Hans-Joachim Marseille...

Discussion in 'Stories' started by seesul, Jan 21, 2009.

  1. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    Got it by e-mail today. Thought you may enjoy the reading...

    With the Messerschmitt's left wing tip pointed vertically toward the sea, the Hurricane fighter stood virtually motionless in front of a young German's windscreen. Viewed through the metal framed canopy of the Messerschmitt 109, a British Hurricane with its red centered cockade was starkly recognizable against the cloudless North African sky.

    Pulling back on the stick, gut-wrenching turn tightening, the young German's slim body presses firmly into his seat. Underneath his leather and mesh flight helmet, beads of sweat roll down his face . . burning his eyes as they remain open and fixed on the Zeiss optical gun sight.

    3 G's . . 3.5 G's . . 4 G's.

    The strain increases. Tired and aching at the end of day's mission that was full of air combat, the young German's arm muscles begin to fatigue under the strain. But there are no distractions allowed. The quarry must not escape.

    After a swift look inside, with a slight input of right rudder, Jochen . . as he's known by his friends . . corrects the aircraft's slight skid.

    The Messerschmitt emits a tiny shudder as its airspeed rapidly bleeds off from 300 knots indicated down to 140. Physics now demands the aircraft's nose to drop as its lift falls away. In apparent defiance of this law of nature, Jochen applies judicious top rudder and the 109 hangs precariously.

    Then, there's a metallic ' clang ' as the Messerschmitt's leading edge slats automatically slam into an extended position providing more lift.

    Like an artist ' working' materials, the 22 year old ' works' his aircraft as if part of his own body, while sweat pours down his back . . and the shoulder harness bites into his neck . . stinging. These minor distractions, no longer affect the German ace; he's been there before. The only thing important is . . one more victory !

    Looking behind him, the RAF pilot sees the Messerschmitt now perched ominously off his left hind quarter . . its propeller spinner slowly pulling lead setting up for the proper firing position. Fear grips the British pilot as he now realizes this was no rookie enemy behind him. And every evasive maneuver he'd attempted was flawlessly countered . . with the young German closing distance with each turn.

    As Jochen's Messerschmitt closed in, and the Hurricane disappeared beneath its nose. Jochen cocked his head slightly to the left as he calculated where his ordinance and the enemy would coinside.

    It was . . time !

    The control column shook in his right hand from a quick two-second burst. The cockpit filled with the smell of cordite, as several pounds of per second of machine gun and cannon projectiles hurtle into the Hurricane. Intuitively positive his aim had been correct, the German rolled inverted, diving away.

    The 7500 pound British Hurricane, a sheet of flaming metal, thundered vertically into the Mediterranean.

    As the fighter ace turned for home, four oil slicks foul the sea's surface . . to be celebrated as four more victory marks on Hans-Joachim Marseille's aircraft, adding to the credibility that he was becoming the most successful of all German fighter pilots in the North Africa.

    The morning of 30 September 1942 was like most other late summer mornings in the North African desert, with the weather forecasted to be hot. For the men of German Fighter Group JG-27, the anticipation of another entire day of combat flying weighed heavily. As well it should have.

    For the first time, Rommel was in a position to be thoroughly tossed out of Africa by Mont-gomery's British 8th Army. Not only was JG-27 aware of Rommel's latest defeat, they were caught in their own battle with the harsh desert, lack of essential supplies, the daily strain of aerial combat, plus the threat of a British Commando attack out of the surrounding desert.


    However, as difficult as the situation appeared, and despite the recent loss of two more very experienced fighter pilots, individual morale was extremely high. Because of their many victories, morale problems affecting other fighter units in the desert seemed removed from Marseille and the men located at their lonely airfield.

    Captain Hans-Joachim Marseille rolled out of bed on the morning of 30 September 1942 and was, his personal batman. The strain of 1 1/2 years of almost continuous aerial combat showed in the deep wrinkles and taunt muscles of his 22 year old face.

    Marseille, the youngest captain in the Luftwaffe, appeared to have everything going his way. He was confident, cocky, and by far the most famous and successful fighter pilot in the North African war front.

    After a slow start as a fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain, having downed seven aircraft while losing several airplanes himself, Marseille overcame initial weaknesses as a fighter pilot and made his Messerschmitt 109 with the big yellow 14 painted on its fuselage . . the scourge of the Allies in desert aerial warfare.

    In less than 30 days, he had destroyed 54 British, South African, and Australian fighter aircraft . . 17 of those kills were in a single day. Young Marseille was well on his way to becoming among the few Luftwaffe pilots to shoot down two hundred enemy aircraft.

    The morning of 30 September brought the prospect of another day's hunt in the skies over Egypt. More victories and more glory bestowed upon the young man from Berlin. But this morning, a freak accident would reduce perhaps the greatest fighter pilot of the war from the hero of the German nation to a lifeless historical footnote on the floor of the North African desert.
     
