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Max-Hellmuth Ostermann

Max-Hellmuth Ostermann German officer and fighter pilot during World War II

German officer and fighter pilot during World War II
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German officer and fighter pilot during World War II
A.K.A. Макс-Гельмут Остерманн, Макс-Гелльмут Остер...
Was Pilot Aviator Fighter pilot
From Germany
Type Military
Gender male
Birth 11 December 1917, Hamburg, Germany
Death 9 August 1942, Lake Ilmen, Russia (aged 24 years)
Star sign SagittariusSagittarius
The details
Biography

Max-Hellmuth Ostermann (11 December 1917 – 9 August 1942) was a Luftwaffe fighter ace during World War II. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He is credited with 102 enemy aircraft shot down claimed in over 300 combat missions. The majority of his victories were claimed over the Eastern Front with eight claims over the Western Front and one over Belgrade.

Born in Hamburg, Ostermann joined the military service of the Luftwaffe in 1937 and was trained as a pilot. After a brief period with Zerstörergeschwader 1 (ZG 1), a heavy fighter unit, he was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54). He participated in the Battle of France and Britain before transferring east. He became the sixth fighter pilot in aviation history to achieve 100 aerial victories on the Eastern Front for which he was awarded Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. He was killed in aerial combat with Soviet fighters southeast of Lake Ilmen on 9 August 1942.

Early life and career

Max-Hellmuth Ostermann was born on 11 December 1917 in Hamburg. His father was a civil servant in the justice department. Ostermann joined the Luftwaffe as a Fahnenjunker (Officer Cadet) in March 1937 after he had received his Abitur (diploma)—the final exams that pupils take at the end of their secondary education. His first assignment was with I. Gruppe (1st group) Zerstörergeschwader 1 (ZG 1) flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110 and participated in the Invasion of Poland in 1939. In January 1940 Hauptmann (Captain) Wolfgang Falck took command of I./ZG 1. Falck came to the opinion that the Bf 110 was just a little too big for Ostermann and had him transferred to the Messerschmitt Bf 109 equipped I./Jagdgeschwader 21 (JG 21) on 7 April 1940. JG 21 at the time was based at Mönchengladbach and was subordinated to Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Max Ibel, the Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) of Jagdgeschwader 27.

Ostermann was appointed the commander of a Rotte, an element of two aircraft, with Unteroffizier (non-commissioned officer) Fritz Marcks as his wingman. The Schwarm (flight) led by Oberleutnant (Senior Lieutenant or First Lieutenant) Günther Scholz engaged eight French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406's fighters near Amiens with Ostermann, Marcks and Scholz claiming one each. His second aerial victory was achieved over a Curtiss Hawk-75 on 26 May 1940. In a head on firing pass two 20mm shells tore off large parts of the aircraft's tail fin, which then collided with Osterrmann's starboard wing. The French pilot was observed to bail out with Ostermann managing to make a safe landing.

By the time I./JG 21 was ordered to the coastal area of the English Channel the Gruppe was redesignated III./Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54). Ostermann's third aerial victory on 12 August 1940 may have been over Flight Lieutenant E.B.B. Smith of No. 610 Squadron RAF, who bailed out of his Supermarine Spitfire I K9818. Smith was rescued from the Channel and hospitalized. On 8 October 1940 Ostermann claimed his 7th aerial victory of the war and 5th of the Battle of Britain. His opponent may have been the Czech Sergeant Josef František who was killed flying Hurricane Mk. I R4175 from No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron near Sutton, west of Croydon, in the southern outskirts of London that day. The reason for his fatal crash remains unclear. Apart from Ostermann's claim, Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) Max Clerico and Feldwebel (Sergeant) Fritz Oeltjens also claimed one aircraft each at the same time and in the same vicinity. On 5 September 1940, III./JG 54's Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) failed to return from a mission and Geschwaderkommodore Hannes Trautloft temporarily appointed Oberleutnant Günther Scholz to lead the Gruppe. The leadership of 7. Staffel (7th squadron) was filled by Oberleutnant Hans-Ekkehard Bob, who became one of Ostermann's mentors. During an escort mission on 30 September 1940, Bob and Ostermann claimed one Spitfire shot down each. In return Ostermann's wingman was shot down and made a forced landing at Bexhill. He radioed his fellow pilots: "Spinat vier meldet sich ab nach Kanada—Spinach 4 reports off for Canada".

His aerial victory on 20 October 1940 over a No. 74 Squadron RAF Spitfire was his sixth—his eight overall—victory over Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters and his last during the Battle of Britain. The following day III./JG 54 was instructed to relocate. Five month later following a long combat pause, JG 54 was moved to the south-east to counter the pro-British coup d'état in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He claimed his ninth victory over a Yugoslav Royal Air Force Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3, piloted by Karlo Štrebenk who was killed, on 6 April 1941 over Belgrade during the Balkans Campaign.

