24 January 1919|
|Died||14 March 2002
|Allegiance|| Nazi Germany (to 1945)
|Service/branch|| Luftwaffe (Wehrmacht)
|Years of service||1936–1945, –1970|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Karl Gratz (24 January 1919 – 14 March 2002) was an Austrian born Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Gratz flew more than 900 missions, scoring 138 aerial victories, of which 17 were scored on the Western Front.
"Charlie" Gratz was posted in autumn 1941 to 8./Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—8th squadron of the 52nd Fighter Wing) in Russia, claiming his first air victory in February 1942.[Note 1] During the summer months Unteroffizier Gratz claimed some 54 victories and received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. By late 1942 29 more victories had been claimed. After a spell instructing, Gratz was posted in March 1943 to II./Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd group of the 2nd Fighter Wing) on the English channel front. Gratz claimed 17 air victories in the west. In March 1944 Gratz returned to JG 52, and in January 1945 became Staffelkapitän (squadron leader), 10./JG 52. In the last weeks of the war Gratz was particularly successful and claimed 18 victories. After the surrender he was delivered by US military to the Soviet authorities and remained in captivity until 1949.
In around 900 operations, Gratz claimed 138 victories, including 17 in the West of which 3 of them were United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) four engined bombers.
Post-war, his military service in the Bundeswehr saw him promoted to Oberstleutnant. Gratz served in Jagdbombergeschwader 33 (JaBoG 33—Fighter-Bomber Wing 33) flying the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak then under the command of Walter Krupinski. JaBoG 33 was transferred to the Turkish base at Bandırma for shooting and bombing training with live ammunition from 25 May to 31 August 1959. During one of the practice flights Gratz was nearly shot down by his wingman Leutnant Dietrich Schultz-Sembten. Schultz-Sembten had mistakenly fired all of his rockets prematurely during the attack run. After the landing, Gratz is quoted with having said: "Schultz-Sembten, you must have gone mad! I have to say one thing, you idiot: If you had hit me, I would have outmaneuvered you and shot you down."
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st Class
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (8 June 1942)
- German Cross in Gold on 8 June 1943 as Feldwebel in the 8./JG 52[Note 2]
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 1 July 1942 as Unteroffizier and pilot in the 8./JG 52
- Spick 1996, p. 229.
- Braatz 2010, p. 233.
- Braatz 2010, p. 234.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 121.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 146.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 202.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 346.
- Braatz, Kurt (2010). Walter Krupinski - Jagdflieger, Geheimagent, General (in German). Moosburg, Germany: NeunundzwanzigSechs Verlag. ISBN 978-3-9811615-5-7.
- 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.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- "Karl Gratz". Jagdgeschwader 52 — Traditionsgemeinschaft Jagdgeschwader 52 e.V. (in German). Retrieved 15 September 2011.