Erich Alfred Hartmann (19th April 1922 – 20th September 1993) was a German fighter pilot during World War II and the most successful fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. He flew 1,404 combat missions and participated in aerial combat on 825 separate occasions. He was credited with shooting down 352 Allied aircraft—350 Soviet and two American—while serving with the Luftwaffe. During the course of his career, Hartmann was forced to crash-land his fighter 16 times due to either damage received from parts of enemy aircraft he had just shot down or mechanical failure.
Hartmann, a pre-war glider pilot, joined the Luftwaffe in 1940 and completed his fighter pilot training in 1942. He was posted to the veteran Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) on the Eastern Front and was fortunate to be placed under the supervision of some of the Luftwaffe’s most experienced fighter pilots. Under their guidance, Hartmann steadily developed his tactics.
On 29th October 1943 he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for 148 enemy aircraft destroyed and the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross for 202 enemy aircraft on 2nd March 1944, followed by the Swords to the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves exactly four months later for 268 enemy aircraft shot down. Ultimately, Hartmann earned the coveted Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds on 25th August 1944 for claiming 301 aerial victories. At the time of its presentation to Hartmann, this was Germany’s highest military decoration.
Hartmann achieved his 352nd and last aerial victory at midday on 8th May 1945, hours before the German surrender. Along with the remainder of JG 52, he surrendered to United States Army forces and was turned over to the Red Army. In an attempt to pressure him into service with the Soviet-friendly East German National People’s Army, he was tried on war crimes charges and convicted. He was initially sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, later increased to 25 years, and spent 10 years in various Soviet prison camps and gulags until he was released in 1955. In 1997, the Russian Federation (posthumously) relieved him of all charges.
In 1956, Hartmann joined the newly established West German Air Force in the Bundeswehr, and became the first Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 71 “Richthofen”. He was retired in 1970, due to his opposition to the procurement of the F-104 Starfighter. In his later years, after his military career had ended, he became a civilian flight instructor. Erich Hartmann died on 20th September 1993 aged 71.
Early life and career
Erich Hartmann was born on 19th April 1922 in Weissach, Württemberg, to Doctor Alfred Erich Hartmann and his wife, Elisabeth Wilhelmine Machtholf. The economic depression that followed World War I in Germany prompted Doctor Hartmann to find work in China, and Erich spent his early childhood there. The family was forced to return to Germany in 1928, when the Chinese Civil War broke out. During World War II, Hartmann’s younger brother, Alfred, also joined the Luftwaffe, serving as a gunner on a Junkers Ju 87 in North Africa. Alfred Hartmann was captured by the British and spent four years as a prisoner of war.
Hartmann was educated at the Volksschule in Weil im Schönbuch (April 1928–April 1932), the Gymnasium in Böblingen (April 1932–April 1936), the National Political Institutes of Education (Nazi Secondary Education School) in Rottweil (April 1936–April 1937), and the Gymnasium in Korntal (April 1937–April 1940), from which he received his Abitur.It was at Korntal that he met his wife-to-be, Ursula “Usch” Paetsch.
Hartmann’s flying career began when he joined the glider training program of the fledgling Luftwaffe and was taught to fly by his mother, one of the first female glider pilots in Germany. The Hartmanns also owned a light aircraft but were forced to sell it in 1932 as the German economy collapsed. The rise to power of the Nazi Party in 1933 resulted in government support for gliding, and, in 1936, Elisabeth Hartmann established the glider club in Weil im Schönbuch for locals and served as instructress. The 14-year-old Hartmann became a gliding instructor in the Hitler Youth. In 1937, he gained his pilot’s license, allowing him to fly powered aircraft.
Hartmann began his military training on 1st October 1940 at the 10th Flying Regiment in Neukuhren. On 1st March 1941, he progressed to the Luftkriegsschule 2 (Air War School 2) in Berlin-Gatow, making his first flight with an instructor four days later, followed in just under three weeks by his first solo flight. He completed his basic flying training in October 1941 and began advanced flight training at pre-fighter school 2 in Lachen-Speyerdorf on 1st November 1941. There, Hartmann learned combat techniques and gunnery skills. His advanced pilot training was completed on 31st January 1942, and, between 1st March 1942 and 20 August 1942, he learned to fly the Messerschmitt Bf 109 at the Jagdfliegerschule 2 (Fighter Pilot School 2).
