Gerhard Schöpfel

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Gerhard Schöpfel
SchGerhard.jpg
Gerhard Schöpfel
Born (1912-12-19)19 December 1912
Erfurt
Died 17 May 2003(2003-05-17) (aged 90)
Bergisch Gladbach-Refrath
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1937–45
Rank Major
Unit JG 26, JG 54, JG 4, JG 6
Commands held JG 26, JG 4, JG 6
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Other work law

Gerhard Schöpfel (19 December 1912 – 17 May 2003) was a German World War II Luftwaffe 45-victory flying ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He held the position of Geschwaderkommodore of fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 26.

Military career[edit]

Gerhard "Gerd" Schöpfel was born on 19 December 1912 at Erfurt in Thüringen. He was originally a member of the police force but transferred to the Luftwaffe in 1936. Following completion of his flying training, Schöpfel was initially assigned to I./Jagdgeschwader 233 (JG 233—233rd Fighter Wing). However in June 1938 he was transferred to the Stab (HQ) flight of I./Jagdgeschwader 334 (JG 334—334th Fighter Wing), which became I./Jagdgeschwader 132 (JG 132—132nd Fighter Wing) and, ultimately, I./Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26—26th Fighter Wing). Oberleutnant Schöpfel took command of 9./JG 26 (9th Squadron) on its formation on 23 September 1939.[1]

Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of Franciszek Jan Kozlowski's Hurricane P3815

Schöpfel gained his first victory during the Battle of France, a Royal Air Force (RAF) Hawker Hurricane near Courtrai on 19 May 1940. He added to his score over the beaches of Dunkirk during the evacuation of the British Army. He was very successful during the Battle of Britain, and on 18 August 1940 he shot down four Hawker Hurricanes from No. 501 Squadron RAF in one sortie over Canterbury, England. P/O Bland was killed, and Sgt Kozlowski baled out burnt. The other two victims in this engagement were notable RAF fighter pilots; Sgt. Donald McKay (20 confirmed and 4 damaged victories) who baled out wounded, and P/O Kenneth Lee (7 confirmed and 1 damaged victories), who also baled out wounded.[2] Hauptmann Schöpfel became Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III./JG 26 when Göring promoted Adolf Galland (104 victories, RK-Br) to Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 26 on 22 August 1940, and on the same day shot down a Spitfire of No. 65 Squadron, his 13th victory. Soon afterward, on 11 September 1940, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on achieving 20 victories (the 11th Luftwaffe pilot to reach that mark).

On 1 December 1941 he was promoted to Major and on 6 December 1941 became Geschwaderkommodore of JG 26 when Galland was again promoted, this time to General der Jagdflieger. Through 1942, JG 26 and Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing) were the only defence in northern France as the RAF took the fight back to them. On 19 August 1942, over the Dieppe landings and now in the rugged Fw190A, he shot down two Spitfires for his 41st and 42nd victories. Schöpfel left JG 26 on 10 January 1943, with 45 victories, to take up a number of administrative roles - firstly as the I-a (Operations Officer) at Jafü Brittany. He then went to serve as Fighter Operations Officer for the South Italy Command from July (during the critical Sicily landings) and then Jafü (Fighter Leader) Norway from November.

He returned to a combat command on 1 May 1944, briefly joining the staff of III./Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—54th Fighter Wing) for a month. This was based in Germany on Reich Defence, and he mentored the newly promoted Gruppenkommandeur Siegfried Schnell who had previously commanded the 9./JG 2 squadron alongside Schöpfel on the Channel Front. Then on 1 June 1944, he was appointed Geschwaderkommodore of the newly set up Jagdgeschwader 4, also based on Defence of the Reich. The original Gruppe I./JG 4, formed in mid 1943, had previously been based in Romania defending the oilfields, and was currently based in northern Italy. The new II. and III./JG 4 Gruppen were authorised in mid July, and I./JG 4 transferred to Germany to join them to bring his Geschwader up to full strength. However, on 6 August he was shot down in combat and wounded near Schwerin flying Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 (Werknummer 440728—factory number).[3] His injuries were serious enough that he had to give up his command on 6 August to ObstLt Gerhard Michalski.

Following recovery from his wounds, in November 1944 Schöpfel was appointed as Jafü (Fighter Leader) Hungary. In February 1945 he commanded the Luftkriegsschule 2 (training school) at Gatow. On 10 April he was appointed the final Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 6 (JG 6—6th Fighter Wing) based in northern Czechoslovakia.

