19 December 1912|
|Died||17 May 2003
|Years of service||1937–1945|
|Unit||JG 26, JG 54, JG 4, JG 6|
|Commands held||JG 26, JG 4, JG 6|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
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.
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.
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. 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). 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.
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.
'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.
|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|
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (27 August 1940)
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st class
- German Cross in Gold on 9 December 1941 as Hauptmann in the III./JG 26
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 11 September 1944 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of the III./JG 26 "Schlageter"
- Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries website.
- Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
- Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
- Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
- Luftwaffe 39-45 Historia website.
- Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 422.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 680.
- 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)
- "Aces of the Luftwaffe". Gerhard Schöpfel. Retrieved 24 September 2007.
- "Luftwaffe 39-45 Historia". Gerhard Schöpfel. Retrieved 1 November 2005.
- "Battle of Britain". Gerhard Schöpfel. Retrieved 27 January 2006.
- "Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries". Gerhard Schöpfel. Retrieved 29 December 2012
|Commander of 9./Jagdgeschwader 26
September 23, 1939 – August 21, 1940
Oblt Heinz Ebeling
Major Adolf Galland
|Commander of III./Jagdgeschwader 26
August 22, 1940 – December 5, 1941
Hptm Josef Priller
Oberst Adolf Galland
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
December 6, 1941 – January 10, 1943
Major Josef Priller
Generalmajor Carl-August Schumacher
|Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Norwegen
May 1, 1943 – May, 1944
Oberstleutnant Günther Scholz
Hauptmann Walther Dahl
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader z.b.V.
June 6, 1944 – June 15, 1944
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 4
June 15, 1944 – August 6, 1944
Oberleutnant Gerhard Michalski
|Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Ungarn
August, 1944 – January 7, 1945
Major Gerhard Barkhorn
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 6 Horst Wessel
April 10, 1945 – April 17, 1945
Major Richard Leppla