23 August 1914|
|Died||2 June 1986
Cologne, West Germany
|Years of service||1936–45|
|Unit||JGr 152, ZG 52, ZG 2, JG 51, JG 11, JG 110|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Hartmann Grasser (23 August 1914 – 2 June 1986) was a World War II German fighter ace. He was credited with shooting down 103 Allied aircraft while flying 700 missions on the Western Front (8 victories), Eastern Front (83 victories), and in North Africa (12 victories.) He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
Grasser was born on 23 August 1914 in Graz, Steiermark, Austria. After he received his Abitur he started studying medicine, however, due to political reasons, he was forced to leave Austria. Austrian National Socialism had been suppressed under the rule of Engelbert Dollfuss in 1934. He was trained at the Naval School in Neustadt and at the flying sports school at Rossitten, followed by six months at the Johannisthal flying school. Grasser then joined the Luftwaffe with the rank of Fahnenjunker (cadet) on 1 April 1936.
World War II
Beginning of the war
At the beginning of the war, Grasser was serving with Jagdgruppe (JG) 152 and was assigned to the 3./JG 152. After a short service in Poland, the group was relocated to the west in mid-September 1939. He participated in the Battle of France and shot down a French observation balloon on 16 September 1939. Grasser shot down a French Curtiss H75 fighter near Hornbach on 24 September, which marked his first victory over an aircraft.
Battle of Britain
In January 1940, JG 152 was redesignated I./ZG 52 and equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 110 and in June 1940, I./ZG 52 was renamed II./ZG 2. Grasser was assigned to the 6./ZG 2 during the Battle of Britain and shot down two aircraft, raising his total kills to six. In October 1940, he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 51 as adjutant to Werner Mölders. On 1 December 1940, Grasser shot down a Royal Air Force (RAF) Hawker Hurricane near Kent.
Oberleutnant Grasser participated in Operation Barbarossa and shot down a Soviet Tupolev SB on the first day of the invasion of the Soviet Union. He shot down two enemy aircraft on 29 June 1941 which were respectively his ninth and tenth victories. Grasser passed the 20 kill mark on 29 July, a day on which he shot down a Soviet Ilyushin DB-3. On 1 August, he was appointed Staffelkapitän of 5./JG 51, and achieved his 30th victory on 7 September after downing a Soviet I-61 near Karlewez. Grasser was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 51 on 4 September and received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for 29 victories. He achieved his 40th victory on 14 December after shooting down a Soviet Petlyakov Pe-2. On 24 January 1942, after achieving his 45th victory, Grasser was shot down in his Messerschmitt Bf 109, sustaining a severe eye injury. However, he was able to bail out, landing behind Soviet lines, but eventually reached German forces.
Grasser spent several months in hospital but returned to flying duty after recovering from his eye injury. He achieved his 50th victory on 23 June 1942 after shooting down a Soviet Polikarpov I-153. On 5 July, Grasser destroyed six Soviet aircraft, including three Ilyushin Il-2 ground-attack aircraft. He achieved his 70th and 80th victories on 13 August and 29 August respectively. When he was transferred from the Eastern Front, he had racked up a total of 91 kills.
North Africa and Germany
In November 1942, Grasser was assigned to command II./JG 51 in North Africa. In Tunisia, he added 12 more kills, increasing his total to 103. Grasser was awarded the Eichenlaub on 31 August. On 28 April 1944, he was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 1 based in Germany replacing Hauptmann Friedrich Eberle who had been wounded in combat with the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). He stayed with this unit for a short time and then passed the command of III./JG 1 to Hauptmann Erich Woitke. In December 1944, Grasser was assigned to JG 110 and given command of the II. Gruppe.
At the end of World War II, Grasser was handed over to the Soviet Union and was imprisoned until 1949. Grasser's views on military service radically changed after his return from Soviet prison, and he swore to never again wear a military uniform. He traveled to India in 1949 to train civil pilots in Allahabad and New Delhi. In 1950 he became an adviser to the Syrian Air Force. After his return from Syria, he began the manufacturing of industrial pressed parts made of steel. Grasser died on 2 June 1986 in Cologne and was buried in his hometown of Graz.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- German Cross in Gold on 19 September 1942 as Hauptmann in the II./JG 51
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- "Hartmann Grasser". Luftwaffe.cz. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
- Constable & Toliver 1968, p. 9.
- Weal 2007, p. 46.
- Weal & Price 1996, p. 28.
- "Eichenlaubträger Hartmann Grasser". Ritterkreuztraeger-1939-45.de. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
- Stockert 1997, p. 368.
- Thomas 1997, p. 216.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 146.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 201.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 345.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 72.
- Constable, Trevor J.; Toliver, Raymond F. (1968). Horrido!: Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe. Barker.
- 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.
- 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.
- Schaulen, Fritjof (2003). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe I Abraham – Huppertz [Oak Leaves Bearers 1940 – 1945 Contemporary History in Color I Abraham – Huppertz] (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 978-3-932381-20-1.
- 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.
- Stockert, Peter (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 3 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 3] (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-932915-01-7.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
- Weal, John (2007). More Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-177-9.
- Weal, John; Price, Alfred (1996). Bf 109D/E Aces 1939–41. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-487-3.