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Erbo Graf von Kageneck : biography

2 April 1918 - 12 January 1942

Erbo Graf von Kageneck (2 April 1918 – 12 January 1942) was a German fighter pilot and flying ace in the Luftwaffe from 1938 to 1942 during World War II. Graf von Kageneck was credited with 67 aerial victories—that is, 67 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft. He was the winner of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves.


  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class (14 May 1940)Thomas 1997, p. 339.
    • 1st Class (11 July 1940)
  • Wound Badge
    • in Black
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
    • Knight's Cross on 30 July 1941 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 9./JG 27Scherzer 2007, p. 428.
    • 39th Oak Leaves on 26 October 1941 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 9./JG 27

Early life

Graf von Kageneck was born in Bonn, one of four sons of Generalmajor Karl Graf von Kageneck and Freiin Maria von Schorlemer, daughter of Clemens Freiherr von Schorlemer, an Imperial Secretary of Agriculture. His brothers included:

  • Clemens-Heinrich Graf von Kageneck (1913–2005), Captain of the panzer troops
∞ Countess Caroline Henckel von Donnersmarck
  • Franz Joseph Graf von Kageneck (1915–1941)
∞ Princess Elisabeth Maria of Bavaria
  • August Graf von Kageneck (1922–2004), journalist and writer

After passing his Abitur in 1936, Kageneck immediately joined the German air force, the Luftwaffe. At the outbreak of World War II, he served with Jagdgeschwader 1 and flew his first missions of war during the invasion of Poland. Kageneck scored his first victory during the first days of the Blitzkrieg in the Netherlands and soon claimed 4 kills in the skies of Western Europe. He claimed a further nine victories during the Battle of Britain and on 18 September 1940, he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of Staffel 9, Jagdgeschwader 27. Kageneck also gained four victories over Hawker Hurricanes during his spell supporting the offensive against Malta.


  • Close personal friend of panzer commander Franz Wittelsbach, Prinz von Bayern.

North Africa

In December 1941, Kageneck was transferred back to the Mediterranean theatre with Staffel 9, JG 27 and gained his last two victories against British Commonwealth fighters over the deserts of North Africa.

On December 24, Kageneck was seriously wounded in combat with several Desert Air Force (DAF) Tomahawks, and Hurricanes south of Agedabia. Both Sgt. Maxwell (of No. 94 Squadron RAF) and P/O Thompson (No. 229 Squadron RAF) made claims for a fighter shot down in the same action. Many years later, some sources, including Kageneck's brother, August Graf von Kageneck, claimed that the shots which hit Erbo were fired by the pre-eminent Australian ace of the war, Clive Caldwell.Alexander 2006, p. 224-228. The main reason for this was that Caldwell favoured attacks from beneath his opponents, which was precisely the fashion in which Kageneck's wounds were sustained.

Although he suffered severe injuries to his stomach, abdomen and groin, Kageneck managed to fly his crippled fighter back to his base at El Magrun and pull off an emergency landing. He was immediately evacuated, first to a hospital in Athens, and then to another in Naples where, despite intensive care, he died of his wounds on 12 January 1942 at the age of 23. He was posthumously promoted to Hauptmann (captain).

Operation Barbarossa

In 1941, during the invasion of the Soviet Union, JG 27 was tasked with neutralising the Soviet air force. Kageneck shot down more than 20 Soviet aircraft in less than four weeks. For that he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 30 July 1941 and also was promoted to Oberleutnant (first lieutenant). By October 1941, Kageneck had recorded 48 Soviet victories and — with his total now at 65 — was awarded the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross (Nr. 39) on 26 October 1941.

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