Gerhard Barkhorn bigraphy, stories - German World War II fighter pilot

Gerhard Barkhorn : biography

20 March 1919 - 8 January 1983

Lieutenant-General Gerhard "Gerd" Barkhorn (20 March 1919 – 8 January 1983) was the second most successful fighter ace of all time after fellow Luftwaffe pilot Erich Hartmann. Barkhorn joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 and completed his training in 1939.

Barkhorn flew his first combat missions in May 1940, during the Battle of France and then the Battle of Britain without scoring an aerial victory—that is an aerial combat encounter resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft. His first victory came in July 1941 and his total rose steadily against Soviet opposition. In March 1944 he was awarded the third highest decoration in the Wehrmacht when he received the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern) for 250 aerial victories. Despite being the second highest scoring pilot in aviation history, Barkhorn was not awarded the Diamonds to his Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords after achieving his 300th victory on 5 January 1945.

Barkhorn flew 1,104 combat sorties and was credited with 301 victories on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Air Force piloting the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9. He flew with the famed Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—Fighter Wing 52), alongside fellow aces Hartmann and Günther Rall, and Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2). Less than two weeks later he left JG 52 on the Eastern Front and joined Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3), defending Germany from Western Allied air attack.

Barkhorn survived the war and was taken prisoner by the Western Allies in May 1945 and released later that year. After the war Barkhorn joined the Bundesluftwaffe, serving until 1976. On 6 January 1983, Barkhorn was involved in a car accident with his wife Christl. She died instantly and Gerhard died two days later on 8 January 1983.

After the war

Barkhorn joined the Bundesluftwaffe in 1956, rose to command JaboG 31 Boelcke and retired in 1976 with the rank of Generalleutnant.

On 6 January 1983, during a winter storm on an autobahn near Cologne, he and his wife Christl were involved in a car accident; his wife died instantly and Barkhorn died in hospital on 8 January 1983. They were buried in Tegernsee, Bavaria.



For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designations, see Luftwaffe Organization



  • Wound Badge in BlackBerger 1999, p. 20.
  • Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold with Pennant "1,100"
  • Combined Pilots-Observation Badge
  • Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (20 July 1942)Obermaier 1989, p. 35.
  • German Cross in Gold on 21 August 1942 as Oberleutnant in the 4./JG 52Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 24.
  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd class (23 October 1940)MacLean 2007, p. 223.
    • 1st class (3 December 1940)
  • Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
    • Knight's Cross on 23 August 1942 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 4./JG 52Scherzer 2007, p. 202.Fellgiebel 2000, p. 122.
    • 175th Oak Leaves on 11 January 1943 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 4./JG 52Fellgiebel 2000, p. 65.
    • 52nd Swords on 2 March 1944 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of the II./JG 52Fellgiebel 2000, p. 42.
  • Mentioned twice in the Wehrmachtbericht

References in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
2 December 1943 Hauptmann Barkhorn, Gruppenkommandeur in einem Jagdgeschwader, erzielte seinen 200. Luftsieg.Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 619.

Hauptmann Barkhorn, Group commander in a fighter wing, achieved his 200th aerial victory.

14 February 1944 Der Gruppenkommandeur eines Jagdgeschwaders Eichenlaubträger Hauptmann Barkhorn errang am 13. Februar 1944 an der Ostfront seinen 250. Luftsieg.Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 34. Group commander of a fighter wing and Oak Leaves wearer Hauptmann Barkhorn achieved his 250th aerial victory on the Eastern front.
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