The JV44 Squadron Emblem
“STORMBIRD ATTACK,” the first print in WINGS’ exclusive new Luftwaffe Trilogy from renowned artist Darryl Legg, is supplied triple matted using archival materials with the original authentic signatures of EIGHT of the Luftwaffe’s most highly decorated fighter pilots, all having flown the Me262 in WWII.
Sacked by Goering, reprieved by Hitler, ‘Dolfo’ Galland was ordered to assemble a jet Fighter wing for the final defense of Germany, compelling Galland to end his air fighting career as he had started it – leading a squadron of fighter pilots. In doing so he became the only General in modern history to lead his men from the front into combat. Personally chosen by Galland his pilots included the cream of the Luftwaffe’s most successful air aces and JV44 became known as “The Squadron of Experts”. So highly decorated were its pilots that JV44’s unofficial Squadron badge was the coveted Knights Cross gallantry award.
Joining their illustrious leader General Adolf Galland are Generals Johannes ‘Macky’ Steinhoff, Gunther Rall and Walter Krupinski, are the signatures of fellow Me262 pilots Eric Rudorffer, Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert, Walter Schuck and Hermann Buchner – with over 1,400 air victories between them – making this arguably one of the most collectable aviation prints from WWII.
The entire Luftwaffe Trilogy is completely reproduced using the expensive Giclee process. Each Giclee edition in the trilogy comes with triple acid free mattes containing the original signatures of many of the highest scoring Luftwaffe fighter aces affording purest collectors with the desirable quality of rarity combined with unprecedented collectability.
*Shipping is $25 in North America, $65 International.
Edition: 95 Giclees
Size: Beautifully triple matted to a total size of 32” x 20”. Actual image size is 20" x 14"
Full JV44 Luftwaffe Pilot Biographies Below:
The first Giclee, "Stormbird Attack JV44" will be launched on February 14th, 2012. Collectors placing early orders for the first release may request WINGS to hold matching numbers for the other two Giclees in the Luftwaffe Trilogy (without obligation). The second Giclee in the Luftwaffe Trilogy is "Abbeville Boys JG26" and will be issued on March 14th and the third and final Giclee in the Trilogy will be "Karaya 1 JG52" issued on April 14th, 2012. You will be notified in advance of each issue date and your matching numbered Giclees will be held for two weeks, allowing time for you to confirm your requirements.
Collectors acquiring all three Giclees in the WINGS Luftwaffe Trilogy will receive a FREE magnificently framed replica Knights Cross Medal with ribbon and including a set of Luftwaffe pilot wings. For those ordering individual prints, the framed Knights Cross presentation can be purchased separately at $125 USD.
The Editions will be issued approximately one month apart, however, as a valued customer of Wings you will be able to order the "Luftwaffe Trilogy" set of 3 Giclee prints now. Additionally you can also use Wings lay-a-plan and customize your payments over a reasonable amount of time.
EDITION SIZE: Only 95 Giclees
Size: Each print in this set is beautifully triple matted to a total size of 32” x 20”. Actual image size is 20" x 14"
Adolf Galland leading elements of JG26 during September 1940. The Battle of Britain is at its height, and tensions are high as the combatants on both sides have flown multiple sorties and are stretched to the limit.
EDITION SIZE: Only 95 Giclees
Size: Beautifully triple matted to a total size of 32” x 20”. Actual image size is 20" x 14"
20 signatures, including Erich Hartmann
Luftwaffe Figher Aces JG-52 JG52
The JG52 Squadron Emblem
JG52 was the most successful fighter wing in the history of aerial combat with claims of over 10,000 destroyed during WWII. Together with Erich Hartmann's original signature are 19 other original fighter pilots signatures who flew and fought along side history's greatest ace. Their combined aerial victories total a staggering 2,859 victories in over 12,500 missions.
German Luftwaffe JG-52 JG52
EDITION SIZE: Only 95 Giclees
Size: Beautifully triple matted to a total size of 32” x 20”. Actual image size is 20" x 14"
In Adolf Galland's own words
A great passion for flying and aeronautics has consumed me since boyhood. Fascinated by the adventures of the world's great pioneer aviators and stimulated by the exploits of combat pilots, l began my career in aviation, flying gliders at the tender age of fifteen.
After leaving school in 1932, I graduated from Airline Pilot School and went on to complete basic military training, flying fighters, and joined the newly-formed "Richthofen" Fighter Wing as a Leutnant early in 1934. Between April 1937 and September 1939, I flew combat missions as a Squadron Leader in the Spanish Civil War and Polish Campaign. I then participated in the Western Campaign where, as a Gruppenkommandeur, l led three squadrons of JG26. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, I was promoted to Major and appointed Wing Commander of JG26, with nine squadrons. ln November; with 50 victories, l was promoted to Oberstleutnant. In November 1941, I was appointed lnspector General of the Fighter Armâ with the rank of Oberst.
Being now responsible for the inspection of all our fighter units, this became a decisive turning point in my military career considerably enlarging my duties and responsibilities. In February 1942 I organized and conducted the fighter escort for the spectacular "Channel Dash" - the break out of the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen, through the English Channel. Thereafter; I visited all fighter units in the different theatres of war (Norway, Russia - from Leningrad to the Crimea and the Caucasus - Rumania, Bulgaria, Africa, Sicily, Italy and France) to become fully briefed as to their operational capabilities. Like the other Weapon-Generals (bombers, reconnaissance, anti-aircraft-artillery, etc), l was responsible for everything except the immediate operational command. In 1943 I was given the responsibility for Fighter Operations in Sicily just before the Allied landings. But with the Allied air superiority established, this was an impossible task. l then moved on to concentrate my efforts on the air defence of Germany. RAF Bomber Command was operating large forces by night.
