30 July 1920|
|Died||27 March 2015(aged 94)|
|Years of service||1937–45|
|Unit||JG 5, JG 7|
|Commands held||10./JG 5, 3./JG 7|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Walter Schuck (30 July 1920 – 27 March 2015) was a German World War II fighter ace who served in the Luftwaffe from 1937 until the end of World War II. He claimed 206 enemy aircraft shot down in over 500 combat missions, eight of which while flying the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.[Note 1] For these achievements, Schuck received 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.
Born in the Saargebiet (Territory of the Saar Basin), Schuck volunteered for service in the Luftwaffe of the Third Reich in 1936 and was accepted in 1937. After a period of training at various pilot and fighter pilot schools, he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5—5th Fighter Wing), operating on the most northern section of the Eastern Front, the Arctic Front, in April 1942. In April 1944 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for 84 aerial victories. Following his 171st aerial victory he was injured in combat and received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during his convalescence. In early 1945 Schuck transferred to Jagdgeschwader 7 (JG 7—7th Fighter Wing) which operated the then revolutionary jet fighter Me 262. Claiming a further eight aerial victories, he was forced to bail out when his aircraft was shot down by a P-51 Mustang on 10 April 1945. Schuck sustained minor injuries preventing him from flying further combat missions.
Childhood, education and early career
Schuck was born on 30 July 1920 in Frankenholz, now part of Bexbach, in the Saargebiet, at the time a region of Germany occupied and governed by the United Kingdom and France from 1920 to 1935 under a League of Nations mandate. Schuck was one of five children of Jakob Schuck, a coal miner and veteran of World War I, and his wife. After graduation from the Volksschule (primary school), he unsuccessfully applied for an apprenticeship at the coal mine in Falkenhorst. Money was tight in the family and higher education was out of reach. He then jobbed at a local brickyard. After a plebiscite on 13 January 1935, the Saargebiet was restored to Germany on 1 March 1935. The introduction of the compulsory military service on 16 March 1935 was seen by Schuck as a career opportunity and a chance to fulfill his dream of flying. His father, who had experienced the trench warfare during World War I, gave him the advice to take every opportunity to avoid service in the infantry. Subsequently Schuck volunteered for service in the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht at the age of 16 before being conscripted into the infantry.
Schuck received a letter in early 1937 that he had been accepted by the Luftwaffe. Prior to joining the military he had to complete his six month of Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labour Service) which he began on 3 April 1937. His recruit training began in November 1937 with the 2. Fliegerersatzabteilung 24 (2nd Flier Replacement Unit 24) in Quakenbrück. On 1 April 1938 he was transferred to the Flughafenbetriebskompanie (Airport Operation Company) of Kampfgeschwader 254 (KG 254—254th Bomber Wing) to Gütersloh. Initially Schuck was tasked with security guard duties before he was assigned to help a fellow soldier, a truck driver, hauling material around the airbase. Though Schuck did not possess a drivers license, he was unofficially taught how to drive the 3-tonne Mercedes truck. This impressed his commanding officer, Hauptmann (Captain) Schneiderberger, who transferred him to the glider pilot school at Schüren, near Meschede in the Sauerland, after the Sudeten Crisis. After a few weeks at Schüren, Schuck returned to Gütersloh in mid-November 1938.
In February 1939, Schuck attended a three month course at the Luftfahrttechnische Schule (aeronautical technical school) at Bonn-Hangelar. Following this course he was transferred back to Quakenbrück, this time to the A/B Fliegerschule (flight school for the pilot license) of Fliegerausbildungsregiment 82 (flight training regiment). Flight training in the Luftwaffe progressed through the levels A1, A2 and B1, B2, referred to as A/B flight training. A training included theoretical and practical training in aerobatics, navigation, long-distance flights and dead-stick landings. The B courses included high-altitude flights, instrument flights, night landings and training to handle the aircraft in difficult situations. Schuck logged his first solo flight after only 18 takeoff and landings. Normally the first solo flight was flown after 30 to 40 accompanied flights. Schuck completed his B2 flight training just prior to the start of the Battle of France on 10 May 1940. He received his A/B pilot license on 14 May 1940.
