A piece of the Red Baron’s aircraft is here in Ironton

Published 8:05 am Tuesday, February 2, 2021

There was a Zoom meeting of the Lambert Museum committee on Jan. 18 and one of the topics discussed was donations for display in the museum.
A signed, framed lithograph of one of Lambert’s paintings of combat adventures was offered.
There are several lithographs of his paintings in existence and, when there is room, I expect some of them will be displayed.
Also, a trade show booth was offered to be used when it will be needed to show some of the Lambert artifacts and pictures.
The discussion included some comments about the swatch of fabric that Lambert had from Manfred von Richthofen, the German ace also known as the Red Baron.
One time, when my wife and I were visiting him, he showed us a small piece of fabric that he had framed and hanging in his living room.
He told us that it was a piece of fabric from the wing of the Red Baron’s plane after it was shot down in France.
It was generally known that Lambert had a much larger piece and he gave several small pieces to his friends.
If any of those are still in existence, they would be a welcome donation to the museum.
Von Richthofen was the ace of aces, since he is credited with shooting down 80 Allied planes. He once shot down four in one day.
He began in the German infantry and, when the war became a stalemate, he grew tired of the trench life and volunteered for the air corps.
He didn’t start off very well, since he crashed on his first solo flight. Somehow, he was able to get back in the air.
Von Richthofen impressed one of the German aces and was invited to join his squadron.
He started flying the Albatross fighter plane, which he had painted red.
He tried to keep away from dog fights, but liked to loiter at high altitudes and then swoop down on them from above.
Von Richthofen is quoted as saying he never flew for fun. He also said that he tried to shoot the pilot or observer in the head.
(That reminds me of how Howard Mayes Sr. was shot down. His observer was killed and Howard was wounded in his head. Howard recovered, came home and became the manager of the Lawrence County Airport in 1930s.)
The Red Baron’s luck was running out.
In the summer of 1917, he buzzed down through several British fighters and was struck in the head, but it didn’t kill him.
It did fracture his skull and blinded him temporarily, but he was able to regain control of the plane enough to make a landing behind German lines.
In spite of reoccurring headaches and fits of depression, he went back to flying.
He switched from the Albatross to a red Fokker Triplane, which was a three winged, very maneuverable plane.
On April 20, 1918, he shot down his 80th plane, a British Sopwith Camel, and that was his last combat victory.
The next morning, his Flying Circus squadron was flying over several Allied ground troops and encountered a group of British aircrafts. A bullet tore through his torso, either from the ground troops or from a British plane.
He crashed in northern France and died still strapped in his cockpit.
He was given a military funeral by the British Royal Flying Corps.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at eelnod22@gmail.com.

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