Museum program unmasks man behind Red Baron legend

By Patrice Roche
Elmhurst History Museum
Posted4/17/2018 9:16 AM
  • Professor Peter Fritzsche presents a program on "The Real Red Baron and the WWI Aviators" on April 22 at the Elmhurst History Museum.

    Professor Peter Fritzsche presents a program on "The Real Red Baron and the WWI Aviators" on April 22 at the Elmhurst History Museum. Courtesy of the Elmhurst History Museum

This year, many special events are planned throughout the world to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The year 1918 also was when one of the war's most notorious enemies of the Allies finally was put to rest: Germany's Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron.

Before he died on April 21, 1918, at the age of 25, the "Bloody Red Baron" had shot down nearly 80 Allied planes.

Who was the Red Baron, and what role did these daring aviators play during The Great War? The Elmhurst History Museum will answer those questions and more during a program on the history of World War I aviators at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 22. "The Real Red Baron: Manfred von Richthofen and the WWI Aviators" takes place in the museum's Education Center, 120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst.

The program will be presented by Peter Fritzsche, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor of history and author of nine books, including the award-winning "Life and Death in the Third Reich" and the recently published "An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler."

Fritzsche will explore the myth and reality of the chivalrous solo pilots who played a legendary role during World War I and across the 20th century -- including the infamous Red Baron. Participants will learn about the origins of the "dogfight" and its obsolescence by the end of the Great War, which killed off many of the most famous aces.

The audience also will hear about new squadron leaders, like Hermann Goering, who followed the WWI aces and facilitated the rise of the Nazis. A question-and-answer session will follow the talk.

Registration is required and may be made online at (in the Adult Programs section) or by calling (630) 530-6879. The cost is free to members of the Elmhurst Heritage Foundation and $5 for others.

The "Real Red Baron" program is presented in connection with the Elmhurst History Museum's current exhibit, "Snoopy and the Red Baron," a new traveling exhibit from the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.

The Red Baron became a part of American culture when Schulz introduced Snoopy as the WWI Flying Ace in 1965, and Snoopy continued to fight imaginary battles from his doghouse perch for years. The exhibit traces this favorite Peanuts storyline through reproductions of Schulz's original comic strip artwork, photographs, film clips and more. The exhibit is open through June 17. Admission to the exhibit is free.

Museum hours are 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. General admission is free and limited free parking is available. For the latest exhibit and program information, visit or call (630) 833-1457.

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