Early career and Jasta 11
May 2, 1892 - April 21, 1918
Like his brother Manfred, Lothar began the war as a cavalry officer with the 4th Dragoon Regiment. In October 1914, while stationed at Attigny, he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for valour. The following month, his regiment was transferred to the Eastern Front. Following his brother Manfred von Richthofen's example, he transferred to the German Air Service in 1915 (Luftstreitkräfte) in late 1915. He served from January 1916 as an observer with Kasta 23 and saw action during the Battle of Verdun. He won the Iron Cross 1st Class in December and then began training as a pilot .
His first posting as a pilot was to his brother's Jasta 11 on 6 March, 1917.His first victory claim followed on 28 March for an FE 2b of No. 25 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.Under the watchful eye of his older brother, Lothar scored 24 victories in 47 days
Taking part in the period of German dominance called Bloody April by the British, Lothar had won 15 more victories by the beginning of May. When his brother went on leave, Lothar von Richthofen assumed command of the squadron. Manfred considered his brother's combat style to be reckless, describing him as a "shooter" rather than a "hunter", and worried about his safety.
Richthofen and Albert Ball
August 14, 1896 - May 7, 1917
During the first week of May 1917, Lothar von Richthofen scored three more kills. On the evening of 7 May near Douai, he led a flight of 5 Albatros D.III's from Jasta 11 that encountered 11 S.E.5s from the "elite" No. 56 Squadron RFC, including the top English ace of the time, Captain Albert Ball, as well as a SPAD from No. 19 Squadron, and a Sopwith Triplane of No 8 (Naval) Squadron. In a running battle in deteriorating visibility in the middle of a thunderstorm over Bourlon Wood, both sides became scattered. Ball was seen to lose control of his plane and crash, fatally. Richthofen engaged in single combat with a Triplane, and received credit for shooting it down. Though forced to land his damaged aircraft, Richthofen escaped injury.
Even now, the details of the encounter are unclear. Pilots of No. 56 Squadron told of seeing Ball chasing an all-red Albatros before he crashed. There is also doubt about Richthofen's victory, since the Sopwith Triplane involved in the action returned to base undamaged. The propaganda value of Ball's death was obvious, however, and the German High Command awarded a victory to Lothar. Later research suggests that Ball became disoriented by vertigo, accidentally entering an inverted dive which choked his plane's carburator and killed the engine, causing him to crash.
Pour le Mérite
Richthofen raised his total to 24 by 13 May, when, after shooting down a BE.2, he was wounded in the hip by anti-aircraft fire and crash-landed; his injuries kept him out of combat for five months. On 14 May he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, and he resumed command of Jasta 11 in September 1917. In early 1918 he suffered a severe ear infection and was hospitalised in Berlin.
Returning to his unit in February, he claimed 3 Bristol Fighter F2.Bs on 11 and 12 March, before he was again forced down on 13 March by a Sopwith Camel flown by Captain Augustus Orlebar of No. 73 Squadron. Nursing his crippled Fokker Dr1 Triplane into a landing, Richthofen clipped a high-tension wire and crashed heavily, suffering serious head injuries. He was still recovering when he learned of his brother's death.
March 13, 1896 - February 1, 1920
Lothar returned to service with Jasta 11 in July 1918. He scored his final victory (a DH-9a) on 12 August 1918, flying a Fokker D.VII. The next day he was again wounded in action against Sopwith Camels. The pilot most likely to have wounded Lothar von Richthofen was the American ace Captain Field E. Kindley of the 148th Aero Squadron USAS. While recovering from his wounds he was promoted to the rank of Oberleutnant, and saw no further combat before the war ended on November 11, 1918.
Considering the amount of time Lothar von Richthofen spent on the front and in hospitals, he was one of the most combat efficient and prolific flying aces of the war, perhaps even more so than his brother Manfred. Of his total of 40 confirmed victories, Lothar scored 33 in just three months: 15 in April 1917, 8 in May 1917, and 10 in August 1918.
Orders and Medals
Prussia / German Empire
- Pour le Mérite, 14 May 1917 (in recognition of his 24th aerial victory)
- Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Knight's Cross with Swords, 10 May 1917
- Iron Cross, 1st Class, 1914
- Iron Cross, 2nd Class, 1914
Other German States
- Military Merit Order, 4th Class with Swords (Bavaria)
- Hanseatic Cross, Hamburg
Other Central Powers
- Liakat Medal in Silver with Sabers (Ottoman Empire)
- Turkish War Medal of 1915 (a.k.a. "Gallipoli Star" or "Iron Crescent"), Ottoman Empire
Prussian / Imperial German Badges
- German Army Pilot's Badge
- Wound Badge in Silver
Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a title, translated as Baron, not a first or middle name. The female forms are Freifrau and Freiin. Lothar is buried next to his brother Manfred von Richthofen on the sudfriedhof in Wiesbaden.
With the return of peace, Lothar von Richthofen worked briefly on a farm before accepting an industrial position. He married Countess Doris von Keyserlingk in Cammerau in June 1919, fathering a son, W.M., and a daughter, before the marriage was dissolved. He then became a commercial pilot, carrying passengers and mail between Berlin and Hamburg. On July 4, 1922 Richthofen died in a crash of his LVG C VI at Fuhlsbüttel due to an engine failure. Also on board were actress Fern Andra and her director Georg Bluen. Bluen died the following day, but Andra survived, spending a year recovering from her injuries.