Hartmann’s time as a trainee pilot did not always go smoothly. On 31st March 1942, during a gunnery training flight, he ignored regulations and performed some aerobatics in his Bf 109 over the Zerbst airfield. His punishment was a week of confinement to quarters with the loss of ⅔ of his pay in fines. Hartmann later recalled that the incident saved his life:
That week confined to my room actually saved my life. I had been scheduled to go up on a gunnery flight the afternoon that I was confined. My roommate took the flight instead of me, in an aircraft I had been scheduled to fly. Shortly after he took off, while on his way to the gunnery range, he developed engine trouble and had to crash-land near the Hindenburg-Kattowitz railroad. He was killed in the crash.
Afterward, Hartmann practised diligently and adopted a new credo which he passed on to other young pilots: “Fly with your head, not with your muscles.” During a gunnery practice session in June 1942, he hit a target drogue with 24 of the allotted 50 rounds of machine-gun fire, a feat that was considered difficult to achieve. His training had qualified him to fly 17 different types of powered aircraft, and, following his graduation, he was posted on 21st August 1942 to Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Ost (Supplementary Fighter Group, East) in Kraków, Upper Silesia, where he remained until 10th October 1942.
World War II
In October 1942, Hartmann was assigned to fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52), based at Maykop on the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union. The wing was equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109G, but Hartmann and several other pilots were initially given the task of ferrying Junkers Ju 87 Stukas down to Mariupol. His first flight ended with brake failure, causing the Stuka to crash into and destroy the controller’s hut. Hartmann was assigned to III./JG 52, led by Gruppenkommandeur Major Hubertus von Bonin, and placed under the experienced Oberfeldwebel Edmund “Paule” Roßmann, although he also flew with such experienced pilots as Alfred Grislawski, Hans Dammers and Josef Zwernemann. After a few days of intensive mock combats and practice flights, Grislawski conceded that, although Hartmann had much to learn regarding combat tactics, he was quite a talented pilot.
Hartmann was placed as wingman to Paule Roßmann, who acted as his teacher, and one of the factors that enabled Hartmann’s success. Grislawski also gave Hartmann pointers on where to aim. Hartmann eventually adopted the tactic “See – Decide – Attack – Break”. The tactics were learned from Roßmann who had been injured in one arm and was not able to fly in physically demanding dogfights. Roßmann’s solution was to “stand off”, evaluate the situation, then select a target that was not taking evasive action and destroy it at close range.
Early aerial combat
Hartmann flew his first combat mission on 14th October 1942 as Roßmann’s wingman. When they encountered 10 enemy aircraft below, an impatient Hartmann opened full throttle and separated from Roßmann. He engaged an enemy fighter, but failed to score any hits and nearly collided with it. He then ran for cover in low cloud, and his mission subsequently ended with a crash landing after his aircraft ran out of fuel. Hartmann had violated almost every rule of air-to-air combat, and von Bonin sentenced him to three days of working with the ground crew. Twenty-two days later, Hartmann claimed his first victory, an Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik of the 7th Guards Ground Attack Aviation Regiment, but by the end of 1942, he had added only one more victory to his tally. As with many high-claiming aces, it took him some time to establish himself as a consistently successful fighter pilot. On 5th November 1942, an Il-2 shot up his Bf 109 G-2 engine resulting in a forced landing at Digora.
Hartmann’s youthful appearance earned him the nickname “Bubi” (the hypocoristic form of “young boy” in the German language), and Walter Krupinski, to whom Hartmann was assigned as wingman, would constantly urge him: “Hey, Bubi, get in closer” or chastise him with “What was that Bubi”? The danger of this method was evident on 25th May 1943 when he collided with a Soviet fighter instead of shooting it down. Nevertheless, Hartmann steadily improved. In Krupinski’s absence, from the third week of May to the first week of August, Hartmann’s number of claims rose from 17 to 60.
On 5th July Hartmann claimed four victories during the large dogfights that took place during the Battle of Kursk. The day ended badly when Hartmann was unable to prevent Krupinski from being shot down and wounded over Ugrim airfield. Hartmann remarked; “the departure of Krupinski was a severe strike against the Staffel, and particularly against me.” Hartmann began to score successes regularly in a target rich environment. On 7th July he claimed five, including two Il-2s from the 1 ShAK regiment.
