Emil Clade

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Emil Josef Clade
Emil Clade.jpg
Born (1916-02-26)26 February 1916
Hambach, Neustadt an der Weinstraße
Died May 2010 (aged 94)
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1936–1945
Rank Hauptmann
Unit JG 27
Commands held I./JG 27
Battles/wars Battle of France
Mediterranean Theatre
Operation Bodenplatte

Emil Josef Clade (26 February 1916 – May 2010[1]) was a Luftwaffe fighter ace in World War II, and figured in German civilian aviation after the war.

Early life[edit]

Clade was born in Hambach, now part of Neustadt an der Weinstraße in Rheinland-Pfalz. After completing his schooling, he originally trained to become a merchant. However, he became interested in aviation in 1934, and became a glider pilot, participating in the German national civilian aviator’s competition.

Military career[edit]

Joining the Luftwaffe in April 1937, Clade was initially certified to fly the Junkers Ju 52. However, he quickly moved to become a fighter pilot.

World War II[edit]

Clade served with 1./JG 1, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109. He scored his first kill on 11 May 1940 near Maastricht, Netherlands against a Belgian Air Force Gloster Gladiator biplane of 1/I/2. On the evening of the same day, he claimed a French LeO 451 twin-engine bomber of GB I/12 or GB II/12, also in the Maastricht area. Victories over an RAF Spitfire and Morane MS.406 followed in May and June 1940.

In March 1941, Clade was made an instructor attached to Jagdgeschwader 27 into which 1./JG 1 had been merged, and stayed with this fighter unit for essentially all his remaining wartime career.

By now an oberfeldwebel, Clade was assigned to the Mediterranean theatre with 5./JG 27, operating from bases in North Africa. On 7 August 1942, he indirectly made a potentially decisive impact on the future course of the African campaign, although he was most likely unaware of the fact at the time. Airborne over the desert south of Alexandria in Egypt, he chanced upon a Bristol Bombay transport of No. 216 Squadron RAF, flown by 19-year-old Sergeant Pilot H.E. 'Jimmy' James, who was flying Lieutenant General William Gott, the newly appointed Commander of the British 8th Army, to a staff meeting in Cairo. The plane was also carrying a number of wounded British soldiers. Clade’s attack forced the transport to crash land and the subsequent strafing run by fellow JG 27 pilot Bernd Schneider killed Gott and most other British troops inside the wreckage on the ground. (In March 2005, the 89-year-old Clade and the 81-year-old James would have an emotional meeting in Bonn, compare their accounts of the incident, and then take to the skies together.[2]) Gott’s replacement as commander of the 8th Army was Bernard Law Montgomery.

While still flying in Egypt, having been promoted to Leutnant, Clade recorded his 10th air claim on 5 July 1942 when he shot down an RAF Spitfire fighter near El-Daba. With 17 air victories to his credit, Clade was appointed Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 27 on 23 May 1943. From 1944 onward he piloted a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G/R-9 ("White 9"). In February 1945, Clade was appointed acting Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 27.

Clade and his squadron comrade Major Peter Werfft disbanded the remainder of their unit near Saalbach between 3 May and 8 May 1945 and became prisoners of war. Clade finished the war as with the rank of Hauptmann, and was credited with 27 victories, including two four-engine bombers. Nine claims were made over the Western Front, with the remainder being in North Africa.

Clade was himself shot down six times, including in aerial combat on 5 October 1943 (during a mission resulting in his 18th victory), on 26 November 1944 and on 25 February 1945 (immediately after his 27th and last air kill). He also sustained severe injuries in a Resistance attack on 16 February 1944 when he was serving in France near Avignon. In his memoirs[3] he emphasized how lucky he had actually been to survive all these tumultuous events.

Postwar career[edit]

Clade survived in various minor jobs after his release from a prisoner of war camp. He applied to become a civilian pilot with the newly formed Lufthansa in 1956 but was turned down because he exceeded the age limit by two years. However, he continued as a private aviator, was successful in various German competitions, and helped setting up local aviation associations.[4] He died in 2010, at the age of 94.


  • German Cross in Gold
  • Iron Cross 1st Class


  1. ^ Emil Clade - Pilot Profile - Emil Clade Archived March 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 30, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2007. 
  3. ^ Clade, Emil. Glück gehabt. Ein deutscher Jagdflieger berichtet. Self-published, ca. 1996. 124 p., in German
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 22, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.