On This Day, April 21, 1918 –German Ace Red Baron Brought Down by Allied Fire
1918 – In the skies over Vauz sur Somme, France, Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as “The Red Baron,” is killed by Allied fire.
Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the Imperial Air Service in 1915. By 1916, he was terrorizing the skies over the western front in an Albatross biplane, downing 15 enemy planes by the end of the year, including one piloted by British flying ace Major Lanoe Hawker. In 1917, Richthofen surpassed all flying ace records on both sides of the western front and began using a Fokker triplane, painted entirely red in tribute to his old cavalry regiment. Although only used during the last eight months of his career, it is this aircraft that Richthofen was most commonly associated with and it led to an enduring English nickname for the German pilot – the Red Baron.
On April 21, 1918, with 80 victories under his belt, Richthofen penetrated deep into Allied territory in pursuit of a British aircraft. The Red Baron was flying too near the ground – an Australian gunner shot him through his chest, and his plane crashed into a field alongside the road from Corbie to Bray. Another account has Captain A. Roy Brown, a Canadian in the Royal Air Force, shooting him down. British troops recovered his body, and he was buried with full military honors. He was 25 years old. In a time of wooden and fabric aircraft, when 20 air victories ensured a pilot legendary status, Manfred von Richthofen downed 80 enemy aircraft.
753 BC – Today is the traditional date of the foundation of Rome.
1649 – The Maryland Toleration Act was passed, allowing all freedom of worship.
1689 – William III and Mary II were crowned joint king and queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.
1789 – John Adams was sworn in as the first U.S. Vice President.
1836 – General Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. This battle decided the independence of Texas.
1856 – The Mississippi River was crossed by a rail train for the first time (between Davenport, IA, and Rock Island, IL).
1862 – The U.S. Congress established the U.S. Mint in Denver, CO.
1865 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train left Washington.
1898 – The Spanish-American War began.
1916 – Bill Carlisle, the infamous ‘last train robber,’ robbed a train in Hanna, WY.
1943 – U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt announced that several Doolittle pilots had been executed by the Japanese.
1953 – In New York, the Sidney Janis Gallery held the Dada exhibition.
1959 – Alf Dean caught a 16-foot, 10-inch white shark that weighed 2,664 pounds. At the time it was the largest catch with a rod and reel.
1960 – Brasilia became the capital of Brazil.
1961 – The French army revolted in Algeria.
1967 – Svetlana Alliluyeva (Svetlana Stalina) defected in New York City. She was the daughter of Joseph Stalin.
1975 – South Vietnam president, Nguyen Van Thieu, resigned, condemning the United States.
1977 – “Annie” opened on Broadway.
1984 – In France, it was announced that doctors had found virus believed to cause AIDS.
1987 – Special occasion stamps were offered for the first time by the U.S. Postal Service. “Happy Birthday” and “Get Well” were among the first to be offered.
1998 – Astronomers announced in Washington that they had discovered possible signs of a new family of planets orbiting a star 220 light-years away.
2000 – North Carolina researchers announced that the heart of a 66 million-year-old dinosaur was more like a mammal or bird than that of a reptile.
2009 – UNESCO launched The World Digital Library. The World Digital Library (WDL) is an international digital library operated by UNESCO and the United States Library of Congress.
Source: History.com; On-This-Day.com