Meanwhile, the American 8th Air Force was flying missions out of England by day. I was given the responsibility for the Night Fighter Arm, too, and was, in the same rhythm as the war working 24 hours every day. The RAF and USAAF steadily gained air superiority during a time when greater fighter production was badly needed. However by the time this was achieved, fuel shortages, due to the incessant air attacks, became our problem. l never succeeded in convincing Hitler to concentrate the entire effort on air defence, and even when the advanced Me 262 Jet became available, my efforts to use this purely in a fighter role were strictly refused by Hitler. The war had already been lost years previously and the earlier introduction of the jet fighters would not have changed its course. Even if we had prevented the day offensive of the USAAF the war would simply have been prolonged, allowing Russia to occupy even more German territory.
By the end of 1944, I was discharged from my position and ordered to set up an Me 262 fighter unit. Thus, I started the war as a Oberleutnant leading a squadron, and ended it as a Generalleutnant leading a squadron. At the end of 1948, I became an advisor to the Argentine Air Force, a post I held for six years and, thereafter was a consultant to the Aerospace Industry German Decorations: Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds; Spanish Cross with Swords and Diamonds; Pilots Badge in Gold with Diamonds.
In Johannes Steinoff's own words...
My flying training commenced in 1935, in the German Navy, which I had joined the previous year. Holding the rank of Leutnant, my training ran until 1936, when I transferred to the Luftwaffe for fighter pilot training on biplanes. In 19391 was assigned to build up the first night-fighter squadron using the Me 109, and became a Squadron Leader, flying this aircraft, in 10.(night-fighter)/JG26.
My first combat mission was on 19 December 1939 when a number of British Wellington Bombers tried to cross the north coast by daylight to bomb Wilhelmshaven. In February 1940 I transferred to day-fighters and commanded 4./JG 52. I participated in the campaign against Rotterdam in May 1940. I then remained in the west and flew throughout the Battle of Britain. On 22 June 1941, we invaded Russia. I flew this campaign with JG52 until shortly after the fall of Stalingrad, having been stationed near Moscow, Leningrad and in the Crimea. When in command of II./JG52, as a Hauptmann, I received the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross on 2 September 1942, after my 101st victory, having received the Knight’s Cross the previous year.
Transfer to North Africa to command JG77 followed, where I remained for just 1 month before moving, with my wing, to Sicily. I flew in Italy from the summer of 1943 until the middle of 1944, after which my unit moved to France to combat the Allied invasion forces in Normandy. I received the Swords to my Oak Leaves on 28 July 1944, after my 167th victory, in the rank of Oberstleutnant.
In late 1944, I commanded the first jet unit, JG7, for a short period, after which, together with other supposed ‘mutineers’, including General Galland, I was relieved of my post. I then joined Galland’s new jet unit, JV44, where I flew the Me 262 from Munich-Riem until 18 April 1945 when, in a take-off accident, I crashed and received serious burns. Thus, in the rank of Oberst, and credited with 176 victories, the war was over for me and many years of hospital treatment were to follow.
Looking back, I felt that the early part of the war, particularly the Battle of Britain, had been a gentleman’s conflict. The aircraft we pilots most respected was the “Spit”, due to its performance and the ability of its pilots. When I transferred from Russia to North Africa, I met them again on my first mission and was immediately shot down with the feeling - “there are the British again”.
After the war, I worked for 5 years with an advertising company, before becoming a member of the German Delegation to the European Defence Community. However, in November 1955, I rejoined the German Air Force in the rank of Oberst. In the following year, I underwent refresher training as a jet pilot, in the United States. After a number of staff appointments, including German Permanent Military Representative in NATO, where I was based in Washington, DC, I was given command of the 4th German Air Force Division in 1963.
In May 1965, I was appointed Chief of Air Staff, Allied Forces Central Europe (AIRCENT) in the rank of Generalleutnant and, in September 1966, became Chief of German Air Staff, a post I held for over 4 years. My final appointment was Chairman of the NATO Military Committee in the rank of General. After 3 years in this post, I retired from military service on 1st April 1974.
Gunther Rall luftwaffe Pilot
In Gunther Rall's own words...
Born on 10 March 1918 in Gaggenau, in the Black Forest, I began my military career in 1936 as a potential infantry officer. After graduation from the Officers’ School in Dresden, I transferred to the Luftwaffe in 1938 for flying training in Munich. There I flew the Fw 44 Stieglitz biplane, the He 44 Kadett and the Bu 44 Jungmann, receiving my pilots’ wings in early 1939.
Having qualified as a fighter pilot, I was posted to II./JG52 to fly the Me 109E from Boblingen, near Stuttgart. In early 1940, I was transferred to the newly established III. Gruppe to join 8 Squadron, and it was here, on 18 May 1940, that I scored my first victory over a French Curtiss P36.
From June 1940 we moved to Coquelles, near Calais, in order to fly missions against English Channel ports and convoys. We were an inexperienced unit and suffered heavy losses. After only a few missions, I was promoted to command 8 Squadron. Our Gruppe was later withdrawn to replace losses and then posted to Bucharest, in Romania, to protect oil fields and refineries.
