Erich Hartmann Ace Of All Aces





Hartmann at age 14 in Hilter Youth Uniform. Bubi, The Blond Knight Of Germany, The Black Devil.

For his prowess in a black nosed ME 109, the Soviets dubbed Erich Hartman 'The Black Devil of the Ukraine' Hartmann had a 10,000 ruble price on his head. When Erich arrived on the Eastern front his fellow pilots nicknamed him 'Bubi' or boy, he apparently looked far younger than his 20 years. It was said of Erich that he was a quiet, unassuming  man who lacked the flamboyance of most other fighter aces, yet in only two and a half years, between October 1942 and May 1945 he amassed 352 victories, rose to command Gruppe No 1 of the Luftwaffe's most successful fighter wing, and earned one of Germanys most coveted military awards, the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross With Oak Leaves Swords  And Diamonds. The secret of Hartmann's success was' To fly with your head-not your muscles'. He would prefer to take his enemies by surprise, by boring in at close range and attack at point blank  range. In 825 aerial combats Erich was never wounded, his plane was brought down 16 times more than often from debris from enemy aircraft that he had shot down from such close range.



The Soviets soon learned to steer clear of him, Like many other aircraft from Hartmann's Squadron his plane bore the bleeding heart pierced by an arrow, but it also bore it's own distinctive marking, a black tulip on it's nose. It is said that rather than face this aircraft and forgoing their chance of a 10,000 prize, the soviets would scatter rather than face this 'Black Devil' It was then that Hartmann decided to remove the Tulip. and he went on to achieve his all time record. From his early childhood he displayed a  great interest in flying, an interest that was encouraged by his mother. Elisabeth Hartmann was an enthusiastic pilot herself and the instructor of a boy's glider club, by the time Erich was 14 he was a glider pilot , a year later a qualified instructor for the glider group of the Hitler Youth.

Hartmann in his cadet uniform, Erich would unlike most other cadets receive nearly 18 months of flight training.


Hartmann on the right in targit practice during basic training.

Hartmann's plans upon leaving school were to become a Doctor as his Father, but enlisted in the Luftwaffe instead, after basic training, he was assigned to become a fighter pilot. At gunnery school his talent for marksmanship with the Me 109's machine guns shone through, impressing his then superior officers. At aged 20 he was posted to the Eastern Front.  His first combat over the Caucasus Mountains in October of 1942 did not end well. Flying as wingman, his mistook his comrade's aircraft for a Russian fighter and fled and crash-landed destroying his aircraft!  Determined to succeed, he set out to improve his performance. For the next few months he flew with some of the best fighter  pilots in his squadron, quietly observing their own flying techniques. Gradually he trained himself to close to a range of 150 feet of the enemy before firing, this would became Hartmann's trademark.



Erich Hartmann pictured here with his crewchief, Heinz Mertens. On the 5th of November 1942 his recorded his first kill, and soon his score began to climb, 90 downed enemy aircraft by the end of August 1943, 115 a month later and 148 by the end of October, when he received orders for the Knights Cross, Higher orders of the award followed - the Oak Leaves after his 200th victory. In March 1944, the Swords after his 239th, in July, and the coveted Diamonds after his 301st, in August. With his 300th kill Hartmann became the World's top scoring Ace. When awarding Hartmann with the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves Swords and Diamonds, Hitler told him that he was now to important to be risked in combat on the Eastern front. Therefore he was being transferred to a special fighter unit that was testing the new twin engined jet fighter the ME 262. But Erich believed that he could best serve his country in it' desperate fight against the Soviets and he managed to persuade Goering to cancel his orders.



Hartmann, became commander of Gruppe No 1 of Jagdgescwader 52. He led his pilot's in the final defence of the retreating German Army, raising his tally to 352. When Germany fell to the Allies on the 8th of May 1945, Hartmann surrendered to the Americans. After his capture, the U.S. Army handed Hartmann, his pilots and groundcrew over to the Soviet Union, where he was imprisoned. Hartmann was charged with war crimes (specifically, deliberate shooting of Russian civilians) and was subjected to harsh treatment during the early years of his imprisonment, including solitary confinement in total darkness. Despite this, Hartmann refused to confess to these charges, which were later dropped. More subtle efforts by the Soviet authorities to convert Hartmann to communism also failed. During his long imprisonment Hartmann's 3 year-old son, whom he had never seen, died. After spending ten and a half years in Soviet POW camps, he was among the last batch of POW's to be released in 1955 and returned to West Germany, where he was reunited with his wife, to whom he had written every day of the war. Erich returned home to a hero's welcome. Three years later he was chosen to command the West German air force's first all jet fighter wing. As the leader of JG 71, Erich made several visit's to the United States. There while learning to fly the latest US jets, he shared his priceless experience of 825 combat sorties with the young American pilots. Hartmann considered the Lockheed F-104 a fundamentally flawed and unsafe aircraft and strongly opposed its adoption by the German Air Force. Although events subsequently validated his low opinion of the aircraft (282 crashes and 115 German pilots killed on the F-104 in non-combat missions; allegations of bribes culminating in the Lockheed scandal), his outspoken criticism proved unpopular with his superiors, and he retired in 1970. Erich Hartmann died on the 20th of September 1993, at age 71. Russia exonerated Erich Hartmann in January 1997. It was stated that his conviction had not been lawful. He will always be remembered as the Ace OF Aces.



Hartmann. Galland and Goring January 1945.


Erich on the Eastern fornt after his 350th victory.

Hartmann testing a F-106 Fighter.

Hatmann with Josef Kammhuber in 1961.