11 March 1913|
|Died||23 March 1944
|Years of service||1934 – 1944|
|Unit||JG 132, Condor Legion, JG 53, JG 3|
|Commands held||III./JG 53, JG 3|
|Awards||Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords|
Wolf-Dietrich "Fürst" Wilcke (born 11 March 1913 in Schrimm, Posen, killed in action 23 March 1944 near Schöppenstedt) was a German World War II fighter ace who served in the Luftwaffe from 1935 until his death. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He was also a 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.
In early 1939, after service in Spain with the Condor Legion, Wilcke was sent back to Germany to serve with III./Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53). He gained his first victory in November 1939 when he claimed a French Potez 637 twin-engined fighter. After the commencement of the Battle of France, on 18 May 1940, Wilcke was shot down by a French Hawk 75 fighter, being captured but released after the fall of France. Wilcke then participated in the Battle of Britain, becoming Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 53 in August 1940. On 12 August, Wilcke's Bf 109 E-4 suffered engine failure, and he bailed out into the sea, being rescued by a Do 18 flying boat. By this time he had recorded some 13 victories.
III./JG 53 then took part in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Soviet Russia. On 22 June 1941, III./JG 53 encountered a formation of I-15bis biplane fighters, Wilcke claiming three of the fighters. He recorded two more victories later that day to take his total to 18. Hauptmann Wilcke was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 6 August 1941 for 25 victories.
In December 1941, III./JG 53 were transferred into Sicily to operating over Malta. Wilcke added four Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters to his score. In May 1942, III./JG 53 switched to North Africa. On 18 May 1942, Wilcke was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3) operating on the Eastern front, before becoming Kommodore of JG 3 in August. His 100th claim on 6 September led to the Eichenlaub award.
Wilcke was heavily involved in the organisation of fighter defence during the Battle of Stalingrad. Based at Pitomnik Airfield he directed day fighter operations over the city. During the intensive summer offensive the Geschwaderstab of JG 3 recorded 137 victories of which Wilcke claimed some 97. In September 1942 Wilcke claimed 32 victories.
When Russian forces encircled Stalingrad, the Stab./JG 3 was transferred to Morozovskaya-Öst, outside the pocket in order for Wilcke to direct the escort missions for the transport aircraft supplying the encircled 6th Army. Wilcke became the fourth German fighter pilot to reach 150 victories and was awarded the Schwerter.
He then led the unit to Morozovskaya-Süd to escape the advance of the Russian armour. A further move to Tazinskaya on 3 January 1943 ensued before the unit withdrew from the area. During this time the unit claimed 25 victories for the loss in action of two pilots.
In March 1943, Wilcke led JG 3 during operations against the Kuban bridgehead before withdrawal to Germany in May 1943, based at Mönchengladbach. Oberst Wilcke was under instructions not to fly operationally. However, he still flew unofficially through February 1944 and claimed four victories over USAAF B-17 bombers and a single P-51. On 6 March, his Bf 109G-6 was crippled in combat and had to make an emergency landing.
On 23 March 1944, Wilcke led JG 3 in an attack on an United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) bomber formation near Braunschweig. During the ensuing combat, Wilcke shot down his last victory, a P-51 Mustang fighter, but was then shot down near Schöppenstedt. He died in the wreckage of his Bf 109 G-6, possibly the victim of notable American aces Captain Don Gentile and Captain John Trevor Godfrey of the 4th Fighter Group.
By the time of his death Wilcke had shot down 162 enemy aircraft in 732 combat missions. 137 of his victories were claimed over the Eastern front. Of his 25 victories claimed over the Western front, four were four-engine bombers.
- Spanish Cross in Bronze with Swords
- Wound Badge in Black
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold with Pennant "700"
- Combined Pilots-Observation Badge
- Iron Cross (1939)
- German Cross in Gold on 3 November 1942 as Major in JG 3
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht
Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|30 March 1944||Der Kommodore eines Jagdgeschwaders Oberst Wilke, der für 155 Luftsiege vom Führer mit dem Eichenlaub und Schwertern zum Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes ausgezeichnet worden war, fand im Luftkampf den Heldentod. Mit ihm verliert die deutsche Luftwaffe einen ihrer hervorragendsten Jagdflieger und Verbandsführer.||The commodore of a fighter wing Oberst Wilke, who had been awarded the Oak Leaves and Swords to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for 155 aerial victories by the Führer, found a heroes death in aerial combat. With him the Luftwaffe loses one of their most outstanding night fighter pilots and formation leaders.|
- Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
- Berger 2000, pp. 379, 380.
- Spick 1996, p. 229
- Thomas 1998, p. 445.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 513.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 786.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, p. 69.
- Berger, Florian (2000). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges (in German). Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 3-9501307-0-5.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945 (in German). Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 - 1945 (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 3-87341-065-6.
- 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 3-7648-2300-3.
- Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross, Oak-Leaves and Swords Recipients 1941-45. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-643-7.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 (in German). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.
- Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.
- "Aces of the Luftwaffe". Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke. Retrieved 23 April 2007.
- "Der Adlertag". Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke (in German). Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- "Lexikon der Wehrmacht". Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke (in German). Retrieved 27 January 2012.
Oberst Günther Lützow
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 3 Udet
August 8, 1942 – March 23, 1944
Major Friedrich-Karl Müller