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Josef Priller
27 July 1915(1915-07-27) – 20 May 1961 (aged 45)
Josef Priller.jpg
Josef Priller
Nickname Pips
Place of birth Ingolstadt
Place of death Böbing
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1935 – 1945
Rank Oberstleutnant
Unit JG 71, JG 51 and JG 26
Commands held JG 26
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern
Other work Manager at a Brewery

Josef "Pips" Priller (27 July 1915 – 20 May 1961) was a German World War II fighter ace. He has become famous because of the publicity regarding his Fw 190A-8's single strafing pass attack on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), accompanied by his wingman Heinz Wodarczyk. This act was first brought to the world's attention by the book, and then the film, The Longest Day. Contrary to popular belief, Priller and his wingman were not the only Luftwaffe forces to attack the beachhead on 6 June 1944. A Luftwaffe bomber unit Kampfgeschwader 54 made several attacks on the British beachheads on D-Day.


Early life

Priller was born in Ingolstadt. He joined the Luftwaffe in the mid 1930s.

World War II

The outbreak of war saw Priller serving with the pre-war fighter unit designated I./JG 71,[Notes 1] (redesignated II./JG 51) becoming Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 51 soon after. He made his first victory claims in May 1940 over Dunkirk versus RAF fighters. He claimed six victories during the French campaign, and by the end of August his victory total was 15. In October Priller claimed his 20th kill, resulting in the award of the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes. In November 1940 Priller was transferred as Staffelkapitän to 1./JG 26.

Between 16 June and the 11 July 1941 he claimed 19 RAF aircraft. He was awarded the Eichenlaub in October 1941 for 41 victories. Now a Hauptmann, Priller became Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 26 in December 1941, with his score at 58. Five feet four inches tall, of stocky build and jovial character, Priller was a popular commander with his men, and, in spite of a reputation for talking back to his superiors, he skillfully utilised the limited resources of JG26 in North West Europe in order to inflict the maximum damage on the RAF Fighter Command fighter sweeps through the summer campaigns of 1941-43. He recorded his 70th victory in May 1942. By the end of 1942 Priller had added 11 more confirmed victories to his tally.

January 1943 Priller became Geschwaderkommodore of JG 26. By now the increasing US bomber offensive was putting pressure on the Jagdwaffe in the west, and JG 26's losses rose alarmingly through 1943. The night prior to the Normandy invasion, Priller and his wing-man Heinz Wodarczyk got drunk and subsequently attacked the beachhead while hung-over. Oberstleutnant Priller brought down his 100th claim in July 1944 (a USAAF B-24). On New Year's Day 1945, he led JG 26 in the ill-fated mass attack on Allied airfields, Operation Bodenplatte (an operation that saw his long-serving wingman Wodarczyk killed). Later that month Priller was appointed to the staff job of Inspector of Day Fighters (East).

Josef Priller flew 1307 combat missions to claim 101 victories. All his victories were recorded over the Western Front, and consisted of 11 USAAF heavy bombers, 68 Spitfires (the highest Luftwaffe ace's tally for these aircraft),11 Hurricanes, 5 medium bombers, and 5 USAAF fighters.

Post war

Post-war Diplom-Braumeister "Pips" Priller was general manager of the S. Riegele brewery. He was one of several D-day combatants to advise on the making of the film The Longest Day, in which he was portrayed by Heinz Reincke.

He died suddenly in 1961 from a heart attack in Böbing, Upper Bavaria.



  1. ^ For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization


  1. ^ a b c Berger 2000, p. 272.
  2. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 605.
  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges (in German). Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 3-9501307-0-5.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945 (in German). Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Hagen, Hans-Peter (1998). Husaren des Himmels Berühmte deutsche Jagdflieger und die Geschichte ihrer Waffe (in German). Rastatt, Germany: Moewig. ISBN 3-8118-1456-7.
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 - 1945 (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 3-87341-065-6.
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 - 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Karl Vieck
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 2
January 11, 1943 – September 6, 1943
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Johann Schalk
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Walter Oesau
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 4
September 6, 1943 – April 1, 1944
Succeeded by
Oberst Hilmer von Bülow-Bothkamp
Preceded by
Major Gerhard Schöpfel
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
January 11, 1943 – January 27, 1945
Succeeded by
Major Franz Götz

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