4 May 1917|
|Died||22 June 1944
near Alençon, France
|Buried at||Cimetière militaire allemand de Champigny-St. André
Plot 9—grave 1704
|Years of service||1937–1944|
|Unit||JG 53, JG 2|
|Commands held||9./JG 2, III./JG 2|
|Awards||Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (posthumous)|
Josef "Sepp" Wurmheller (born 4 May 1917 in Hausham, Bavaria, killed in action 22 June 1944 near Alençon, France) was a German World War II fighter ace who served in the Luftwaffe from 1937 until his death on 22 June 1944. He was also a posthumous recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.
Wurmheller was an experienced pre-war glider pilot, and began training as a pilot in the Luftwaffe in 1937. At the start of World War II, Unteroffizier Wurmheller was serving with 2 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53—53rd Fighter Wing).[Note 1] He recorded his first victory, a Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairey Battle single-engined bomber of No. 150 Squadron RAF on 30 September 1939 (K9283, flown by S/L McDonald,crash-landed at Écury-sur-Coole.) Between November 1939 and June 1940, Wurmheller served as an instructor before returning to 5./JG 53 in time for the Battle of Britain. He ditched twice in the English Channel, the latter time (23 November) leading to hospitalisation until March 1941.
In May 1941, Wurmheller gained his 10th claim when he shot down an RAF Spitfire. He then spent a short period on the Eastern Front with JG 53 where he added nine victories to his score. Oberfeldwebel Wurmheller was transferred back to the Channel front to II./Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing) during July 1941. The following month, Wurmheller claimed 13 Spitfires, and on 4 September was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for a tally of 31 claims. A further spell of instructing followed before a return to JG 2 in May 1942. Posted to 1./JG 2, Wurmheller gained 10 victories during May 1942 and another 11 victories the following month.
His most successful day came during the Allied landings at Dieppe on 19 August 1942. Despite suffering with a broken leg, Wurmheller claimed seven victories (Six Spitfires and a Blenheim) during the day. Wurmheller was promoted to Leutnant and the award of the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in August 1942, with a score of 60 victories.
Wurmheller became Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 9./JG 2 in April 1943. He recorded his 70th victory on 17 May when he shot down a B-17 bomber. On 23 September, he was wounded by bomb splinters while making an emergency landing in his Fw 190 A-6 during a bombing raid at Vannes-Meucon. On 8 March 1944, he claimed his 90th victory. Hauptmann Wurmheller was appointed Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 2 on 8 June 1944.
Wurmheller was killed in his Fw 190 A-8 on 22 June 1944 during aerial combat with P-47 and RCAF Spitfire fighters near Alençon when he collided with his wingman Feldwebel Franzke. He was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and promoted to the rank of Major on 24 October 1944. Josef "Sepp" Wurmheller is credited with 102 victories, 93 of which were claimed over the Western Front and 9 on the Eastern Front, at least 20 were four-engine bombers and at least 56 RAF Supermarine Spitfire fighters.
- Wound Badge in Black
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold with Pennant "400"
- Combined Pilots-Observation Badge
- German Cross in Gold on 21 August 1942 as Oberfeldwebel in the I./JG 2
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Knight's Cross on 4 September 1941 as Oberfeldwebel and pilot in the 9./JG 2 "Richthofen"[Note 2]
- 146th Oak Leaves on 13 November 1942 as Leutnant (war officer) and pilot in the 7./JG 2 "Richthofen"[Note 3]
- 108th Swords on 24 October 1944 (posthumously) as Hauptmann (war officer) and Gruppenkommandeur of the III./JG 2 "Richthofen"
- Berger 2000, pp. 386, 387.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 38.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 526.
- Thomas 1998, p. 465.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 454.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 800.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 63.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 46.
- Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.
- Weal, John (1996). Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Aces of the Western Front. London, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-595-0.
- Weal, John (1999). Bf 109F/G/K Aces of the Western Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-905-0.
- Weal, John (2000). Jagdgeschwader 2 'Richthofen'. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-046-3.
- Weal, John (2011). Fw 190 Defence of the Reich Aces. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-84603-482-4.
- Frey, Gerhard; Herrmann, Hajo: Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.
- "Aces of the Luftwaffe". Josef Wurmheller. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
- "Ritterkreuzträger 1939–45". Josef Wurmheller (in German). Retrieved 3 June 2012.
- "Lexikon der Wehrmacht". Josef Wurmheller (in German). Retrieved 3 June 2012.