Manfred von Richthofen scores a victory

Long quote, from Manfred von Richthofen, about what it was like to score a victory.  No comment from me; what could I possibly say about it?

I was very proud when I heard that the Englishman I had shot down on the twenty-third of November 1916 was the man we called “The English Immelmann”: Major Lanoe G. Hawker.

I was on patrol that day and observed three Englishmen who had nothing else in mind than to hunt. I noticed how they ogled me, and since I felt ready for battle, I let them come.  I was lower than the Englishmen; consequently, I had to wait until they came down to me.  It did not take long before one dove for me, trying to catch me from behind.  After a burst of five shots the sly fellow had to stop, for I was already in a sharp left curve.  The Englishman attempted to get behind me while I attempted to get behind him.  So it went, both of us flying like madmen in a circle, with engines running full out at three-thousand-meter altitude.  First left, then right, each intent on getting above and behind the other.  I was soon acutely aware that I was not dealing with a beginner, for he did not dream of breaking off the fight.  He had a very maneuverable crate, but mine climbed better, and I finally succeeded in coming in above and behind him.

We had by this time come down to two thousand meters without having reached an outcome, and my opponent must have realized that it was now high time for him to make himself scarce.  The wind was working in my favor and we were circling more and more over our positions until finally we were nearly over Bapaume, about a kilometer behind our Front.  My opponent waved to me quite cheerfully as we were at a thousand meters altitude as if to say:  “Well, well, how do you do?”

The circles that we made around each other were so narrow that I estimated them to be not further than eighty to a hundred meters.  I had time to view my opponent.  I peered perpendicularly at him in his cockpit and could observe every movement of his head.  If he had not had his flying helmet on, I could have seen what kind of face he made.

Gradually this got to be too much for the brave sportsman, and he finally had to decide whether to land on our side or fly back to his own lines.  Naturally, he attempted the latter, after trying in vain to evade me through looping and such tricks.  In so doing, my first bullets flew by his ears, for prior to that I had not fired a shot.  At about a hundred meters altitude he tried to escape toward the Front by flying zigzag, making his plane a difficult target to hit.

It was now the given moment for me.  I followed him from fifty down to thirty meters altitude, firing steadily.  The Englishman had to fall.  A jam in my guns almost cost me success.

About fifty meters behind our lines he plunged down with a shot through the head.  His machine gun was pulled out of the ground and now graces the entrance over the door to my house.

–Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron: The Fabled Ace’s Story in His Own Words, ed. Stanley M. Ulanoff, trans. Peter Kilduff (New York: Ace Books, 1969), 61-62

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