Kilduff, Peter 1941-
Kilduff, Peter 1941-
Born June 11, 1941, in New Britain, CT; married; wife's name Judy. Education: Central Connecticut State University, B.A.
Office—Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley St., New Britain, CT 06050.
Hartford Times, Hartford, CT, staff member for one year; Front magazine, former editor; worked for seventeen years as editor of American Cross & Cockade Journal; Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, director of university relations. Military service: U.S. Navy, served two years.
League of World War I Aviation Historians (director and president emeritus).
"That's My Bloody Plane": The World War I Experiences of Major Cecil Montgomery-Moore, as Told to Peter Kilduff, Pequot Press (Chester, CT), 1975.
Germany's Last Knight of the Air: The Memoirs of Major Carl Degelow, W. Kimber (London, England), 1979.
(Translator) Manfred von Richthoven, The Red Baron Manfred Freiherr von Richthoven (memoir), Aero Publishers, 1980.
US Carriers at War, Stackpole Books (Harrisburg, PA), 1981, 2nd revised edition, Naval Institute Press (Annapolis, MD), 1997.
Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Osprey (London, England), 1983.
Germany's First Air Force, 1914-1918, Motorbooks International (Osceola, WI), 1991.
Richthofen: Beyond the Legend of the Red Baron, Arms & Armour (London, England), 1993, J. Wiley (New York, NY), 1994.
The Red Baron Combat Wing: Jagdgeschwader Richthofen in Battle, Arms & Armour (London, England), 1997.
The Red Baron: Beyond the Legend, Cassell (London, England), 1999.
The Illustrated Red Baron: The Life and Times of Manfred von Richthofen, Arms & Armour (London, England), 1999.
Talking with the Red Baron: "Interviews" with Manfred von Richthofen, Brassey (London, England), 2003.
Peter Kilduff is widely regarded as the leading expert on the life of Baron Manfred von Richthoven, the World War I German flying ace better known as the Red Baron. Also a general World War I aviation history expert, Kilduff has earned a living as a magazine editor and, more recently, as director of university relations at Central Connecticut State University. All the while, his avocation has been aviation; he is a former president of the League of World War I Aviation Historians and has written several books on the Red Baron, as well as other military topics.
Kilduff's road to becoming an authority on the Red Baron was serendipitous. When he was in junior high, he was interested in Mercedes Benz cars. He had a model Mercedes and he liked to race the little car, but was concerned how the manufacturer would feel about this practice. The young Kilduff wrote the company and received a positive reply. The Mercedes people said they would actually encourage racing the cars and gave Kilduff several cars to give to friends. They also provided him with a history on the subject, but it was written in German. He decided later to study German to fulfill his high school language requirement. The next motivating factor came during a babysitting job, when he came across a book concerning pilots in World War I. Later, when he was an adult working for the Hartford Times, his editor learned that he was interested in World War I and asked him to review two books on the subject. One of them was a new printing of the translation of the Red Baron's memoirs that had been published in 1918. There was also a version published in 1933 for which there was no English translation. Kilduff contacted the publisher about this, and before he knew it the company, Doubleday, asked him to write a translation of the 1933 version. Kilduff's translation was released in 1980 as The Red Baron Manfred Freiherr von Richthoven.
After this work, Kilduff actually wrote books about the Navy, including US Carriers at War and Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. He then completed Germany's First Air Force, 1914-1918, before returning to the Red Baron with Richthofen: Beyond the Legend of the Red Baron and The Red Baron Combat Wing: Jagdgeschwader Richthofen in Battle. Critics of Richthofen found the biography to be a thorough if somewhat uninspired account of the ace's life. In a Booklist review, Roland Green complimented Kilduff for not romanticizing his subject and for sticking to the facts in a "straightforward" manner. Green cautioned that the author's quotes containing original German text "may slow down readers," however. A Publishers Weekly writer appreciated the way Kilduff details von Richthofen's war record and how the flying ace was finally shot down at the age of twenty-five, but wished that the author had provided more information about the baron's personality—especially his elitism—and the workings of the German air force in what becomes a "routine, though useful, military biography."
The Red Baron: Beyond the Legend, Kilduff's next work, was actually a publication that Kilduff resisted writing at first. He told Bill Ryan in the New York Times: "‘I got to hate him,’ he said of the Red Baron, for dominating his life for so many years. ‘I became identified with him. But I was into writing other books and I didn't want to do another one on him.’" The publisher, Arms & Armour Press, however, told Kilduff that if he did not want to write the book they would find someone else to do it. The historian would have none of that and decided it was time to "set the record straight." He used sources that he had been collecting for years to put down on paper all that he could say about von Richthoven. He used the manuscript from this book and supplemented it with over two hundred historical photographs to create The Illustrated Red Baron: The Life and Times of Manfred von Richthofen. Appreciated by critics for its inclusion of rare photographs, many of which Kilduff obtained from East German sources, The Illustrated Red Baron was declared a "superior collection" by Jay Green in Booklist.
Although Kilduff had confessed to some weariness of his popular subject, he wrote about von Richthoven again in Talking with the Red Baron: "Interviews" with Manfred von Richthofen. Part of a new series by the London publisher Brassey, the unique approach taken here is to draw on published materials in which the baron is quoted and then piece them together in such a way that it seems as if an interview is being conducted. Kilduff creates a fictional correspondent to pose the questions to von Richthofen, who then responds from actual quotes from other publications. Writing in Air Power History, H. Larry Elman felt this was a risky technique, for it could easily lapse into historically useless fiction; "but, if done carefully with craftsmanship and scholarship, it might produce a better picture of the subject." Elman noted that Kilduff is the only historian not from Germany who has been allowed to examine the papers saved by von Richthofen's family, adding to the book's value.
Covering only the last year of von Richthofen's life in the interview, Kilduff paints a picture of a flawed but often brilliant young man. Sometimes, the baron reveals himself to be a conventional thinker concerning combat, but at other times he shows flashes of brilliance. An elitist who clearly believed that the royal families of Germany were superior to most other people, he was also prone to prejudice, such as his belief that French pilots were all cowards, even though his fighting experience was almost completely limited to battling the British. Kilduff "provides this excellent balance of coverage while maintaining reader interest. It was a pleasure to find a new book on a great fighter ace which does this," asserted Elman. Though the critic still believed that the mock interview approach could be a problem, especially for professional historians, Elman found the results "both fascinating and thought provoking."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Air Power History, spring, 2006, H. Larry Elman, review of Talking with the Red Baron: "Interviews" with Manfred von Richthofen.
Birmingham Post, March 13, 1999, "Just Browsing," review of The Illustrated Red Baron: The Life and Times of Manfred von Richthofen, p. 45.
Booklist, March 1, 1994, Roland Green, review of Richthofen: Beyond the Legend of the Red Baron, p. 1177; June 1, 1999, Jay Green, review of The Illustrated Red Baron, p. 1779.
Historian, summer, 1996, review of Richthofen; summer, 1996, James S. Corum, review of Richthofen.
Library Journal, April 1, 1994, Mel D. Lane, review of Richthofen, p. 108.
Newsweek, March 8, 1999, "Going Down in Flames," p. 36.
New York Times, April 24, 1994, Bill Ryan, "Waxing Serious about the Red Baron."
Publishers Weekly, January 31, 1994, review of Richthofen, p. 73.