German Fighter Pilots

When I was a kid I read almost everything I could find on WW II American Fighter Pilots.  Dick Bong was a favorite.  I also enjoyed reading about Robert Lee Scott, Bob Johnson, and of course, Chuck Yeager.  When I lived in San Antonio I would occasionally stop in and have a beer (or 2, or 3…) with David Lee “Tex” Hill of the Flying Tigers.  I loved hearing his stories, first hand!

For the past 20 years or so I have gravitated toward reading about German Fighter Pilots. From WWI; Max Immelmann, Oswald Boelcke, Ernst Udet and The Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen.  In WW II there was Erich Hartman, Gunther Rall, Johannes Steinhoff and of late, Hans-Joachim Marseille.  Marseille is quickly becoming my favorite.


Marseille was killed at 22 with 158 confirmed kills.  He died  in an aircraft accident (engine failure) while attempting to bail out.  I am attracted to Marseille because of his ‘free spirit.’  Many will claim a ‘free spirit’ has no place in a fighter unit.  And for the most part I agree.  But there are ‘exceptions’ to this, as there are with most rules.  Marseille was also an excellent pilot, and one hell of a shot!

One of my favorite stories about Marseille is when his boss grounded him – to keep Marseille from achieving 40 kills before he did.  Marseille was so pissed off at his boss he took to the air and strafed his bosses’ tent!  He didn’t actually “brass up” the tent; he just ran a string of bullets across the entry of the tent!  He was subsequently grounded again, but I reckon he felt it was worth it.  So do I!

I honestly think that had I been in that unit that day I would have tagged along with Marseille’s and put a second line of bullets in front of that asshole’s tent!  I have never suffered moron commanders very well at all…

The German pilots I enjoy reading about were not “political” in nature at all.  They were warriors.  And while flying for “lost causes” for the most part, they fought with reckless abandon, never quitting.  I find that admirable…

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One Response to German Fighter Pilots

  1. John R says:

    I could comment forever. However, to be brief, I admire Marseille. I also read the history of American aviators, Japanese aviators and Russian aviators (which included many lady combat pilots flying piles of junk — one famous such lady just died recently). A common thread seems to be: not so good at first; then learn the trade and skills; build onself mentally and physically to do the task well; maximize one’s instincts; to hell with the bureaucracy when necessary or even appropriate or when one can get away with it (Marseille, an accomplished pianist, played jazz in Hitler’s presence, and at one of his honor ceremonies, he talked openly about mistreatment of Jews); they are onorthodox to be certain.

    Another unorthodox group was the snipers. In America, it started with the Revolution War. Contrary to pupular knowledge, we had some fine sniper weapons. The Russians had some also, as did the Finnish later on. I’ll stop here

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