In May 1941, I flew in support of the attack on Crete and then returned to Romania. At the outbreak of the Russian Campaign, we were re-equipped with the Me 109F and went on the offensive and, operating from Romania on the Black Sea, my squadron concentrated on Russian bombers, shooting down nearly 50 in one week. Later, I participated in the German attack through the Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula towards Taganrog.
On 28 November 1941, after achieving my 36th victory, I was shot down and crashed in darkness, breaking my spine in 3 places, which left my right leg paralyzed. I was hospitalized in Vienna until August 1942 and in November married my medical doctor.
Returning to 8./JG52, I took part in the attack on Rostov and the fighting in the Caucasus, reaching my 100th victory in October 1942, for which I received the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross. I then took part in the attack on Stalingrad before my unit withdrew to Nikolajew for refurbishment. Later, taking part in the fighting at the Crimean Peninsula and the so-called Cuban Bridgehead, I had my first contact in the East with Western built Spitfires, Airacobras and Boston bombers.
From April 1943 to March 1944, I served as Kommandeur of III./JG52 where, on 29 August 1943, I gained my 200th victory, for which I received the Swords to the Knight’s Cross. It was during this period that I received my second injury, this time to my head, when a Russian fighter shot away my cockpit canopy.
After reaching 250 victories in the East, I was posted to the Western Front to command II./UG11 where we flew high altitude interception attacks on US daylight bombing raids, flying specially equipped Me 109Gs. It was here that I received my third injury, in May 1944, when I was shot down by a P-47 and forced to bailout. This time, my left thumb was shot off the throttle of my aircraft. This later became infected am I spent 6 months in hospital before taking command of the Fighter Leader School in November 1944.
In March 1945, I took command of JG 300, flying the Me 109G and a few missions in the Fw190D. When I was taken into captivity by the US Army, I had flown 621 missions, been shot down 8 times and achieved 275 aerial victories. In 1956, I rejoined the new Luftwaffe and eventually became Chief of Air Staff in 1974, with the rank of Generalleutnant.
Walter Krupinski pilot
In Walter Krupinski's own words...
When war broke out on 1 September 1939, I was still in labour service, but was discharged a few days later, I soon received my military and flying basic training at the Air Warfare School at Berlin-Gatow, I then underwent fighter pilot training in Vienna, flying the He 51, Ar 68 and Me 109B and D, finishing in October 1940, I was then transferred to JG52, firstly to a supplementary squadron and then to 6 Squadron which was based at Maldegem, later Kaywyk, then Ostend.
My first enemy encounter was with a Bristol Blenheim which was returning from France after a reconnaissance mission, On standby at Ostend sat Lt Barkhorn and Lt Krupinski. After taking off, we immediately recognized the aircraft over the Channel, but despite shooting off our entire supply of ammunition, the Blenheim returned home safely - so poor was our shooting at that time, Later, flying 30 missions against England, I often had contact with Spitfires and Hurricanes, but couldn’t shoot anything down, My first aerial victory came many weeks into the Russian campaign, a DB 3 bomber south of Leningrad, By the end of the year, I had just 7 victories from many opportunities.
After the Gruppe had been refurbished in Germany, I began my “improved shooting programme” and by the second year of the Russian Campaign (1942), I had 66 victories, for which I received, in May 1942, the Reichsmarschall’s “Honour Goblet”, On 22 August, I was awarded the German Cross in Gold and, on 29 October, the Knight’s Cross, Most of the aircraft I had shot down were Yaks and Laggs, but there were also a few Pe 2 and Boston bombers, as well as a few 112 and 114s, Our operational area was Southern Russia, from the Crimea to the Caucasus and Stalingrad, My last mission in 1942 was flying escort for Ju 52 transport aircraft to Stalingrad.
After a stay in hospital, I enjoyed 3 months as a flying instructor in the supplementary squadron of JG52, in Cognac and La Rochelle, before, on 15 March 1942, I took over 7 Squadron JG52 at Taman on the Cuban Bridgehead, My most successful day was 5 July 1943, at the beginning of the Battle of Ore!. On this day, I shot down my 80th to 90th victories, On 12 October. I shot down my 150th opponent and on the following day, with my 154th victory, I scored the 1,OOOth success attributed to 7 Squadron JG 52, On 2 March 1944 I was, after 177 victories in over 1,000 missions, decorated with the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross and transferred to Germany for the “Defence of the Reich”,
After a short assignment as a squadron leader in I./JG 5, I was appointed Kommandeur of II./JG11 in Hustedt near Celie, after which, on 6 June 1944, we were transferred to the Invasion Front, firstly to Beauvais, then to Mons-au-Chaussee, Up to this point, I had achieved 14 aerial victories in the West, which included 9 Mustangs and 4 Thunderbolts, After my Me 109 exploded in mid-air, resulting in another stay in hospital, I took command of III./JG26, where I remained until 25 March 1945, Five days later. General Galland and Oberst Steinhoff collected me from the Fighter Pilots’ Rest Home in Bad Weissee and took me to Fighter Unit JV 44 at Munich-Riem, where I flew my last operations on the Me 262.
In total I flew over 1,100 missions, was wounded 5 times, bailed out 4 times, had many belly and crash landings and achieved 197 aerial victories.
Erich Rudorffer Signature
Erich Rudorffer pilot
In Erich Rudorffer's own words...
Having initiated my training as a commercial pilot, I was conscripted into the Luftwaffe in 1938 to fly fighters. This training included flying the Fw 44 “Stieglitz”, Heinkel “Kadett”, Bucker “Jungmann” and “Jungmeister” and the Ju 52. By the beginning of 1939, I was flying the twin-engined Me 110 operationally and then returned to the Fighter Pilots’ School at Munich-Schleissheim for single-seat fighter training, which included the Me 109.
