enter image description hereI belong to a German singing club in Austin, Texas which was founded in 1879. Hanging on the wall of our club room is the photo below. In the upper left corner is an inscription, which I can't quite make out, but the signature appears to say "Freiherr von Richtoffen" and I was told that it's supposed to be the Red Baron (on the right.) But "supposed" is the key word. I was also told (20 years ago) that the photo was a hoax. That some former member with ties to Germany dummied it up.

I don't know much about airplanes, but the pictured one is an Albatross. Someone once said that the photo couldn't be authentic because the Red Baron flew a Fokker tri-plane. But then I found out that earlier he few other planes.

I've googled the letters on the side of the plane but no luck there. So my question is: Is there a way to tell whether the photo is really the Red Baron, and if so, if the inscription is really his handwriting? (Also, I'd like to know what the inscription says.)

  • 4
    There was more than one fighter ace called von Richthofen...
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 7 at 20:15
  • The last word in the second last line appears to be "Manfred" (to me, at least.)
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 7 at 20:47
  • 2
    Perhaps you can ask a related question on Aviation to help with the airplane identification and/or dating the photo...
    – mustaccio
    Jun 8 at 20:09
  • There should be a bunch of little doghouses on the front of the plane for all the times he shot down Snoopy... Jun 9 at 15:13
  • @mustaccio I've done so. aviation.stackexchange.com/q/99490/69426 There's a comment that says the Baron never flew an Albatros C III.
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 9 at 15:57

3 Answers 3


What I can make out from the inscription is

mit herzlichem Gruße
(an) die ..ustir Sänger..u..n
Rittmeister Manfred
Freiherr von Richthofen

Especially the second line is very hard to decipher. It ends with a name, but its last part is almost invisible, and the word before baffles me. Comparing to other occurences of the same letters, I am relatively sure it ends with "ustir", but the first, uppercase letter is unclear, and the whole does not remind me of anything.

So it is a dedication, and it would be resonable to assume it is from Richthofen to the, either single female person, or to multiple persons, mentioned in the second line.

You say this is from a singing club – "Sänger" is German for singer, could this be the name of your club, or a germanised version of it?

Edit: the name of the club has now been confirmed to be "Austin Sängerrunde", which therefore undoubtedly are the two last words in line two.

As to the authenticity, the Richthofen line does not look like his normal signature, where he typically adds the "Rittmeister" title after his name, and which has a few characteristic details like the small f with a wide loop to the left, and the curl added above the "R".

  • Yes, Rittmeister is the first word of the 3rd line. (So much for my assumption of 'für'). Jun 8 at 11:22
  • 7
    The name of my club is Austin Sängerrunde, so that's certainly the last two words in the second line. Thanks, good work.
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 8 at 11:48
  • 1
    It seems like there's an exclamation mark at the end of the second line. Wonderful photo! Looks like the photographer knew some composition rules and tried to achieve something interesting. Perhaps a different photo angle of the photo would help with less of wonderful shimmering reflected from the glass ✨
    – Artfaith
    Jun 9 at 14:14

Manfred von Richthofen – Wikipedia died at the age of 26. The man on the right looks older.

It's hard to read the text, but I think that the last portion is 'für Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen' (for Manfred Baron von Richthofen).

The signature is also different. The known signature does not use the title and abbreviates the 'von'.

So I don't think this is a signature, but an inscription describing the photo.

This may be a photo of the builders of a plane intended for Manfred von Richthofen.


Given ccprog's translation, this looks to be the sort of signed photo one might commonly receive as a response to fan mail.

The issue here is that there's only a small window of his life during which that might have occurred. He wasn't particularly famous (or even over 20) before he joined the German military around the start of the war, so it would have to be "fan mail" owing to his Red Baron persona.

During the war and after he became famous, he was in a rather high command position where he had leadership, tactical, and training responsibilties that should have kept him far too busy to be dealing with fan mail.

There is one such window though. He suffered a head injury in July 6th of 1917. From then until the 23rd of October (with a brief attempt to return to duty for a bit more than a month around August), he was convalescing. During that latter period he wrote an autobiography. It would make sense if he were also answering fan mail during that period.

After that he went back into combat, and 6 months later was shot down over France.

However, for the entire duration of that window, the USA was at war with Germany. German immigrants were widely viewed as potentially disloyal, and many were being interned or even lynched. It seems highly unlikely anyone in the US would be so bold as to send the Red Barron fan mail during that time, and equally unlikely it would be received and faithfully delivered back.

I'd imagine that if one were to investigate the club's history, it was not operating as a German-language Singing club at that time.

This being said, the German Luftwaffe was promoting him as a heroic figure, along with his "flying circus", and it was said that he was recieving rather a lot of fan mail at squadron HQ. So it would make sense if there was staff assigned specifically to answer his fan mail. So on the theory this may have been handled by his staff and not the man himself, there would be a window from about early 1914 to the US entry in 1917 during which this might have been received and sent out. If that happened, I hope they hid it well from 1917-1919.

  • Our club has operated continuously singing German. There was a sharp drop in membership after 1914, but in 1922 we hosted the Deutsch-Texanischer Sängerfest. My best guess is the the photo is really the Red Baron, but that a member in the 30's or 40's got it in Germany and wrote on it himself.
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 13 at 20:45
  • @B.Goddard - Well, I don't second guess the oppressed on what they think is safe and what isn't, because they are the experts, but I am surprised.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 13 at 20:47
  • 1
    There are a LOT of Germans in central Texas. I vaguely recall someone saying that at one time Germans were the largest ethnic group in Texas. Not an association commonly made. But we have Fredricksburg and New Braunfels (very German cities) for instance. There's safety in numbers, I guess.
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 13 at 20:50
  • @B.Goddard - Yup. Even visited a Historic German brewery there once. Near as I can tell, Germans were Texas' largest immigration group when it was a province of Mexico and the latter were attempting to up its population so it wouldn't look so attractive to the expansionist Americans. (That idea failed spectacularly).
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 13 at 20:55
  • My club owns Scholz Garten, which has been operating since 1866. It's the oldest Biergarten in Texas. General Custer used to drink at our bar. scholzgarten.com
    – B. Goddard
    Jun 13 at 21:08

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