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With The Red Baron Again

 
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BerichtGeplaatst: 26 Feb 2008 10:25    Onderwerp: With The Red Baron Again Reageer met quote



With The Red Baron Again
Biographer Returns To Fray With New Book On Ace Flier

RED BARON AUTHOR Peter Kilduff of New Britain recently published his sixth book on the World War I aviation legend, the Red Baron. (PATRICK RAYCRAFT / February 18, 2008)

By KEN BYRON | Courant Staff Writer
February 25, 2008


After writing one book on the Red Baron, Peter Kilduff thought that was enough.

"The story has been told," he replied to a publisher who had asked him in the early 1990s to write a biography of the deadliest combat flier of World War I.

That publisher sought out Kilduff because he had written a well-regarded translation of the Red Baron's memoir. He eventually agreed to write the biography, which was published in 1993, but even that was not the end. This past fall, the recently retired administrator from Central Connecticut State University published a new biography of the Red Baron, the sixth book he has written that involves the German pilot. Kilduff has written a total of 12 books on wartime aviation.

"Red Baron: The Life and Death of an Ace" has been available in Great Britain since the fall and may come to this country later in the year.

The Red Baron was the nickname for Manfred von Richtofen. He is credited with shooting down 80 British, Canadian and Australian pilots, the most of any flier during World War I. Richtofen was shot down and killed in 1918, shortly before the war ended.

Kilduff did not hesitate when David and Charles, a publishing firm in Britain, asked him to write the new biography. His research during the course of many years had unearthed a lot of material. That work included combing through German archives and cultivating contacts with Richtofen's descendants.

"People ask 'Isn't this the same story?' Well no, new information and photographs keep coming out of the woodwork," Kilduff said. "The publisher wanted 90,000 words, and I could have written 180,000."

Anticipating a spike in interest in the Red Baron to coincide with the 90th anniversary of his death in April, the publisher wanted a new biography, said Emily Pitcher, Kilduff's editor at David and Charles.

"I discovered that there were only two real experts on the Red Baron," Pitcher said. "Peter's previous works on the Red Baron had more scope and critical success and his contacts with the Richtofen family could not be underestimated. As the project developed, we realized we really did have the best man for the job."

Kilduff was 15 when he became interested in World War I pilots and was immediately drawn to the German ace. His interest grew to the point that he decided to learn German in school so that he could read Richtofen's memoirs, which at the time had not been translated into English.

"He was my inspiration from the get-go," Kilduff said about Richtofen.

Kilduff said he was attracted to the drama of many World War I fliers' lives. Flying was still quite new then, and the planes they used were rickety and often unreliable. Fighter pilots of the time lived an often glamorous and prestigious existence but frequently died young.

Richtofen was feared by his adversaries but was also a celebrity to the Germans, and his exploits were used to help promote their war effort. He had a flair for the dramatic, painting his planes red. Richtofen was 25 when he died.

"I like him and I admire him," Kilduff said. "There was a spark in him. He didn't just sit still, he knew what he wanted."

A letter Richtofen wrote to a superior officer demanding permission to become a pilot illustrates what Kilduff says is his subject's determination.

"I did not come to war to gather cheese and eggs," Richtofen says in the letter's opening line. That brash approach did not work at first, but after more tries, Richtofen was transferred to the fledgling German air force and quickly won notoriety and respect for his skill and accomplishments.

Kilduff got his start as a Red Baron expert when he was a reporter for the now-defunct Hartford Times.

In addition to covering news, he did book reviews. One of those reviews was of the memoirs of an American flier from World War I. When he learned that the publisher of that book was planning a translation of Richtofen's memoirs, he contacted the editor and suggested they use the 1933 edition, rather than the one that came out in 1917. The earlier edition was heavily censored and presented a sanitized picture that Kilduff thought was inaccurate. Kilduff told the book publisher that the later edition gave a truer picture that included material Richtofen wrote in which he discussed being morose about the war and his role as a propaganda tool.

"I wasn't looking for a job, but the editor wrote back and said I sounded like the person to do the translation," Kilduff said. That book led to other publishers hiring Kilduff for projects on the Red Baron.

Kilduff's books include the new biography; "Talking With the Red Baron," a semi-fictional account of Richtofen's career; "The Illustrated Red Baron," a pictorial history of the Red Baron's life; "The Red Baron Combat Wing," which is about Richtofen's squadron; the 1993 biography, called "Richtofen: Beyond the Legend of the Red Baron," and the translation of Richtofen's memoirs, which was called "The Red Baron" and published in 1969.

Pitcher said her firm is still reviewing whether it will start selling the new biography in the United States. Meanwhile, people interested in it can buy it online through www.amazon.co.uk or from David and Charles at www.davidandcharles.co.uk, Pitcher said.
http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-redbaron0225.artfeb25,0,702619.story
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