Heinrich Ehrler : biography
Heinrich Ehrler (14 September 1917 – 4 April 1945) was a German World War II fighter ace whose distinguished Luftwaffe combat career ended in tragic controversy. Along with Theodor Weissenberger, Ehrler shared the honors of "top-ace" in Jagdgeschwader 5, amassing 208 kills - including eight in the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter (while flying with Jagdgeschwader 7).Toliver,Luftwaffe Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe, p. 238 Scapegoated for the loss of the German battleship Tirpitz, Ehrler - who had been nominated for the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords prior to the disaster - was court-martialled, stripped of his command and sentenced to three years and two months Festungshaft (honourable imprisonment).Toliver,Luftwaffe Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe, p. 311 Ehrler's sentence was later commuted and his loss of rank rescinded, and in February 1945 he was transferred to JG 7. According to his fellow pilots, Ehrler thereafter flew in the increasingly desperate air battles without the purpose and dedication that had made him one of the Luftwaffe's most successful aces.Toliver,Luftwaffe Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe, p. 312 On 4 April 1945, he shot down two Allied bombers for his final two victories, before destroying a third by ramming with his damaged aircraft after having run out of ammunition.
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (20 July 1942)Obermaier 1989, p. 57.
- German Cross in Gold on 18 March 1943 as Leutnant in the 6./JG 5Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 99.
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class (19 September 1941)Thomas 1997, p. 147.
- 1st Class (21 January 1942)
- Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
- Knight's Cross on 4 September 1942 as Leutnant and pilot in the 6./JG 5 Scherzer 2007, p. 290.
- 265th Oak Leaves on 2 August 1943 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of the III./JG 5
Recovered BF 109 G2
A BF 109, number 13605 of the 6./JG 5 was found in Russia, and was later purchased and recovered by warplane restorer Jim Pearce on November 2003. The aircraft was the one flown by Ehrler on his 200th kill. Afterward he transferred to JG 7 to fly the Me 262. The airframe was later shot down by Russian Flak over northwestern Russia and was forced to land in the tundra, and had sat there until it was recovered. It is currently being restored.
"Theo. I have run out of ammunition. I'm going to ram this one. Good bye. We'll see each other in Valhalla." - Heinrich Ehrler's last transmission over the Squadron Radio Network before he rammed the B-24 bomber "Trouble in Mind," piloted by Captain John Ray, destroying both aircraft and killing himself. "Theo" refers to Theodor Weissenberger.
Walter Schuck who followed the R/T exchange over the loudspeaker in the ops room recalls Ehrler's last words slightly differently. He believes they were: "Theo, Heinrich here. Have just shot down two bombers. No more ammunition. I'm going to ram. Auf Wiedersehen, see you in Valhalla!"Schuck,Luftwaffe Eagle - From the Me109 to the Me262, p. 201
World War II
Heinrich Ehrler started his career in the Luftwaffe in a flak-artillery unit, but transferred to pilot training early in 1940. Ehrler was posted to 4./Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) based in Norway.For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization He scored his first victory in May 1940. JG 77 supported X. Fliegerkorps (under Luftflotte 5) in operations against Britain from bases in Norway, often providing fighter cover for Stuka attacks against British shipping. JG 77 was restructured as JG 5 Eismeer in January 1942.Hafsten[et al.], Flyalarm - Luftkrigen over Norge 1939-1945, p. 145 JG 5 operated from bases in northern Norway and Finland, and they mostly engaged Russian aircraft, but were also given the task of intercepting British raids on Norway.
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