In November 1939, I joined I./JG2 “Richthofen” as an officer cadet sergeant, happy to be a fighter pilot since, confident of my own ability, I felt that it gave me the best chance of surviving the war. I certainly didn’t want to drop bombs.
From January 1940, I was flying frequent French border patrols in the Me 109E, but never saw an enemy aircraft. Then, on 14 May, we received orders to protect the Maas bridges, near Sedan, from low-flying attacks from French aircraft. Taking off from Dockendorf Airfield, we flew to the bridges, crossing them at about 1,000 feet when we saw three Curtiss aircraft. Setting myself behind the first one, which was climbing from its attack, I opened fire and it fell burning into a field. At around 21.05 hrs, we landed at Bastogne after nearly two hours flying and I had scored my first aerial victory.
When the war in France ended, I had achieved nine aerial victories, was a four-aircraft Schwarm Leader and had been promoted. My I. Gruppe then moved to Beaumont Ie Roger for operations against England. For the early part of this campaign, I flew the Me 109E, but when I became Adjutant of II./JG2 in June 1941, having been promoted to Leutnant the previous November, I switched to the Me 109F. Transfer to command 6 Squadron followed in August, with further promotion in October. At this time we were flying from Abbeville-Drucat airfield. By the end of 1941, I had achieved 21 aerial victories, all over fighters, and was a holder of the coveted Knight’s Cross.
In April 1942, I re-equipped with the Fw 190 at Paris-Ie-Bourget and then, in December, II./JG2 was transferred to Tunisia. We were later transferred to North Africa where I succeeded our commander, who fell in action. In March 1943, we returned to Beaumont Ie Roger and, now in the rank of Hauptmann, I converted to the Me 109G. ln July, I was transferred to command II./JG54 in Russia, having scored 75 victories in the West. In the East, I only flew the Fw 190 and added another 137 to this score, for which I received the Oak Leaves on 1 April 1944 and, to coincide with a transfer back to the “Defence of the Reich”, the Swords, in January 1945. The following month, I took command of I./JG7, this time flying the Me 262 jet from Kaltenkirchen. I ended the war in the rank of Major, with the non-operational IV./JG7 at Schleswig-Jagel, having achieved 224 aerial victories, the final 12 of which were in the Me 262.
In Joseph Haibock's own words...
I was born on 28 February, 1917, at Linz I Donau in Austria. In 1937, I joined the Austrian Air Force, which became part of the German Luftwaffe in 1938. On 1 December, 1939, I was posted to 9./JG26 where, on 29 May, 1940 ,I scored my first victory. In the autumn of 1940, I flew 97 missions over England and, by the end of the year, had seven aerial victories.
Twelve months later, with a further three victories to my name, I was given command of 1./JG26 on 6 December. In February 1942, as a leader of 1 Squadron, I took part in operation “Thunderbolt”, the protection of the German capital ships through the English Channel and, on 18 August, 1942, close to Dieppe, I was credited with the destruction of two British torpedo boats. On 30 December, 1942, with 16 victories from 358 combat missions, I was transferred to the East to command 1./JG52 in Russia. Flying in this Wing until the end of January 1944, I was able to score a further 60 aerial victories, being awarded the German Cross in Gold on 17 October, 1943.
On 8 February, 1944, I took over command as Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG3 “Udet” in the “Defence of the Reich”. On 24 February, 1944, I scored my final victory over an American P-47 Thunderbolt. The following day, after combat with American fighters, I had to make an emergency landing due to a badly damaged engine. However, in so doing, I was attacked by more Thunderbolts on a deep penetrating mission and was severely wounded.
A long period of hospitalisation followed and I was not released until September 1945. During my confinement, I was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 9 June, 1944. I finished the war with the rank of Hauptmann, having flown 604 combat missions, of which 244 were on the Eastern Front and 23 deep penetration missions.
My final victory total stood at 77, of which 17 were in the West. After the war, I rejoined the Austrian Air Force, eventually reaching the rank of Generalmajor before retiring.
In Deiter Hrabak's own words...
Having been an unsuccessful applicant for commercial pilot training, on 8 April 1934, I joined the Navy as an Officer Cadet, a German Air Force job still being precluded by the Treaty of Versailles. The Luftwaffe was formed the following year, and on 1 November 1935, I transferred to this fledgling force. Pilot training followed at Ludwigslust, from where I was posted to Fighter Unit 232 in Bernburg, to fly the He 51 biplane.
When war started, I was a Squadron Commander, in the rank of Oberleutnant in the Viennese I./JG76, flying escort missions and fighter sweeps from an emergency airfield in Upper Silesia. During the Polish Campaign, I only once met enemy aircraft in the sky. This was on 3 September, 1939 when I attacked a flight of Polish light bombers, but before I started shooting, my engine was hit by the rear gunner. I belly landed my aircraft between the lines and hid in a nearby forest until picked up by an advancing German Armoured Unit. My method of attack had been naive and had taught me a number of valuable lessons: think before attacking, familiarise yourself with the relevant enemy aircraft types, carry a hand weapon and wear your uniform (I had worn a sports shirt) in case of capture.
At the beginning of the French Campaign, my unit flew combat patrols above our fast moving tank divisions, operating from an emergency airstrip near Trier. Flying four or five missions a day, I achieved my first aerial victory on 13 May, 1940, over a French Potez 63, a twin-engined reconnaissance aircraft. When the battle against France had ended, I had achieved 5 more victories, mostly over Morane and Curtiss P-36 fighters.
