On this day 65 years ago, the "Star of Africa" met his fate.

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Sep 30, 2007.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Hans-Joachim Marseille (13 December 1919-30 September 1942)

    Hans-Joachim Marseille was a Luftwaffe pilot and flying ace during World War II. He was nicknamed the "Star of Africa". Marseille scored all but seven of his official 158 victories against the British Commonwealth's Desert Air Force over North Africa. All of his victories were scored in the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

    North Africa

    Marseille's kill rate was slow, and he went from June to August without a victory. Marseille was further frustrated at being shot down and forced to land on 14 June and then damaged and forced to land blind due to ground fire over Tobruk.

    His tactic of diving into enemy formations often found him under fire from all directions, resulting in his aircraft being damaged beyond repair, consequently, Eduard Neumann was losing his patience. Marseille persisted, and created a unique self-training program for himself, both physical and tactical, which resulted not just in outstanding situational awareness, marksmanship and confident control of the aircraft, but also in a unique attack tactic that preferred a high angle deflection shooting attack and shooting at the target's front from the side, instead of the common method of chasing an aircraft and shooting at it directly from behind. Marseille often practiced these tactics on the way back from missions with his comrades. Marseille became known as a master at deflection shooting.

    Finally on 24 September 1941, his practice came to fruition, with his first multiple victory sortie, scoring four kills. By mid December he had reached 25 confirmed victories and was duly awarded the German Cross in Gold. His Staffel was rotated to Germany in November/ December 1941 to convert onto the Bf 109F-4/Trop, the variant that was described as the Experten (experts) "mount."

    To counter German fighter attacks the Allied pilots flew "Lufbery circles" in which they flew in a circle with each aircraft's tail covered by the friendly aircraft behind. The tactic was effective and dangerous as a pilot caught in the middle of this formation could find himself besieged on all sides by massed enemy guns. Marseille often dived at high speed into the middle of these enemy defensive formations from either above or below, executing a tight turn and firing a two-second deflection shot to destroy an enemy aircraft. He attacked under conditions many considered unfavorable, but his marksmanship allowed him to make an approach fast enough to escape the return fire of the two aircraft flying on either flank of the target. Marseille's excellent eyesight made it possible for him to spot the enemy before he was spotted, allowing him to take the appropriate action and manoeuvre himself into position for an attack.

    In a conversation with his friend Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt, Marseille commented on his style, and his idea of air-to-air combat:

    I often experience combat as it should be. I see myself in the middle of a British [sic] swarm, firing from every position and never getting caught. Our aircraft are basic elements, Stahlschmidt, which have got to be mastered. You've got to be able to shoot from any position. From left or right turns, out of a roll, on your back, whenever. Only this way can you develop your own particular tactics. Attack tactics, that the enemy simply cannot anticipate during the course of the battle - a series of unpredictable movements and actions, never the same, always stemming from the situation at hand. Only then can you plunge into the middle of an enemy swarm and blow it up from the inside.

    His attack method to break up formations, which he perfected, resulted in a high lethality ratio, and in rapid, multiple victories per attack. On 3 June 1942, Marseille attacked alone a formation of 16 P-40 fighters and shot down six aircraft of No. 5 Squadron South African Air Force, five of them in six minutes, including the aces Captain Pare (six victories), Lieutenant Goulding (6.5 victories), and Captain Botha (five victories). His wingman Rainer Pöttgen said of this fight:

    All the enemy were shot down by Marseille in a turning dogfight. As he shot he needed only to glance at the enemy plane, his pattern [[bullet hits] started at the engine's nose and back to the cockpit. How he was able to do this not even he could explain. With every dogfight he would throttle back as far as possible, this enabled him to fly tighter turns. His expenditure of ammunition in this air battle was 360 rounds (60 per kill).

    On September 1 he was even more successful, claiming 17 enemy aircraft shot down on one day, eight of them in ten minutes. This was the most aircraft from Western Allied air forces shot down by a single pilot in one day. Only one pilot, Emil "Bully" Lang on 4 November 1943, would better this score, against the Soviet air force on the Eastern Front.
    Death

    1 September 1942 had been Marseille's most successful day, and that month would see him score 54 kills. The two missions of 26 September had been flown in Bf109G-2/trops. The first six of these machines were to replace the Gruppe's Bf109Fs. All had been allocated to Marseille's 3 Staffel. Marseille had previously ignored orders to use these new aircraft because of its high engine failure rate, but on the orders of Generalfeldmarschall Albrecht Kesselring, Marseille reluctantly obeyed. One of these machines, WK-Nr. 14256 (Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 605 A-1, W.Nr. 77 411), was to be the final aircraft Marseille flew.

