In this article we will talk about German pilot Erich Alfred Hartmann, who shot down 352 enemy aircraft in World War II and was shown as one of the World’s Best Pilots.
Eric Hartmann was born in 1922 as the son of doctor Alfred Erich Hartmann and his wife Elisabeth Wilhelmine Machtholf. His father went to China when he couldn’t find a job in Germany, which collapsed economically after of World War I. Part of Hartmann’s childhood passed there. When the civil war broke out in China in 1928, they returned to Germany.
Hartmann’s mother, one of Germany’s first female pilots, taught her son the basic principles of flying on his childhood. Hartmann, who made his first flight experience with a glider at the age of 14, attended the courses of the Luftwaffe and received his pilot’s license at the age of 17. In 1940, when he was just 18 years old, he started his duty in the German Air Force.
He was appointed to the Eastern Front in 1941. Hartmann’s first aircraft was the Messerschmitt BF 109. He shot down his first plane on November 5, 1942. This plane was IL-2 Sturmovik. It was the first Soviet plane to crash.
According to Erich Hartmann, when a pilot loses 51% of the maneuver advantage to the other side, he should immediately return to his base and review his mistakes in his hangar. Under no circumstances would he act silly demonstrations to the enemy or lose his ambition.
Eric Hartmann is not a very good shooter actually. But with his great ability to sneak up on the enemy aircraft, he has closed this marksmanship gap. One of the first things German pilot candidates were taught at the Fliegerschule is that they should return to base with some ammunition, but Erich Hartmann often returns with empty ammunition. In fact, when the Battle of Kursk was very hard, he fired the enemy planes so much that some of his teeth were broken due to the jolt in his plane.
Perhaps the most important factor that enables him to survive in such battles was the tactic of “see-decide-attack-leave”. He achieved this success by not risking himself unnecessarily. It is said that most of the enemy planes he hit fell without realizing where the bullet was coming from.
Hartmann, who generally fought in the Soviet Front during the two and a half years he fought, was not shot even once, he had to land his plane more than 10 times to the “most suitable” place he found, due to collisions or mechanical failures. He even landed behind the Russian front once and caught the Russians as injured, but managed to escape during his transport.
Eric Hartmann set a record by shooting down 352 planes
Nicknamed the “Blonde Knight” by the Germans and the “Black Devil” by the Russians, Hartmann set a very difficult record to break by shooting down 352 planes during the war. Hartmann, to whom Stalin awarded “10,000 rubles to his head” after a certain period of time, surrendered to the American forces with the rank of “Major, Group Commander” with the end of the war.
At the insistence of Stalin, he was extradited to the Soviet Union on May 27, 1945, and sentenced to 20 years in prison in a prison camp in Siberia. One of the crimes the court directed against him is “destroying 345 expensive Russian aircraft”. (The other 7 planes he dropped are American planes) After 10 years in a camp at the Ural Mountains, his mother changed his fate again when she wrote a letter to Konrad Adenauer, the Chancellor of West Germany. Following the deal between West Germany and the Soviet Union, Hartmann’s 10-year sentence ends and returns home.
Hartmann, who later initiated the establishment of the West German Air Force, worked as a colonel in this institution until 1970. Afterwards, he retired and worked as a flight instructor and aerobatic flights. Hartmann died in 1993 at the age of 76. After his dead ,he was restored by the Russian Federation in 1997, and it was declared that the crimes against him and his conviction were unjust.
Erich Hartmann is one of the rare soldiers who can receive the crystal knight’s cross medal, which only 27 German soldiers could get in the second world war.
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