On 8th and 9th July 1943 he claimed four on each day. On the former date, Hartmann claimed two aircraft on each mission he flew. In the first, Soviet records show at least one La-5 was lost. Major Tokarev of the 40 IAP was killed. In the afternoon, a two-man patrol with Günther Rall resulted in two claims, and a third for Rall. A Soviet after-battle analysis mentioned this specific engagement;
“Eight Yak-1s in the Provorot region observed two Me 109s off their flight path. Paying no attention to the enemy aircraft our fighters continued. Seizing a convenient moment, the German fighters attacked our aircraft and shot down three Yak-1s.”
At the start of August 1943, his tally stood at 42, but Hartmann’s tally had more than doubled by the end. The Red Army began a counteroffensive in the region to contain the German operation and destroy its forces (Operation Kutuzov and Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev). JG 52 was engaged in defensive operations throughout the month. On 1st August 1943 Hartmann became an ace-in-a day by claiming five victories. Another four followed on 3rd August and five on the 4th August. Another five were claimed destroyed on the 5th August, a single on the 6th August, and a further five on 7th August. On 8th and 9th August he claimed another four Soviet fighters. Hartmann’s last claim of the month came on the 20th, when he accounted for an IL-2 for his 90th victory. The next month, on 2nd September, he was appointed Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 52. He replaced Leutnant Berthold Korts in this capacity who had been reported missing in action on 29th August.
In his first year of operational service, Hartmann felt a distinct lack of respect towards Soviet pilots. Most Soviet fighters did not even have effective gunsights and their pilots, some cases in the early weeks, were forced to draw one on the windscreen by hand: “In the early days, incredible as it may seem, there was no reason for you to feel fear if the Russian fighter was behind you. With their hand-painted gunsights they couldn’t pull the lead properly (deflection shooting) or hit you.” Hartmann also considered the Bell P-39 Airacobra, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and the Hawker Hurricane to be inferior to the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and Bf 109, although they did provide the Soviets with valuable gunsight technology.
Hartmann said the German pilots themselves still learned from their enemy. Oil freezing in the DB 605 engines of the Bf 109G-6s made them difficult to start in the extreme cold of the Russian winter. A captured Soviet airman showed them how pouring fuel into the aircraft’s oil sump would thaw the oil and enable the engine to start on the first try. Another solution, also learned from the Soviets, was to ignite fuel under the engine.
In contrast to Hans-Joachim Marseille, who was a marksman and expert in the art of deflection shooting, Hartmann was a master of stalk-and-ambush tactics, preferring to ambush and fire at close range rather than dogfight.
When the decorated British test pilot Captain Eric Brown asked Hartmann how he had accomplished his total, Hartmann remarked, that along with firing at close range, inadequate Soviet defensive armament and manoeuvre tactics allowed him to claim a victim in every attack.
His preferred method of attack was to hold fire until extremely close (20 m (66 ft) or less), then unleash a short burst at point-blank range—a technique he learned while flying as wingman of his former commander, Walter Krupinski, who favoured this approach. This technique, as opposed to long-range shooting, allowed him to:
- Reveal his position only at the last possible moment
- Compensate for the low muzzle velocity of the slower-firing 30 mm MK 108 equipping some of the later Bf 109 models (though most of his victories were claimed with Messerschmitts equipped with the high-velocity 20mm MG 151 cannon)
- Place his shots accurately with minimum waste of ammunition
- Prevent the adversary from taking evasive action
Hartmann’s guidance amplified the need to detect while remaining undetected. His approach was described by himself by the motto: “See–Decide–Attack–Reverse”; observe the enemy, decide how to proceed with the attack, make the attack, and then disengage to re-evaluate the situation. Hartmann’s instinct was to select an easy target or withdraw and seek a more favorable situation. Once the attack was over, the rule was to vacate the area; survival was paramount. Another attack could be executed if the pilot could re-enter the combat zone with the advantage.
If attacked in-kind Hartmann flew straight and used the rudder [yaw] to point the Bf 109 in a slightly different direction to mislead the attacker in the amount of deflection needed. Hartmann then forced the column into the corner of the cockpit beginning the outside rotation of an oblique loop. It was an emergency measure if ambushed and it saved his life several times.
