Anton Hafner





Anton Hafner most successful pilot of JG 51 with 204 victories.

Anton Hafner was the most successful fighter pilot of JG 51, with 204 victories. Hafner was also involved in one of the most interesting stories to emerge from the carnage of World War II. Born on the 2nd of June, 1918, Hafner joined 6/JG 51 in June 1941 as an Unteroffizier in Russia. By August, 1942 he had already 60 victories under his belt, his was awarded the Ritterkreuz on the 23rd of August. In November of the same year Hafner was transferred to North Africa to combat the Americans in Tunisia. On the 18th of December 1942, Hafner was part of a intercepting force that was directed against a raiding U.S bomber formation. At about 30,000 feet, Hafner met one of the escort fighter's (a P-38 lighting), immediately the lighting fastened himself onto the tail of one of Hafner's buddies. Hafner sped to the rescue, the three plane twisted and turned down to 15,000 feet, Hafner scored many hit's on the P-38 causing it to burst into flames. the American pilot bailed out. Hafner circled the American several times, causing the pilot to think the German was about to open fire on him.



The American landed in a swamp near the German Airfield and was brought to the airfield by German troops. Hafner introduced himself and the two men sat down and ate lunch together. The American pilot was Lt Norman L. Widen from Wisconsin USA, the two men talked for hours, getting to know each other. Widen gave Hafner his silver pilots wing's and his serial identification plate from his P-38, before he was taken to a POW camp, the men agreed to meet after the War, Lt Widen was Hafner's 82nd victory. Hafner sent the wings and serial id to his brother Alfons in Germany with a message that read if he was killed in action Alfons must find this American pilot after the War. In the summer of 1943, Anton Hafner was sent back to Russia with JG 51 after scoring 20 kills in Tunisia. His score rose rapidly, he was awarded the Eichenlaub for his 134th victory, by July of that year he had 204 victories to his name. On the 17th of July while flying his 795 mission, Hafner engaged a Yak -9 in a dogfight at extremely low altitude, his Messerschmitt lost altitude and slammed into a tree Hafner was killed in an instant. In 1960 Alfons Hafner sought the help of  the US Air Force  in locating Lt Widen. Widen was now a Major, Widen was located and together with his wife and their two young children flew to Germany to meet Alfons and collect his wings and serial id.

Alfons Hafner displays his brothers legacy that he bequeathed to Lt. Widen