Unluckily, even though he had only been based on the Eastern Front for a month, at war's end Schöpfel became a prisoner of the Russians and was interned in Soviet prisons for four and a half years before finally returning to Germany in December 1949.[4]

Later life[edit]

After his release from imprisonment in the Soviet Union, Schöpfel worked as a chauffeur. He later became a merchant and in the early 1960s returned to the aviation field as an executive of Air Lloyd in Bonn, ironically in an office next to his former commander Adolf Galland. He died, of natural causes, on 17 May 2003 aged 90.[5]

Victories[edit]

'Gerd' Schöpfel flew over 700 missions and claimed 45 victories. His total including three USAAF four-engined bombers. All his victories were scored over the Western Front.

No Date Unit Aircraft Type Location Comments[6]
1 19 May 1940 Hurricane 9./JG 26 NW Tournai Hurricane of No. 615 Squadron RAF
2 29 May 1940 18:10 Spitfire 9./JG 26 W Dunkirk
3 31 May 1940 15:40 Spitfire 9./JG 26 Dunkirk Spitfire of No. 609 Squadron RAF
4 2 Jun 1940 9:25 Spitfire 9./JG 26
5 8 Aug 1940 12:35 Hampden 9./JG 26 S Ramsgate Blenheim of No. 600 Squadron RAF
6 8 Aug 1940 12:34 Spitfire 9./JG 26 W Canterbury Spitfire of No. 65 Squadron RAF
- 11 Aug 1940 11:30 Balloon 9./JG 26 S England
7 12 Aug 1940 12:30 Spitfire 9./JG 26 Folkestone
8 14 Aug 1940 13:30 Hurricane 9./JG 26 Folkestone-Dover
9 18 Aug 1940 13:55 Hurricane 9./JG 26 Near Canterbury Hurricane of No. 501 Squadron RAF, Sgt Kozlowski bailed out
10 18 Aug 1940 13:55 Hurricane 9./JG 26 Near Canterbury Hurricane (N2617) of No. 501 Squadron RAF, flown by Sgt. DS McKay (20/0/4 victories), bailed out, wounded
11 18 Aug 1940 13:56 Hurricane 9./JG 26 Near Canterbury Hurricane (P3059) of No. 501 Squadron RAF flown by P/O K Lee (7/0/1 victories, bailed out, wounded
12 18 Aug 1940 13:56 Hurricane 9./JG 26 Near Canterbury Hurricane of No. 501 Squadron RAF, P/O JW Bland, Killed.
13 22 Aug 1940 20:25 Spitfire III./JG 26 SE Dover Spitfire of No. 65 Squadron RAF
14 28 Aug 1940 10:10 Defiant III./JG 26 E Canterbury Defiant of No. 264 Squadron RAF
15 31 Aug 1940 10:00 Spitfire III./JG 26 Braintree Spitfire of No. 56 Squadron RAF
16 1 Sep 1940 15:00 Spitfire III./JG 26 London Spitfire of No. 72 Squadron RAF
- 6 Sep 1940 10:30 Hurricane III./JG 26 Dungeness UNCONFIRMED Hurricane of No. 303 Squadron RAF
17 7 Sep 1940 18:45 Spitfire III./JG 26 London Spitfire of No. 603 Squadron RAF
18 9 Sep 1940 18:05 Spitfire III./JG 26 Thames Estuary Spitfire of No. 92 Squadron RAF, P/O WC Watling wounded,
19 9 Sep 1940 18:07 Spitfire III./JG 26 Thames Estuary Spitfire of No. 92 Squadron RAF, P/O CH Saunders wounded,
20 9 Sep 1940 18:11 Spitfire III./JG 26 Thames Estuary Spitfire of No. 92 Squadron RAF
- 11 Sep 1940 17:30 Blenheim III./JG 26 UNCONFIRMED Blenheim of No. 235 Squadron RAF (2 lost)
21 29 Oct 1940 17:45 Hurricane III./JG 26 Hurricane of No. 257 Squadron RAF, Sgt.F Surma, bailed out
22 1 Nov 1940 15:35 Spitfire III./JG 26 Herne Bay Spitfire of No. 92 Squadron RAF
23 17 Jun 1941 19:40 Hurricane III./JG 26
24 23 Jun 1941 20:30 Blenheim III./JG 26 N France Blenheim of No. 107 Squadron RAF
25 27 Jun 1941 17:05 Hurricane III./JG 26
26 28 Jun 1941 8:50 Spitfire III./JG 26 Audruicq Spitfire of No. 306 Squadron RAF
27 2 Jul 1941 12:50 Spitfire III./JG 26 S Lilliers
28 11 Jul 1941 14:55 Spitfire III./JG 26
29 7 Aug 1941 11:40 Spitfire III./JG 26
30 7 Aug 1941 18:00 Spitfire III./JG 26 SW Dunkirk
31 9 Aug 1941 11:45 Spitfire III./JG 26 E Marquise Spitfire of No. 616 Squadron RAF
32 9 Aug 1941 17:59 Spitfire III./JG 26
33 21 Aug 1941 10:18 Spitfire III./JG 26
34 21 Sep 1941 16:30 Spitfire III./JG 26
35 27 Sep 1941 15:30 Spitfire III./JG 26
36 27 Nov 1941 17:30 Hurricane III./JG 26 5 km W Boulogne Hurricane of No. 607 Squadron RAF
37 24 Mar 1942 17:00 Spitfire Stab/JG 26 Pas-de-Calais Spitfire of No. 411 Squadron RCAF
38 28 Mar 1942 18:30 Spitfire Stab/JG 26 Pas-de-Calais Spitfire of No. 64 Squadron RAF
39 14 Apr 1942 18:33 Spitfire Stab/JG 26 Spitfire of No. 403 Squadron RAF
40 1 Jun 1942 13:55 Spitfire Stab/JG 26
41 19 Aug 1942 16:31 Spitfire Stab/JG 26 Off Dieppe Spitfire of No. 501 Squadron RAF
42 19 Aug 1942 18:30 Spitfire Stab/JG 26 Off Dieppe Spitfire of No. 222 Squadron RAF
43 8 Nov 1942 B-17 Stab/JG 26
44 8 Nov 1942 B-17 Stab/JG 26
45 6 Dec 1942 B-17 Stab/JG 26 B-17 of 305 Bombardment Group USAAF
- 20 Dec 1942 B-17 Stab/JG 26 UNCONFIRMED

