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Dieter Hrabak (deceased)
|Dieter Hrabak was shot down in his first aerial combat during the Polish Campaign. He survived to become one of the Luftwaffes most respected and popular leaders. He scored his first victory in the Battle of France, and got 15 more during the Battle of Britain. By Eagle Day he was in command of II./JG 54, which he led until taking command of JG 52 in 1942. He was the first JG 54 Ace to be awarded the Knights Cross. He ended the war back in command of JG 54, and was credited with 125 victories. |
Dieter Hrabak was born on 19th December 1914 in a small village near Leipzig. Upon graduation from high school, he hoped to become a commercial pilot, but in 1934 Hrabak joined the Reichsmarine. Within 6 months he transferred to the newly formed Luftwaffe for flight training. By April 1939, Hrabak was recognised as an experienced pilot and given command of a squadron in Vienna. On his very first combat mission in September 1939 over Poland, he was shot down - the first of 11 times. Hrabaks first aerial victory came during the Battle of France. Flying an Me109, he claimed five more victories before the armistice. In the summer of 1940, his squadron was incorporated into a newly formed fighting wing, JG54 Green Hearts. Hrabak commanded II./JG54, one of the wings three groups as the Luftwaffe began its assault on England. During the Batttle of Britain he brought his score to 16 Royal Air Force fighters and Field Marshal Goring personally decorated him with the Knights Cross. In the spring of 1941, II./JG54 flew in the short campaign against Yugoslavia. When Operation Barbarosa began in Russia, he flew on the northern sector of the front and fought over Leningrad. In November 1942, Hrabak took command of JG52 on the southern front and fought over Stalingrad. In August 1943, he got his 100th aerial victory and in November, Hitler awarded him Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross. In early 1944, JG52 achieved its 10,000th aerial victory - the most by any Luftwaffe wing. In October 1944, he returned to his old wing, the Green Hearts, as Commander. Flying the Focke Wulf Fw190, he fought until near the end of the war in Kurland. After the war, he worked in the auto and chemical industry. He was a key architect in rebuilding the modern German Air Force. In 1953, Chancellor Adenaur asked him to help form a new German Air Force. Hrabak personally interviewed most of the officers who would form the nucleus. In mid-1955, he came to the United States and trained on modern jets. In the summer of 1956, he returned home to command the Advanced Pilot Training Centre at Furstenfeldbruck AB. By 1960, he commanded all GAF flying training centres. Two years later, he took charge of the air defence sector covering northern Germany and the Netherlands. In 1964, he was named NATOs Chief of Air Defence, Central Europe, until he became special manager for the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. Finally, as a major general, he commanded the GAFs tactical command, retiring on 1st October 1970. He died on 15th September 1995.
Hannes Trautloft (deceased)
|Hannes Trautloft is one of the Luftwaffe's great fighter leaders, scoring his first air victory in the Spanish Civil War in August 1936. Returning to Germany in 1937 he joined the national aerobatics team flying the Me109. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, Hannes took command of I./JG20 taking part in the Battle of Britain, before moving to the Balkans as Kommodore of JG54. Now leading the group on the Russian Front, JG54 took part in the heavy fighting, first in the Me109, then the Fw190. In the summer of 1943 Hannes Trautloft joined General Galland's staff. As a 'mutineer' he was sacked by Goering, thus ending an illustrious combat career comprising 550 combat missions and 57 aerial victories. he died 11th January 1995.|
Oberst Erich Hartmann (deceased)
|Erich Hartmann started his career as Paule Rossmans wingman, and it was obvious that here was a very special pilot. Promoted Staffelkapitan of 7/JG52 in July 1943, he was shot down and taken prisoner for four hours before escaping. In September he took over 9/JG52. In March 1944 he reached the 200 victory mark. He later le 4/JG52, then briefly I/JG52, and lastly Gruppenkommandeur of I/JG52. Hartmann scored a total of 352 victories, more than any other pilot in history, and was awarded the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Erich Hartmann is the top-scoring fighter pilot in history. During WWII he shot down the equivalent of almost 15 Allied squadrons in aerial combat. In some 850 aerial combats he shot down 352 Allied planes and was shot down himself 16 times. He was never wounded. Hartmanns mother taught him to fly at age 14 and in 1942 at age 20 he was flying Me109s on the Eastern front. His first combat mission was disastrous. He spoiled his leaders attack by going for the kill himself, then mistook his leaders Me109 for a Russian fighter and fled in panic. Were it not