I have never been a fan of "war stories"and have read little on the topic outside the history books. I have not been unaware of the human proclivity of man to off his fellow-man.
At any rate, as the anniversary of the death of the noted "Red Baron" approached, I did a bit of reading, just to remind myself that war not only is, but has always been, hell.
Curse you, Red Baron!
Manfred von Richthofen had 80 certified "kills" and probably many more, totaling perhaps more than one hundred. This is the most kills of any WWI fighter pilot on either side of the conflict. The next five had, respectively, 75, 72, 61, 60, and 57 confirmed "kills" with probably a significant number more not confirmed by the records.
What does it tell us? Six men destroyed more than 400 planes, and each man was regarded as a hero. Killing is heroic. Some killing is heroic. Whether one is a hero or a villain when he kills is dependent not upon the taking of a human life, but upon when and where, and how, the killing took place.
Von Richthofen met his demise over the Somme on April 21, 1918. Whether the shot that took his life was from the ground or from the air has been disputed and debated for the better part of a century, and books have been written about it.
Allied Major Blake organized a funeral with full military honors for von Richthofen. One of the wreaths presented by a fighter squadron was inscribed "To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe."
The baron lived twenty-five years.