Hubert Stassl... Four Days, 30 Kills....

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Hubert Strassl enjoyed great success in the air battles over Kursk in July 1943. In just four days he gained 30 victories and demonstrated the superiority of the FW 190 over opposing Russian fighters. However, Strassl would not live long enough to savour his victories; he was dead before the Germans had been defeated at Kursk. He had a total of 67 Kills....

Early Life and Career
Hubert Strassl was born in Austria in 1918. After joining the Luftwaffe and undertaking fighter training, he went to the Eastern Front with 9./J.G. 51 towards the end of 1941. His first victory did not come until 6 July 1942, when he claimed at Pe-2 in the morning. In August 1942 he shot down ten Soviet aircraft, including seven more Pe-2s (four on 19 August alone), two LaGG-3s, and an Il-2. His rate of scoring then slowed dramatically. He got an Il-2 on 3 September, and no victories in October. In November 1942, III./J.G. 51 went to Jesau to convert to the FW 190, and the Gruppe received six FW 190 A-2s and seven FW 190 A-3s in that month.[1] On 26 November Uffz. Strassl shot down an Il-2, his thirteenth career victory.

Strassl was posted to the Ergänzung-Jagdgruppe Ost in March 1943. After a few months as an instructor, Strassl returned to III./J.G. 51 in May 1943. His score quickly began to mount. On 30 May he downed a Pe-2, and on the first day of June bagged a pair of MiG-3s. This was the first of as series of days when Strassl (promoted to Feldwebel between in mid-June) downed multiple enemy aircraft: three on the 2nd, two on the 6th, six on the 8th, and three on the 11th. Between 14 and 30 June 1943, Fw. Strassl shot down six MiG-3s, taking his tally to 36 victories. On the afternoon of 3 July he downed an Il-2 for victory number 37. Two days later the Germans launched their offensive at Kursk.

The Battle of Kursk
On 5 July 1943 Hubert Strassl's unit, III./J.G. 51, was based at Orel with Luftflotte 6, flying alongside I./J.G. 54, Stabsstaffel, Stab, I., and IV./J.G. 51 in support of Army Group Centre.[2] These fighters were tasked with escorting Ju 88s, He 111s, and Ju 87s of St.G.1, as well as flying scrambles and sweeps over the battle area.

At around 03:30 on 5 July 1943, the Soviets launched concentrated air attacks against the German airfields, and as all available Luftflotte 4 and 6 fighters scrambled, one of the largest air battles in history began. The Orel-based German fighters engaged the Soviets at 06:45, and it was Fw. Hubert Strassl who made J.G. 51's first two claims, for MiG-3s at 03:48 and 03:50. Just before 07:00, III./J.G. 51 was back into the fray over the northern sector of the Kursk battlefield. Soviet fighters were encountered at 3,000 m, and Strassl added three MiG-3s to his tally (downed at 07:18, 07:25 and 07:28).

Strassl's most successful mission of his combat career occurred mid-morning on 5 July, as III./J.G. 51 clashed with Soviet light bombers and their escort fighters. Strassl scored his Gruppe's first victory, a LaGG-5 at 10:34, and followed it up two minutes later with another. 9./J.G. 51 then engaged the fighters and accounted for six LaGGs, while 8./J.G. 51 attacked the bombers, which were flying about 1,000 m below their fighter escorts. Strassl downed an Il-2 and a Boston, along with a pair of LaGG-5s who had come down to attack the 8./J.G. 51 FW 190s. The only III./J.G. 51 mission on 5 July 1943 in which Hubert Strassl either did not take part or did not claim any victories was an hour after midday, when Bostons and LaGGs were attacked.

As evening approached on 5 July, a final combat was fought between the FW 190s of Luftflotte 6 and a Soviet bomber force. Between 18:11 and 19:17, the German fighters claimed 45 victories, and once more Hubert Strassl and III./J.G. 51 were in the thick of the action. The III. Gruppe was the first to engage, and at 18:24 and 18:27 Strassl claimed a pair of the big Il-4 bombers. He then downed two more from low-altitude at 18:31 and 18:33. III./J.G. 51 returned to Orel at around 19:00, after bagging three Soviet fighters and nine Il-4s. Strassl had claimed a remarkable fifteen victories in a single day.

On 6 July, Hubert Strassl wasn promoted to Oberfeldwebel. During the day he downed another four Soviet aircraft in his FW 190, the victories coming in two missions. III./J.G. 51 met LaGG-5s and MiG-3s at 12:30, and Ofw. Strassl claimed a LaGG-5 at 12:34, a MiG-3 at 12:37, and a LaGG-5 at 12:40. Later that afternoon III./J.G. 51 again engaged LaGG-5s and MiG-3s. Ofw. Strassl shot down one at 19:35, and Oblt. Maximilian Mayerl of 9./J.G. 51 claimed a LaGG-5 at the same time. III./J.G. 51 made no other claims in this combat.

On 7 July the fighters of Luftflotte 6 claimed 74 victories, and Ofw. Strassl made six of these claims. In the early morning 8./J.G. 51 encountered MiG-3s and Il-2s, the former at low-altitude. The Staffel made three claims, and Ofw. Strassl made two of these, for a MiG-3 at 04:20, and for an Il-2 at 04:25. In a fight with LaGG-5s shortly after 09:00, Ofw. Strassl made the only III./J.G. 51 victory claims, for LaGG-5s at 09:10, 09:24 and 09:26. At 18:36 he made his final claim for the day, another LaGG-5 at 1,800 m.

On 8 July 1943, Hubert Strassl was bounced by four Soviet LaGG-3s south of Ponyri, 60 km north of Kursk. Strassl had already downed three enemy aircraft on this day, but he was forced ever lower by the LaGG-3s, and eventually had to bail out of his FW 190 A-4 W.Nr 0142 351 'Black 4 + I' at 300 m. Unfortunately, Hubert Strassl failed to open his parachute in time.[3] Strassl posthumously received the Ehrenpokal on 22 July 1943, the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold on 16 August 1943, and the Ritterkreuz on 12 November 1943.

Appendix I: Loss List for Hubert Strassl
Date 08.07.43
Unit 8./J.G. 51
Pilot Ofw. Hubert Strassl
Type FW 190 A-4
W.Nr 0142 351
Markings 'Black 4 + I'
Remarks Combat with LaGG-3, pilot FSA
Location S. Ponyri

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