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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Blue Max and Mom

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Blue Max (1966) staring George Peppard, James Mason, Ursula Andress.
The movie is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest war flicks of all time!

It's the WW1 story of German fighter pilot Bruno Stachel (George Peppard) who becomes a flying officer after a couple of years in the trenches. Most of the officer corps comes from Germany's aristocratic elite and Stachel feels out of place. This does not dampen his ambition and single-minded pursuit of his goal: to be awarded the Blue Max given for shooting down 20 enemy planes (though I've read the historical accurate number was 16).

Turn the page a few years and you'll find me with my family at the U.S. Airforce Air Museum in Dayton, OH (At least that's where I think we were). Anyway, there in the museum gift shop was a replica of the Blue Max. I was overcome with a single-minded pursuit of purchasing the medal, but I knew that it would exhaust every penny of my limited vacation money; being a frugal German, I left it in the case). Heartbroken, we left the museum, piled into the car and headed home. Somewhere down the road the regret overcame me and I couldn't hold in my grief. Tears flowed like a baby sprayed with mace (where did that come from?). When my parents asked what was troubling me (Probably more like, "Why the hell are you crying?!") I told them how much I really wanted the Blue Max. I'm sure my dad said something like, "We're not turning the car around!" and my mom yelled, "Tough! Now stop crying!"

Christmas that year I found a small box under the tree with my name on it. I'm pretty good at guessing presents; however, this one had me completely puzzled. You can probably guess the rest of the story: I opened it and found, to my surprise, a big button that read...

"I'm A Big Crybaby!"

Okay, no it wasn't. It was the Blue Max. When we got back from vacation, my mom phoned the museum and ordered it (pre-internet days).

I still have it -- hanging on my original Blue Max movie poster in my office.

I was reminded of this story because this day in history(from

In the skies over Vauz sur Somme, France, Manfred von Richthofen, the notorious German flying ace known as "The Red Baron," is killed by Allied fire.

Richthofen, the son of a Prussian nobleman, switched from the German army to the Imperial Air Service in 1915. By 1916, he was terrorizing the skies over the western front in an Albatross biplane, downing 15 enemy planes by the end of the year, including one piloted by British flying ace Major Lanoe Hawker. In 1917, Richthofen surpassed all flying ace records on both sides of the western front and began using a Fokker triplane, painted entirely red in tribute to his old cavalry regiment. Although only used during the last eight months of his career, it is this aircraft that Richthofen was most commonly associated with and it led to an enduring English nickname for the German pilot--the Red Baron.

On April 21, 1918, with 80 victories under his belt, Richthofen penetrated deep into Allied territory in pursuit of a British aircraft. The Red Baron was flying too near the ground--an Australian gunner shot him through his chest, and his plane crashed into a field alongside the road from Corbie to Bray. Another account has Captain A. Roy Brown, a Canadian in the Royal Air Force, shooting him down. British troops recovered his body, and he was buried with full military honors. He was 25 years old. In a time of wooden and fabric aircraft, when 20 air victories ensured a pilot legendary status, Manfred von Richthofen downed 80 enemy aircraft.

So tonight... I plan to break out my copy of The Blue Max (did I mention it stars Ursula Andress) and toast The Red Barron and... my mom -- who gave me one of the most precious material Christmas gifts I've ever received.

Sir Bowie "Pour Le Merite (For Merit)" of Greenbriar


  1. Splendid Blog...Bowster..the first part of the story...about the medal... was the Susan Boyle of Blogs... heartbreak, tears and then cheers..woohoo.. I like things that are blue too...

    mind you that could also be part of the Hooky blog the other day about wanting to Possess.... which i read up on in my Desmond Morris compendium... turns out is a primevil leftover from conquoring and neutralizing something that is a threat or making you anxious..... ownership it seems is the modern equivilent of eating your opponent...

    Oh by the way Big B...sorry you are holding the blog fort...i am in the final stages of setting up the online KMSA shoppe for you to see... which is soaking up my free time... so hang in there...and i'll also look out for any interesting blogs...

    There was a good one yesterday... that I'm sure Hooky would have liked...
    about a pub bar in the north of England... who were giving free drinks to girls who went in and stayed Topless at the bar...

    I can't seem to find the article now... :))

    Sir Dayvd. ( keeping a breast of the news ) in Oxfordshire

  2. Yes, I share the same love for the movie "The Blue Max". In fact, it was one of the first things that Sir Bowie and I discovered we had in common 29 years ago!

    I had the good fortune of being able to view Manfred's Blue Max in the Smithsonian Air Museum in Washington, DC a couple of years ago. It was in a display case next to an original Fokker!

    Spooky photo of dead Manfred...reminded me of the old west photos of dead gunslingers. His eyes where even left open.

    I'm with Sir D on the opening. I was getting ready to order one for your birthday...good thing I kept reading through the tears! LOL!

    Sir Hook Who's Blue is Maxed of Warrick

  3. we DID watch the movie, complete with intermission
    always a good one!