15 September 1920|
Kreuztal near Siegen
|Died||7 September 1942
near El Alamein
|Years of service||1939 – 1942|
|Commands held||2./JG 27|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub|
Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt (15 September 1920 – missing in action 7 September 1942) was a German fighter pilot and ace. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He scored all of his 59 victories against the Western Allies in North Africa flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Stahlschmidt was a close friend of the prominent ace Hans-Joachim Marseille (158 Kills).
Early life 
Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt was born on 15 September 1920 in Kreuztal, Westphalia as son to the manufacturer Arno Stahlschmidt. He attended the Volksschule in Kreuztal and received his Abitur in April 1939 from the Oberschule in Weidenau/Sieg.
Stahlschmidt completed his Reichsarbeitsdienst in Eichelsachsen near Gleiwitz. Afterwards he joined the military service in Salzwedel and became a professional soldier. In Salzwedel he completed his military basic training as a fighter pilot. He continued his training at the pilot training facilities in Breslau and Wien-Schwechat. From here he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 27.
War Time Service 
After joining Jagdgeschwader 27 at the beginning of 1941, Stahlschmidt took time to adapt to the desert conditions. However, before he scored a kill in air combat, he succeeded in sinking two Allied vessels, leading to the capture of 32 men.
His made his first combat kill, a Hawker Hurricane of 73 Squadron, on 15 June 1941. On 20 November 1941 Stahlschmidt claimed three 21 Squadron SAAF Maryland bombers shot down.
On 27 February 1942 Stahlschmidt was strafing Allied vehicles when his engine suddenly died. He crash-landed and was taken prisoner by Free Polish soldiers, who beat Stahlschmidt and stole his medals. He managed to escape on foot later that night and after a 24 hour 60 kilometres (37 mi) trek through the desert reached the German lines.
On 21 February, Stahlschmidt was part of a formation led by his Staffelkapitän, Oberleutnant Gerhard Homuth. They observed 11 P-40 Kittyhawk aircraft near Acroma. In a letter to his mother he described the subsequent events:
I saw the Curtiss planes approximately 300 meters below us and falling away below. These aircraft were no threat to us whatsoever! Now I just wanted to level out of my turning bank, since my colleagues were already at a substantially higher altitude. Keppler (his wingman), overshot me. Once again, I saw the Curtiss planes 300 meters directly below me and counted eleven aircraft.
Not suspecting anything untoward, I continued my level climb. All of a sudden there was a loud noise in my cockpit — I'd taken cannon [sic][Notes 1] fire.
The crate immediately flipped uncontrollably onto its back. Fuel gushed into the cockpit; it began smoking and then I completely lost control of the Bf 109, spiraling down on my back through the Curtisses.
Over the intercom I heard the angry voice of Homuth: "Which of you idiots just let himself get shot down?"
Trailing a long column from my radiator I fell earthward. The water temperature climbed to 140 degrees. At an altitude of 1,000 meters I again regained control of the crate. With a bit of flair and fortune I managed to fly the 100 km to our own lines, during which I would only switch the engine [on] for short periods, in order to gain altitude for the long glide home.
Crash landing in "no mans land", Stahlschmidt escaped the burning wreck with just a pair of singed eyebrows. Once again, as he ran on foot toward German lines, Stahlschmidt was fired on by an Allied truck convoy which he had just overflown. A German forward unit rescued him.
Back at Staffel HQ Stahlschmidt learned from Marseille and Homuth that the lead Kittyhawk had pulled up sharply and fired accurately; both were of the opinion that it was a wonderful shot. The Allied pilot was the leading Australian ace, Squadron Leader Clive Caldwell, CO of No. 112 Squadron RAF.[Notes 2]
Stahlschmidt was awarded the Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold for fighter pilots in February 1942. He was the first pilot in Africa to complete 200 combat missions. He was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 9 April 1942, followed on 20 August by the Knight's Cross, for his 50th victory.
On 1 July 1942, Stahlschmidt was promoted to Staffelkapitän of 2./JG 27. As the numerical superiority of the Allies began to tell, in the summer of 1942, Stahlschmidt's successes climbed, scoring 25 kills in July 1942 alone.