These tactics inflated Hartmann’s successes over the summer of 1943. By 7th July he had claimed 21 Soviet aircraft destroyed and by 20 September he had claimed over 100.
Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross
The demands on fighter pilots increased after Kursk. In early August Hartmann flew 20 missions totalling 18 hours and 29 minutes in six days. By late August 1943, Hartmann had 90 aerial victories. On 20th August, in combat with Il-2s, his Bf 109 G-6 (Werknummer 20485—factory number) was damaged by debris, and he was forced to land behind Soviet lines at 06:20 in the vicinity of Artemivsk. Hartmann’s Geschwaderkommodore, Dietrich Hrabak, had given orders to Hartmann’s unit to support the dive bombers of Sturzkampfgeschwader 2, led by Hans-Ulrich Rudel in a counter-attack. The flight of eight German fighters engaged a mass of Soviet Yakovlev Yak-9 and Lavochkin La-5 fighter aircraft. Hartmann claimed two enemy aircraft before his fighter was hit by debris and he was forced to make an emergency landing.
In accordance with regulations, he attempted to recover the precision board clock. As he was doing so, Soviet soldiers approached. Realising that capture was unavoidable, he faked internal injuries. Hartmann’s acting so convinced the Soviets that they put him on a stretcher and placed him on a truck. When Hartmann’s Crew Chief, Heinz Mertens, heard what had happened, he took a rifle and went to search for Hartmann. Mertens was another important factor behind Hartmann’s success, ensuring the aircraft was reliable. Hartmann subsequently escaped, and returned to his unit on 23rd August. At least one sources suggests the cause of the crash-landing was enemy fire. Lieutenant P. Yevdokimov, flying an IL-2, from the 232 ShAP, may have hit Hartmann. This period was very successful; during five days of August 1943, Hartmann claimed 24 Soviet aircraft in 20 missions.
On 18th September, Hartmann downed two Yaks from the 812 IAP regiment for claims 92 and 93. On 20th September 1943, Hartmann was credited with his 100th aerial victory—he claimed four this day to end it on 101. He was the 54th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. Nine days later, Hartmann downed the Soviet ace Major Vladimir Semenishin of the 104 GIAP while protecting bombers from Kampfgeschwader 27 for his 112th victory.
In October 1943, Hartmann claimed another 33 aerial victories. On 2nd and 12th October he accounted for four victories and achieved a treble on 14th, 15th and 20th October and double claims on 24th, 25th and 29th October. On 29th October, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), at which point his tally stood at 148. By the end of the year, this had risen to 159. On 14th November 1943, his Bf 109 G-6 (Werknummer 20499) suffered engine failure resulting in a forced landing at Kirovohrad airfield.
In the first two months of 1944, Hartmann claimed over 50 Soviet aircraft. The successes included four on 17th January 1944 and on 26th February, a further 10 fighters were claimed shot down; all of them Soviet-flown P-39s to reach 202. His spectacular rate of success raised a few eyebrows even in the Luftwaffe High Command; his claims were double and triple-checked, and his performance closely monitored by an observer flying in his formation.
By this time, the Soviet pilots were familiar with Hartmann’s radio call sign of Karaya 1, and the Soviet Command had put a price of 10,000 rubles on the German pilot’s head. Hartmann was nicknamed the Cherniy Chort (“Black Devil”) because of his skill and paint scheme of his aircraft. This scheme was in the shape of a black tulip on the engine cowling; though this became synonymous with Hartmann in reality he flew with the insignia on only five or six occasions. Hartmann’s opponents were often reluctant to stay and fight if they noticed his personal design. As a result, this aircraft was often allocated to novices, who could fly it in relative safety. On 21st March, it was Hartmann who claimed JG 52’s 3,500th victory of the war. Adversely, the supposed reluctance of the Soviet airmen to fight caused Hartmann’s kill rate to drop. Hartmann then had the tulip design removed, and his aircraft painted just like the rest of his unit. Consequently, in the following two months, Hartmann claimed over 50 victories.