  2. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    2009 will mark the 67th anniversary of the death of Hans-Joachim Marseille, arguably the greatest of all World War II fighter pilots. With the coming of the anniversary, the debate as to just how great the young Berliner was will certainly continue to rage within historical aviation circles.

    The basis of the debate stems from Marseille's actual, yet almost mythical, combat record in North Africa. He was credited with destroying 158 Allied aircraft, all but seven of those within an intense eighteen month period in the desert.

    All but four of his victories were against fighters. No other pilot destroyed as many aircraft on the Western Front as did Marseille, although he was shot down several times, himself, Marseille evaded death from the angry guns of Allied pilots in over 388 combat missions. Twenty-nine other German pilots would go on to score more victories than Marseille, however, those pilots scored the majority of their victories against slow-moving Russian fighter bombers on the Eastern Front.

    Marseille, a German of French Huguenot ancestry, was in the words of the General of the German Fighter Arm, Adolf Galland, " . . the unrivaled virtuoso of fighter pilots." His ability to sometimes destroy entire squadrons of enemy aircraft in a single sortie is the substance legends are made of, and the kind of material ripe for critics to study and either deny or defend.

    Marseille is still regarded by most German Luftwaffe pilots to have been the best of the best ; excelling as a marksman, an acrobatic pilots, as well as one of the best combat tacticians in the Luftwaffe. Together, the synergy created by the accumulation of these talents forged one of the most lethal fighter pilots in aviation history.

    Marseille's remarkable ability as a deadly serious fighter pilot was conflicted by his uncommon, gregarious, and often boyish behavior on the ground. He wore his hair long, had a penchant for practical jokes, and listened to taboo music like American jazz and swing, that Nazi propaganda referred to as "Jew" and "******" music.

    Marseille also had a reputation as a "playboy." Early in his career, he was transferred out of famous ' Macky' Steinhoff's squadron. " Macky' later said: " Marseille was remarkably handsome guy, and he was a gifted pilot and a fighter. But he had girl friends everywhere; they took up so much of his time that he was often too tired to for me to safely allow him to fly his airplane. His often irresponsible understanding of his duties was the primary reason so I sent him packing. "

    Marseille was quickly shipped off to air combat in North Africa, where his new commanders had been shipped a thick file containing his breeches of military discipline and unorthodox behavior. To say Marseille was not the typical German fighter pilot or stereotypical Aryan Teutonic Knight would be a gross understatement.

    " Jochen was a practical joker; he was forever playing pranks. He came to see me and my squadron one day in his colorful Volkswagen jeep. He called it Otto. After a talk, a cup of sweet coffee and a glass of Italian Doppio Kümmel, he got into his jeep and drove it straight at my tent . . flattening everything. Then he drove off with a grin stretching across his face." [ Werner Schrör, 8/JG 27, 61 Kills in North Africa.]

    Much of the debate and refusal to substantiate Marseille's combat record originates from one day of furious air combat on 1 September, 1942 in which he claimed to have destroyed 17 aircraft in three missions. Not only did Marseille claim 17 aircraft, but he did it in a fashion that was unheard of at the time. His victims were shot out of the sky in such a rapid fashion that many Allied critics still refuse to believe Marseille's claims as fact.

    But it is precisely the speed and fury involved with these kills that has been the center of the Marseille debate for the past half century. For years, many British historians and militarists refused to admit that they had lost any aircraft that day in North Africa. Careful review of records however do show that the British did lose more than 17 aircraft that day,and in the area that Marseille operated. The British simply refused to believe, as many do today, that any German pilot was capable of such rapid destruction of RAF hardware.

    Facts are that Marseille is still acknowledged as among the best marksmen in the Luftwaffe. The Germans were very meticulous in filing combat reports with all relevant data to include time of battle, area of operation, opposition encountered, as well as an in- depth armorers report. At the end of a mission, the armorers would count the number of bullets and cannon shells expended during the fight.

    Marseille would often average an astonishing 15 bullets required per victory, and this with a combat resulting in his downing of several allied aircraft. No other German pilot was close to Marseille in this area

    " Yeah, everybody knew nobody could cope with him. Nobody could do the same. Some of the pilots tried it like Stahlschmidt, myself, and Rödel. He, he was an artist. Marseille was an artist." Using his hands to illustrate. " He was up here and the rest of us ( he gestured ) were down here somewhere." [ Friedrich Körner, 36 victories, Knight's Cross winner.]

    But what made Marseille so effective in a theater of combat where so many other pilots achieved little or no success? Several factors accounted for his success in the desert with one being attributed to his superior eyesight. Legend has it that Marseille would stare at the sun for extended periods of time in order to acclimate his eyes to the desert glare. Marseille, like American fighter pilot legend Chuck Yeager, he had the ability to see enemy aircraft long before anyone else in his formation.