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries website.
  2. ^ Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
  3. ^ Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
  4. ^ Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
  5. ^ Luftwaffe 39-45 Historia website.
  6. ^ Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
  7. ^ Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 422.
  8. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 680.
Bibliography
  • Caldwell, Donald L (1993). JG26 – Top Guns of the Luftwaffe Ballantine ISBN 0-87938-845-5
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Musciano, Walter (1989). Messerschmitt Aces Tab Books ISBN 0-8306-8379-8
  • 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 (2003). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-560-1
  • Spick, Mike (2006). Aces of the Reich. Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-675-6
  • Sundin, Claes & Bergström. Christer (1997). Luftwaffe Fighter Aircraft in Profile. Altglen, PA: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 0-7643-0291-4 including a colour profile of aircraft (#5)
  • Weal, John (1996). Bf109D/E Aces 1939-41. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-487-3.
  • Weal, John (1999). Bf109F/G/K Aces of the Western Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-905-0. including a colour profile of aircraft (#24)
  • Weal, John (1996). Focke-Wulf Fw190 Aces of the Western Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-595-0. including a colour profiles of aircraft (#18 & 25)

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
none
Commander of 9./Jagdgeschwader 26
September 23, 1939 – August 21, 1940
Succeeded by
Oblt Heinz Ebeling
Preceded by
Major Adolf Galland
Commander of III./Jagdgeschwader 26
August 22, 1940 – December 5, 1941
Succeeded by
Hptm Josef Priller
Preceded by
Oberst Adolf Galland
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
December 6, 1941 – January 10, 1943
Succeeded by
Major Josef Priller
Preceded by
Generalmajor Carl-August Schumacher
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Norwegen
May 1, 1943 – May, 1944
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Günther Scholz
Preceded by
Hauptmann Walther Dahl
Commander of Jagdgeschwader z.b.V.
June 6, 1944 – June 15, 1944
Succeeded by
Stab/Jagdgeschwader 4
Preceded by
none
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 4
June 15, 1944 – August 6, 1944
Succeeded by
Oberleutnant Gerhard Michalski
Preceded by
none
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Ungarn
August, 1944 – January 7, 1945
Succeeded by
none
Preceded by
Major Gerhard Barkhorn
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 6 Horst Wessel
April 10, 1945 – April 17, 1945
Succeeded by
Major Richard Leppla