In March 1944, Hartmann, Gerhard Barkhorn, Walter Krupinski and Johannes Wiese were summoned to Adolf Hitler’s Berghof in Berchtesgaden. Barkhorn was to be honoured with the Swords, while Hartmann, Krupinski and Wiese were to receive the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). According to Hartmann, all four of them got drunk on cognac and champagne. On arrival at Berchtesgarden, Hartmann was reprimanded by Hitler’s adjutant for intoxication and for handling Hitler’s hat.
Diamonds to the Knight’s Cross
In April and May 1944, 9./JG 52 resisted the Soviet Crimean Offensive. In April Hartmann claimed five victories. In May, Hartmann filed claims number 208 to 231 which included six on the 6th May. On 8th May 1944, JG 52 fled the region as the German defence collapsed. JG 52 subsequently took part in the fighting on the Romanian border.
On 21st May 1944, Hartmann engaged United States Army Air Forces aircraft in Reichsverteidigung for the first time in defence of the Ploiești oilfields and engaging P-51 Mustangs for the first time over Romania. Research of German archives show Hartmann made one claim against a P-51 on 24th June 1944. Only one other claim against this type was made by Hartmann in 1945.
Later that month, P-51s ran his Messerschmitt out of fuel. During the intense manoeuvring, Hartmann ran out of ammunition. One of the P-51Bs flown by Lt. Robert J. Goebel of the 308th Squadron, 31st Fighter Group, broke away and headed straight for Hartmann while he hung in his parachute. Goebel was making a camera pass to record the bailout and banked away from him only at the last moment, waving at Hartmann as he went by.
On 17th August, Hartmann became the top scoring fighter ace, surpassing fellow JG 52 pilot Gerhard Barkhorn, with his 274th victory. On 23rd August, Hartmann claimed eight victories in three combat missions, an ace-in-a-day achievement, bringing his score to 290 victories. He passed the 300-mark on 24th August 1944, a day on which he shot down 11 aircraft in two combat missions, representing his greatest ever victories-per-day ratio (a double-ace-in-a-day) and bringing the number of aerial victories to an unprecedented 301.
Hartmann became one of only 27 German soldiers in World War II to receive the Diamonds to his Knight’s Cross. Hartmann was summoned to the Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze, Adolf Hitler’s military headquarters near Rastenburg, to receive the coveted award from Hitler personally. Hartmann was asked to surrender his side arm — a security measure heightened by the aftermath of the failed assassination attempt on 20th July 1944. According to one account, Hartmann refused and threatened to decline the Diamonds if he were not trusted to carry his pistol. During Hartmann’s meeting with Hitler, Hartmann discussed at length the shortcomings of fighter pilot training. Allegedly, Hitler admitted to Hartmann that he believed that, “militarily, the war is lost,” and that he wished the Luftwaffe had “more like him and Rudel.”
The Diamonds to the Knight’s Cross also earned Hartmann a 10-day leave. On his way to his vacation, he was ordered by General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland to attend a meeting in Berlin-Gatow. Galland wanted to transfer Hartmann to the Messerschmitt Me 262 test program but, at Hartmann’s request, the transfer was cancelled on the grounds of his professed attachment to JG 52. Hartmann argued to Göring that he best served the war effort on the Eastern Front. On 10th September, Hartmann married his long-time teenage love, Ursula “Usch” Paetsch. Witnesses to the wedding included his friends Gerhard Barkhorn and Wilhelm Batz.
Last combat missions
From 1st–14th February 1945, Hartmann briefly led I. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 53 as acting Gruppenkommandeur until he was replaced by Helmut Lipfert. In March 1945, Hartmann, his score now standing at 336 aerial victories, was asked a second time by General Adolf Galland to join the Me 262 units forming to fly the new jet fighter.
Hartmann attended the jet conversion program led by Heinrich Bär. Galland also intended Hartmann to fly with Jagdverband 44. Hartmann declined the offer, preferring to remain with JG 52. Some sources report that Hartmann’s decision to stay with his unit was due to a request via telegram made by Oberstleutnant Hermann Graf.
Now Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 52, Erich Hartmann claimed his 350th aerial victory on 17th April, in the vicinity of Chrudim. The last wartime photograph of Hartmann known was taken in connection with this victory. Hartmann’s last aerial victory occurred over Brno, Czechoslovakia, on 8th May, the last day of the war in Europe. Early that morning, he was ordered to fly a reconnaissance mission and report the position of Soviet forces. Hartmann took off with his wingman at 08:30 and spotted the first Soviet units just 40 kilometres (25 miles) away. Passing over the area, Hartmann saw a Yak-9, ambushed it from his vantage point at 12,000 ft (3,700 m) and shot it down.