    Since Marseille tended to see the enemy first, he was consistently able to position himself in desirable attacking advantage with many of his victims obviously succumbing to the speed and surprise of his attacks.

    Another critical factor for his success was his superb flying ability. Through constant practice and a desire to be the best pilot in his unit, and confident in his flying abilities that he would often break standard rules of aerial combat by pulling his power to idle and using flaps to help tighten his turns. He would also regularly attack numerically superior enemy formations in lightening fast strikes that used the enemy's formation size as its own disadvantage.

    But most critical to Marseille's success was the exploitation of his superior Messerschmitt fighter over the majority of enemy fighters he encountered in the desert in concert with exposing weak-nesses inherent within the standard Allied tactical fighter formations used in the desert.

    The Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, and South African Air Force sometimes used what was called a Lufbery Circle. When encountered by a real or perceived superior force of enemy fighters, the Allied fighter pilots would often form up in a defensive circle with one aircraft behind the other. This formation was much like the 2-dimensional wagon train circling in a attempt to both dissuade Indian attack and to afford the best defensive firepower.

    Using the original Luftbery theory, if a German aircraft attacked a British fighter from behind, another British fighter's guns would be in place to immediately shoot down it down.

    Marseille, one not to be frightened away, developed his own innovative tactics, while paying the cost of losing several of his own airplanes earlier in his combat career, that allowed him to enter and destroy the otherwise efficient Allied fighter formations.

    Several thousand feet above the Lufbery defensive circle and displaced laterally a mile or so, Marseille would dive down below the formation's altitude. From below, he would select one unsuspecting victim, line him up in his sights, and hammer one brief and deadly burst of cannon and machine gun fire.

    His aim was so accurate that he was often able to place nearly all of his bullets from the engine back into the cockpit, often killing the pilot.

    After his firing run, Marseille would set himself up for another run.

    By repeating cunning variations of this deadly sequence, Marseille often shot down four, five, and six, aircraft in a single sortie. His movements were so swift and quick that often unsuspecting allied pilots thought they were being attacked by several fighters.

    On 15 September 1942, for example, Marseille destroyed 7 Australian fighter aircraft within an eleven minute period and on 17 June 1942, Marseille destroyed six aircraft within a seven minute period. The table below illustrates the quickness of many of Marseille's multiple kills.
     
  3. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    A Sample of Multiple Kill Sorties Achieved by Marseille :
    Victories Date Victories ( In Military Time )

    # 88 thru # 91 15 Jun 42 19:02, 19:03, 19:04, 19:05
    # 92 thru # 95 16 Jun 42 19:02, 19:10, 19:11, 19:13
    # 96 thru # 101 17 Jun 42 12:02, 12:04, 12:05, 12:08, 12:09, 12:12
    # 105 thru # 108 01 Sep 42 08:28, 08:30, 08:33, 08:39
    # 109 thru # 116 01 Sep 42 10:55, 10:56, 10:58, 10:59, 11:01, 11:02,
    11:03, 11:05
    # 117 thru # 121 01 Sep 42 18:46, 18:47, 18:48, 18:49, 18:53
    # 127 thru # 132 03 Sep 42 08:20, 08:23, 08:29, 16:08, 16:10, 16:11
    # 137 thru # 140 06 Sep 42 18:03, 18:13, 18:14, 18:20
    # 145 thru # 151 15 Sep 42 17:51, 17:53, 17:55, 17:57, 17:59, 18:00, 18:02
    # 152 thru # 158 26 Sep 42 09:10, 09:13, 09:15, unk, 16:56, 16:59, 17:15

    Other German pilots who tried to emulate Marseille, but failed to master their own aircraft, were not nearly as successful. Many pilots on both sides of the war were credited with multiple kills on single missions.

    But only Marseille made an incredible habit of it.

    At the height of both the desert war in North Africa and the career of young "Jochen" Marseille, tragedy was to strike the Luftwaffe. Scheduled to fly an Messerschmitt Bf-109 improved G-2 model, Marseille was called upon to escort the painfully slow Stuka dive bombers against Allied ground targets in Egypt.

    At 1047, on 30 September 1942 Hans-Joachim Marseille took off for this, his final fighter sortie.



    After the Stuka escort mission was complete, Marseille and his squadron of fighters were directed to intercept a flight of enemy aircraft sighted some distance away. But no contact was made and his squadron of fighters headed for home.

    At 1135, Marseille radioed smoke was pouring into his cockpit and it was becoming difficult to breathe and see. The squadron was flying over enemy-held territory. Other members in the flight urged Marseille to remain with his aircraft for another couple minutes since they would be beyond over enemy-held territory.

