8 November 1916|
Mittelfischach, Schwäbisch Hall
6 March 1943 26) (aged|
south of Staraya Russa, Soviet Union
|Years of service||1937–43|
|Commands held||6./JG 54|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Hans Beißwenger (8 November 1916 – 6 March 1943) was a German pilot in the Luftwaffe during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany. In 500 combat missions, Beißwenger was credited with 152 victories, making him the purportedly 34th highest-scoring Luftwaffe fighter pilot of World War II. He was "ace-in-a-day" twice, shooting down five aircraft on a single day. He claimed all but one of his victories over the Eastern Front. He was reported missing in action in March 1943.
Early life and career
Beißwenger was born on 8 November 1916 at Mittelfischach über Sulzbach in the district of Schwäbisch Hall in Württemberg. He was the son of a Volksschule, combined primary and lower secondary school, teacher. Following his graduation, he volunteered for military service in the Luftwaffe on 2 November 1937, initially serving with the Flak artillery. He was assigned to the 8th battery of Flak-Regiment 25 in Göppingen, where he received his basic military training. On 1 April 1938, he was posted to a Jagdfliegerschule for flight and fighter pilot training. In October 1940, more than one year after the start of World War II, Beißwenger was transferred to the II. Gruppe (2nd group) of Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—54th Fighter Wing). He was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) of the Reserves on 1 November 1940.
World War II
Assigned to 6. Staffel (6th squadron) of JG 54 based in France, Beißwenger's posting fell into a period of recuperation following the costly Battle of Britain. I. Gruppe had been the first to leave France and was sent to Jever on 27 September 1940. His II. Gruppe was moved to an airfield at Delmenhorst on 3 December 1940. On 29 March 1941, the Geschwaderstab (headquarters unit), II. And III. Gruppe were ordered to relocate to Austria in preparation of the Invasion of Yugoslavia. The Geschwaderstab and II. Grupper were then both located at Graz.
The order for the invasion had been put forward in "Führer Directive No. 25", which Adolf Hitler issued on 27 March 1941, following the pro-British Yugoslav coup d'état in Belgrade. He claimed his first aerial victory on 7 April 1941, when he shot down a Yugoslav Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricane fighter. JG 54 continued flying ground support missions during the Balkans Campaign. Following the surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on 17 April 1941, while stationed at an airfield at Zemun near Belgrade, the Geschwader received orders on 3 May 1941 to turn over all Messerschmitt Bf 109-Es to Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) so they could receive the new Bf 109-F variant. Transition training was completed at Airfield Stolp-Reitz in Pomerania. Following the Balkans Campaign, Beißwenger was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) on 6 May 1941.
War against the Soviet Union
On the Eastern Front, serving with 3./JG 54 (3rd squadron), Beißwenger became a leading scorer in I./JG 54 (1st group). Although he was shot down on 17 July 1941 behind enemy lines, he escaped capture and returned to his base. He claimed his 20th aerial victory over an I-18 fighter on 24 August 1941. By the end of 1941, his total stood at 32 aerial victories. He claimed his 40th victory on 6 April 1942, on 8 May, he achieved his 50th victory, and the following day, he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 9 May 1942 for 50 victories claimed. Beißwenger and Leutnant Horst Hannig received the Knight's Cross from Generalleutnant Helmuth Förster at Siverskaya. On 11 August 1942, Beißwenger was appointed Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 54.On 15 August 1942, he claimed his 75th aerial victory and his 100th on 26 September, for which he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 30 September. He was the 25th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. He became "ace-in-a-day" on 23 August during three combat missions, when for the first time he achieved five aerial victories in one day. On 4 September 1942, Hauptmann Dietrich Hrabak, his group commander, filed an officer efficiency report requesting a preferential promotion to Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant). The report highlighted that he "has excelled in action as a fighter pilot" and that "during 449 combat flights, he has 97 kills because of his audacity". The report further described Beißwenger as having "good leadership talent" and being "positive as a National Socialist".
His promotion was approved and, after a short vacation, Beißwenger returned to combat duty and by the end of 1942, his victory total stood at 119. He claimed his 125th aerial victory on 23 January 1943, 135th by 11 February 1943 and five more on 5 March 1943 (146th – 150th aerial victories)
He did not return to base after an air combat south of Lake Ilmen near Staraja Russa on 6 March 1943 and Oberleutnant Hans Beißwenger, flying Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2 (Werknummer 14236—factory number) "yellow 4", was posted as missing. His Schwarm had been engaged in a combat with four Soviet fighters. Beißwenger claimed his last two victories, numbers 151 and 152, over Lavochkin LaGG-3 fighters that day. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 of Unteroffizier Georg Munderloh was damaged in a midair collision, and Munderloh reported that he would try to reach his base. Eventually, he had to land in enemy territory. Taken prisoner, he was later told by Soviet pilots involved in the action that they had shot down another German fighter, which could have been Beißwenger. Another German pilot observed Beißwenger's aircraft flying at low altitude, clearly suffering from engine problems, attempting to return to friendly territory. After that, there was no trace of him. Beißwenger was later listed as missing in action. It may be that Beißwenger was brought down by Starshiy Leytenant Ivan Kholodov of 32 GIAP (Guard Fighter Air Regiment). Kholodov rammed the Bf 109—probably Beißwenger's—that was attacking his wingman, Leytenant Arkadiy Makarov, and managed to bail out of his own damaged craft before it crashed.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (9 August 1941)
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for Fighter Pilots in Gold (20 August 1941)
- German Cross in Gold on 17 October 1941 as Leutnant of the Reserves in the 6./Jagdgeschwader 54
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
- According to Weal for 47 aerial victories, but according to Obermaier he had achieved his 50th aerial victory was achieved the previous day on 8 May.
- According to Scherzer as Leutnant (war officer).
- According to Scherzer as Oberleutnant (war officer).
- MacLean 2007, p. 61.
- MacLean 2007, p. 60.
- Stockert 2012, p. 88.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 54.
- Tomasevich 1975, p. 55.
- Weal 2001b, p. 38.
- Weal 2001b, p. 39.
- Stockert 2012, pp. 88–89.
- Weal 2001b, p. 57.
- Bergström & Mikhailov 2001, p. 209.
- Weal 2001b, p. 60.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
- Weal 2001b, pp. 78–79.
- Christer Bergström. "Comments to Part 2 of Dymich's Article". Black Cross-Red Star. Archived from the original on 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
- MacLean 2007, p. 63.
- Thomas 1997, p. 39.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 34.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 128.
- Von Seemen 1976, p. 81.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 213.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 62.
- Von Seemen 1976, p. 30.
- Bergström, Christer; Mikhailov, Andrey (2001). Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume II, Resurgence January–June 1942. Pacifica, California: Pacifica Military History. ISBN 978-0-935553-51-2.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- MacLean, French L. (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports — For the Knight's Cross Winners. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 978-0-7643-2657-8.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1939 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7.
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
- 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- Stockert, Peter (2012) . Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2] (in German) (4th ed.). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-9802222-9-7.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
- Tomasevich, Jozo (1975). War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941–1945: The Chetniks. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-0857-9.
- Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4.
- Weal, John (2001a). Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-084-1.
- Weal, John (2001b). Jagdgeschwader 54 'Grünherz'. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-286-9.