Luftwaffe Pilots & Airmen – A thru G

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Gerhard Barkhorn

Gerhard “Gerd” Barkhorn (20 March 1919 – 8 January 1983) was the second most successful fighter ace of all time after fellow Luftwaffe pilot Erich Hartmann. Barkhorn joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 and completed his training in 1939.

Barkhorn flew his first combat missions in May 1940, during the Battle of France and then the Battle of Britain without scoring an aerial victory—that is an aerial combat encounter resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft. His first victory came in July 1941 and his total rose steadily against Soviet opposition. In March 1944, he was awarded the third highest decoration in the Wehrmacht when he received the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern) for 250 aerial victories. Despite being the second highest scoring pilot in aviation history, Barkhorn was not awarded the Diamonds to his Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords after achieving his 300th victory on 5 January 1945.

Barkhorn flew 1,104 combat sorties and was credited with 301 victories on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Air Force piloting the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9. He flew with the famed Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—Fighter Wing 52), alongside fellow aces Hartmann and Günther Rall, and Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2). Less than two weeks later he left JG 52 on the Eastern Front and joined Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3), defending Germany from Western Allied air attack.

Barkhorn survived the war and was taken prisoner by the Western Allies in May 1945 and released later that year. After the war Barkhorn joined the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr also called colloquially Bundesluftwaffe, serving until 1976. On 6 January 1983, Barkhorn was involved in a car accident with his wife Christl. She died instantly and Gerhard died two days later on 8 January 1983.

Hansgeorg Bätcher

Hansgeorg Bätcher (13 January 1914 – 23 April 2003) was a highly decorated Oberstleutnant bomber pilot in the Luftwaffe during World War II, and one of only 882 recipients of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Hansgeorg Bätcher was captured by American troops in May 1945.

Wilhelm Batz

Major Wilhelm “Willi” Batz (21 May 1916 in Bamberg – 11 September 1988 in Mauschendorf/Ebern in Unterfranken) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace. Willi Batz flew 445 combat missions and claimed 237 enemy aircraft shot down. 234 of these victories were achieved over the Eastern Front, including at least 46 Il-2 Sturmoviks, but he did claim three victories, including one four-engine bomber against the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) over the Ploieşti oil fields. He was wounded three times and was shot down four times. Batz was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Werner Baumbach

Werner Baumbach (27 December 1916 – 20 October 1953) was a bomber pilot in the German Luftwaffe during World War II and commander of the secret bomber wing Kampfgeschwader 200 (KG 200). He received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern) for the destruction of over 300,000 gross register tons (GRT) of allied shipping.

Helmut Benkendorff

Helmut Benkendorff was born on 12.08.1910 in Berlin-Pankow and received as Sergeant and airplane leader in group II of the Stuka Squadron 1 on 03.26.1944 the Knight’s Cross. In August 1943 Benkendorff had brought as a pilot of season 5 his 500th insert behind.

Helmut Benkendorff died on 11 3, 1971 in Berlin.

Alwin Boerst

Major Alwin Boerst (born 20 October 1910 in Osterode – Killed in action 30 March 1944 near Iaşi) was a German World War II Luftwaffe Stuka ace. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Boerst participated in the Battle of Crete and assisted in the sinking of British destroyers Kelly and Kashmir.

Together with his radio operator and gunner, Ernst Filius, he took off on 30 March 1944 for the first time flying a Ju 87G-1. They were shot down and killed during this mission north of Iaşi by ground fire. Oberfeldwebel Filius was posthumously awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 19 May 1944. Boerst was posthumous honoured with the Swords to his Knight’s Cross on 6 April 1944. Boerst flew 1060 combat missions.

Walter Bornschein

Walter Bornschein (7 April 1914 – 27 April 1944) was a German Luftwaffe bomber pilot and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Walter Bornschein was killed on 27 April 1944 when he was hit by enemy fire while flying over Schweinfurt.

Max Bucholz

Max Bucholz (3 November 1912 – 19 July 1996) was a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Max Bucholz was credited with between 28 and 30 victories.

Georg Dörffel

Georg Dörffel (27 July 1914 – 26 May 1944) was a highly decorated Oberstleutnant in the Luftwaffe during World War II, and one of only 882 recipients of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Georg Dörffel was killed on 26 May 1944, north of Rome. During his career he flew 1004 missions as a ground assault pilot. He was posthumously promoted to Oberstleutnant.

Alfred Druschel

Oberst Alfred Druschel (born 4 February 1917 in Bindsachsen, District Büdingen; Killed in action on 1 January 1945 near Aachen in Unternehmen Bodenplatte) was a German Luftwaffe combat pilot and Flying ace during World War II. He was the first combat pilot to be honored with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Heinrich Ehrler

Heinrich Ehrler (14 September 1917 – 4 April 1945) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator during World War II, a fighter ace credited with 208 enemy aircraft shot down in over 400 combat missions. The majority of his victories were claimed over the Eastern Front, with nine claims over the Western Front which included eight in the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

Born in Oberbalbach, Ehrler grew up in the Weimar Republic and Third Reich as one of 12 children. He joined the military service in the Wehrmacht in 1935, initially service with the artillery and anti-aircraft artillery. He participated in the Spanish Civil War and following the outbreak of World War II transferred to the Jagdwaffe (fighter force). Following flight training, he was posted to the 4. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing), which was later redesignated to 4. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5—5th Fighter Wing).