When he landed, Hartmann learned that the Soviet forces were within artillery range of the airfield, so JG 52 destroyed Karaya One, 24 other Bf 109s, and large quantities of ammunition. Hartmann and Hermann Graf were ordered to fly to the British sector to avoid capture by Soviet forces while the remainder of JG 52 was ordered to surrender to the approaching Soviets. As Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 52, Hartmann chose to surrender his unit to members of the US 90th Infantry Division.
Prisoner of war
After his capture, the U.S. Army handed Hartmann, his pilots, and ground crew over to the Soviet Union on 14th May, where he was imprisoned in accordance with the Yalta Agreements, which stated that airmen and soldiers fighting Soviet forces had to surrender directly to them. Hartmann and his unit were led by the Americans to a large open-air compound to await the transfer.
In Hartmann’s account, the Soviets attempted to convince him to cooperate with them. He was asked to spy on fellow officers, but refused and was given ten days’ solitary confinement in a four-by-nine-by-six-foot chamber. He slept on a concrete floor and was given only bread and water. On another occasion, according to Hartmann, the Soviets threatened to kidnap and murder his wife (the death of his son was kept from Hartmann). During similar interrogations about his knowledge of the Me 262, Hartmann was struck by a Soviet officer using a cane, prompting Hartmann to hit the assailant with a chair, knocking him out. Expecting to be shot, he was transferred back to the small bunker.
Hartmann, not ashamed of his war service, opted to go on a hunger strike and starve rather than fold to “Soviet will”, as he called it. The Soviets allowed the hunger strike to go on for four days before force-feeding him. More subtle efforts by the Soviet authorities to convert Hartmann to communism also failed. He was offered a post in the East German Air Force, which he refused:
“If, after I am home in the West, you make me a normal contract offer, a business deal such as people sign every day all over the world, and I like your offer, then I will come back and work with you in accordance with the contract. But if you try to put me to work under coercion of any kind, then I will resist to my dying gasp.”
War crimes charges
During his captivity Hartmann was first arrested on 24th December 1949, and three days later, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The sentence was carried out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the district Ivanovo. The preliminary criminal investigation was carried out only formally. He was condemned for atrocities against Soviet citizens, the attack on military objects and the destruction of Soviet aircraft and thus having significantly damaged the Soviet economy. Hartmann protested multiple times against this judgement. In June 1951, he was charged for a second time as an alleged member of an anti-Soviet group. This tribunal was carried out under military authority in the military district of Rostov-on-Don. Hartmann was charged with war crimes, specifically the “deliberate shooting of 780 Soviet civilians” in the village of Briansk, attacking a “bread factory” on 23rd May 1943, and destroying 345 “expensive” Soviet aircraft. He refused to confess to these charges and conducted his own defence, which, according to Hartmann, the presiding judge denounced as a “waste of time”.
Sentenced to 25 years of hard labour, he refused to work, and was put into solitary confinement, which led to a riot by some of his fellow detainees, who overpowered the guards, and temporarily freed him. He made a complaint to the Kommandant’s office, asking for a representative from Moscow and an international inspection, as well as a new trial hearing to overturn his sentence. This was refused, and he was transferred to a camp in Novocherkassk, where he spent five more months in solitary confinement. He was later put before a new tribunal, which upheld the original sentence. He was subsequently sent to another camp, this time at Diaterka in the Ural Mountains.
In late 1955 Hartmann was released as a part of the last Heimkehrer. In January 1997, more than three years after his death, Hartmann’s case was reviewed by the Chief Military Prosecutor in Moscow of the Russian Federation, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and he was acquitted of all historical charges against him in Russian Law. The government agency stating that he had been wrongly convicted.
During his long imprisonment, Hartmann’s son, Erich-Peter, was born in 1945 and died as a three-year-old in 1948, without his father ever having seen him. Hartmann later had a daughter, Ursula Isabel, born on 23rd February 1957.