Eastern Front

Ostermann's Bf 109F-2 "white 2" bearing 33 victory marks, September 1941

On 23 June 1941, during the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Ostermann, in a free-hunting mission in the Lithuanian airspace north of Kaunas, intercepted a formation of nine Tupolev SB's and claimed two shot down in flames. Ostermann survived a belly landing following combat with more SBs in south-eastern Latvia on 26 June. On 5 July he claimed three SB-3 Soviet bombers in combat over the Velikaya River at Ostrov. He claimed his 19th and 20th aerial victory on 6 July in the same combat area. On the Eastern Front he claimed JG 54's 1,000th victory of the war on 1 August 1941. He became the eighth member of JG 54 to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 4 September 1941 after 29 aerial victories. The award was presented on 10 September 1941 in Dno by Generaloberst (Colonel General) Alfred Keller. He claimed his 50th aerial victory on 9 January 1942, the 60th on 28 January 1942 and the 70th on 19 February 1942. After this series of aerial victories Ostermann was sent on home leave. The reason for his leave was that he wanted to get married. Back home, on his way to his wedding ceremony, Ostermann was arrested and put in jail. A German police officer had assumed that Ostermann, with his childlike features, was actually a schoolboy who was playing a prank and illegally wearing a Luftwaffe uniform and military decorations. The consequences endured by the police officer for his bad judgement remain unknown.

After he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for 62 aerial victories on 12 March 1942 he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of the 8./JG 54 (8th squadron). His 80th and 81st aerial victory were claimed on 19 March 1942 followed by victories number 89 and 90 on 27 April 1942. Ostermann claimed his 100th aerial victory on 12 May 1942, the second JG 54 pilot—Hans Philipp was the first—and sixth overall to achieve the century, though in the same engagement his Bf 109F-4 was hit and damaged. Ostermann himself was hit in the right arm and upper thigh. Although severely wounded, he managed to return to his home airfield. Five days later, while in the hospital, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. The award was presented at Hitler's headquarters the "Wolf's Lair" at Rastenburg on 28 and 29 June 1942.

Ostermann was killed in action on 9 August 1942 far behind Soviet lines east of Lake Ilmen. He and his wingman Unteroffizier Heinrich Bosnin were flying at an altitude of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) when they spotted a formation of nine Curtiss P-40's. Ostermann shot down the rear P-40. The two were reforming to make a second attack when they themselves were attacked from behind by a group of Soviet fighters emerging from the broken cloud cover. Ostermann's Bf 109G-2 (Werknummer 10438—factory number) was hit in the cockpit by 41 IAP's (41st Fighter Aviation Regiment) Starshiy Leytenant (First Lieutenant) Arkadiy Sukov flying a LaGG-3. The aircraft rolled over and crashed into the edge of a small wood.

Summary of career

Aerial victory claims

Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for 102 aerial victory claims, plus six further unconfirmed claims. This number includes eight claims on the Western Front, one in Yugoslavia, and 93 Soviet Air Forces piloted aircraft on the Eastern Front. Victory claims were logged to a map-reference (PQ = Planquadrat), for example "PQ 10481". The Luftwaffe grid map covered all of Europe, western Russia and North Africa and was composed of rectangles measuring 15 minutes of latitude by 30 minutes of longitude, an area of about 360 square miles (930 km). These sectors were then subdivided into 36 smaller units to give a location area 3 × 4 km in size.

Chronicle of aerial victories

  This and the – (dash) indicates unconfirmed aerial victory claims for which Ostermann did not receive credit.
  This and the ! (exclamation mark) indicates information discrepancies listed by Prien, Stemmer, Rodeike, Bock, Matthews and Foreman.