Scapegoated for the loss of the German battleship Tirpitz, Ehrler – who had been nominated for the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords prior to the disaster – was court-martialled, stripped of his command and sentenced to three years and two months Festungshaft (honorable imprisonment). Ehrler’s sentence was later commuted and his loss of rank rescinded, and in February 1945 he was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 7. According to his fellow pilots, Ehrler thereafter flew in the increasingly desperate air battles without the purpose and dedication that had made him one of the Luftwaffe’s most successful aces.On 4 April 1945, he shot down two Allied bombers for his final two victories, before destroying a third by ramming with his damaged aircraft after having run out of ammunition.

Wilhelm Gänsler

Wilhelm Gänsler (22 May 1919 – 22 November 1985) was a highly decorated Oberfeldwebel in the Luftwaffe during World War II, a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. This decoration recognised extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. During his career Gänsler participated in 115 missions as an flight engineer or aerial gunner, some with Ludwig Becker. He participated in 98 of Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer’s victories. He received the Knight’s Cross after 80 aerial victories participations and was recommended for the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 8 March 1945.

Friedrich Geisshardt

Friedrich “Fritz” Geißhardt (22 January 1919 – 6 April 1943) was a German former Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during World War II. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, with its higher grade Oak Leaves, was awarded to recognize exceptional battlefield bravery or military leadership.

“Fritz” Geißhardt is credited with 102 victories in 642 combat missions, including 37 close air support missions. He achieved 63 of his victories over the Eastern Front. In his total are at least seventeen Spitfires. Geißhardt was mortally wounded in combat with US bombers on 5 April 1943 and succumbed to his injuries the next day.

Adolf Glunz

Adolf “Addi” Glunz (11 June 1916 – 1 August 2002) was a German pilot in the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) during World War II. Glunz is credited in Nazi propaganda with 71 aerial victories achieved in 574 combat missions, mostly on the Western Front. Glunz most successful day as a fighter pilot was 22 February 1944 when during the course of two combat missions he claimed four B-17 Flying Fortress, a P-47 Thunderbolt. Three B-17s and the P-47 were confirmed.

He is credited with five ground victories during Operation Bodenplatte. In February 1945 Glunz was assigned to JG 7 and undertook conversion training to the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. However he never flew the Me 262 in combat.

Gordon Gollob

Gordon Max Gollob (16 June 1912, Vienna – 8 September 1987) was an Austrian-born Nazi German fighter pilot and flying ace in the Luftwaffe from 1938 to 1945 during World War II. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He rose to the position of General der Jagdflieger, and was one of only 27 to receive the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade the Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. At the time of its presentation to Gollob it was Germany’s highest military decoration.

Gollob was credited with 150 aerial victories—that is, 150 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—achieved in 340 missions. He recorded 144 victories over the Eastern front. Gollob was the first pilot in aviation history to claim 150 aerial victories.

Hans Götz

Hans Götz (2 June 1919 – 4 August 1943) was a former German Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. Hans Götz was credited with 82 victories in 600 combat missions. He claimed three victories over the Western Front.

Hermann Graf

Colonel Hermann Graf (24 October 1912 – 4 November 1988) was a German Luftwaffe Second World War fighter ace. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He served on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. He became the first pilot in aviation history to claim 200 aerial victories—that is, 200 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft. He claimed 212 aerial victories in over 830 combat missions, 202 of which were on the Eastern Front.

Graf, a pre-war football player and glider pilot, joined the Luftwaffe in 1935 and initially selected for transport aviation was posted to Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing) in May 1939. At the outbreak of war he was stationed on the German–Franco border flying uneventful patrols. Serving as a flight instructor he was stationed in Romania as part of a German military mission training Romanian pilots. Graf flew a few ground support missions in the closing days of the German invasion of Crete.

In the late spring, 1941 Graf claimed his first aerial victory on 4 August 1941 during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) after 45 victories on 24 January 1942. By 16 September 1942 his number of victories had increased to 172 for which he was honored with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten). At the time of its presentation to Graf it was Germany’s highest military decoration. On 26 September 1942 he became the first fighter pilot in aviation history to claim 200 enemy aircraft shot down.

A national hero, Graf was taken off combat operations and posted to a fighter pilot training school in France before being tasked with leadership of a high flying de Havilland Mosquito intercept unit called Jagdgeschwader 50. In November 1943 Graf returned to combat operations. He was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) of Jagdgeschwader 11 (JG 11—11th Fighter Wing) and claimed his last aerial victory on 29 March 1944. He was severely injured during this encounter and after a period of convalescence became Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—52nd Fighter Wing). He and the remainder of JG 52 surrendered to units of the United States Army on 8 May 1945, and were turned over to the Red Army. Graf was held in Soviet captivity until 1949. After the war he worked as an electronic sales manager and died of Parkinson’s disease in his home town of Engen on 4 November 1988.

Walter Grasemann

Walter Grasemann (3 July 1917 – 26 November 2007) was a bomber pilot in the German Luftwaffe during World War II and commander of the fighter-bomber wing Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 of the German Air Force. He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Grasemann was asked to testify in the aftermaths of the 1961 F-84 Thunderstreak incident.

Hartmann Grasser

Hartmann Grasser (23 August 1914 – 2 June 1986) was a World War II German fighter ace. He was credited with shooting down 103 Allied aircraft while flying 700 missions on the Western Front (8 victories), Eastern Front (83 victories), and in North Africa (12 victories.) He was also a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Karl Gratz

Karl Gratz (24 January 1919 – 14 March 2002) was an Austrian born Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) during World War II. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Gratz flew more than 900 missions, scoring 138 aerial victories, of which 17 were scored on the Western Front.

Alfred Grislawski

Alfred Grislawski (2 November 1919 – 19 September 2003) was a German former Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during World War II. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He was credited with 133 victories claimed in over 800 combat missions.  He recorded 24 victories over the Western Front, including 18 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) four–engine bombers. Of his 109 claims recorded over the Eastern Front, 16 were Il-2 Sturmoviks.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History

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