Leopold Steinbatz

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Leopold Steinbatz
Leopold Steinbatz.jpg
Leopold Steinbatz
Nickname(s) Bazi
Born (1918-10-25)25 October 1918
Vienna
Died 23 June 1942(1942-06-23) (aged 23)
Vovchansk
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1937 – 1942
Rank Leutnant
Unit JG 52
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Leopold "Bazi" Steinbatz (born 25 October 1918 in Vienna, Austria, killed in action 23 June 1942 near Vovchansk, Kharkiv Oblast, on the Eastern front) was a German former Luftwaffe fighter ace and the only non-Officer recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords during World War II.

Luftwaffe career[edit]

Steinbatz joined the Austrian Army in 1937. After the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria, the Austrian armed forces were integrated into the Wehrmacht, and he joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 as a trainee pilot. in November 1940 he graduated and was posted, as an Unteroffizier to 9./JG 52 (the 9th squadron of the Fighter Wing 52). He was often the Rottenflieger ('wingman') for the future high-scoring ace Hermann Graf.

Co-incidentally at the same time III./JG 52 was transferred to Bucharest, and renamed I./JG 28 (until January 1941). This was part of the military assistance and pilot-training offered to Romania when it joined the Axis on 23 November. Even with the Balkan invasion of April 1941, III./JG 52 was kept back in reserve to guard the Ploesti oil installations.[1] On 25 May it was finally called into action, moving to southern Greece to support the invasion of Crete - mainly in a ground attack or anti-shipping role.

In mid-June III./JG 52 returned to Bucharest to re-equip onto the Bf 109F just in time for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. But again, tasked with protecting the oilfields, and being the southernmost Gruppen on the front, it had very little to do except to intercept bombers raiding the Romanian ports. So it was only once the Gruppen transferred to the Ukraine that Graf and Steinbatz were able to open their accounts - both shooting down I-16 fighters on the 4 August while escorting a Ju 87 formation. But it could have all been so different: Graf had dived in behind an enemy fighter and was set to fire, then nothing! Only then, he realised that he had forgotten to prime his guns. Then from out of nowhere another fighter fell in on his tail. Graf expected to be shot down, then the Soviet fighter itself suddenly burst into flames and fell out of the sky. Steinbatz, like every good wingman had been hanging back and carefully covering his leader's tail. Correcting his mistake, Graf got his first victory soon afterward.

For the rest of the year he often flew as Graf's wingman, flying as a potent combination. As the battle for Kharkov started at the end of September he was scoring consistently, and by the beginning of December he had 25 victories. On the 8 December he was awarded the Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (Trophy of Honour). As one of the few fighter units not committed to the Battle of Moscow (Operation Taifun), III./JG 52 was shuttling alternately between the attack in the Ukraine, the Crimea and Rostov. At this time the Soviets retook Rostov and forced the unit back to the relative safety of Kharkov for the winter. After a dismal start to the eastern campaign, III./JG 52 ended as the most successful unit on the southern front.

Through the winter they would often fly patrols and not encounter any enemy aircraft. But with their unit not being rotated back for extended rest and refit over winter, Graf and Steinbatz kept up their success into the new year. Of one such encounter, on 8 January, he wrote to his wife:

Today was my lucky day. Early this morning we took off on a free-hunt mission and we actually spotted three Soviets... I flew together with a young comrade who had never been in combat before as the three 'brothers' appeared. Of course I immediately attacked one of the fighters. With a short burst of fire I blew off his left wing and he went down vertically.


Pulling up, I saw the second fighter below. He was watching his descending comrade. I dived again and attacked him. I hit his radiator and he made a forced landing. We shot the aircraft on fire.

Now the turn had come for the third aircraft, the bomber. My wingman had been attacking him but wasn't able to bring him down. As I approached him, he fired like mad. I came in very close, and then I shot him in flames with a few rounds. Burning, he crashed into a village.[2]

Hermann Graf was awarded the Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz) on 24 January 1942 for 42 victories and Steinbatz received the German Cross the day after. Then finally, on 14 February, he too was awarded the Knight's Cross for also reaching 42 victories, and sent on extended leave.[3] Graf was promoted to Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 52 in March, and by the beginning of April, his unit had racked up over 200 victories in Russia, for the loss of only 8 pilots of their own.[4] When the unit transferred to the Crimea at the end of April, the pair took off on an unprecedented victory spree. The opening of the next Axis offensive was against the fortress of Sevastopol and the Kerch peninsula with very rugged defence. In two weeks, Graf's squadron shot down 93 aircraft, without any loss.[5] Steinbatz claimed 7 victories on 8 May to take his own score to 58.