Just before the famous ‘Eagle Day’, I./JG76 was incorporated into the new “Green Heart” Wing and my squadron became II./JG54. Promoted to Hauptmann, I took command of JG54 on 15 August 1940 and on 23 October, after 15 victories, including 9 Hurricanes and Spitfires, I became the first JG54 pilot to be awarded the Knight’s Cross. I had however, been shot down three times over England, but each time managed to get my crippled aircraft back to the French coast for a belly landing. In November, JG54 was withdrawn from the fighting to refurbish and re- train new pilots after heavy losses.
After the Balkan Campaign we received the new, more streamlined and powerful Me 109F, in preparation for the invasion of Russia. I flew in command of II./JG54 from the outset of the Russian Campaign until November 1942 when, promoted to Major, I moved from the Northern to the Southern Region to take command of JG52. Leaving the old Gruppe with Major “Assi” Hahn, I had achieved 51 victories for a total of 67.
During my time at JG52, the situation deteriorated badly, many German units having been withdrawn to defend the Reich and, in two years, we operated from more than fifty different airfields. In July 1943, I was promoted to Oberstleutnant, and on 2 August achieved my 100th aerial victory, receiving the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross on 25 November.
Promoted to Oberst, I returned in October 1944 to command JG54 at a desperate time, when my staff and two Gruppen had been cut off by the Soviets at Latvia. The remainder were in the West. We escaped by air and sea in May 1945 and, at the war’s end, I entered British custody in Belgium, having flown more than a thousand combat missions and achieved 125 aerial victories, never having lost a drop of blood. I was lucky!
In Herbert Ihlefeld's own words...
I was born on 1 June, 1914, in Pinnow, Pomerania and joined the Army in 1933. I transferred to the Luftwaffe the following year to train as a fighter pilot, eventually joining the new I./JG132 “Richthofen”. I saw my first action in Spain with the “Legion Condor” where, as a Unteroffizier in 2./JG88, I achieved nine aerial victories for which I was awarded the the Spanish Cross in Gold with Swords. I was then promoted to Leutnant and transferred to Gruppe to Training Wing No 2, I./LG2, to become a member of the first German Aerobatic Display Squadron. I remained on the wing until May 1942.
With the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September, 1939, I took part in the Polish Campaign as a Squadron Commander, receiving retrospective promotion to Oberleutnant the following year, during the battle against France. I then flew in the Battle of Britain and, on 13 September 1940, was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross after 21 victories, achieving four more by the end of the Battle. In October 1940, I was promoted to Hauptmann and was given command of I./LG2.
In early 1941, we found ourselves operating in the Balkans and here, during a deep penetration mission on 6 April, I was shot down by flak, badly wounded and placed in a Yugoslav prisoner of war camp, from which I was freed, eight days later, by advancing German troops. I then travelled to the Eastern Front to rejoin my unit after six weeks rehabilitation and, on 27 June 1941, was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross after 40 victories, the 16th recipient of this award. Meanwhile, with I./LG2 having joined II./JG77, my score continued to rise, reaching seventy by 24 March, 1942, and 101 on 22 April, which made me the fifth German pilot to reach this magic score. Two days later I received the Swords to the Oak Leaves as the ninth recipient and was promoted to Major.
In May 1942, I was posted to become Kommodore of JG52 but, after only four months in command, I was badly injured in a take-off accident during a test flight, which put me into hospital for a lengthy period. A number of non-operational jobs followed, including ‘checking out’ unit leaders and commanding Fighter Pilots’ School 103, before I returned to combat on 21 July 1943 as Kommodore of JG25 in the “Defence of the Reich”.
JG25’s role was high altitude operations and, specifically, Mosquito hunting. On 1 August 1943, I was promoted to Oberstleutnant and, on 1 December, took over command of JG11 for a short period. On 20 May 1944, after the loss of Oberst Walter Oesau, I moved to France to command JG1. Our role was to fly operations by day against the Western Allies, but I was again wounded, shortly after arrival, when I was shot down by P-51 Mustangs. On 1 January 1945, I took part in Operation “Bodenplatte”, the massive ground attack mission, and was brought down by German flak and wounded once more.
On 30 January 1945, I was promoted to Oberst and ended the war as Kommodore of JG 1, with I. and II. Gruppe equipped with the Heinkel He 162 “Peoples’ Fighter” jet. In total, I had flown over 1,000 missions, in which I had been shot down 8 times (all but two resulting in a belly landing), and achieved 140 victories.
In Eduard Neuman's own words...
I was born in 1911 in Old Austria, the son of a teacher. My father was later killed fighting the Russians in 1914. In 1918, my homeland became part of Romania, so I was educated in Romania, which was to prove useful to me in 1944. In 1934 I became a German National and entered the still camouflaged Luftwaffe to become a “commercial” pilot, with almost four years of sport and leisure flying behind me. The military training I received was of a very high standard and included night flying on the Arado 66 and Junkers W-33.
In 1935, I attended Fighter Pilots’ School and was later transferred to JG2 “Richthofen”, where I came under the command of Hauptmann von Schoenebeck, a former WW1 Ace who flew with the Red Baron. The following year, I underwent officer training with the Army and was commissioned in 1937. The same year, I was sent to Spain as a ground attack pilot, under Lt. Galland. It was here that I shot down my first aircraft, a Russian biplane, which had got on Galland’s tail.