Schuck initially wanted to become an aerial reconnaissance pilot, flying the Dornier Do 17. However due to disciplinary problems following unauthorized aerobatics on a Focke-Wulf Fw 56 "Stösser" and an open conflict with his commanding officer, Oberleutnant Brunner, Schuck ran the risk of a potential court-martial. To avoid further escalations Schuck was transferred to the Jagdfliegerschule (fighter pilot school) at Werneuchen. He arrived at Werneuchen on 16 June 1940 where he was assigned to the 3. Staffel (3rd squadron). The entire Gruppe was under the command of Oberleutnant Klaus Quaet-Faslem. Schuck's fighter pilot instructor was Oberfeldwebel Hobe, who was aware of Schuck's disciplinary history. Hobe commented "Schuck, we don't want problems here. We now go on a test flight and I am sure that you will be leaving afterwards". Fearful that this may end his flying career Schuck followed Hobe's every maneuver which positively impressed Quaet-Faslem who had witnessed their test flight. Schuck's flying career was saved. At Werneuchen the pilots were first trained on the Messerschmitt Bf 109 B-2, later the Bf 109 E-1, which had a stronger engine. Schuck scored more than 90% hits during target practice, the highest score at the time at Werneuchen. After his graduation from the fighter pilot school he was transferred to the 3. Staffel of Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Merseburg (Supplementary Fighter Group) on 2 September 1940.
World War II
The Arctic Front
Schuck was posted to 7 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5—5th Fighter Wing) in April 1942, flying on the Arctic Front. He claimed his first victory on 15 May 1942, a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3. On 5 June he shot down four Russian fighters and by April 1943 he had claimed 54 victories against the Soviets. In April 1944 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his score of 84 kills. On 15 June 1944 he claimed his 100th victory on a day when he shot down 6 aircraft, an ace-in-a-day achievement. He was the 78th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. Two days later he had his most successful day, claiming 12 victories in 24 hours, a feat never surpassed in JG 5. In August he became commander of 10 Staffel, JG 5. His new responsibility of Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) did not come easily to Schuck, and discipline in 10./JG 5 deteriorated to the point that Geschwaderkommodore Heinrich Ehrler intervened with Schuck, before Schuck managed to restore the necessary military discipline.
A few days after claiming his 171st aerial victory, Schuck was wounded by glass splinters that struck his cheek and nose. A splinter penetrated his jaw and got stuck in one of his teeth. To remove this splinter he required surgery. While in the hospital recovering from this operation, Schuck received notice that he had been awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. The presentation of the Oak Leaves was made on 7 November 1944 at the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM— Ministry of Aviation) in Berlin by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. Schuck received this award together with twelve other soldiers on this day, among them were the Fallschirmjäger Generalmajor Heinz Trettner, Oberst Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, and the ground attack and bomber pilots Hauptmann Franz Kieslich and Hauptmann Diether Lukesch. Schuck was the only fighter pilot so honored on this day.
Flying the Messerschmitt Me 262
After leaving JG 5 Oberleutnant Schuck was trained on the Messerschmitt Me 262 Jet fighter and in early March 1945 was asked by Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) Theodor Weissenberger to join Jagdgeschwader 7 (JG 7—7th Fighter Wing). His maiden flight on the Me 262 was on 20 March 1945. After a few more familiarizing flights on the Me 262, Schuck and another pilot took off on 24 March 1945 to familiarize themselves with the high altitude characteristics of the aircraft. Cruising at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 ft), flight control informed them of enemy fighters in the vicinity. Schuck immediately set course for the enemy formation and spotted one P-38 Lightning and two P-51 Mustang fighters. In the resulting combat Schuck shot down the two P-51 fighters but the P-38 Lightning escaped.
