Gerhard Barkhorn: Wikis


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Gerhard Barkhorn
20 March 1919(1919-03-20) – 8 January 1983 (aged 63)
Gerhard Barkhorn
Nickname Gerd
Place of birth Königsberg
Place of death Frechen/Cologne
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (to 1945)
West Germany West Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe (Wehrmacht)
Bundeswehr Kreuz.svg Luftwaffe (Bundeswehr)
Years of service 1937–1945
Rank Major (Wehrmacht)
Generalleutnant (Bundeswehr)
Unit JG 2, JG 52, JG 6 and JV 44
Commands held Gruppenkommandeur II./JG 52 (1 September 1943) and Kommodore JG 6 (16 January 1945)
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwerter
Other work Generalleutnant der Luftwaffe der Bundeswehr

Lieutenant-General Gerhard "Gerd" Barkhorn (20 March 1919 – 8 January 1983) was the second most successful fighter ace of all time after fellow Luftwaffe pilot Erich Hartmann. He flew 1,104 combat sorties and was credited with 301 victories on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Air Force flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9. He flew with the famed Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) alongside fellow aces Hartmann and Günther Rall, and Jagdgeschwader 2.

Barkhorn joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 and completed his training in 1939. Barkhorn flew his first combat missions in May 1940, during the Battle of France and then the Battle of Britain without scoring a kill. Barkhorn scored his first victory in July 1941 and steadily built his personal score over the years against Soviet opposition. In March 1944 he was awarded the third highest award in the Wehrmacht when he received Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves and Swords for his 250 victory. Despite being the second highest scoring pilot in aviation history, Barkhorn was not awarded the Diamonds the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords after achieving his 300 victory on 5 January 1945. Less than two weeks later he left JG 52 on the Eastern Front and joined Jagdgeschwader 3, defending Germany from Western Allied air attack.

He led the Geschwader until the 10 April 1945 but failed to add to his score. Barkhorn joined the all Jet fighter unit JV 44. On 21 April 1945 was injured when he crashed his Messerschmitt Me 262 after engine failure. To compound his problems he was also strafed by United States Army Air Force P-51 Mustang fighters. As he escaped his fighter the cockpit canopy slammed shut on his head. Barkhorn survived and was made a prisoner of war of the Western Allies in May 1945 and was released later that year. After the war Barkhorn joined the Bundesluftwaffe and retired in 1976. On 6 January 1983 Barkhorn was involved in a car accident with his wife Christl. Christl died instantly and Gerhard died two days later on 8 January 1983.


Early life

Gerhard Barkhorn was born in Königsberg on 20 March 1919. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 as a Fahnenjunker, and started his pilot training in March 1938. Upon completion of his pilot education, he was commissioned as a Leutnant and posted to Staffel in Jagdgeschwader 2 Richthofen, a unit with old traditions from World War I, in early 1940.

World War II

Early war

Barkhorn flew his first combat sorties over Belgium and France during the Battle of France, and later over England during the Battle of Britain, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109E. He did not have any success at shooting down the enemy, although he flew many combat sorties and was shot down into the English Channel on the 29 October by RAF fighters.[1] On 1 August 1940, Barkhorn was transferred to 6./Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52).[a] Shortly thereafter he was rewarded with the Eisernes Kreuz erster Klasse (Iron Cross First Class). In the Staffel, he flew alongside another promising pilot, Hans-Joachim Marseille.

Eastern Front

In 1941, JG 52 was transferred to the east and participated in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union on 21 June 1941. Not long after, Gerhard Barkhorn made his first victory, shooting down a Red Air Force aircraft on 2 July 1941, while flying his 120th combat sortie.[2] This victory seemed to have a reassuring effect on Barkhorn, who finally had found his 'shooting eye'. By November, his tally had reached 10 victories, and he was promoted to Oberleutnant on 11 November 1941.

On 21 May 1942, Barkhorn was appointed Staffelkapitän of 4./JG 52. He continued to score victories over the next year, until on 19 July 1942, he became "ace in one day" by shooting down six aircraft in his Bf 109F. However he was wounded on 25 July and was put out of action for two months, returning to combat in October. During July 1942 Barkhorn destroyed 30 Soviet aircraft.[3] On 23 August 1942, Barkhorn received the Ritterkreuz for having shot down a total of 59 aircraft.[4] Over the 18 and 19 December 1942, Barkhorn scored his 95 through to 100 victories.[5] On the 9 January Barkhorn claimed his 105th kill. His victims on this date included Lieutenant Vasiliyev, and Hero of the Soviet Union Podpolkovnik Lev Shestakov of the 236 IAP fighter regiment. Barkhorn straffed their Yakovlev Yak-1 fighters until they caught fire. Both pilots survived.[6] Barkhorn was awarded Eichenlaub (Oak Leaves) to his Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross) on 11 January 1943.