After a year in Spain, I returned to Germany, where I was promoted and, in the autumn of 1938, was sent to Dusseldorf to lead 4./JG26. In the summer of 1940, after promotion to Hauptmann, I became Adjutant of JG26, based in Normandy and flying the Me l09E. Our role was principally to protect the Stuka units who were attacking British shipping. I later took command of 1./JG27, when its commander failed to return from a mission, and we attempted the role of combined escort and reconnaissance, which was an impossibility. We later flew bomber escort missions which, although difficult, were not as bad.
After re- fitting near Hamburg and a short stay in Brittany, my Gruppe took part in the Balkan Campaign in Yugoslavia, after which, in early 1941, we were moved to North Africa. At the end of April, we reached Ain-el-Gazala, where we were the only German fighter unit for 9 months. Our mission was to protect the Stukas that were attacking Tobruk and the British shipping supplying it.
In 1942, I was promoted to Major and took over the leadership of JG27 from Oberstleutnant Woldenga, who had fallen ill. In mid-year Tobruk was taken and we moved eastwards as far as EI Alamein but, in the autumn, our retreat began, which did not stop until we reached Tunisia. During our time in Africa, JG27 had had many outstanding pilots, the best known being the young Hauptmann Marseille. We lost many of them, with Marseille meeting his death, undefeated, in an accident.
As my Wing left the desert at the end of 1942, I was transferred to the Staff of General of the Fighter Arm, with promotion to Oberstleutnant. I spent the whole of 1943 in this post until, in early 1944, I was transferred to Romania to organise the fighter protection of the Ploesti oilfields where, with a limited number of fighters, I achieved moderate daytime and good night-time success.
In autumn 1944, I was promoted to Oberst and appointed Fighter Commander Northern Italy where, with authority from Hitler and Mussolini, I was able to install 3 Italian fighter Gruppen equipped with the Me 109G. I ended the war in American captivity, having achieved 11 aerial victories and been decorated with the Iron Cross First and Second Class, German Cross in Gold and Golden Front Clasp.
In Heinz Lange's own words...
I was born on 2 October 1917 in Cologne, the son of a painter, graphic artist and former WW1 pilot and, at age 19, began my military training at the Air Warfare Schools of Wildpark-Werder and Berlin-Gatow. I then graduated to the Fighter Pilots’ School at Werneuchen in June 1938, after which I was attached to IV./JG 132 “Richthofen”, based at Werneuchen and Oschatz.
A brief period with 4./JG234 (later JG26) “Schlageter” at Dusseldorf followed until, on 15 July 1939, in the rank of leutnant, I joined 1 Squadron of JG21, based at Gutenfield. Whilst serving with this unit, I took part in the Polish Campaign, during which I received the Iron Cross Second Class.
Before fighting broke out in France and the Low Countries, my unit flew patrols on the western border and, on 30 October 1939, I shot down my first aircraft, a British Blenheim bomber. When the French Campaign ended, I was transferred, on 8 June 1940, to the Staff of JG54 and, on 1 August 1940, received promotion to Oberleutnant. Later the same month, I was transferred to 8./JG54 where I flew operations against England. The following month, I was awarded the Iron Cross First Class.
In total, I flew 76 sorties across the Channel, of which 32 were to London and 13 were carrying bombs. Most of our trips were “tied up” accompanying bombers and we were frustrated when the British fighters avoided contact with us, concentrating on the bombers. As a result, I had only 20 direct contacts and could not chalk up any aerial victories. However, I took comfort in the fact that many fine pilots were affected the same way and, more importantly, I never lost a wingman or damaged an Me 109 in a landing accident.
After taking part in the Balkan Campaign, we moved for the invasion of the Soviet Union and, in the first week of this war, I achieved 7 aerial victories, after which I was given command of 1V./JG54 on 1 October 1941. Thirteen months later, I was transferred to command 3./JG51, having by this time achieved 20 victories. The following January, I was awarded the 500 mission attachment to my Front Clasp in Gold for Fighter Pilots and, a month later, was promoted to Hauptmann. By 22 August 1943, now a holder of the German Cross in Gold, my score of victories had reached 40 and my scoring rate was starting to increase, reaching 50 on 16 October.
In January 1944, I returned to JG54 to command I. Gruppe for a short period and then, the following May, was transferred back to JG51 to lead lV. Gruppe. When my total reached 70 aerial victories, on 18 November 1944, I was awarded the Knight’s Cross. In January 1945, I was promoted to Major and, on 12 April, was appointed Kommodore of JG51 “Molders”, leading IV./JG51 at the same time. A replacement for lV. Gruppe later arrived and, on 12 April 1945, the dissolution of II. Gruppe was ordered, with I. and III. Gruppen deployed to East Prussia.
My last aerial combat took place on 29 April 1945, with four Lagg 7 aircraft and, during the battle for Berlin, my IV. Gruppe scored 115 victories, sustaining just 5 casualties. When we surrendered to the British, in early May 1945, I had flown 628 missions, including 85 low level attacks, and 63 fighter bomber missions. I had achieved 70 aerial victories, all but one of which was in the East.
In Hannes Trautloft's own words...
My military training began in secret. As a disguised 19 year old Officer Cadet, I began flying training in April 1931, in a training division based at Schleissheim near Munich. After a year’s training, where I flew several single-engined types, including Albatros biplanes, I was sent to Russia with 9 others from my course for pre-military fighter pilot training. This top secret training was conducted by German instructors using a selection of biplanes, including the famous Fokker D VII.
