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Remembered Today:

"Red Baron" Medal in Labrador?


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The following article appeared in the local St. John's paper:

The riddle of the medal Are those really mementoes of the Red Baron at the museum in Northwest River?


— Photo by Jenny McCarthy/The Labradorian

Perry Michelin, a member of the Labrador Heritage Society, displays a plaque featuring a war medal, arm bands and a photograph of a man believed to be Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a. the Red Baron.

For years, a plaque sat gathering dust in the attic of the museum in Northwest River.

Then, one day last summer, a German tourist asked to see items in the attic not yet ready for display at the Hudson Bay Company Museum.

When he saw a medal mounted on a plaque, he knew what it was and pointed it out to museum staff.

It was the Pour la Merité — the highest military honour a pilot in Germany could be given during the First World War.

At one point, a fighter pilot needed 16 victories under his belt in order to win the Pour la Merité, or “the Blue Max,” as the medal was called. Of all its recipients the most famous was Manfred von Richthofen — the Red Baron.

And on the plaque that had been stored in the attic, the inscription reads: “Manfred von Richthofen — famous Red Baron’s Blue Max and 2nd and 3rd generations sleeves insignia of the traditional German fighter wing.”

The plaque contains arm bands and a photograph of a man wearing the medal around his neck.

Ernie MacLean, president of the Labrador Heritage Society, which operates the museum, said when they found out about the medal, they learned there were tests that could be done to determine if it is authentic. The medal has already been through one test, which it passed with flying colours.

The next test will involve taking it apart.

The armbands are labelled “Jagdgeschwader Richthofen” and “Geschwader Richthofen” which refer to the Red Fighter Wing/flying unit and Red Fighter Wing/fighter unit, both named for the Red Baron.

During the Second World War, fighter pilots who had flown with or were trained by the Red Baron wore the armbands. Later armbands included regiment and pilot names.

How the medal ended up in a museum in Northwest River was initially a mystery, but MacLean soon learned the medal had been a gift from a German air force commander stationed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for a few months in the early ’80s. The man is now deceased.

MacLean said he’s heard there were only 100 such medals issued, and certainly none to a recipient more famous than the Red Baron.

The song “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” attests to the pilot’s infamy: “Eighty men died trying to end the spree of the bloody Red Baron of Germany.”

After proving his skill at marksmanship and flight, the Red Baron commanded his own unit of aircraft painted red like his own. In one month alone, the unit shot down 22 British aircraft.

The Red Baron was credited with shooting down 80 aircraft before he was shot and killed in 1918.

For now, the plaque that may contain mementoes of the famous Prussian fighter pilot sits in its case at the Hudson Bay Company Museum while its authenticity is determined.

Given the knowledge base I have come across before on the GWF, I am wondering if any pals could shed some light.



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The "arm bands" are actually called "cuff titles", which are worn near the cuff on a uniform sleeve. The cuff title on the bottom left appears to be the WWII version of Jagdgeschwader 2's cuff title, and the other with wings on it, is the West German Luftwaffe's version. They are definitely not WWI vintage as JG2 didn't exist yet.

Richthofen Geschwader wiki pages:

JG2 (WWII):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagdgeschwader_2

JG71 (West German): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagdgeschwader_71

The Blue Max, even as small as it is in the photo, looks like a replica. And, finally, the photo, while of Richthofen himself, is very common and has been published and re-printed many many times over the years.

In short, no, none of those items ever belonged to von Richthofen. It appears to be a tribute someone made to him.

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I am inclined to agree with Jeff's assessment. An original PlM sells for anywhere between $8000-$18,000 on the collector's market these days, whereas a copy can be picked up for $25 on ebay. A good way to tell the difference is to look at the cross section of the cross's arms. Most copies will have a flat cross section, while the actual PlMs had a slightly rounded cross section.

Chances are Richthofen's PlM is in a warehouse somewhere in Russia. The Richthofen estate sits in what became Soviet held territory after WW2, and most of the contents of the estate "disappeared" during that time.

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I have never heard of taking a P.L.M. apart to see if its an original or not, :o

original items were maker marked by the manufacturer,

there are many original documented P.L.M.'s in existence and many variations of fakes

from extremely well made, to cheap and nasty and not a week goes by

without somebody trying to flog one of these repros on Evil Bay.

My interpretation of the picture board displayed is that its a presentation of the Cuff titles

of the 2nd and 3rd Generation of the Units title,

the unit did not as far as I know wear cuff-titles as part of their uniform in WW1.

Connaught Stranger.

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