Otto Kittel : biography
Otto "Bruno" Kittel (21 February 1917 – 14 or 16 February 1945) was a World War II Luftwaffe flying ace. He flew 583 combat missions on the Eastern Front, claiming 267 aerial victories, making him the fourth highest scoring ace in aviation history.Weal 2001, p. 123.Scutts 1992, p. 145. Kittel claimed all of his victories flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 against the Red Air Force.Sims 1970, p. 174.
Kittel joined the Luftwaffe in 1939, at the age of 22 and flew his first combat missions in 1941.Kurowski 1996, p. 267. In spring 1941, he joined Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54) supporting Army Group North on the Eastern Front. Kittel claimed his first victory on 22 June 1941, the opening day of Operation Barbarossa. Kittel took time to amass his personal tally of aerial victories. By February 1943, he reached 39 kills, relatively insignificant when compared with some other German aces. In 1943, his tally began to increase when JG 54 began to operate the Fw 190. Kittel earned the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 29 October 1943, for reaching 120 aerial victories. By the time he was officially awarded the decoration he had a tally of 123. A large number of his Soviet victims included the IL-2 Shturmovik aircraft, leading the German Army to call him the "Butcher Killer", a nickname they had given to the tough Shturmovik.Kurowski 1996, p. 268.
During the remainder of World War II, Kittel was credited with 144 other aerial victories, which earned him the coveted Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. On his 583rd combat mission, he was shot down and killed by the air gunner of a Shturmovik on 14 or 16 February 1945. Kittel was the most successful German fighter pilot to be killed in action.Bergström 2008, p. 103.
- Wound Badge in BlackBerger 2000, p. 152.
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (21 December 1942)Obermaier 1989, p. 39.
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold with Pennant "500"
- Combined Pilots-Observation Badge
- German Cross in Gold on 18 March 1943 as Feldwebel in the 2./JG 54Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 230.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class (30 June 1941)Kurowski 2007, p. 149.
- 1st Class (October 1941)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Knight's Cross on 29 October 1943 as Oberfeldwebel (Master Sergeant or First Sergeant) and pilot in the 2./JG 54Fellgiebel 2000, p. 257.
- 449th Oak Leaves on 11 April 1944 as Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) pilot in the 1./JG 54Fellgiebel 2000, p. 81.
- 113th Swords on 25 November 1944 as Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) (war officer) and Staffelkapitän of the 2./JG 54Fellgiebel 2000, p. 46.
Otto Kittel was born on 21 February 1917 in Kronsdorf (In 1935 the municipality was renamed as Krasov) near Krnov in Sudeten Silesia, Austria-Hungary. His father's name was Eduard Kittel. Otto had a reserved personality, softly spoken, which did not fit the perceived public image of a fighter pilot.Kurowski 1996, p. 298.
Fascinated with flight at an early age, he joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 at age 22. After completing his training on 12 February 1941, Kittel was posted to JG 54 based at Jever, Germany.Kurowski 2007, p. 10. Kittel was assigned to 2 Staffel (Squadron) JG 54 at the rank of Unteroffizier. During his training he was considered a good comrade on account of his unshakeable calm, presence of mind and sense of duty. Owing to his attributes, his superior officers treated him with respect. During his training and early career Hannes Trautloft became a role model and offered Kittel advice about his techniques. He also formed a friendship with German ace Hans Philipp, who often shared advice about aerial combat. Philipp had served as a pastor when Kittel married his fiancé, Edith in June 1942 at Krasnogvardeysk. Edith had travelled into occupied Soviet territory near the front line to marry Kittel.Kurowski 1996, pp. 299 –300. They had one son, Manfred Kittel, born in 1945.Kurowski 2007, pp. 147 –148.
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