But a large Soviet counter-attack in May, south of Kharkov, forced III./JG 52 to be urgently dispatched to that sector. The Gruppe claimed 89 victories in just its first two days over Kharkov, with Graf becoming the first pilot in JG 52 to reach the century (on 14 May). Ofw Steinbatz got his 75th on 20 May, and although the ground offensive was blunted by the next day, the intense aerial combat continued. He claimed four victories apiece on 1 and 2 June and was awarded the Oakleaves to the Knight's Cross on 2 June for the 83 victories to date - being the first NCO in the Luftwaffe to receive this honour.

However the strain of ten months' almost non-stop combat was starting to show. In a letter to Frau Steinbatz, Graf wrote:

After his return he proved absolutely reckless... He entered upon an unparalleled victory march, scoring one victory after another! As he had achieved his No.80 and was expected to be awarded with the Oak Leaves. I urged him to take some leave. The combats had put a tremendous strain on his nerves. This was shown on several occasions. I grounded him for a couple of days, but then he requested that I allow him to start flying combat sorties again. As I was called to the Führer's Headquarters (on 24 May 1942), I exhorted him to 'cool down a bit'. But I knew that his goal was to reach his '100'.[3]

By 11 June he had 95 victories, but on 15 June, he dived into a larger group of Soviet fighters. After claiming three quick victories (to take his score to 99) and eager to be the first NCO to top the century mark, he pursued them into a heavily defended AA zone. His Bf 109F4 "Yellow 2" was hit by Soviet AA fire and plummeted into the forests near Volzhansk, killing Steinbatz, although his body was never found.[6] Eight days later, on 23 June, Leopold "Bazi" Steinbatz was awarded the Schwerten (Swords to the Knight's Cross) - this time becoming the only NCO in the entire Wehrmacht to be awarded this honour. He was also promoted to Leutnant. His 99 victories on the Eastern Front had been scored in only about 300 combat missions, and at the time, he was the 11th-ranking ace in the Luftwaffe.

His great friend, Hermann Graf would survive the war, becoming the second man to reach 150 victories (on 4 September). Then, after a phenomenal scoring spree over Stalingrad, on 2 October he became the first pilot to ever score 200 victories. He ended the war with the rank of Oberstleutnant (Lt Colonel) and commander of Jagdgeschwader 52.

Awards[edit]

Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Sunday, 3 May 1942 Am gestrigen Tage errangen an der Ostfront Leutnant Koeppen seinen 80. bis 84. Leutnant Graf seinen 70. bis 76. und Feldwebel Steinbatz seinen 44. bis 49. Luftsieg.[13] Yesterday on the Eastern front, Leutnant Koeppen achieved his 80th to 84th, Leutnant Graf his 70th to 76th and Feldwebel Steinbatz his 44th to 49th aerial victory.
Friday, 12 June 1942 Oberfeldwebel Steinbatz errang an der Ostfront seinen 95. Oberleutnant Marseille in Nordafrika seinen 78. bis 81. Luftsieg.[14] Oberfeldwebel Steinbatz recorded his 95th on the Eastern Front, Oberleutnant Marseille in North Africa his 78th to 81st aerial victory.

Victories[edit]