Claim Date Time Type Location Claim Date Time Type Location
– 1. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 21 –
1 20 May 1940 18:20 M.S.406 west of Péronne 2 26 May 1940 09:06 Curtiss Arras
– 7. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 54 –
3 12 August 1940 09:35! Spitfire Canterbury
12 August 1941
I-16
4 30 August 1940 19:05 Spitfire 23 14 August 1941 17:01 I-153
5 5 September 1940 10:40 Hurricane! 24 14 August 1941 17:04 I-153
6 30 September 1940 14:37 Spitfire Tonbridge 25 17 August 1941 11:37 I-16
7 8 October 1940 11:46 Spitfire 26 18 August 1941 05:25 I-16
8 20 October 1940 15:38 Spitfire southeast of London 27 18 August 1941 11:02 I-16
9 6 April 1941 12:43 Bf 109 Belgrade 28 21 August 1941 10:45 I-16
10 23 June 1941 11:51 SB-2 north of Kaunas 29 23 August 1941 08:03 I-16 vicinity of Reval
11 23 June 1941 11:58 SB-2 north of Kaunas
4 September 1941
I-16
12 26 June 1941 18:32 DB-3 vicinity of Dünaburg 30 5 September 1941 15:45 I-16
13 30 June 1941 12:10 DB-3 31 7 September 1941 14:25 I-18 (MiG-1)
14 30 June 1941 12:11 DB-3 32 7 September 1941 14:30 I-18 (MiG-1)
15 30 June 1941 12:15 DB-3 vicinity of Dünaburg 33 8 September 1941! 17:25 I-18 (MiG-1)
16 5 July 1941 20:04 SB-3 vicinity of Ostrov 34 10 September 1941 10:24 I-26 (Yak-1)
17 5 July 1941 20:05 SB-3 vicinity of Ostrov 35 11 September 1941 07:51 I-15 vicinity of Staraya Russa
18 5 July 1941 20:08 SB-3 vicinity of Ostrov 36 11 September 1941 10:12 SB-3 vicinity of Staraya Russa
19 6 July 1941 17:35 SB-3 east of Ostrov
12 September 1941
DB-3 vicinity of Staraya Russa
20 6 July 1941 17:37 SB-3 east of Ostrov 37 17 September 1941 10:24 I-18 (MiG-1)
21 28 July 1941 20:03 I-18 (MiG-1)
7 October 1941
I-18 (MiG-1)
22 1 August 1941 19:06 DB-3 38 25 October 1941 14:15 I-26 (Yak-1)
10 August 1941
I-18 (MiG-1) 39 29 October 1941 13:50 I-26 (Yak-1)
10 August 1941
I-18 (MiG-1) 40 30 October 1941 11:35 ground attack aircraft north of Mind
– 3. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 54 –
41 13 November 1941 15:04 Pe-2 52 20 January 1942 14:22 I-26 (Yak-1)
42 16 November 1941 15:16! I-26 (Yak-1) 53 23 January 1942 11:03 I-16
43 16 November 1941 15:20 I-26 (Yak-1) 54 23 January 1942 11:27 Il-2
44 19 November 1941 08:35 PS-84 (DC-3) 55 24 January 1942 13:07 I-16
45 30 November 1941 13:45 PS-84 (DC-3) 56 25 January 1942 10:45 MBR-2
46 1 December 1941 15:10 Yak-1 10 km (6.2 mi) northeast of Leningrad 57 25 January 1942 11:12 I-153
47 1 January 1942 12:37 I-26 (Yak-1) 58 25 January 1942 11:26 I-153
48 8 January 1942 13:42 I-26 (Yak-1) 59 26 January 1942 13:21 Pe-2
49 8 January 1942 13:50 I-180 (Yak-7) 60 28 January 1942 09:18 I-15
50 9 January 1942 15:15 I-26 (Yak-7) 61 28 January 1942 15:01 I-18 (MiG-1)
51 11 January 1942 15:05 I-18 (MiG-1) 62 1 February 1942 10:50 P-40
– 8. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 54 –
63 14 March 1942 17:07 I-26 (Yak-1) 83 1 April 1942 18:12 I-18 (MiG-1)
64 16 March 1942 08:26! I-26 (Yak-1) 84 23 April 1942 12:30 MiG-3
65 17 March 1942 10:06 I-18 (MiG-1) 85 23 April 1942 12:30 MiG-3
66 17 March 1942 14:00 R-Z! 86 23 April 1942 16:02 MiG-3
67 17 March 1942 14:03 R-Z! 87 24 April 1942 06:41 R-Z!
68 18 March 1942 16:35 P-40 88 25 April 1942 11:30 I-180 (Yak-7)
69 18 March 1942 17:02 biplane! 89 27 April 1942 06:15 P-40
70 19 March 1942 11:15 P-40 90 27 April 1942 18:18 P-40
71 19 March 1942 11:42! I-18 (MiG-1) 91 29 April 1942 16:22 MiG-3
72 20 March 1942 12:21 I-18 (MiG-1) 92 29 April 1942 16:25 MiG-3
73 20 March 1942 17:21 R-Z! 93 30 April 1942 13:41 P-40
74 21 March 1942 11:40! I-18 (MiG-1) 94 30 April 1942 14:06 MiG-3
75 22 March 1942 17:43! I-18 (MiG-1) 95 6 May 1942 18:12 I-180 (Yak-7)
76 22 March 1942 17:35 I-18 (MiG-1) 96 6 May 1942 18:19 I-180 (Yak-7)
77 28 March 1942 10:14! I-18 (MiG-1) 97 9 May 1942 15:23 P-40
78 29 March 1942 09:28 I-16 98 10 May 1942 08:25 Yak-7 PQ 10481
35 km (22 mi) northeast of Lubań
79 29 March 1942 11:57 I-18 (MiG-1) 99 12 May 1942 09:36 I-16 PQ 10362
25 km (16 mi) southeast of Mga
80 29 March 1942 12:05 I-18 (MiG-1) 100 12 May 1942 09:41 I-16
81 31 March 1942 13:15 I-18 (MiG-1) 101 8 August 1942 18:58 P-40 PQ 29561
55 km (34 mi) south-southeast of Malaya Vishera
82 31 March 1942 13:33 I-18 (MiG-1) 102 9 August 1942 11:33 P-40 PQ 29521, Dalewo
45 km (28 mi) south of Malaya Vishera

Awards

  • Iron Cross (1939) 2nd Class (31 May 1940) & 1st Class (1940)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
    • Knight's Cross on 4 September 1941 as Leutnant and pilot in the 7./Jagdgeschwader 54
    • 81st Oak Leaves on 12 March 1942 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 7./Jagdgeschwader 54
    • 10th Swords on 17 May 1942 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 7./Jagdgeschwader 54
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https://archive.org/details/luftwaffefighter00mike
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