His last kill came on 5 September 1942 when he dispatched two P-40 fighter-bombers; his final victim and 59th aerial victory was at 18:25 hours, south of Hammam.
On 7 September 1942 Stahlschmidt, flying Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4 (W.Nr. 8704) "Red 4", was part of a Schwarm that had taken off on a freie Jagd (fighter sweep) south east of El Alamein. They intercepted a tactical reconnaissance Hurricane covered by a strong escort of Hurricane MK IICs from No. 33 Squadron RAF and No. 213 Squadron RAF. However, Stahlschmidt's flight had failed to notice a flight of Spitfire Mk Vcs of No. 601 Squadron RAF, which had been flying "up in the sun". Diving on the Bf 109s, the Spitfires shot down Oberleutnant Karl von Lieres und Wilkau (24 kills) and Stahlschmidt. The former survived a torrid crash landing. His commander, Eduard Neumann, dispatched the 1st and 2nd Staffeln to search for the missing ace, but Stahlschmidt was nowhere to be found. He was posted as missing in action, and his exact fate remains unknown to this day. Recent research suggests that he may have been shot down by an American ace, Flight Lieutenant John H. Curry (RCAF; 7.5 claims), of 601 Sqn.
In over 400 combat missions in North Africa Stahlschmidt scored 59 kills, all but four being single engine fighters. On 3 January 1944 he posthumously became the 365th recipient of the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross and was promoted to Oberleutnant on that date.
In the space of three weeks I. Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 27 had been rocked by the deaths of its three top aces, Stahlschmidt's death only 24 hours after the death of JG 27 ace Günter Steinhausen (40 kills) and was followed on 30 September 1942 by the death of Hans-Joachim Marseille (the "Star of Africa"; 158 kills). I./JG 27 claimed 588 aircraft shot down in April 1941–November 1942. Stahlschmidt, Steinhausen and Marseille accounted for 250 of these; 42% of the unit's total.
Understandably morale fell so low that the Gruppe was withdrawn to Sicily in October. It returned briefly to North Africa but was withdrawn from the theatre for the final time in December 1942.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold
- German Cross in Gold on 9 April 1942 as Leutnant in the I./JG 27
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
- Alman 1998, p. 197.
- Brown 2000, p. 83.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 136.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 138.
- C. Shores & C. Williams 1994, p.163
- Alman 1998, p. 206.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 453
- Scutts, 1994. pp. 32–33.
- Williamson 1989, p. 142.
- C. Shores & C. Williams 1994, p. 204.
- Mediterreanean Air war, C. Shores, Ian Allan Publications , 1974
- Thomas 1998, p. 343.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 716.
- Alman, Karl. Ritterkreuzträger des Afrikakorps (in German). Rastatt, Germany: VPM Verlagsunion Pabel Moewig, 1998. ISBN 3-8118-1457-5.
- Brown, Russell. Desert Warriors: Australian P-40 Pilots at War in the Middle East and North Africa, 1941-1943. Maryborough, Queensland, Australia: Banner Books, 2000. ISBN 1-875593-22-5.
- Bungay, Stephan. Alamein. London: Aurum Press, 2002. ISBN 1-85410-842-5.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945 (in German). Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
- Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit. Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 - 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall, 2001. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
- Kurowski, Franz. German Fighter Ace: Hans-Joachim Marseille: Star of Africa. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 1994. ISBN 0-88740-517-7.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Scutts, Jerry. Bf 109 Aces of North Africa and the Mediterranean. London: Osprey Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-85532-448-2.
- Shores, Christopher. Aces High – Volume 2: A Further Tribute to the Most Notable Fighter Aces of the British and Commonwealth Air Forces in World War II. London: Grub Street, 1999. ISBN 1-902304-03-9.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 3-7648-2300-3.
- Weal, John. Jagdgeschwader 27 'Afrika'. London: Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN 1-84176-538-4.
- Williamson, Gordon & Bujeiro, Ramiro (2005). Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves Recipients 1941-45. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-642-9.
- Williamson, Gordon. Aces of the Reich. London: Arms and Armour, 1989. ISBN 0-85368-986-5.
- Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt @ Aces of the Luftwaffe
- Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt @ Adlertag (German)
- Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt @ Lexikon der Luftwaffe (German)