No Date Time Unit & Airfield Gruppe Kommandeur[15] Location / Planquad Claimed Aircraft Source / Comments[16]
1 04-Aug-41 6.25 9./JG 52 - Belaya Zerkov Maj Albert Blumensaat (109F) SE of Kiev I-16 Prien/Bock
2 26-Aug-41 18.32 9./JG 52 - Signayevka Maj Albert Blumensaat (109F) - I-16 Prien/Bock
3 01-Sep-41 11.43 9./JG 52 - Stschastlivaya Maj Albert Blumensaat (109F) - DB-3 Prien/Bock
4 06-Sep-41 18.23 9./JG 52 - Mironovka Maj Albert Blumensaat (109F) - I-16 Prien/Bock
5 27-Sep-41 12.48 9./JG 52 - Poltava Maj Albert Blumensaat (109F) Poltava area I-26 (Yak-1) Prien/Bock
6 28-Sep-41 8.35 9./JG 52 - Poltava Maj Albert Blumensaat (109F) 15 km E of Poltava I-16 Prien/Bock
7 28-Sep-41 8.37 9./JG 52 - Poltava Maj Albert Blumensaat (109F) E of Poltava SB-3 Prien/Bock
8 09-Oct-41 6.40 9./JG 52 - Poltava Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Poltava area I-26 (Yak-1) Prien/Bock
9 09-Oct-41 6.42 9./JG 52 - Poltava Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Poltava area I-26 (Yak-1) Prien/Bock
10 11-Oct-41 7.05 9./JG 52 - Poltava Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Poltava area I-26 (Yak-1) Prien/Bock
11 14-Oct-41 10.20 9./JG 52 - Poltava Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Poltava area I-26 (Yak-1) Prien/Bock
12 24-Oct-41 12.47 9./JG 52 - Tschaplinka Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - I-61 (MiG-3) Prien/Bock
13 27-Oct-41 15.41 9./JG 52 - Tschaplinka Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - I-61 (MiG-3) Prien/Bock
14 28-Oct-41 9.55 9./JG 52 - Tschaplinka Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - I-61 (MiG-3) Prien/Bock
15 28-Oct-41 10.00 9./JG 52 - Tschaplinka Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) SE of Aibar I-61 (MiG-3) Prien/Bock
16 09-Nov-41 14.30 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - R-10 Prien/Bock
17 09-Nov-41 14.37 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - I-16 Prien/Bock
18 17-Nov-41 14.40 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - I-18 (MiG-3) Prien/Bock
19 22-Nov-41 14.28 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - I-26 (Yak-1) Prien/Bock
20 29-Nov-41 10.20 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) NNE of Rostov I-16 Prien/Bock
21 29-Nov-41 10.25 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) NE of Rostov I-16 Prien/Bock
22 29-Nov-41 13.05 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) S of Bataysk I-16 Prien/Bock
23 02-Dec-41 12.15 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Rostov area SB-2 Prien/Bock
24 02-Dec-41 12.22 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Rostov area I-16 Prien/Bock
25 03-Dec-41 8.03 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Rostov area I-16 Prien/Bock
? 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
32 27-Dec-41 9./JG 52 - Taganrog Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
? 9./JG 52 Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
40 08-Jan-42 9./JG 52 - Kharkov Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Kharkov area fighter
41 08-Jan-42 9./JG 52 - Kharkov Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Kharkov area fighter
42 08-Jan-42 9./JG 52 - Kharkov Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Kharkov area bomber
43 ? 9./JG 52 Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
44 02-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) near Kerch ?
45 02-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) near Kerch ?
46 02-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) near Kerch ?
47 02-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) near Kerch ?
48 02-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) near Kerch I-16
49 02-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) near Kerch I-16
50 05-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
51 05-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
52 08-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
53 08-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
54 08-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
55 08-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
56 08-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
57 08-May-42 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
58 08-May-42 ./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
59 09-May-42 12.25 9./JG 52 - Zürichtal Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) 20 km SE of Ark.Monaj: 1200m MiG-1 C.2034, A.Nr 546
 ? 13-May-42 16.27 9./JG 52 - Kharkov Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) 5 km N of Bolshaya-Babka: 200m Su-2 C.2034, A.Nr 547
 ? 13-May-42 16.29 9./JG 52 - Kharkov Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) Marowaya: 150m Su-2 C.2034, A.Nr 548
 ? 14-May-42 9.18 9./JG 52 - Kharkov Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) 5 km SE of Stary Saltov: 1000m MiG-1 C.2034, A.Nr 544
? 9./JG 52 Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
75 20-May-42 9./JG 52 - Konstantinovka Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
76 01-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
77 01-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
78 01-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
79 01-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
80 02-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
81 02-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
82 02-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
83 02-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Barvenkovo Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
? 9./JG 52 Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
95 11-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Belgorod Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
96 ? 9./JG 52 - Belgorod Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) - ?
97 15-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Belgorod Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) NW of Volshansk fighter
98 15-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Belgorod Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) NW of Volshansk fighter
99 15-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Belgorod Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) NW of Volshansk fighter
15-Jun-42 9./JG 52 - Belgorod Hptm Hubertus von Bonin (109F) near Volshansk

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ Weal 2004, pg. 56.
  2. ^ Bergström 2001, pg. 72.
  3. ^ a b Bergström 2007, pg. 52.
  4. ^ Weal 2004, pg. 71.
  5. ^ Weal 2004, pg. 73.
  6. ^ Bergström 2006, pp. 9-10.
  7. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 32.
  8. ^ Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries website.
  9. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 345.
  10. ^ Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 456.
  11. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 720.
  12. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 409, 505.
  13. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 103.
  14. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 157.
  15. ^ Luftwaffe Air Units: Single–Engined Fighters website.
  16. ^ Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
Bibliography
  • 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. 
  • Bergstrom, Christer & Mikhailov, Andrey (2001). Black Cross, Red Star Vol 2 Pacifica Military History. ISBN 0-935553-51-7
  • Bergstrom, Christer; Dikov, Andrey; Antipov, Vlad (2006). Black Cross, Red Star Vol 3 Eagle Editions Ltd ISBN 0-9761034-4-3
  • Bergstrom, Christer (2007). Stalingrad - The Air Battle: November 1942 - February 1943. London: Chervron/Ian Allen. ISBN 978-1-85780-276-4
  • 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. 
  • 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 (2006). Aces of the Reich. Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-675-6
  • 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 (2001). Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-084-1. 
  • Weal, John (2004). Jagdgeschwader 52: The Experten (Aviation Elite Units). Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-786-4. 
  • Weal, John (2007). More Bf109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84603-177-X.
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross, Oak-Leaves and Swords Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-643-0. 
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
  • Frey, Gerhard; Herrmann, Hajo: Helden der Wehrmacht III - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2007. ISBN 978-3-924309-82-4.

External links[edit]