After Hans Waldmann was killed in a flying accident on 18 March 1945, Weissenberger appointed Schuck Staffelkapitän of the 3rd Staffel on 26 March replacing Oberleutnant Walter Wagner, who had briefly led 3rd Staffel. On 7 April Schuck shot down a P-38 F-5 Recon piloted by Captain William T. Heily from the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, Ninth Air Force.
On 10 April 1945 he claimed four B-17 Flying Fortresses shot down. One of the bombers was "Henn's Revenge" of the 303rd Bombardment Group, and another was "Moonlight Mission" of the 457th Bombardment Group. Shortly afterwards, his Me 262 was hit by a P-51 Mustang of the fighter escort, piloted by Lt. Joseph Anthony Peterburs of the 55th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group Schuck having to bail out. Schuck sprained both ankles upon landing and the war ended before he recovered.
- Flugzeugführerabzeichen (20 July 1940)
- Wound Badge in Black
- Order of the Cross of Liberty
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd class (19 May 1942)
- 1st class (14 June 1942)
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe on 23 March 1943 after 28 aerial victories[Note 3]
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold with Pennant "500"
- German Cross in Gold on 24 June 1943 as Feldwebel in the 9./Jagdgeschwader 5
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Toliver and Constable 1998, p. 373.
- Schuck 2007, p. 9.
- Schuck 2007, pp. 10–11.
- Schuck 2007, p. 12.
- Schuck 2007, p. 15.
- Schuck 2007, p. 14.
- Schuck 2007, p. 16.
- Schuck 2007, p. 17.
- Schuck 2007, pp. 18–19.
- Schuck 2007, pp. 20–21.
- Schuck 2007, p. 22.
- Schuck 2007, p. 23.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
- Schuck 2007, pp. 164–165.
- Schuck 2007, pp. 174–175.
- Schuck 2007, pp. 180–181.
- Schuck 2007, p. 184.
- Schuck 2007, p. 204.
- Heaton 2012, p. 176.
- Schuck 2007, pp. 212, 213.
- Schuck 2007, p. 214.
- Weaponology TV series, Fighter episode
- Jagdgeschwader 5 Eismeer und 7 Nowotny
- Schuck 2007, p. 24.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 69.
- Schuck 2007, p. 93.
- Schuck 2007, p. 89.
- Schuck 2007, p. 114.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 427.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 686.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 390.
- Von Seemen 1976, p. 310.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 90.
- Von Seemen 1976, p. 50.
- Patzwall 2008, p. 188.
- 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.
- Heaton, Colin D. (2012). The Me 262 Stormbird: From the Pilots Who Flew, Fought, and Survived It. Zenith Imprint. ISBN 978-0-7603-4263-3.
- Morgan, Hugh; Weal, John (1998). German Jet Aces of World War 2. London; New York: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-634-7.
- 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.
- Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Goblet for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3.
- Nietrug, Gerd (2004). Die Ritterkreuzträger des Saarlandes 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Saarland 1939 – 1945] (in German). Zweibrücken, Germany: VDM Nickel. ISBN 978-3-925480-93-5.
- 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.
- Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4.
- 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.
- Schuck, Walter (2007). Abschuss! Von der Me 109 zur Me 262 Erinnerungen an die Luftkämpfe beim Jagdgeschwader 5 und 7 [Victory! From the Me 109 to the Me 262 Memories of the Dogfights with Fighter Wing 5 and 7] (in German). Aachen, Germany: Helios Verlags- und Buchvertriebsgesellschaft. ISBN 978-3-938208-44-1.
- 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.
- Toliver, Raymond F. and Constable, Trevor J. (1998). Das waren die Deutschen Jagdflieger-Asse 1939–1945. Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-87943-193-0.
- Weal, John (2001). Bf109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited. ISBN 1-84176-084-6.
- Walter Schuck in the German National Library catalogue
- "Robert Bailey ASAA". Walter Schuck. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
- "Lexikon der Wehrmacht". Walter Schuck. Retrieved 24 February 2010.