The Final Interview with Erich Hartmann

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Nov 9, 2005
Of all the fighter aces in history the first name who usually comes to mind is Erich Hartmann. His 352 confirmed kills will probably stand forever as the bench-mark of success in aerial warfare. However, Erich's war in the air became a footnote to his life following the decade of Soviet imprisonment he experienced following the war. In his own words Hartmann discussed his life, career, passions and survival in a world few have seen and even fewer survived.

In his last formal interview Erich Hartmann discussed specific facts that he had usually avoided in the past. This candid insight displays the humanity of the man himself as opposed to simply the warrior of legend, and provides an insight into the character of arguably the greatest fighter pilot who has ever, and probably will ever, fight in hostile skies. Hartmann gave this final interview before his death in 1993.

more: Hartmann
Thanks for the link. That was intersting.

My favorite part was this:

Q: Who was your best friend during those days?

A: There were so many, most of whom are still alive, but my closest relationship was with Heinz Mertens, my crew chief. You rely upon your wingmen to cover you in the air, and your team mates in aerial battle, but the man who keeps your machine flying and safe is the most important man you know. We became best of friends, and none of my success would have been possible if not for Mertens.

Q: The bond you two had is also legendary. Why the closeness?

A: I can't explain it. When I went missing on the mission where I was captured and escaped, Mertens had taken a rifle and went looking for me. He would not give up. That is a loyalty you never find outside the military.
I liked it. Erich Hartmann seemed like a wise fellah, and I found the last paragraph interesting like Kiwimac did, because his resiliant personality of being a good fighter and also a man of feeling showed through.
Even though he was on the enemy side with a differant viewpoint than us, you realize that there are many common lines of thinking among Airmen, and even among soldiers from many nations.

Now I just need to find out more about the Japanese side of WWII.
great post!
>>I don't recall anyone talking of defeat, but I do know that we talked about

some of the great pilots killed already, and the news of the American

Mustangs reaching deep into Germany, and even farther. Few of us had any

experience against the Americans, although many old timers had fought the

British. Those who fought Americans had done so in North Africa, and their

insights proved interesting.<<

I wonder what those insights of Americans were? If it was from experience in North Africa, the impression probably wasn't favorable. Yanks weere very green then.
I don't know about the F-104 story. I met a fellow who knew Hartman and was part of the US training program at Luke AFB. From conversations I had with him (Col Keith Phillips, Ret.) He never gave any indications that Hartman didn't like the F-104. It was recognized that the aircraft was too much for the newly established Luftwaffe.

Keith Phillips did tell me Hartman was a tough commander and demanded perfection. He also said he and Gunter Rall were the two best pilots he ever flew with.
I did finally find a pic of his Sabre though.


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I found this today...

This might be stateside, it is definetly after the war - Rall has a US flight suit on and I suspect hartman as well.


I think it is in the states as well. Look at the patch on his sleeve. Interesting how the flight suits changed so little. Mine look very similiar. Obviously improved though.

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