Friday, January 31, 2014

The Red Baron

My 7th grader has wanted to learn more about World War I for a while now.  She mentioned it again recently so I got to work on educating myself.

World War II is easy.  There are many wonderful books, several informative and easy-to-watch documentaries, posters, maps and outlines and grandparents who lived during the time who love to tell stories and share memories.  There are histories told from every side, vivid pictures and Hollywood depictions of WWII.  There was an obvious bad guy(s), lots of heroes and a distinct beginning and ending.

But World War I?  A much different story.  The beginning was muddled, the middle was sloppy and the ending . . . well the ending was disastrous (setting the stage for another war).  There wasn't much of a rhyme or reason to the war and so many people died.

So far, the two most informative books I've read are from the German perspective:  All Quiet on the Western Front and, now, Richthofen The Red Baron.  The number one thing I took away from these two books is that war is ugly, no matter whose side you are on.

I also learned a lot about the history of flight and, more specifically, flight in combat.  The war started only a decade after the Wright brother's first successful flight.  The first war planes were barely that!  They were flying around with cloth wings, guy wires and carefully placed straps.

These guys shot at each other with sporting rifles and pistols.  They would literally fly right next to each other and try to shoot the other guy.  It took them a while to add in the use of the third dimension of height.  As with all war, for good or ill, technology improved drastically and quickly.  By the end of the war they had developed fast, easily maneuvered aircraft and changed the future of air travel.

I am not mechanically inclined.  I'm generally not interested in airplanes.  I am not interested in war games; war history, absolutely, but strategy, weaponry, not at all.  Having said that, I was thoroughly intrigued by this book.  I can't say I enjoyed it because it isn't the kind of book to be enjoyed, but I didn't struggle with reading it and it captivated my interest.  If you would like to learn more about this amazing fighter-pilot, I highly recommend this book.

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