Hans Beißwenger

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Hans Beißwenger
The head of a young man, shown in semi-profile. He wears a military uniform with a military decoration displayed at the front of his shirt collar.
Hans Beißwenger
Nickname(s) Beißer—biter
Born (1916-11-08)8 November 1916
Mittelfischach, Schwäbisch Hall
Died 6 March 1943(1943-03-06) (aged 26)
south of Staraya Russa, Soviet Union
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1937–43
Rank Oberleutnant
Unit JG 54
Commands held 6./JG 54
Battles/wars
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Hans Beißwenger[Note 1] (8 November 1916 – 6 March 1943) was a German 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.[1] In 500 combat missions, Beißwenger was credited with 152 victories, making him the 34th highest-scoring Luftwaffe fighter pilot of World War II. He was "ace-in-a-day" twice, shooting down five aircraft on a single day. He claimed all but one of his victories over the Eastern Front.[2] He was reported missing in action in March 1943.

Early life and career[edit]

Beißwenger was born on 8 November 1916 at Mittelfischach über Sulzbach in the district of Schwäbisch Hall in Württemberg.[3] He was the son of Volksschule, a combined primary and lower secondary school, teacher.[4] Following his graduation, he volunteered for military service in the Luftwaffe on 2 November 1937, initially serving with the Flak artillery. He was assigned to the 8th battery of Flak-Regiment 25 in Göppingen, where he received his basic military training. On 1 April 1938, he was posted to a Jagdfliegerschule for flight and fighter pilot training. In October 1940, more than one year after the start of World War II, Beißwenger was transferred to the II. Gruppe (2nd group) of Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—54th Fighter Wing).[Note 2] He was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) of the Reserves on 1 November 1940.[4]

World War II[edit]

Assigned to 6. Staffel (6th squadron) of JG 54 based in France,[5] Beißwenger's posting fell into a period of recuperation following the costly Battle of Britain. I. Gruppe had been the first to leave France and was sent to Jever on 27 September 1940. His II. Gruppe was moved to an airfield at Delmenhorst on 3 December 1940. On 29 March 1941, the Geschwaderstab (headquarters unit), II. And III. Gruppe were ordered to relocate to Austria in preparation of the Invasion of Yugoslavia. The Geschwaderstab and II. Grupper were then both located at Graz.[4]

The order for the invasion had been put forward in "Führer Directive No. 25", which Adolf Hitler issued on 27 March 1941, following the pro-British Yugoslav coup d'état in Belgrade.[6][7] He claimed his first aerial victory on 7 April 1941, when he shot down a Yugoslav Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricane fighter.[8][5] JG 54 continued flying ground support missions during the Balkans Campaign. Following the surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on 17 April 1941, while stationed at an airfield at Zemun near Belgrade, the Geschwader received orders on 3 May 1941 to turn over all Messerschmitt Bf 109-Es to Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) so they could receive the new Bf 109-F variant. Transition training was completed at Airfield Stolp-Reitz in Pomerania. [9] Following the Balkans Campaign, Beißwenger was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) on 6 May 1941.[3]

War against the Soviet Union[edit]

On the Eastern Front, serving with 3./JG 54 (3rd squadron), Beißwenger became a leading scorer in I./JG 54 (1st group). Although he was shot down on 17 July 1941 behind enemy lines, he escaped capture and returned to his base. He claimed his 20th aerial victory over an I-18 fighter on 24 August 1941. By the end of 1941, his total stood at 32 aerial victories. He claimed his 40th victory on 6 April 1942, on 8 May, he achieved his 50th victory, and the following day, he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 9 May 1942 for 50 victories claimed.[Note 3] Beißwenger and Leutnant Horst Hannig received the Knight's Cross from General der Flieger Helmuth Förster at Siverskaya.[3][11] On 11 August 1942, Beißwenger was appointed Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 54.[5]

On 15 August 1942, he claimed his 75th aerial victory and his 100th on 26 September, for which he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 30 September.[12] He was the 25th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.[13] He became "ace-in-a-day" on 23 August during three combat missions, when for the first time he achieved five aerial victories in one day. On 4 September 1942, Hauptmann Dietrich Hrabak, his group commander, filed an officer efficiency report requesting a preferential promotion to Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant).[3] The report highlighted that he "has excelled in action as a fighter pilot" and that "during 449 combat flights, he has 97 kills because of his audacity". The report further described Beißwenger as having "good leadership talent" and being "positive as a National Socialist".[3] His promotion was approved and, after a short vacation, Beißwenger returned to combat duty and by the end of 1942, his victory total stood at 119. He claimed his 125th aerial victory on 23 January 1943, 135th by 11 February 1943 and five more on 5 March 1943 (146th – 150th aerial victories)[5]

He did not return to base after an air combat south of Lake Ilmen near Staraja Russa on 6 March 1943 and Oberleutnant Hans Beißwenger, flying Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2 (Werknummer 14236—factory number) "yellow 4", was posted as missing. His Schwarm had been engaged in a combat with four Soviet fighters. Beißwenger claimed his last two victories, numbers 151 and 152, over Lavochkin LaGG-3 fighters that day.[5] The Messerschmitt Bf 109 of Unteroffizier Georg Munderloh was damaged in a midair collision, and Munderloh reported that he would try to reach his base. Eventually, he had to land in enemy territory. Taken prisoner, he was later told by Soviet pilots involved in the action that they had shot down another German fighter, which could have been Beißwenger. Another German pilot observed Beißwenger's aircraft flying at low altitude, clearly suffering from engine problems, attempting to return to friendly territory. After that, there was no trace of him. Beißwenger was later listed as missing in action.[14] It may be that Beißwenger was brought down by Starshiy Leytenant Ivan Kholodov of 32 GIAP (Guard Fighter Air Regiment). Kholodov rammed the Bf 109—probably Beißwenger's—that was attacking his wingman, Leytenant Arkadiy Makarov, and managed to bail out of his own damaged craft before it crashed.[15]