Bf 109 G-6, Stab II/JG52, Gerhard Barkhorn, November 1943

Gerhard Barkhorn, now a Hauptmann, was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 52 on 1 September 1943. On 5 September 1943 Barkhorn shot down and killed Hero of the Soviet Union and Soviet fighter ace Nikolay Klepikov, an ace with 10 personal and 32 shared victories. This was offset by the loss of II./JG 52's 173 kill ace Oberleutnant Heinz Schmidt. The two Lavochkin La-5s Barkhorn shot down were his 165th and 166th aerial victories.[7] Barkhorn reached his 200th victory on 30 November 1943.[8] The main German fighter unit covering the Crimea and Kuban was Barkhorn's II./JG 52. In the three months between December 1943 and 13 February 1944 the unit claimed 350 victories, of which 50 were claimed by Barkhorn.[9] On 13 February 1944, he reached 250 victories, and a price was put on his head by the Red Air Force.[10]

Shortly thereafter, on 2 March, he was given the Schwerter to his Ritterkreuz. He attended the wedding of fellow ace Erich Hartmann as the best man. Barkhorn was promoted to Major on 1 May 1944[11]. On 31 May 1944, Barkhorn was shot down by Soviet P-39 Airacobras. Flying his sixth mission of that day he intercepted Soviet bombers, and failed to notice the escorting Soviet fighters. His Bf 109G-6 was severely damaged. Barkhorn had been hit in his right shoulder and leg he managed to crash-land behind his own lines but was severely wounded and was hospitalized for four months. It has not been possible to identify the Soviet pilot that shot him down. It was not, as some sources suggest, Aleksandr Pokryshkin who was not in the area at the time. After returning to his unit the psychological damage became apparent. After sitting in his cockpit he became overcome with anxiety. Even when flying with friendly aircraft behind him he felt intense fear. It took several weeks for him to overcome this.[12] Returning to the fray in October, he claimed his 275th victory on 14 November. Over the next few weeks Barkhorn added another 26 kills. Barkhorn scored his 300th and 301st and final victories on 5 January 1945.[13]

Defense of the Reich

On 16 January 1945, Barkhorn was assigned as Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 6 (JG 6), a unit assigned to defence of the Reich equipped with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190D (although Barkhorn preferred to keep his Bf 109G-6 fighter as well). JG 6 was a unit mostly consisting of new recruits and former Bf-110 pilots and suffered heavy losses against the American air fleets. Barkhorn did not last long in this position and was forced to take a medical absence because of severe physical and mental strain.[14]

After his hospitalization, Barkhorn was invited by Adolf Galland to join the elite Jagdverband 44 (JV 44) flying the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet-fighter. He found flying the Me 262 over the western front difficult, and he did not score any victories in it.[15] On 21 April 1945, he flew his 1104th and last mission. The engine of his aircraft flamed out as he was approaching an enemy bomber formation, and he was forced to make an emergency landing. As he approached the airfield, his plane was attacked by several prowling P-51 fighters, and Barkhorn managed to land his burning plane. He received a slight wound as a result of this action. Taken prisoner, he was released from Allied captivity in September 1945. Barkhorn claimed 301 victories in 1,104 operational sorties. His total included 110 Yak fighters, 87 LaGG fighters, 21 Il-2s and 12 twin engined medium bombers. He was shot down 9 times, bailed out once, and was wounded 3 times.

After the war

Barkhorn joined the Bundesluftwaffe in 1956, and retired a Generalleutenant in 1975. He and his wife Christl were involved in a car accident on 6 January 1983; his wife died instantly, but Barkhorn died in hospital on 8 January 1983. They were buried in Tegernsee, Bavaria.


References in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
2 December 1943 Hauptmann Barkhorn, Gruppenkommandeur in einem Jagdgeschwader, erzielte seinen 200. Luftsieg.[20]

Hauptmann Barkhorn, Group commander in a fighter wing, achieved his 200th aerial victory.

14 February 1944 Der Gruppenkommandeur eines Jagdgeschwaders Eichenlaubträger Hauptmann Barkhorn errang am 13. Februar 1944 an der Ostfront seinen 250. Luftsieg.[21] Group commander of a fighter wing and Oak Leaves wearer Hauptmann Barkhorn achieved his 250th aerial victory on the Eastern front.



a For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization


  1. ^ Weal 2004, p. 35.
  2. ^ Weal 2003, p. 25.
  3. ^ Bergstrom 2008, p. 55.
  4. ^ Weal 2003, p. 59.
  5. ^ Bergstrom 2007, pp. 102-103 (Stalingrad).
  6. ^ Bergstrom 2007, pp. 110-111.(Stalingrad).
  7. ^ Bergstrom 2008, p. 27.
  8. ^ Weal 2003, p. 72.
  9. ^ Bergstrom 2008, pp. 45-46.
  10. ^ Weal 2003, p. 73.
  11. ^ Weal 2003
  12. ^ Bergstrom 2008, p. 56.
  13. ^ Bergstrom 2008, p. 86.
  14. ^ Aces of the Luftwaffe: Gerhard Barkhorn
  15. ^ Weal 2006
  16. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 35.
  17. ^ Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 24.
  18. ^ a b MacLean 2007, p. 223.
  19. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 202.
  20. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 619.
  21. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, p. 34.


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External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Major Johann Kogler
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 6 Horst Wessel
16 January 1945 – 9 April 1945
Succeeded by
Major Gerhard Schöpfel
Preceded by
Commander of Jagdbombergeschwader 31 Boelcke
September, 1957 – December, 1962
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Meyn

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