Heinrich Setz: German World War II fighter pilot (1915 - 1943) | Biography
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Heinrich Setz
German World War II fighter pilot

Heinrich Setz

Heinrich Setz
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German World War II fighter pilot
Was Pilot Aviator Fighter pilot
From Germany
Field Military
Gender male
Birth 12 March 1915, Kronach, Kronach, Upper Franconia, Bavaria
Death 13 March 1943, Le Tréport, canton of Eu, arrondissement of Dieppe, Seine-Maritime (aged 28 years)
Heinrich Setz
The details (from wikipedia)


Heinrich Setz (12 March 1915 – 13 March 1943) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator during World War II, a fighter ace credited with 138 enemy aircraft shot down in 274 combat missions. The majority of his victories were claimed over the Eastern Front, with six claims over the Western Front.

Born in Gundelsdorf, Setz volunteered for military service in the Luftwaffe of the Third Reich in 1936. Following flight training and a period at a fighter pilot training school as an instructor, he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) in 1940. Following the Norwegian Campaign he claimed his first three aerial victories in late 1940 in that theater. Setz was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of the 4. Staffel (4th squadron) of JG 77 in June 1941 which he led in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Following his 43rd aerial victory he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 31 December 1941 and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 23 June 1942 after 81 victories. He claimed his 100th aerial victory on 24 July 1942.

In February 1943 Setz was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of the I. Gruppe (1st group) of Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27—27th Fighter Wing) which was based in France on the Western Front. Setz claimed three more victories before he was killed in action on his 274th combat mission in a midair collision with a Supermarine Spitfire on 13 March 1943.

Early life and career

Setz was born on 12 March 1915 in Gundelsdorf near Kronach, Upper Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria. He was the son of a Oberförster (head of a forest range) and joined the military service of the Luftwaffe as a Fahnenjunker (cadet) on 6 April 1936. He was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) on 1 January 1938. On 1 July 1938 he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 135 (135th Fighter Wing). From April 1939 onwards he was posted to a Jagdfliegerschule (fighter pilot training school) as an instructor. On 3 April 1940 he was transferred to Jagdfliegerschule 3 at Stolp-Reitz, present day Redzikowo in Poland. There he was promoted to Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) on 1 June 1940.

World War II

World War II in Europe began on Friday 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland. Setz was transferred to a front line unit when he joined II. Gruppe (2nd group) of Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) on 28 June 1940. There he was assigned to the 4. Staffel (4th squadron) of JG 77 on 1 July 1940. JG 77 at the time was based at Kristiansand, in southern Norway. He claimed three aerial victories in this theater, his first a Royal Air Force (RAF) Bristol Blenheim south of Stavanger over Norway's west coast on 27 August 1940. This achievement earned him the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) on 12 September 1940. Following the other two victories over Norway he received Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse) on 18 October 1940.

Eastern Front

Following the Invasion of Yugoslavia, JG 77 was moved to Romania in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. II. and III. Gruppe, plus the Stab (headquarters unit), of JG 77 supported the German advance as part of Army Group South. Setz claimed his 30th victory on 29 October 1941 and less than a month later, on 21 November, he shot down his 40th opponent. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 31 December 1941 for 43 aerial victories. Under his leadership, 4. Staffel was credited with 110 aerial victories and further 89 aircraft destroyed on the ground by the end of 1941. Flight operations were severely impeded by the harsh winter weather conditions on the Eastern Front and Setz accounted for only two further victories until March 1942.

His Staffel was relocated to the Crimea in March 1942. Here he became an "ace-in-a-day" on 19 March 1942, claiming his 46th to 50th aerial victory.

JG 77 was assigned as fighter cover as the Wehrmacht set about storming the great pre-war fortress of Sevastopol as a prelude to the main summer campaign into the Caucausus, Fall Blau. Setz claimed his 46–50th aerial victories on 19 March 1942, 58–60th aerial victories on 21 April, 3 more (68–70th v.) on 13 May 1942 and his 81st victory on 23 June. Setz was immediately awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on the same day. The award was presented at the Führerhauptquartier (Führer Headquarters) at Rastenburg on 28/29 June 1942.

Returning to the front, and with Sevastopol fallen, JG 77 moved further north to Kursk and covered the advance onto Voronezh. Setz briefly commanded II./JG 77 in July for Gruppenkommandeur Anton Mader. He claimed two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3s on 23 July 1942. On the next day, 24 July, he reached his 100th aerial victory. He was the 13th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. He continued to score until in early October, with his victory tally now at 135, he was wounded. While recuperating in hospital his unit, II./JG 77, was initially pulled back to Germany for rest and refit, then transferred in December to North Africa in response to the recent Torch landings.

Western Front

Setz however did not rejoin his unit. On 12 November he was appointed the new Gruppenkommandeur of I. Gruppe (1st group) of Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27—27th Fighter Wing), to replace Hauptmann (Captain) Gerhard Homuth who had to resign the command because of illness. This unit had formerly led the assault in North Africa but after being shattered in the recent battles around El Alamein had been pulled back for rest and rebuild. Setz took over his command in Bari, Italy on 20 November 1942, and soon led the transferral back to Krefeld in Germany, where they arrived on 28 November 1942.

After a brief period of recreation the group began preparations for a transfer to France on 2 January 1943. The Stab (headquarter unit), 1st and 3rd Staffel transferred to Evreux on 31 January 1943 The remaining groups followed and new pilots and new Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-4 joined the group. Now fighting a completely different type of air-war, versus the big box-formations of bombers of the American 8th Air Force, Setz had the entire group conduct training flights and reported operational readiness on 20 February 1943.

His first success however, was also his last. On 13 March 1943, on his 274th combat mission he allegedly damaged two Supermarine Spitfires in five minutes over Abbeville, but it is believed he was killed when he collided with a third fifteen minutes later at high altitude.

In recognition of his leadership, he was posthumously promoted to Major.


  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class (12 September 1940)
    • 1st Class (18 October 1940)
  • Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for fighter pilots
  • German Cross in Gold on 21 August 1942 as Oberleutnant in the II./JG 77
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
    • Knight's Cross on 31 December 1941 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 4./JG 77
    • 102nd Oak Leaves on 23 June 1942 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 4./JG 77
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