Emil Bitsch during World War II
14 June 1916|
|Died||15 March 1944
Schijndel, The Netherlands
|Buried at||Ysselsteyn, Netherlands|
|Years of service||1941–44|
|Commands held||8./JG 3|
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Emil Bitsch (14 June 1916 – 15 March 1944) was a Luftwaffe flying ace of World War II. He was one of the most successful pilots on the Eastern Front; being credited with 108 aerial victories—that is, 108 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of an enemy aircraft. He claimed 104 victories over the Eastern Front and four more over the Western Front (all four-engine bombers). He is one of two pilots credited with shooting down the Soviet female ace Yekaterina Budanova. Bitsch was killed in action with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters on 15 March 1944.
World War II
In July 1941, Bitsch first served with III./Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3—3rd Fighter Wing), based on the Eastern Front. Lieutenant Bitsch claimed his first victory on 2 July by shooting down an Il-2. He had a total of five victories by 1942. He claimed two Russian Yak-4 twin-engine fighters which were shot down on 24 June 1942 to claim his 9th and 10th victories. In July, he claimed 15 victories, including his 20th 'kill' which he shot down on 13 July. Bitsch recorded 18 victories in August, including his 30th victim shot down on 16 August; his score had risen to 40 on 28 August.
On 4 September 1942, Oberleutnant Bitsch was shot down northwest of Stalingrad. He bailed out of his Bf 109 F-4 and landed safely but had suffered light injuries in the incident. He returned to combat duty and proved himself effective again. Bitsch recorded his 50th victory on 19 March 1943 three km South of Stary. On 1 June 1943, Bitsch was appointed Staffelkapitän of 8./JG 3. In July, Oberleutnant Bitsch claimed 29 victories, including six enemy aircraft shot down on 5 July. On 19 July he shot a Yak-1 down on the Mius front, probably flown by Soviet female ace Yekaterina Budanova. He recorded his 100th victory on 21 July. Bitsch was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knights Cross) on 29 August after 104 victories.
In August 1943, III./JG 3 was transferred to Germany to serve on Reichsverteidigung (defense of the Reich) duties. Bitsch shot four United States four-engine bombers down during this period. On 15 March 1944, Bitsch was shot down and killed in a Bf 109 G-6 in aerial combat with USAAF P-47 fighters of the 352d Fighter Group over Schijndel.
Bitsch is buried at the German war cemetery at Ysselsteyn (in the Netherlands). The crash site was re-discovered in 1994 by Thijs Hellings, a researcher of the World War II airwar from Schijndel. With help from the land-owner, remains of the plane were recovered including the radio, armored glass, the compass and many other small items.
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (31 August 1942)
- German Cross in Gold on 19 October 1942 as a Leutnant in the I./JG 3
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 29 August 1943 as an Oberleutnant (war officer) and Staffelkapitän of the 8./JG 3 "Udet"
- Spick, p. 232.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 89.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 44.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 223.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Milanetti, Gian Piero (2013). Soviet Airwomen of the Great Patriotic War - A pictorial history. Rome, Italy: Istituto Bibliografico Napoleone. ISBN 9788875651466.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1941 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7.
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Spick, Mike. Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. Ivy Books, 1996. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- "Aces of the Luftwaffe". Emil Bitsch. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
- "Ritterkreuzträger 1939–45". Emil Bitsch. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
- for details of the excavation of his plane.
- Emil Bitsch at www.luftwaffe-reich.co.uk
- German Aces of WWII at www.acesofWorld War II.com