Berthold joined the infantry in 1910 and learned to fly by the end of 1913. When the war began, he transferred to the German Air Service as an observer. In 1916, he began flying single-seat fighters with KEK Vaux and was credited with five victories before crashing a Pfalz E.IV on 25 April 1916. Injured and wounded several times throughout the war, Berthold earned a reputation for returning to duty before he had fully recovered. In August, he formed Jasta 4 before turning command over to Hans Buddecke. Berthold then assumed command of Jasta 14 until badly injured in an accident on 23 May 1917. Recovering from a broken nose, fractured skull, thigh and pelvis, he returned to duty the following August and assumed command of Jasta 18. He was wounded again on 10 October 1917 when a bullet shattered his right arm. When he returned to duty, he assumed command of Jagdgeschwader 2, remaining in command until wounded on 10 August 1918. Credited with downing two D.H.4s that day, his career as a fighting pilot ended when his crippled red and blue Fokker D.VII crashed into a house after colliding with his second opponent. Murdered by rioters in 1920, some sources claim Berthold was strangled with the ribbon from his Blue Max.
"Honoured by his enemies, slain by his German brethren." Inscription on Rudolf Berthold's headstone