I officially became a soldier on 15 October 1932, to train as an infantry officer. I received “civilian” refresher flying courses during my leave and later, as a disguised Ueutenant, spent two years as an instructor at the Fighter Pilots’ School, flying the Arado 64 and 65.
In March 1936, after taking part in the occupation of the Rheinland, I became one of six “civilian volunteer instructors” in Spain. Later, in the uniformed “Legion Condor," I flew operations in the Heinkel 51 and achieved my first aerial victory over a “Breguet” bomber in 1 August 1936, the first German victory of the war. I was later the first Legion pilot to test the newly arrived Me 109.
Returning to Germany in March 1937, I took command of a fighter squadron at Bad Aibling, flying the He 51, Arado 68, Fw “Stosser” and, finally, the Me 109. Later, in June, I flew in the German Aerobatic Squadron for the official opening of the Hungarian Airport at Budapest. I then spent July and August in the German National Display Squadron at the International Meeting in Zurich, winning the three man timed triangle competition, flying the Me 109. In November, I commenced six months of instructing at the Fighter Pilots’ School, where many future famous Aces went through my hands.
After a short tour in the new Fighter Gruppe IV./132, assigned to the new “Richthofen” Wing,I was promoted to Hauptmann and, as a Squadron Commander, shot down a single fighter in the Polish Campaign. Then on 22 September 1939, I took command of the newly formed I./JG20 which I led in the West until June 1940.
Transferring to St Omer airfield, my Gruppe, now renamed III./JG51, began operations against England. On 25 August 1940, as a 28 year old Hauptman, I was sent to the Champagne region of France as Kommodore of JG54, with its 2,500 men, including 120 pilots. We flew bomber and Stuka escort missions, free fighting and, later, fighter bomber operations, where I flew over 100 missions.
Promoted to Major on 1 September 1940, I then took part in the Balkan Campaign, fighting against Yugoslav-flown Me 109’s. In April 1941, we moved to Stolp Airfield in Pommern to take delivery of the new Me 109F, ready for the Russian Campaign. I was to command JG 54 until July 1942, flying both the Me 109 and Fw 190, in heavy fighting in the northern region.
Promotion to Oberstleutnant followed on 1 February 1943 and to Oberst on 11 June, with orders to join General Galland’s staff as Inspector of Fighters (East) and, four months later, Inspector of Day Fighters.
As a supposed “mutineer” against Goering, I was later sacked and ended the war in a training school. As a holder of the Knight’s Cross and Spanish Cross in Gold, I had flown 550 combat missions and achieved 57 aerial victories, never being wounded, I finally gave up my pilots’ licence in 1989 after 58 years and 6,000 flying hours.
In Hans-Joachim Jabs' own words...
My military career as a pilot began in December 1936, when I entered the Air Warfare School at Wildpark-Werder. After my basic training, I was ordered to I./KG253 in February 1938, for training on the Ju 86 as a bomber pilot. In July of the same year, I was transferred to III./JG334 for fighter pilot training on the Heinkel He 51 and Arado 68 and received promotion to Leutnant in September, shortly after assuming the appointment of Adjutant. It was here that I saw my first operational service in the Sudetenland and then, in 1939, in Czechoslovakia, this time with I./JG344, initially flying the Arado 68 and, later, the Me 109.
In March 1940, I./JG344 was renamed to II./ZG76 “Shark’s Gruppe”, having been equipped with the Me 110 “Destroyer” the previous September. Flying with this unit, I took part in the battles for France and Belgium and then the air battle over England. During these battles, I managed to shoot down eight Spitfires and four Hurricanes and, in September 1940, was promoted to Oberleutnant. I was awarded the Knight’s Cross the following month.
From November 1940 to May 1941, my wing was assigned to coastal fighter protection in the area of Jever, Westerland and Wangerooge and, also in May 1941, we took part in the operations which led to the occupation of Crete. June 1941 to September 1941 were spent mounting operations against England from our bases in Holland.
In September 1941, I commenced conversion training at Stuttgart-Echterdingen for night fighter operations in the Me 110. The following month, my II./JG76 was renamed to II./JG3 to reflect its night fighter role. However, I briefly returned to daylight operations in February 1942 as one of 30 Destroyer pilots selected to protect the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen during their Channel dash, “Operation Thunderbolt”.
In November 1942, I was transferred to IV./JG1 for a squadron command operating from Leeuwarden in Holland. This wing was equipped with new Me 110 variants using the latest radar equipment and armed with forward firing 30mm cannons and the upward firing ‘Jazz Music” cannons. In February 1943, I became Kommandeur of IV./JG1 and received promotion to Major in November of the same year.
By January 1944, I had managed 25 more victories, bringing my total to 45. In March, I received the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross and was appointed Kommodore of NJG 1, where I replaced Werner Streib, who became Inspector of Night Fighters. On 1 May 1944, I was promoted to Oberstleutnant, but remained with NJG 1 until the end of the war, scoring my final two aerial victories on the night of 21 February 1945, bringing my score to 50, of which nineteen were as a Destroyer pilot and 31 as a night fighter pilot.
During my 510 missions as a fighter pilot, I developed the greatest respect for the Spitfires and Mosquito night fighters of the Royal Air Force and for the defensive armament of the Boeing Fortress bombers.
In Fritz Losigkeit's own words...
