Anton Hafner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Anton Hafner
Anton Hafner (pilot).jpg
Anton Hafner
Nickname(s)Toni
Born(1918-06-02)2 June 1918
Erbach an der Donau
Died17 October 1944(1944-10-17) (aged 26)
near Gumbinnen, East Prussia
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branchBalkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service1940–44
RankOberleutnant
UnitJG 51
Battles/wars
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Anton "Toni" Hafner (2 June 1918 − 17 October 1944) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator during World War II and a fighter ace credited with 204 enemy aircraft shot down in 795 combat missions. The majority of his victories were claimed on the Eastern Front, but he also claimed 20 victories over the Western Front during the North African Campaign.

Born in Erbach an der Donau, Hafner grew up in the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Following the compulsory Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst), he was conscripted into military service with the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht. In February 1941 he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing), flying his first combat missions against the Royal Air Force on the English Channel. Hafner claimed his first aerial victory on 24 June 1941 during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Following his 60th aerial victory, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 23 August 1942. His unit was then transferred to Tunisia in North Africa where he claimed 20 aerial victories. Back on the Eastern Front in August 1943, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 11 April 1944 after achieving 134 aerial victories. On 15 May 1944, he was appointed squadron leader of 8. Staffel (8th squadron) of JG 51. Hafner claimed his 204th and last aerial victory on 17 October 1944. During this encounter, he flew into a tree, killing him.

Early life and career[edit]

Hafner, the son of a Meister, a master craftsman, in the field of tinsmith, on 2 June 1918 in Erbach an der Donau in the Kingdom of Württemberg of the German Empire. Following the compulsory Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst), he was conscripted into military service with the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht.[1] Following flight and fighter pilot training,[Note 1] he was transferred to 6. Staffel (6th squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing) on 23 February 1941.[3][Note 2]

World War II[edit]

Hafner had been posted to 6. Staffel, a squadron of II. Gruppe (2nd group) of JG 51, one and a half years after the start of World War II. The unit had just undergone a period of replenishment and rest at Mannheim-Sandhofen and was being redeployed to an airfield at Mardyck, west of Dunkirk on the Channel Front.[4] Hafner flew his first combat missions in this theater of operations. On 29 March 1941, he made a forced landing in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4 (Werknummer 3766—factory number) and sustained minor injuries.[5] On 1 June, II. Gruppe was withdrawn from the Channel Front and moved to Dortmund for conversion to the Bf 109 F-2 and preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.[4] Deployment east began on 10 June where II. Gruppe was initially based at Siedlce, familiarizing themselves with the Bf 109 F-2, and patrolling the border along the Bug River. The German attack began on the early morning on 22 June with II. Gruppe flying fighter escort missions in support of the German advance. The Gruppe was moved to an airfield at Terespol in the afternoon on 23 June.[6] The next day, Hafner claimed his first aerial victory, a Tupolev SB bomber.[7] On 3 July he claimed 5th aerial victory and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz zweiter Klasse) on 6 July and the Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz erster Klasse) on 18 July.[8][9]

Hafner was awarded the German Cross in Gold (Deutsches Kreuz in Gold) on 22 May 1942.[1] He became an "ace-in-a-day" for the first time on 6 July 1942 when he shot down seven enemy aircraft, aerial victories 35–41. On 22 August, he claimed his 60th aerial victory and was nominated for the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) which was awarded to him on 23 August.[1]

North Africa[edit]

II. Gruppe had been withdrawn from the Eastern Front in early October 1942 and sent to Jesau in East Prussia, present day Yushny, Bagrationovsky District, for conversion to the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. Conversion training began on 7 October and on 4 November, the unit received the order to convert back to the Bf 109 and to transfer to the Mediterranean theatre. Via various stopovers, II. Gruppe moved to Sidi Ahmed airfield, arriving on 14 November. There, the unit was subordinated to Fliegerführer Tunis (Flying Leader Tunis). Two days later, on fighter escort mission for III. Gruppe (3rd group) of Zerstörergeschwader 2 (ZG 2—2nd Destroyer Fighter Wing), Hafner claimed his first victory in this theatre of operations.[10] The unit the moved to an airfield at El Aouina.[11] On 18 December 1942, Hafner claimed two aerial victories over Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft, taking his total to 78 aerial victories.[12] One of his opponents was Norman L. Widen of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 94th Fighter Squadron. Widden bailed out and was taken prisoner of war and brought to Hafner's airfield. After Hafner landed, Widen presented Hafner his silver pilot insignia. Before Widen was taken to the prisoner-of-war camp, Hafner and Widen promised to meet again after the war. Hafner sent the gift to his brother, Alfons Hafner, with the request to return the gifts together with a medal and picture of Anton Hafner in case of Anton Hafner getting killed in action. In 1960 Alfons Hafner managed to contact Major Widen via the US Airforce to fulfil his brother's will. This story was published Life magazine on 14 April 1961.[13]

