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|Born||17 January 1908
|Died||21 June 1942
|Allegiance|| Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1926–42|
|Rank||Oberstleutnant im Generalstab|
|Commands held||JG 51, JG 52|
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Friedrich Beckh (17 January 1908 – 21 June 1942) was 48 victory-Luftwaffe flying ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He held the position of Geschwaderkommodore of fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 51 and Jagdgeschwader 52.
Early life and career
Beckh was born on 17 January 1908 in Nuremberg. He was a career soldier having joined the cavalry in 1926 as part of the-then 100,000 strong German Army. He joined the Luftwaffe with the rank of Oberleutnant in 1935 and trained to be a fighter pilot but Beckh had no particular aptitude for flying.
World War II
By the time World War II broke out he had already occupied several positions on the General Staff and because of his age did not fly any combat sorties. Instead, he was lecturing at the Air War Academy. It was during 1940 as Jägerverbindungsoffizier in the Luftgaukommando Wiesbaden (fighter communications or liaison officer) that he became close friends with Werner Mölders, the two men served in Jagdgeschwader 134 Horst Wessel. When Mölders became Geschwaderkommodore of JG 51 on 27 July 1940 he arranged for Beckh to transfer to his Geschwaderstab, as an officer on secondment from the General Staff.
Beckh was nonetheless an enthusiastic fighter pilot. However, there was one further factor in Beckh's make-up that would constitute something of a handicap when flying fighters. He was simply unable to see anything in the air. In fact, Beckh's eyesight had deteriorated considerably since he had first joined the Luftwaffe.
During the opening weeks of Operation Barbarossa Beckh had considerable success, mostly in tandem with his Wingman Leutnant Bernd Gallowitsch, who at the time was credited with around twenty victories. The two pilots invariably returned from sorties with a victory each. On 21 July 1941 Beckh was appointed Geschwaderkommodore of JG 51 in succession to Werner Mölders and on 8 September while JG 51 supported Guderian's Panzerarmee in the battles around Kiev, Beckh claimed the Geschwader's 2000th victory.
However on 16 September his luck ran out during a fighter sweep in his Bf 109 F-2 and he was hit by flak, taking an incendiary round through the left foot. Two days after being wounded in action he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for 27 victories, 23 of them in Russia. He had also claimed around twenty aircraft destroyed on the ground. Initially he insisted on leading the Geschwader from the ground but on 3 October he was eventually admitted to a hospital with the foot infected.
Beckh returned to the Geschwader on 21 December 1941 and he achieved approximately twenty further victories before being transferred back to the Reich Air Ministry on 9 April 1942. He was then appointed Kommodore of JG 52 on 3 June 1942 barely two months later following the death of Major Wilhelm Lessmann.
On 21 June 1942 Beckh was airborne in his Bf 109 F-4 "weiße 4" W.Nr 13362 with his wingman for a low-level sortie of the type he preferred in the area of Izium-Kupiansk-Waluiki, east of Charkov. East of Waluiki the duo observed a Russian air base with Russian fighters on the ground. Beckh dived, claiming two fighters, but his wingman observed Beckh's F-4 taking a number of flak hits before it too nosed down and appeared to plunge to the ground. The Bf 109 came down in a marsh near Valuyki. His body was found inside his fighter when the site was excavated 60 years later. At the time of his death he claimed over 40 aircraft in aerial combat and a dozen on the ground.
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st class
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (11 May 1942)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 18 September 1941 as Major and Geschwaderkommodore of JG 51
- Bergström 2007a, p. 69.
- Bergström 2007a, p. 52.
- Bergström 2007, p. 53.
- Bergström 2007a, p. 52.
- MacLean 2007, p. 55.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 127.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 210.
- Bergstrom, Christer (2007a). Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
- Bergström, Christer (2007b). Stalingrad – The Air Battle: 1942 through January 1943. Midland Puplishing, Hinkley. 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 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.
- MacLean, French L. (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports — For the Knight's Cross Winners. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 978-0-7643-2657-8.
- 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.
- 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.
- "das-ritterkreuz.de". Friedrich Beckh. Retrieved 20 September 2007.
Oberstleutnant Werner Mölders
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 51 Mölders
21 July 1941 – October 1941
Major Günther Lützow
Major Wilhelm Lessmann
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 52
3 June 1942 – 21 June 1942
Major Herbert Ihlefeld