April 21, 1918. German WWI fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, nicknamed the Red Baron, is shot down and killed near Vaux-sur-Somme, France. Richthofen was officially credited with 80 victories although there were many unconfirmed victims who were shot down behind Allied lines. He was the most successful ace pilot of WWI and remains one of the most famous pilots in military history. Germany’s propaganda machine at the time elevated him to almost hero status. He was shot down aged 25 while taking on an uncharacteristically risky low-altitude pursuit on the Allied side of the front line. He was shot in the chest, probably by Australian machine-gunner Sergeant Cedric Popkin from the ground although the identity of the man who downed the Red Baron remains the subject of debate. Such was the esteem in which he was held by his enemies, he was given a full military funeral by the Allies, who laid wreaths at his grave.
Also on April 21: traditional date of the foundation of Rome by Romulus and Remus (753 BC); Henry VIII becomes King of England (1509); foundation of Brasilia, now capital of Brazil (1960)
Born on April 21: Charlotte Brontë (1816), Max Weber (1864), Queen Elizabeth II (1926), Iggy Pop (1947)
Back in the Day: the Red Baron's final, fatal flight