Summary of career[edit]

Aerial victory claims[edit]

Beißwenger was credited with shooting down 152 enemy aircraft, all but one on the Eastern Front, and the destruction of one tethered balloon. He flew over 500 combat missions during his career.[5] Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for 150 aerial victory claims. This number includes one claim during the Balkans Campaign and 149 on the Eastern Front.[16]

Victory claims were logged to a map-reference (PQ = Planquadrat), for example "PQ 18262". The Luftwaffe grid map (Jägermeldenetz) covered all of Europe, western Russia and North Africa and was composed of rectangles measuring 15 minutes of latitude by 30 minutes of longitude, an area of about 360 square miles (930 km2). These sectors were then subdivided into 36 smaller units to give a location area 3x4km in size.[17]

  This and the ♠ (Ace of spades) indicates those aerial victories which made Beißwenger an "ace-in-a-day", a term which designates a fighter pilot who has shot down five or more airplanes in a single day.
  This and the ! (exclamation mark) indicates those aerial victories listed by Prien, Stemmer, Rodeike and Bock.
  This and the # (hash mark) indicates those aerial victories listed by Matthews and Foreman.

Awards[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ His name, in German, is spelled with a "sharp S"; see ß.
  2. ^ For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  3. ^ According to Weal for 47 aerial victories, but according to Obermaier he had achieved his 50th aerial victory was achieved the previous day on 8 May.[10]
  4. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 11:40.[44]
  5. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 10:50.[44]
  6. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 12:09.[52]
  7. ^ a b According to Matthews and Foreman claimed as a LaGG-3 at 11:40.[44]
  8. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 16:58.[44]
  9. ^ According to Scherzer as Leutnant (war officer).[62]
  10. ^ According to Scherzer as Oberleutnant (war officer).[62]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
  2. ^ MacLean 2007, p. 61.
  3. ^ a b c d e MacLean 2007, p. 60.
  4. ^ a b c Stockert 2012, p. 88.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Obermaier 1989, p. 54.
  6. ^ Tomasevich 1975, p. 55.
  7. ^ Weal 2001b, p. 38.
  8. ^ Weal 2001b, p. 39.
  9. ^ Stockert 2012, pp. 88–89.
  10. ^ Weal 2001b, p. 57.
  11. ^ Bergström & Mikhailov 2001, p. 209.
  12. ^ Weal 2001b, p. 60.
  13. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
  14. ^ Weal 2001b, pp. 78–79.
  15. ^ Christer Bergström. "Comments to Part 2 of Dymich's Article". Black Cross-Red Star. Archived from the original on 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  16. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2014, pp. 77–80.
  17. ^ Planquadrat.
  18. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2014, pp. 77–78.
  19. ^ Prien et al. 2003a, p. 245.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al. 2003b, p. 237.
  21. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003b, p. 228.
  22. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003b, p. 238.
  23. ^ Prien et al. 2003b, p. 229.
  24. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003b, p. 230.
  25. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003b, p. 239.
  26. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003b, p. 231.
  27. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2005, p. 222.
  28. ^ Prien et al. 2003b, p. 232.
  29. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003b, p. 233.
  30. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2005, p. 223.
  31. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2003b, p. 234.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i Prien et al. 2005, p. 224.
  33. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2003b, p. 235.
  34. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 144.
  35. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 78.
  36. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2006, p. 85.
  37. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 86.
  38. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2014, pp. 78–80.
  39. ^ Prien et al. 2006, p. 145.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i Prien et al. 2006, p. 155.
  41. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 146.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Prien et al. 2006, p. 147.
  43. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2006, p. 156.
  44. ^ a b c d Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 79.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2006, p. 157.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al. 2006, p. 148.
  47. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Prien et al. 2006, p. 158.
  48. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 149.
  49. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2006, p. 150.
  50. ^ Prien et al. 2012, p. 268.
  51. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Prien et al. 2012, p. 269.
  52. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 80.
  53. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2006, p. 151.
  54. ^ a b Prien et al. 2006, p. 152.
  55. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 154.
  56. ^ a b Prien et al. 2012, p. 270.
  57. ^ a b c d MacLean 2007, p. 63.
  58. ^ a b Thomas 1997, p. 39.
  59. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 34.
  60. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 128.
  61. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 81.
  62. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 213.
  63. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 62.
  64. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 30.

Bibliography[edit]

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  • Bergström, Christer. "Bergström Black Cross/Red Star website". Identifying a Luftwaffe Planquadrat. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • MacLean, French L. (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports — For the Knight's Cross Winners. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 978-0-7643-2657-8. 
  • Matthews, Andrew Johannes; Foreman, John (2014). Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims — Volume 1 A–F. Walton on Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 978-1-906592-18-9. 
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1939 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2003a). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 5—Heimatverteidigung—10. Mai 1940 bis 31 Dezember 1941—Einsatz im Mittelmeerraum—Oktober 1940 bis November 1941—Einsatz im Westen—22. Juni bis 31. Dezember 1941—Die Ergänzungsjagdgruppen—Einsatz 1941 bis zur Auflösung Anfang 1942 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 5—Defense of the Reich—10 May 1940 to 31 December 1941—Action in the Mediterranean Theater—October 1940 to November 1941—Action in the West—22 June to 31 December 1941—The Supplementary Fighter Groups—Action from 1941 until their Breakup in Early 1942] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-68-7. 
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  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2005). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 9/I—Winterkampf im Osten—6.12.1941 bis 30.4.1942 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 9/I—Winter War in the East—6 December 1941 to 30 April 1942] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-76-2. 
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