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|Signatures on this item|
Colonel Herbert Ihlefeld (deceased)
|Born 1st June 1914 in Pinnow Pommern and died 8th August 1995 in Wenningen lower Saxony. Joined the Luftwaffe in 1936 and scored nine victories during the Spanish Civil War. Flew 1000 combat missions and claimed 132 enemy aircraft with 56 on the Western Front including 26 spitfires and 67 on the Russian Front. Participated in the air war over Poland, France and the Battle of Britain. In 1941 Ihlefeld was transferred to the Balkans for the invasion of Yugoslavia. He was shot down by AA fire and captured by the Yugoslavian Army. 8 days lated he was rescued by the German troops. Ihlefeld participated in the assault on Crete, claiming his 36th kill, a Hurricane. He then commanded Jagdgeschwader 77 in time for Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. In April 1942 Ihlefeld became the 5th pilot to reach 100 victories and his unit 1/JG77 was credited with 323 enemy aircraft kills compared to the loss of only 17 Bf109s. Ihlefeld then took command of Jagdgeschwader 52 in June 1942 but he was involved in a landing accident and badly injured and was not ready to return to active service until July 1943. In May 1944 he commanded JG11 and then JG1 during the defence of the Reich. In 1945 he took command of Jagdgeschwader 1 equipped with the Heinkel 162.|
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.
General Gunther Rall (deceased)
|A young pilot with III/JG52 at the outbreak of war. He quickly demonstrated his natural ability and leadership qualities, scoring his first air victory early in the Battle of Britain, and by July 1940 was leading 8/JG52. After transfer to the Eastern Front his air victories mounted at an astonishing rate. A crash hospitalised him but within nine months he was back in the cockpit, and, when commanding III/JG52, gained the Wings 500th victory. Gunther fought throughout the war to become the 3rd highest Ace in history with 275 victories. He was awarded the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. Gunther Rall was born on March 10, 1918 in the small Bavarian town of Gaggenau, Baden. Immersing himself in Boy Scout activities during the difficult economic times in Germany following WW 1, Rall finished school in 1936 and joined the German Army. Influenced by a friend, who was a young officer in the Luftwaffe, Rall entered pilots school in 1938. His initial posting was with JG52. He attained his first aerial victory during the Battle of France in May of 1940. During the Battle of Britain JG52 absorbed many casualties, and Rall was promoted to Squadron Commander at the young age of 22. With his fair-hair and smooth complexion the young officer looked even younger than his years. But behind this pleasant exterior was a fierce competitor with the heart of a tiger. Later, Ralls squadron would support the attack on Crete, followed by deployment to the Southern Sector on the Eastern Front. Ralls victory totals began to mount. Following his 37 th victory, GiInther was himself shot down. He was lucky to survive the crash, but with a badly broken back he would spend most of the next year in various hospitals. In Vienna at the University Hospital he would meet his future wife, Hertha. Miraculously, Rall recovered and returned to the Luftwaffe in August of 1942. By November his score exceeded 100 and he was awarded the Oak Leaves to accompany the Knights Cross he was awarded only weeks earlier. As the War progressed against Russia, Rall began to encounter ever more experienced Soviet pilots flying better performing aircraft. Despite this fact, and being shot down several more times himself, Ralls victory tally kept rising. By March of 1944 the ace had attained 273 aerial victories. With the War now going badly for Germany, Rall was transferred to the Western Front. He was able to attain only two more victories against the swarms of Allied bombers and fighter escorts which now pounded Germany every day and night. In May of 1944 Rall was shot down by a P-47. Losing his thumb in the battle he remained out of combat until later in 1944. Ralls final assignments included flying 190Ds as Kornmodore of JG300, and flying the Me-262 jet. Ralls 275 aerial victories (attained on less than 700 combat sorties) make him the third highest scoring ace of all time. If not for the down time suffered as a result of his broken back, Rall might have actually equaled or exceeded Erich Hartmanns alltime record of 352 aerial victories. Rall was not much for socializing during the War. He was a fierce competitor with a businessmans attitude about flying. He was an excellent marksman, and possibly the best deflection shot expert of the War. He continued to fly with the Bundeslufwaffe following the War, serving as its Commander-In Chief in 1970-74. Sadly Gunther Rall died on 4th October 2009.|