I was born on 17 November 1913 in Berlin, where I received my schooling. Right from the beginning, I wanted to become a pilot, often busying myself constructing model airplanes. In 1930, three years before graduating from school, I began glider training in a Berlin Aero-Club. As a means towards becoming a pilot, I joined the German State Police, as an Officer Cadet, in April 1934, the academy later being taken over by the Air Force. My pilot training began in 1936 and I was promoted to Leutnant. Following qualification as a pilot, I was posted to the Reconnaissance School at Tutlow. Then, on 15 October 1936, was transferred to JG132 “Richthofen” where I learned elementary fighter tactics.
On 15 March 1938, I was posted to Spain, to the 3rd Squadron of Fighter Unit 88, 3./JG88, under Oberleutnant Galland, to fly the He 51 ground attack biplane. Galland was later replaced by Molders who, leading the second flight on 31 May 1938, witnessed my aircraft being hit by anti-aircraft fire near Villar. I bailed out at very low level and landed in no-man’s land, the remainder of my comrades flying repeated missions close by to deter the enemy from approaching me. However, I was taken prisoner, an unpleasant experience, as we were considered to be mercenaries; I was lucky to escape death. I escaped in February 1939 and finally returned to Germany via France.
On 23 September 1939, after a short holiday, I was then given command of 2./JG26 “Schlageter” in Cologne. In May 1940, we moved to the Channel Coast at Audembert, near Wissant, from where we flew operations against England, often up to 5 missions per day. During this period, I received my 100 missions golden clasp and Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class. I remained with my 2nd Squadron until 17 May 1941, with promotion to Hauptmann on 1 March, after which I was sent to Japan as a diplomatic courier. However, when Germany attacked Russia, I could not return home, so I was attached to the Japanese Army Air Force, where I flew fighter tactic missions on the Mitsubishi 96 and also trained Japanese pilots on one of three Me 109s.
After an eventful sea journey in a blockade breaker, I arrived back in Berlin on 16 January 1942 and was attached to the Staff of “General of the Fighter Arm” for the Channel Breakthrough of the German Fleet. After a short spell of operations in Norway, leading a specially formed unit tasked with the protection of the battleship “Scharnhorst”, I was ordered to form a new fighter Gruppe in Berlin, IV./JG1 (later I./JG1), in March 1942 I led this Gruppe in the West as Kommandeur until 31 May 1943. Our tasks included attempts to intercept British Mosquitoes and combat missions against American bombers, including the B-17 “Fortress”, which often had a powerful fighter escort. On 1 March 1943, I was promoted to Major. I then spent the short period 1 to 23 June 1943 as Gruppenkommandeur I./JG26 in the East, before they were transferred back to France.
On 24 June 1943,1 took over as Gruppenkommandeur IV./JG51 “Molders” on the Central Eastern Front. The Battle of Kursk soon developed into the Battle of Orel which started on 5 July 1943 and, on 5 August, it fell to the Russians. During this period, we were involved in very heavy fighting with a constantly strengthening enemy, and we were often not able to replace our losses. In November, I was awarded the German Cross in Gold and, on 1 April 1944, I took over as Kommodore JG51 “Molders”. I remained in this command, with my Fighter Wing constantly moving westward, until 31 March 1945, when I received orders to transfer to Czechoslovakia to take over as Kommodore JG77. On 28 April 1945, I was awarded the Knight’s Cross. A hectic period of operations in Czechoslovakia followed, where I was ordered to form a special unit from all available aircraft of all types, for ground attack operations. I was also frequently a Gefectsverband Leader, a special formation designed to intercept a bomber force with fighter protection.
On 8 May 1945, I gave the order to fly westwards and we entered American captivity in Regensburg. I had flown 750 missions in East and West, and scored 68 aerial victories, of which 11 were in the West, including a B-17 bomber.
In Julius Meimberg's own words...
I was born on 11 January 1917, in Munster, Westfalia. I was an enthusiastic glider pilot and, as soon as I was able, joined the Luftwaffe as an Officer Cadet.
I was promoted to Leutnant on 27 August 1939. On 11 December 1939, I joined the newly established 4./JG2 “Richthofen”. At the beginning of the French Campaign, in May 1940, we were transferred to Beaumont Ie Roger, where I flew as wingman to my Staffel Leader, Assi Hahn, until he received the Knight’s Cross after 20 victories. I achieved my first aerial victory at mid-day on 19 May 1940, when I caught a Hurricane after a low level chase.
My second came on 3 June 1940, a Curtiss P-36. On 11 September 1940, after my fifth aerial victory, I was awarded the Iron Cross First Class. My last two victories of 1940 came on 28 and 29 November when I led the 4th Staffel. My victory on the 29th was a Blenheim, the first bomber I had seen up until then.
On 15th April 1941, I took command of 3./JG2. On 24 July, after shooting down three Blenheim bombers, I was badly wounded and did not return to the Front until 3 May 1942. On 1 August 1942, I took over 11./JG 2 and in November, we were transferred to North Africa. On 1 February 1943, after shooting down a Flying Fortress for my 32nd victory, I was shot down in flames and again wounded. For my convalescence, I joined the Staff of JG 53 in Neapel.
On 20 April 1944, I was appointed Gruppenkommandeur II./JG53 at Eschborn near Frankfurt for the “Defence of the Reich”. During the Invasion, we were transferred to France and, in the ensuing fighting, suffered many casualties.
We later moved to Southern Germany. On 24 October 1944, I was awarded the Knight’s Cross after 44 victories and, the following December, was promoted to Major. At the end of the war, I had achieved 53 victories in the West from approximately 600 missions.