On 2 January 1943, Hafner was shot down in his Bf 109 G-2 (Werknummer 13 985—factory number). It is believed that his victor may have been Bobby Oxspring. Hafner bailed out wounded, ending his service in North Africa.[14] His injuries included a complex fracture of his arm. Following his convalescence, he was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) on 1 June 1943.[1]

Eastern Front and death[edit]

Hafner returned to JG 51 "Mölders" in August 1943, then operating on the Eastern Front. There, he was assigned to the Stabsstaffel (headquarters squadron).[15] On 15 October 1943, the Soviet Central Front launched an offensive, attacking Army Group Centre on its southern flank at Loyew on the Dnieper.[16] That day, Hafner was credited with his 100th aerial victory in that area of operations.[17] He was the 56th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.[18] The Stabsstaffel had provided fighter escort to a flight of Heinkel He 111 bombers attacking ground targets in the vicinity of Gomel. On this mission, the Stabsstaffel ran into Soviet Douglas A-20 Havoc bombers, also known as Boston, which were protected by Lavochkin La-5 fighters. Hafner claimed two Bostons and a La-5 in this encounter.[19] Bus his Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-6 (Werknummer 530 373—factory number) also sustained battle damage, resulting in a forced landing on German held territory.[20]

Following his 134th aerial victory, Hafner was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 11 April 1944, the 451st soldier to receive this distinction. The presentation was made by Adolf Hitler at the Berghof, Hitler's residence in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps, on 5 May 1944.[1] Hafner succeeded Hauptman Fritz Stendel as Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 8. Staffel (8th squadron) of JG 51 "Mölders" on 15 May. This squadron was redesignated as 10. Staffel (10th squadron) in August.[21] On 24 June, Hafner claimed aerial victories 140 to 144, thus becoming JG 51 "Mölders" most successful fighter pilot, a distinction he would hold until the end of World War II in Europe.[3]

On 16 October 1944, Hafner destroyed four fighters thus taking him past the double century mark. Hafner's 204th and last victory was a Yakovlev Yak-7 fighter claimed on 17 October 1944. That day, JG 51 "Mölders" lost twelve aircraft in combat with the French Armée de l'Air Normandie-Niemen fighter regiment serving on the Eastern Front.[22] In this encounter, Hafner's Bf 109 G-6 (Werknummer 442 013—factory number) "Black 1" hit a tree and crashed, killing him.[3] He was the highest scoring pilot of JG 51 "Mölders".[23]

Summary of career[edit]

Aerial victory claims[edit]

According to Obermaier, Hafner was credited with 204 aerial victories claimed in 795 combat missions, including 175 close air support missions. He claimed 184 victories over the Eastern Front. Of his 20 victories claimed over the Western Front, eight were P-38 two engine fighters and two were four-engined bombers.[3]

Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for 203 aerial victory claims, plus one further unconfirmed claim. This figure includes 184 aerial victories on the Eastern Front and 19 on the Western Front, including one four-engined bombers[24]

Victory claims were logged to a map-reference (PQ = Planquadrat), for example "PQ 47654". The Luftwaffe grid map (Jägermeldenetz) covered all of Europe, western Russia and North Africa and was composed of rectangles measuring 15 minutes of latitude by 30 minutes of longitude, an area of about 360 square miles (930 km2). These sectors were then subdivided into 36 smaller units to give a location area 3 × 4 km in size.[25]

Awards[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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.[2]
  2. ^ For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations, see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  3. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 09:25.[41]
  4. ^ Not listed by Matthews and Foreman.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The "m.H." refers to a Ilyushin Il-2 with rear gunner (mit Heckschütze).

