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 Bf 109G-14
name: Bf 109G-14
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Erich "Bubi" Hartmann
The fighter pilot with the highest number of claimed victories in aviation history was born in 1921 to a doctor's family in Weissach, Württemberg. He spent the first years of his life with his parents in China, but the family returned to Germany in 1928. Erich Hartmann obtained his pilot's license in 1939 and joined the Luftwaffe in October 1940. After completing his training, he was assigned to 7./JG 52 on the Eastern Front in October 1942. He achieved his first victory on 5 November 1942 in aerial combat with an Il-2 Shturmovik. By May 1943 he had achieved 17 victories, but after a collision with enemy aircraft he was sent to Germany for vacation. He returned to the unit in late June, just before the Battle of Kursk. By this time he had mastered the tactic of attacking from above with close range shooting. During July he claimed 35 victories, seven of them in one day. In August 1943 he achieved 48 victories, scoring five victories on three different days. After achieving his 90th victory on 20 August 1943, he was shot down and captured, but managed to escape after several hours and later returned to his unit. In early September 1943 he was appointed commander of 9./JG 52 and achieved his 100th victory on 20 September. He received the Knight's Cross on 29 October 1943 after achieving 148 victories. His superiors had some reservations about him and no other German fighter may have achieved as many kills before he was awarded this decoration. He achieved his 200th victory on 26 February 1944 and was awarded the Oak Leave on 2 March. The Swords were bestowed upon him during the fighting in Romania on 2 July after achieving his 266th victory. By this time he was already a media star and was under intense pressure from those around him to achieve a high number of victories. He crossed the 300 claimed victories mark on 24 August 1944 during the fighting in Poland, and received the Diamonds to the Knight´s Cross a day later. In October 1944 he became commander of 4./JG 52 in Hungary and briefly led I./JG 53 "Pik As" in the first half of February 1945. He was then appointed commander of I./JG 52, which he led during the fighting in Silesia and occupied Bohemia until the end of the war. He claimed his 350th kill on 17 April 1945 and his last, his 352nd victory, was reported in the early hours of 8 May, just before the unit moved towards the American ground forces. The Americans turned him over to the Soviets on May 24, 1945, and he spent the next ten years in captivity. Upon his return, he joined the Bundesluftwaffe and became commander of JG 71. He died in 1993 in Weil im Schönbuch. His aircraft were marked with the black tulip marking in the later stages of the war. Some of his machines bore the "Usch" under the cockpit, which was derived from the name of his girlfriend Ursula, who became his wife.

Text: Jan Bobek

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