    On 30 September 1942 Hauptmann Marseille was leading his Staffel on a Stuka escort mission, during which no contact with enemy fighters was made While returning to base, his new Bf 109 G-2/trop's cockpit began to fill with smoke; blinded and half asphyxiated, he was guided back to German lines by his wingmen, Jost Schlang and Lt Rainer Pöttgen. Upon reaching friendly lines, "Yellow 14" had lost power and was drifting lower and lower. Pöttgen called out after about ten minutes that they had reached the White Mosque of Sidi Abdel Rahman, and thus had reached friendly lines. At this point, Marseille deemed his aircraft no longer flyable and decided to bail out, his last words to his friends being "I've got to get out now, I can't stand it any longer."

    His Staffel, which had been flying a tight formation around him, peeled away to give him the necessary room to manoeuvre. Marseille rolled his aircraft onto its back, the standard procedure for bail out, but due to the smoke and his slight disorientation, he failed to notice that the aircraft had entered a shallow dive and was now travelling at a considerably faster speed (approximately 400 mph). He worked his way out of the cockpit and into the rushing air only to be carried backwards by the slipstream, the left side of his chest striking the vertical stabiliser of his fighter, either killing him instantly or rendering him unconscious to the point that he could not deploy his parachute. He fell almost vertically, hitting the desert floor seven km south of Sidi Abdel Rahman. As it transpired, a gaping 400 mm hole had been made in his parachute and the canopy had spilled out, but after recovering the body, the parachute release handle was still on "safe," revealing Marseille had not even attempted to open it. Whilst checking the body, Oberarzt Dr Bick, the regimental doctor for the 115th Panzergrenadierregiment, noted Marseille's wristwatch had stopped at exactly 11:42 am. Dr Bick had been the first to reach the crash site, having been stationed just to the rear of the forward mine defenses, he had also witnessed Marseille's fatal fall.

    In his autopsy report, Dr Bick stated:

    "The pilot lay on his stomach as if asleep. His arms were hidden beneath his body. As I came closer, I saw a pool of blood that had issued from the side of his crushed skull; brain matter was exposed. I turned the dead pilot over onto his back and opened the zipper of his flight jacket, saw the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Marseille never actually received the Diamonds personally) and I knew immediately who this was. The paybook also told me."

    Hans-Joachim Marseille lay in state in the Staffel sick bay, his comrades coming to pay their respects throughout the day. As a tribute to their comrade they put on the record the "Rhumba Azul" that he had enjoyed listening to; it played over and over until the close of day. Marseille's funeral took place on 1 October 1942 at the Heroes Cemetery in Derna with Generalfeldmarschall Albrecht Kesselring and Eduard Neumann delivering a eulogy.

    Last entry in his flight book by Eduard Neumann: "Flight duration 54 minutes, time of landing "black cross". Took to parachute 7 Km south of Sidi Abdel Rahman. Remarks: Engine damage. Flights 1-482, 388 combat flights and a total of 158 kills: Certified in the field 30th September 1942".

    An enquiry into the crash was hastily set up. The Commission’s Report (Aktenzeichen 52, Br.B.Nr. 270/42) concluded that the crash was caused by damage to the differential gear which caused an oil leak. Then a number of "teeth" broke off the spur wheel and ignited the oil. Sabotage or human error was ruled out.

    Controversy over claims

    Records still exist for 109 of Marseille's 158 kills, and the majority of kills can be easily matched up with Allied records. However the discrepancies in the remaining 49 kills have caused author Russell Brown to question the veracity of Marseille's "kill-count," in addition to the JG27 as a whole.
     
  2. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    Very nice article syscom3, Thanks for sharing
     
  3. Aggie08

    Aggie08 Active Member

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    60 rounds per kill... damn
     
  4. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    I must include the picture of his one time mount in which he had one kill in BOB
     

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  5. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    A great aviatior and warrior - :salute:
     
  6. Nonskimmer

    Nonskimmer Active Member

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    An excellent read, and a damn good pilot. :cool:
     
  7. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    interesting, one reference said he hit the tail with his chest and head, the photos of the deceased due show a nasty look that it could be true .....

    thanks for the post sys, even today many of the other Wehrmacht landser still consider him as being possibly the best LW pilot of the war, a born flyer
     
  8. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    What if all the top dog fighters that ever lived were put together for a 10 minute dogfight, in a sort of air playing field of 5 miles or so? It could have giant pylons with trip wire to stop an escapees.

    I wonder if Hans would win, if he could shoot them down that fast.
     
  9. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    A great pilot and warrior.

    :salute:
     
  10. luftwaffemesserschmitt

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    let him rest in peace :salute:
     
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