RICHTHOFEN FILM 19/09/1917 (silent)
Film footage and transcript courtesy of AHG Fokker Films. Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
A film that features Richthofen, along with other famous German aviators, as he prepares to fly a sortie in his red Fokker triplane.
MARCKEBEKE AIRFIELD (1-5 September 1917) 2:34 – 2:36: The alarm bell is now seen on a raised platform behind the tower, both of which are adjacent to a wooden hangar that contains Richthofen’s F.I 102/17 triplane. 2:37 – 2:46 Mechanics run into the hangar. 2:47 – 3:03 Mechanics remove F.I 102/17’s propeller cover and roll F.I 102/17 out of the hangar. Note the oil drip pan located on the ground between the undercarriage’s tires. 3:04 – 3:17 Mechanics roll F.I 102/17 onto the airfield. Note that Richthofen’s flight clothes (leather jacket and insulated trousers) are resting on its lower left wing. 3:18 – 3:45 Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen, dropped off by car (seen to the left behind the triplane) approaches F.I 102/17. Note: Richthofen is wearing a standard army tunic rather than his customary Uhlan tunic, and is not displaying any of his decorations or badges. Other photographic evidence indicates he often dressed in this manner while on active flight duty. Ground personnel then prepare the machine for takeoff and assist Notes for A.H.G. Fokker Films Page | 11 Richthofen in getting into his flight gear: leather jacket, insulated trousers (moved to lower right wing). The car in the background is driven away. 3:46 – 4:20 Leutnant Eberhardt Mohnicke (Jasta 11), with white collar outside tunic collar, shows up to assist in dressing Richthofen as well. 4:21 – 4:22 Richthofen removes his service cap and provides a glimpse of his shaved head and the black strap holding his head wound bandage to the rear left of his skull (as a result of a wound received on 6 July 1917). 4:23 – 4:49 Richthofen dons his flight helmet, scarf, goggles. 4:50 – 4:53 Richthofen addresses Jasta 11 pilots before a mission. He appears to be joking and playacting with them for the camera. 4:53 – 5:03 Pilots from left to right: Leutnant Alfred Gerstenberg, Leutnant Eberhardt Mohnicke, Richthofen, Leutnant Carlos Meyer Baldó. 5:04 – 5:37 Pilots from left to right: Leutnant Carlos Meyer Baldó, Leutnant Eberhard Stapenhorst, Leutnant Karl-August von Schönebeck, Leutnant Gisbert-Wilhelm Groos, Leutnant Hans-Georg von der Osten, Leutnant Franz Müller.
10:50 – 12:24 MARCKEBEKE AIRFIELD (1-5 September 1917) continued: This segment continues where the earlier 0:32 – 5:38 segment above left off. 10:50 – 11:17 Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen, CO of JG 1, climbs into the cockpit of his recently delivered Fokker F.I 102/17 and prepares his guns for firing. 11:18 – 11:50 Mechanics prime the cyclinders of the plane’s rotary engine, then spin the propeller to start it. 11:51 – 12:02 The engines bursts to life and the ground crew hold the tail and wing of the plane to keep it from moving forward prematurely. Note the considerable propeller “wash” (the air current blown back by the propeller). Notes for A.H.G. Fokker Films Page | 15 12:03 – 12:05 Richthofen gives an arm signal. Though the scene appears to have been intended to show him signalling “clear for takeoff,” it evidently was spliced out of sequence because there is no backwash evident from the propeller. It appears that it was taken after he had prepared his guns and perhaps was signalling either to start the engine or remove the wheel chocks. 12:06 – 12:24 Richthofen takes off and climbs away in Fokker F.I 102/17. Note the short distance covered before the plane lifts off. 12:25 – 13:19 RICHTHOFEN’S 61ST VICTORY (3 September 1917) Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen brought down his 61st victory –his second in a triplane – on 3 September 1917. His victim was Lt. Algernon Bird of RFC No.46 Squadron, flying Sopwith Pup B1795. Richthofen reported: “I was absolutely convinced I had a very skilful pilot in front of me, who even at an altitude of 50 metres did not give up., but fired again, and opened fire on a column of troops while flattening out, then deliberately ran his machine into a tree.”  Bird survived the encounter and several photographic records were taken of him and his plane at the crash site south of Bousbecque, including this film segment. Fokker himself mentioned the encounter and his film: “Richthofen gained the tail of an enemy. The tracer bullets were spelling out death, when the enemy’s engine stopped, the plane went into a quick spin, and only leveled out for a landing quite close to where we were watching the whole battle. We quickly motored over. Richthofen had already gone back to the Front, after landing first, and shaking hands with the officer he had brought down. A bullet had pierced the officer’s pocket, ruined a package of cigarettes, traveled on down through his sleeve, punctured his Sam Browne belt and gone on without injury. We looked over his coat, that might so easily have been his shroud. Asking him to ride along with us, we took him back to the flying field, where we picked up Richthofen and together went to the Casino for a good breakfast and friendly chat. I took moving pictures of the officer and Richthofen. Later I acquired a patch of fabric from Richthofen’s 60th victory. After a pleasant breakfast, we turned the prisoner over to headquarters, since it was against regulations to keep him for any length of time.”  12:25 – 12:28 An inspection of Bird’s crashed Sopwith Pup occurs in front of the camera. 12:28 From left to right: Richthofen, Leutnant Eberhardt Mohnicke (Jasta 11) with white cloth around neck and walking stick, Anthony Fokker wearing flight gear. 12:28 – 12:50 Richthofen, Mohnicke and Fokker point to the bullet holes through Bird’s engine and nacelle while enlisted men apparently begin their salvage work on the wreck. 12:51 – 13:08 Bird (left) and Richthofen (next to Bird) pose for the camera. 13:09 – 13:19 Fokker (left) joins them and performs a strange pantomime that amuses (and probably perplexed) Bird.