    Unfortunately, he listened to their advice and chose to remain in this aircraft a bit longer.

    By 1139, smoke in the cockpit was now unbearable and Marseille was forced to leave his airplane; his last radio transmission was : " I can't stand it any more. I've got to get out . . now.".

    Now over German terrain, at approximately 10,000 feet, Marseille rolled his aircraft inverted in a standard maneuver to prepare for bailout. Possibly suffering from spatial disorientation, possible toxic hypoxia, as well as being blinded by the smoke in the cockpit, Marseille's aircraft entered a very steep . . inverted dive.

    At a speed of roughly 400 knots, Marseille bailed out; he was instantly struck by the tail of his aircraft. Hit hard in the heart area, he was killed . . or injured to the point where he was not able to use his chute. Other members of Jochen's squadron watched in horror as Jochen's body struck the desert floor ; an unfitting end to the "African Eagle" . . but a foreshadowing of worse times ahead for the Luftwaffe.

    The fighter pilots and crew members men of Marseille's squadron were psychologically devastated. For a month, Jochen's entire squadron was withdrawn from combat operations because it had, essentially, ceased to function as an effective combat unit.

    Marseille was buried in the desert with full military honors in the military cemetery in Derna, Egypt. To this day, a small pyramid, stands as both a testimony and honor to his achievements on the site of some the most severe fighting in North Africa.

    Marseille's career is one of the most interesting and stellar of any Second World War aviator. In 388 combat missions, 482 missions total, he destroyed 158 allied aircraft. None of these on the Russian Front. For the remaining skeptics, please note the following : In the North Africa campaign, some 1300 victories were claimed by German pilots.

    Of those, 674 victories were claimed by only 15 pilots. This points out another very basic difference between German and Allied combat philosophy.

    While the Allies tended to hunt in packs and compete vigorously for kills, the Germans, at least in North Africa, tended to let the best pilots "have at it" while the novices would tend to sit back and enjoy the show.

    This is one reason the loss of an asset like Marseille was so devastating to the Luftwaffe in Africa.

    That kind of emotional destruction would not likely occur in Allied squadrons. Through complete and intense research of many of Marseille's claims in the desert, it can be argued that he may have indeed been guilty of some over claiming towards the end of his short and prolific career. Not that it was intentional but rather as matter of circumstances of the circus like environment his character brought to the unit.

    Everyone expected him to be successful on a daily basis and achieve more and more glory for their unit. Marseille in turn, certainly influenced by their enthusiasm, was so sure of his own abilities that he would sometimes fire at the enemy, break off the attack, and seek the next victim without confirming the destruction of the previous target.

    A large percentage of his victims did indeed successfully crash land in the desert or limp back home as opposed to being utterly blown out of the sky. Regardless, even with the possibility of slight over claiming due to youthful bravado and a twinge of wishful thinking, a conservative estimate of over 130 definite, indisputable victories, is still a testament to this man's achievements.

    Marseille was the Luftwaffe's master of the rapid, multiple kill. So deadly and effective in the aerial arena that more than 50 years after his death, much debate is still centered on his accomplishments.

    Was this young German the best ' dog fight ' pilot . . ever ? Marseille's record suggests the affirmative.

    Would someone have shot him down if he had continued to dogfight for another two and one-half years ? Yes, probably so. He was too fast living; too mercurial.

    And the strain of combat in the desert was already taking its toll. This was evident by his chain smoking . . and his impatience. He was not the sort of person who would pace himself to last for years of combat. He was often . . much too impetuous. And, often, after an intense combat sortie, his entire body would often shake uncontrollably.


    The top scoring ace of all time Erich Hartmann, would typically locate a slow moving Russian Yak lined up on a ground target . . then decide to attack only when he had favorable odds, while Marseille would often dive into large groups of enemy aircraft . . regardless of the enemy's advantage.

    Marseille's Facts

    Born : 13 December 1919 in Berlin, Germany

    Died : 30 September 1942 near Sidi Abd el Rahman, Egypt

    Kills : 158 : 154 Fighters and 4 Bombers

    by Major Robert Tate, USAF [ edited and abridged ]
     
  4. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    So what do you reckon?

    Hans Joachim Marseille (Bf109F) vs George Beurling (Spitfire Vb)

    If that's not one of the shortest duels in history, I don't know what is; you could argue the first one to get a shot off would likely win as both were exponents of extremely accurate shooting.

    As well as Beurling the pilot there are interesting parallels with Beurling the person too; the Canadian had no time for authority and also had a track record for poor discipline.
     
  5. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    No doubt one of the best fighter pilots the world has ever seen. However on this date only 3 RAAF P-40's were shot down. Two from No.3 sqn (1 pilot KIA) and one from 450 sqn.
     
  6. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

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    Thanks for the story, Marseille was a shooting star!
     
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