When Hartmann returned to West Germany, he reentered military service in the Bundeswehr and became an officer in the West German Air Force, where he commanded West Germany’s first all-jet unit from 6th June 1959 to 29 May 1962, Jagdgeschwader 71 “Richthofen”. This unit was equipped initially with Canadair Sabres and later with Lockheed F-104 Starfighters.
Hartmann also made several trips to the United States, where he was trained on U.S. Air Force equipment. In 1957 Hartmann began training with American instructors. The German pilots were trained at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet fighter course lasted 60 days and consisted of 33 hours of flight time in the Lockheed T-33 and 47 hours in the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak. Hartmann and the former Luftwaffe pilots needed only familiarisation training.
Hartmann considered the F-104 a fundamentally flawed and unsafe aircraft and strongly opposed its adoption by the air force. Already in 1957, Hartmann had recommended to Kammhuber to first buy and evaluate a few new and unfamiliar aircraft before committing the air force to a new aircraft type. Although events subsequently validated his low opinion of the aircraft (269 crashes and 116 German pilots killed on the F-104 in non-combat missions, along with allegations of bribes culminating in the Lockheed scandal), Hartmann’s outspoken criticism proved unpopular with his superiors, and he was put into early retirement in 1970.
From 1971–74, Hartmann worked as a flight instructor in Hangelar, near Bonn, and also flew in fly-ins with other wartime pilots.
Hartmann died on 20th September 1993, at the age of 71 in Weil im Schönbuch.
In 2016, Hartmann’s former unit, JG 71, honoured him by applying his tulip colour scheme to their current aircraft.
BF109G-6 “Erich Hartmann” 4./JG 52 Hungary, 1944
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Coronovirus: Royal Mail and Parcelforce Update
Royal Mail have issued an update with regards to the Coronavirus…
Public Health England (PHE) has advised that people receiving parcels are not at risk of contracting the coronavirus. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don’t survive long on objects, such as letters or parcels. This complements the highly publicised guidance from PHE for people to wash their hands more often than usual using soap and hot water.
We are actively monitoring this rapidly evolving situation. We take the health and safety of our people very seriously. We have provided guidance to our people, our customers and the communities in which we operate, to help prevent the spread of any infection. We are doing so in line with preventative guidance from Public Health England.
Signing for and receiving items
In order to protect both our people and customers as much as possible, we will not be handing over our hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures. Postmen and women will instead log the name of the person accepting the item. This will apply to all deliveries that require a signature.
Additionally, for all customers (including those who are self-isolating) where we need to deliver any parcel that won’t fit through your letterbox, we will place your item at your door. Having knocked on your door, we will then step aside to a safe distance while you retrieve your item. This will ensure your item is delivered securely rather than being left outside.
If you are unable to come to the door at all we will issue a ‘Something for You’ card, advising of other ways you can arrange to get your item. For example, by getting a friend or family member to collect the parcel from our local Customer Service Point on your behalf. In this situation, and to keep your mail as secure as possible, they will need to bring along the card we left you and a form of ID in the name of the person to which the item is addressed.
In the event we need to close one of our units, this decision would be made in line with Public Health England guidance. Royal Mail has many years’ experience of contingency planning for a number of different scenarios. We will follow the Government’s advice and work closely with the relevant authorities.
We have extensive experience in being able to quickly deploy business contingency plans so we continue to provide customers with access to our services and their mail.
Coronovirus International Shipment Updates
As you may know from the media recently, a number of countries are cancelling flights between Europe and themselves, and countries within the EU are shutting borders and some are or have gone on lockdown.
Unfortunately, this means that almost all international mail and parcels will be delayed wherever they go as many pass-through EU countries etc onto other destinations. Some freight also piggybacks onto commercial flights, like Royal Mail use BA to inject into the USA. These flights have recently been cancelled.
We will do our utmost to work with our carrier partners to ensure mail/parcels are stored safely in periods they are held and we will move the freight as quickly, safely and as smooth as possible.
Please note this may cause big breaks within the tracking where parcels haven’t been scanned and we expect we will see delays of up to 4/6 weeks to some destinations. This prediction is based on today’s activities.
Governments are making decisions on a daily basis so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where or when delays will occur.
I would ask our customers to be mindful of this when contacting our customer services team.
We will try to keep you informed wherever possible.