Wikipedia wanted to remind me that today is the anniversary of the Red Baron's death, and I felt a little sad. Though I got introduced to the Red Baron via Snoopy (like a lot of people my age) and I've eaten Red Baron brand pizza, my impression of the man has changed a lot since my childhood.
Though he's best known for his prowess as a fighter pilot during WWI, the thing that surprised me while doing research reading about him was how tired he sounded towards the end of his life (he was 25). It's something that stuck with me when I wrote "The Wings The Lungs, The Engine The Heart," which is still one of my favorite pieces.
Most of the time I don't like my stories much after I've sold them. It's just a quirk of mine. But there's a passage in "Wings" that never fails to get me when the Red Baron remembers the wingmen who were hospitalized or died before him.
I wrote that after trying to find a pilot he was friends with who was still alive and on active duty at that point near the end of the war, and I couldn't find anyone. It was very sobering, very sad.