On the morning of July 6th, Richthofen personally led a contingent of Jasta 11 Albatros DVs against six ground-strafing FE2d pusher biplane bombers from 20 Squadron reportedly heading for Deulemont. After joining with additional German fighters in the area, Richthofen and his formation maneuvered to get behind the enemy aircraft, which then suddenly turned to meet the Albatrosses head-on. Richthofen took note that the observer in the FE2d approaching him began firing from long range (some twelve hundred feet away). In fact, because of the interval, the Rittmeister had just begun to arm his guns. While he was reflecting on the poor chance the gunner had of success at that distance—especially protected as he was by the engine in front of him—he suddenly felt a blow to the head. The Baron was completely paralyzed and blinded! He fought mentally and physically to regain muscle control and his vision. As he felt the aircraft spinning and rapidly losing altitude, he was finally able to grip the control wheel and instinctively switch off the engine to minimize the possibility of a fire. Using sheer willpower, he was able to slowly regain his eyesight, restart the engine, and locate a landing area within German lines. Feeling himself weakening again, he hurriedly set his Albatros down near Wervicq, tumbled out of the cockpit, but was unable to gather the strength to move further. Fortunately, two of his comrades, Leutnants Otto Brauneck and Alfred Niederhoff, followed his aircraft and protected its pilot as it spiraled down. Another officer, Leutnant der Reserve Hans Schroder, had watched the descent using an alert post telescope and, together with a corporal, was able to get to the scene quickly. Richthofen was taken to Field Hospital No. 76 (St. Nicholas) at Courtrai.
That afternoon, when Richthofen was finally allowed to receive visitors, Adjutant Bodenschatz and the leaders of JGI’s Staffels were immediately at his bedside. Although exhausted and pale, the Baron assured his staff that he would be back soon. Meanwhile, Oberleutnant Kurt-Bertram von Doring served as acting Kommandeur of the Jagdgeschwader. The day after the Baron was forced down, the pilots of JGI sought their revenge and scored nine victories with no losses of their own. Kurt Wolff was the first to score that nearly cloudless day. Four days later on July 11th, Wolff would share the hospital room with his mentor after he was severely wounded in the hand in a conflict with twelve Sopwith Triplanes. He would not see action again until September 11th.
Meanwhile, Richthofen continued to do battle even from his hospital bed. Counter to Richthofen’s operational orders that had been previously approved by the Commanding General of the German Air Service (Kogenluft), Hauptmann Otto Bufe—the Air Officer in Charge of Aviation for the 4th Army—directed von Doring to utilize the Geschwader in squadrons on “barrier flights” to keep British aircraft from crossing German lines. Further, he expected the single German Staffels to fly late in the evening and at night against the large British formations that used the sun behind them to mask their attacks. The inevitable result was that the heavily outnumbered German aircraft could not be as effective and also became easy targets. Richthofen was furious and used his influence in his letter to his friend Oberleutnant Fritz von Falkenhayn, the Kogenluft staff’s Technical Officer. At about this same time, the Commanding General of the 4th Army, General der Infanterie Fredrich Sixt von Armin, ordered increased attacks against British tethered observation balloons, thereby essentially freeing up the fighter units. The Baron also continued to push for more improved fighters to counter the Sopwith Triplane, the SPAD VII, and the Sopwith Camel. The Baron was particularly frustrated that the Albatros DIII and DV aircraft continued to have occasional wing problems.
In spite of continuing headaches and periodic procedures to remove residual small bone fragments, Richthofen—as well as his equally impatient hospital roommate, Kurt Wolff—was determined to get back to his Geschwader. Finally, on July 20th, the Rittmeister, although embarrassed, was allowed to visit his men with his pretty brunette nurse, Katie Otersdorf, insisting that she be in attendance. Thus, Karl Bodenschatz drove Manfred, Nurse Otersdorf, Major von Richthofen, and Wolff to the airfield. Along the 15-minute route, they passed a long column of soldiers on their way back to Courtrai. When one infantryman spotted the Rittmeister with his Uhlan jacket, Pour le Merite, and head bandage, he cried out “Richthofen!!!” The roar of the name spread faster than Bodenschatz’s car and the excited and grateful soldiers waved and shouted hurrahs to the great fighter ace as he passed by.
When the Rittmeister arrived at Marckebeke, he shook hands with Oberleutnant von Doring, but said little as he toured the facilities and the flight line with its shot-up and frequently patched machines. Finally, he addressed his assembled pilots with some welcome news: “You are getting new Fokker triplanes. They climb like monkeys and they’re as maneuverable as the devil!”