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Stockert 2007, p. 111.
  2. ^ Bergström, Antipov & Sundin 2003, p. 17.
  3. ^ a b c d e Obermaier 1989, p. 65.
  4. ^ a b Prien et al. 2002, p. 55.
  5. ^ Prien et al. 2002, p. 70.
  6. ^ Prien et al. 2003, p. 266.
  7. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003, p. 280.
  8. ^ a b c Thomas 1997, p. 237.
  9. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2003, p. 281.
  10. ^ Prien et al. 2004, p. 1.
  11. ^ Prien et al. 2004, p. 7.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Prien et al. 2004, p. 11.
  13. ^ "Life magazine".
  14. ^ Shores & Massimello 2016, p. 231.
  15. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 457.
  16. ^ Bergström 2008, p. 31.
  17. ^ Bergström 2008, p. 34.
  18. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
  19. ^ Prien et al. 2012, pp. 415–416.
  20. ^ Prien et al. 2012, pp. 416, 429.
  21. ^ Aders & Held 1993, p. 250.
  22. ^ Bergström 2008, p. 85.
  23. ^ Weal 2001, p. 92.
  24. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 457–460.
  25. ^ Planquadrat.
  26. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 457–458.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Prien et al. 2005, p. 96.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2006, p. 298.
  29. ^ Prien et al. 2003, p. 282.
  30. ^ Prien et al. 2003, p. 284.
  31. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003, p. 285.
  32. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003, p. 286.
  33. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2006, p. 299.
  34. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003, p. 287.
  35. ^ Prien et al. 2005, p. 93.
  36. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2006, p. 300.
  37. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2005, p. 94.
  38. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 302.
  39. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2005, p. 95.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2006, p. 303.
  41. ^ a b Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 458.
  42. ^ a b Prien et al. 2006, p. 304.
  43. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2010, p. 363.
  44. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 458–459.
  45. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2012, p. 426.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Prien et al. 2012, p. 427.
  47. ^ Prien et al. 2012, p. 428.
  48. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 459–460.
  49. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 460.
  50. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 159.
  51. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 360.
  52. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 210.
  53. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 81.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Aders, Gebhard; Held, Werner (1993). Jagdgeschwader 51 'Mölders' Eine Chronik – Berichte – Erlebnisse – Dokumente [Fighter Wing 51 'Mölders' A Chronicle – Reports – Experiences – Documents] (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-01045-1.
  • Bergström, Christer (2008). Bagration to Berlin—The Final Air Battles in the East: 1944–1945. Burgess Hill: Classic Publications. ISBN 978-1-903223-91-8.
  • Bergström, Christer. "Bergström Black Cross/Red Star website". Identifying a Luftwaffe Planquadrat. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  • Bergström, Christer; Antipov, Vlad; Sundin, Claes (2003). Graf & Grislawski – A Pair of Aces. Hamilton MT: Eagle Editions. ISBN 978-0-9721060-4-7.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. 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.
  • Matthews, Andrew Johannes; Foreman, John (2015). Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims — Volume 2 G–L. Walton on Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 978-1-906592-19-6.
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1939 – 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.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2002). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 4/II—Einsatz am Kanal und über England—26.6.1940 bis 21.6.1941 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 4/II—Action at the Channel and over England—26 June 1940 to 21 June 1941] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-64-9.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2003). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 6/I—Unternehmen "BARBAROSSA"—Einsatz im Osten—22.6. bis 5.12.1941 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 6/I—Operation "BARBAROSSA"—Action in the East—22 June to 5 December 1941] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-69-4.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2004). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 8/II—Einsatz im Mittelmeerraum—November 1941 bis Dezember 1942 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 8/II—Action in the Mediterranean Theater—November 1941 to December 1942] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-74-8.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2005). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 9/I—Winterkampf im Osten—6.12.1941 bis 30.4.1942 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 9/I—Winter War in the East—6 December 1941 to 30 April 1942] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-76-2.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2006). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 9/II—Vom Sommerfeldzug 1942 bis zur Niederlage von Stalingrad—1.5.1942 bis 3.2.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 9/II—From the 1942 Summer Campaign to the Defeat at Stalingrad—1 May 1942 to 3 February 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-77-9.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2010). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 11/I—Einsatz im Mittelmeerraum—1.1. bis 31.12.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 11/I—Action in the Mediterranean Theater—1 January to 31 December 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-95-3.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2012). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 12/I—Einsatz im Osten—4.2. bis 31.12.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 12/I—Action in the East—4 February to 31 December 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Buchverlag Rogge. ISBN 978-3-942943-02-4.
  • 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 Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Shores, Christopher; Massimello, Giovanni (2016). A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940–1945. Volume 3: Tunisia and the End in Africa, November 1942–1943. London, UK: Grub Street Publishing. ISBN 978-1-910690-67-3.
  • Stockert, Peter (2007). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 5 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945] (in German). V. Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. OCLC 76072662.
  • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
  • Weal, John (2001). Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-084-1.
  • "Pilot's Strange Legacy". Life. New York: Time Inc. 50 (15): 51–54. 14 April 1961. ISSN 0024-3019.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)