10 September 1916|
|Died||7 March 1945
|Buried at||cemetery in Valašské Meziříčí|
|Years of service||1936–45|
|Unit||JG 71, JG 2, JG 51, JG 77|
|Commands held||I./JG 2, I./JG 51, JG 77|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Erich Leie (born 10 September 1916 in Kiel – killed in action 7 March 1945 in Drogomyśl, Poland) was a German World War II fighter ace who served in the Luftwaffe until his death on 7 March 1945. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Oberstleutnant and nominated for the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
In March 1940, Leie joined III./Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing) and claimed his first victory on 14 May when he shot down a Bristol Blenheim.[Note 1] By October 1940, Leie was serving with Geschwaderstab of JG 2, and had 11 victories by the end of the year. Leie was awarded the Ritterkreuz in August 1941 after claiming 21 victories in the west. He claimed 6 Spitfires shot down in one day on 23 July, and by the end of 1941, his total was 32.
In May 1942, Leie became Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of I Gruppe, JG 2. He saw action in the air battle over Dieppe on 19 August, claiming a Spitfire. However, he was shot down and wounded, bailing out of his Focke Wulf Fw 190 A-3.
In January 1943, Leie transferred as Gruppenkommandeur to I./Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing), based on the Eastern Front. Leie led the Gruppe during the offensive operations leading up to Operation Zitadelle, the Battle of Kursk, in July 1943. In November 1943 Leie, by now a major, recorded his 100th victory. After a spell of leave in March, he returned to duty only to be shot down by Russian fighters on 6 July. He bailed out over Russian lines but on descending by parachute, was blown back over German lines. By October 1944, Leie's victory total stood at 114. He became Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) in December 1944.
Leie was killed over Drogomyśl, 20 km northeast of Cieszyn (southern Poland) on 7 March 1945, when he collided with a crashing Russian Yak 9 fighter and failed to survive a low level bail-out from his Bf 109 G-14/AS. He was officially credited with 118 victories from over 500 combat missions. He claimed 76 victories over the Eastern Front, including 32 Il-2 Sturmovik ground attack aircraft. Among his 42 claims recorded over the Western Front, 30 were Supermarine Spitfire fighters and one was a four-engine bomber.
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st class
- German Cross in Gold on 20 October 1942 as Oberleutnant in the I./JG 2
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 1 August 1941 as Oberleutnant and pilot in the Stab of I./JG 2 "Richthofen"[Note 2]
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 274.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 288.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 500.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [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.
- MacLean, French L (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports: For the Knight's Cross Winners. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 978-0-7643-2657-8.
- 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.
- "Aces of the Luftwaffe". Erich Leie. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
Major Siegfried Freytag
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 77 Herz As
1 July 1943 – 7 March 1944
Major Siegfried Freytag