for super ace Walter Krupinski believing in Hartmanns abilities he might well have had his flying career ended. Krupinskis tutoring coupled with the fact that Hartmann was a crack shot, turned him around. He scored his first victory on November 5th 1942 and by September 1943 he had completed 300 missions with 95 victories to his credit. In August 1944 Hartmann was awarded the Diamonds to his Knights Cross - Germanys highest decoration and one that was awarded to only 27 German militar ypersonnel. Hitler made the award personally. Before the award ceremony he was demanded to hand over his sidearm before meeting with Hitler. Hartmann told the generals that if Hitler could not trust his front line officers, he could stuff his Diamonds. After a brief confusion he was allowed to carry his pistol. Hartmanns success resulted from the lessons he learned from Krupinski - do not fire until your enemys plane fills your windscreen. That resulted in a sure kill with a minimum amount of ammunition expended. Almost every kill Hartmann made was a near collision. After the war Hartmann surrendered to the Americans, who turned him over to the Russians. He was singled out for especially brutal treatment and was illegally held by the Russians until 1955 when Chansellor Adenaur personally visited Moscow and arranged for his release. The Russians had used every persuasive device known to convert Hartmann to Communism and get him to join the DDR airforce. Upon his return to Germany, his friend and fellow ace, Walter Krupinski, urged him to join the new German Air Force with other old friends such as Barkhorn and Hrabak. Since he felt he was too old to begin a new career, he did. He was given refresher training in the United States and was selected to command the Richthofen Wing in the new German Air Force, the first fighter wing to be rebuilt since the war. He filled that and other jobs in the new Luftwaffe with great distinction until his retirement. He died 20th September 1993.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Me109||Willy Messerschmitt designed the BF109 during the early 1930s. The Bf109 was one of the first all metal monocoque construction fighters with a closed canopy and retractable undercarriage. The engine of the Me109 was a V12 aero engine which was liquid-cooled. The Bf109 first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War and flew to the end of World War II, during which time it was the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter squadrons. During the Battle of Britian the Bf109 was used in the role of an escort fighter, a role for which it was not designed for, and it was also used as a fighter bomber. During the last days of May 1940 Robert Stanford-Tuck, the RAF ace, got the chance to fly an Me109 which they had rebuilt after it had crash landed. Stanford-Tuck found out that the Me109 was a wonderful little plane, it was slightly faster than the Spitfire, but lacked the Spitfire manoeuvrability. By testing the Me109, Tuck could put himself inside the Me109 when fighting them, knowing its weak and strong points. With the introduction of the improved Bf109F in the spring of 1941, the type again proved to be an effective fighter during the invasion of Yugoslavia and during the Battle of Crete and the invasion of Russia and it was used during the Siege of the Mediteranean island of Malta. The Bf109 was the main fighter for the Luftwaffe until 1942 when the Fw190 entered service and shared this position, and was partially replaced in Western Europe, but the Me109 continued to serve on the Eastern Front and during the defence of the Reich against the allied bombers. It was also used to good effect in the Mediterranean and North Africa in support of The Africa Korps. The Me109 was also supplied to several German allies, including Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovakia. The Bf109 scored more kills than any other fighter of any country during the war and was built in greater numbers with a total of over 31,000 aircraft being built. The Bf109 was flown by the three top German aces of the war war. Erich Hartmann with 352 victories, Gerhard Barkhorn with 301 victories and Gunther Rall with 275 kills. Bf109 pilots were credited with the destruction of 100 or more enemy aircraft. Thirteen Luftwaffe Aces scored more than 200 kills. Altogether this group of pilots were credited with a total of nearly 15,000 kills, of which the Messerschmitt Bf109 was credited with over 10,000 of these victories. The Bf109 was the most produced warplane during World War II, with 30,573 examples built during the war, and the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 units produced up to April 1945. Bf109s remained in foreign service for many years after World War II. The Swiss used their Bf109Gs well into the 1950s. The Finnish Air Force did not retire their Bf109Gs until March 1954. Romania used its Bf109s until 1955. The Spanish Hispanos flew even longer. Some were still in service in the late 1960s.|
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