 21, 1918, by Captain Roy Brown, a Canadian flying with the RAF. The fight occurred over the village of Sailly-le-Sec in the Rhone Valley. Brown, flying a Sopwith Camel, came up on Richtofen's tri-winged Fokker while the Baron was engaging another Camel. The three craft were 200 feet above the ground and over Australian infantry lines. Aussie infantry were firing their machine guns on the Baron as well, but it was Brown's Vickers that struck the Baron. He went down -- but managed to land his plane. The churned soil ripped off one wheel, and the Fokker stopped in a shell hole. Aussie troops ran forth and learned the airman's identity from documents in his pocket. He was dead shot through the chest by one round. He was 25 years old. The news traveled through the lines at light speed. Von Richtofen's body was carried to the British rear, and laid in state in a hangar, where British airmen viewed him. Infantrymen tore the Baron's Fokker apart for souvenirs.
Captain Brown refused to view Richtofen or talk about it. That night he stayed in his tent. He flew a mission the next day, and upon returning collapsed. He had to be removed from the cockpit and was hospitalized for six weeks. For three of them he was delirious. Captain Brown was later made a flight instructor. One time in the air he passed out in his cockpit and crashed. He was thought dead, but survived with several skull fractures.
Three are messages here. One is the strain of killing people with whom you have no quarrel, and are no threat to you. Surely we have learned by now that modern war is a scam run by powermongers. Long passed are the days when men had to fight over resources. It is no longer necessary. Alternatives can be had if governments put themselves to it. But governments do not. They take their orders from banks, corporations and Zionists. In The Red Knight of Germany you will gain a sense that in the coming struggle technologies must be weighed thoroughly and deployed only after considering the consequences of their use. The British buried Von Richtofen the day after his death at the village of Bertangles. In 1925 his body was exhumed and returned to Germany. American and British former airmen attended the state funeral in Berlin.