General Walter Krupinski (deceased)
|Walter Krupinski first saw combat against the RAF on the Western Front. Transferring to the east, he became a Squadron Commander in the legendary JG52. In 1943 his victories reached 150 but, in March 1944 with 177 victories to his name, he was transferred to Germany to command JG11. Flying high altitude Me109s, he chalked up another 12 victories before being wounded. In September 1944 he was promoted Kommandeur of III./JG26 and led them on Operation Bodenplatte before joining Galland's famous JV44. He completed the war with 197 victories in over 1100 missions. |
Walter Krupinski, known as Graf Punski or Count Punski in the Jagdwaffe, was a swashbuckling fly-boy with a phenomenal record of 197 aerial victories. Krupinski not only never lost a wingman, but also had the ability to help beginners develop to their full potential. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 as a student in the 11th Flying Training Regiment. He first served with the Jagderganzungsgruppe JG52, a combat replacement unit, flying the Me109, in October 1940. By the end of 191, he had earned the Iron Cross 1st class after his seventh victory and was awarded the German Cross in Gold and the Knights Cross one year later after scoring over 52 aerial victories. Krupinski taught the aerial art of closing with the enemy aircraft until it filled the windscreen before firing. It was during this time that the young Erich Hartmann was assigned as Krupinskis wingman. The young and overly enthusiastic Hartmann was seriously struggling in his first attempts at aerial combat, resulting in severe reprimands by the group commander. However, under Krupinskis expert tutelage, Hartmann mastered the art of aerial combat and went on to become the top scoring fighter ace in the world with 352 victories. While still a first lieutenant, Krupinski was selected as Dquadron Commander of 7.JG52 in the spring of 1943. On 5th of July of the same year, he scored victories 80 to 90 - 11 in one day! He later transferred to the Reich Defence in the west with 1./JG5 in the spring of 1944. His units mission was to help halt the Allied strategic bombardment campaign against Germany. Krupinski continued to rack up aerial victories and was awarded Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross after his 177th victory. He was promoted to Captain and became Group Commander of II./JG 11. Later, Krupinski became Group Commander of II./JG 26 Schlageter Group. In March 1945 he joined General Adolf Gallands famed Jagdverband 44 and flew Messerschmitt Me262 jet fighters until the end of the war. After logging a total of 1,100 combat missions, Krupinski was officialy credited with 197 aerial victories. Krupinski was also wounded seven times in aerial combat and received the Verwundetenabzeichen in Gold - the German equivalent of the American Purple Heart. A civilian after the war, Krupinski later joined the new Luftwaffe in 1952 and was promoted to major in 1955. He received jet fighting training from the Royal Air Force and became the first commander of the Jagdbomber Geschwader, Fighter-Bomber Wing - 33. Krupinski flew various jet fighters in the German Air Force, but held dear the last aircraft he flew until his retirement, his beloved F-104G Starfighter. General Krupinski retired as Commander of the German Air Force Tactical Air Command in 1976.
He received the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves. He died 7th October 2000.
Hauptmann Ernst Wilhelm Reinert (deceased)
|Ernst Wilhelm Reinert flew with JG77, before transferring to the Eastern Front in 1941. He was posted to Tunisia in January 1943 where he became the most successful Luftwaffe Ace in North Africa during that period. On January 2nd 1945 he was given the leadership of IV./JG27. In March he transferred to III./JG7 flying the Me262. In his 715 missions Reinert scored 174 aerial victories. he was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. Born 2nd February 1919 in Lindenthal, died 5th September 2007.|
Walter Wolfrum (deceased)
|Walter Wolfrum first saw combat in the Crimea with 5/JG52. He was shot down three times, and wounded twice before scoring his first victory. With his score at 70 he was again wounded, but returned to take command of 1/JG52 in May 1944, taking part in the fiercely fought defence of the Ploesti oilfields. he was again wounded, but returned to command 1/JG52 until the end of the war. he had flown 423 missions, achieved 137 victories, and was awarded the Knights Cross. Sadly, Walter Wolfrum passed away on 26th August 2010.|
|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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