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19 December 1912|
17 May 2003 (aged 90)|
|Years of service||1937–45|
|Unit||JG 26, JG 54, JG 4, JG 6|
|Commands held||JG 26, JG 4, JG 6|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Gerhard Schöpfel (19 December 1912 – 17 May 2003) was a German pilot in the Luftwaffe during World War II. He claimed 45-victories and was recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of Nazi Germany. Schöpfel was a commander of (amongst others) the fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 26.
Gerhard "Gerd" Schöpfel was born on 19 December 1912 at Erfurt in Thüringen. Schöpfel was initially assigned to I./Jagdgeschwader 233 (JG 233—233rd Fighter Wing). However, in June 1938 he was transferred to the Stab (HQ) flight of I./Jagdgeschwader 334 (JG 334—334th Fighter Wing), which became I./Jagdgeschwader 132 (JG 132—132nd Fighter Wing) and, ultimately, I./Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26—26th Fighter Wing). Oberleutnant Schöpfel was assigned as commander of 9./JG 26 (9th Squadron) on 23 September 1939. Whilst there, he achieved 20 victories in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, the eleventh Luftwaffe pilot to reach that milestone.
On 1 December 1941 he was promoted to Major and on 6 December became Geschwaderkommodore of JG 26 when Galland was again promoted, this time to General der Jagdflieger. Through 1942, JG 26 and Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2) were the only fighter squadrons in northern France, and took on a defensive rôle as the RAF took the fight back to occupied Europe. Schöpfel left JG 26 on 10 January 1943, with 45 victories, to take up a number of administrative roles; firstly as the I-a (Operations Officer) at Jafü Brittany. He then went to serve as Fighter Operations Officer for the South Italy Command from July (during the critical Sicily landings) and then Jafü (Fighter Leader) Norway from January 1944.
He returned to a combat command on 1 May 1944, briefly joining the staff of III./Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—54th Fighter Wing) for a month. This was based in Germany on Reich Defense, and he mentored the newly promoted Gruppenkommandeur Siegfried Schnell who had previously commanded 9./JG 2 alongside Schöpfel on the Channel Front. Then, on 1 June 1944, he was appointed Geschwaderkommodore of the newly formed Jagdgeschwader 4, also based on the Channel Front in Defense of the Reich. The original Gruppe I./JG 4, formed in mid 1943, had previously been based in Romania defending the oilfields, and was currently based in northern Italy. The new II. and III./JG 4 Gruppen were authorised in mid July, and I./JG 4 transferred to Germany to join them to bring his Geschwader up to full strength. However, on 6 August wounded he was shot down near Schwerin flying Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 (Werknummer 440728—factory number). His injuries were serious enough that he had to give up his command on 6 August to ObstLt Gerhard Michalski.
In October 1944 Schöpfel was appointed to the newly created role of Jafü (Fighter Leader) Hungary. In February 1945 he commanded the Luftkriegsschule 2 (training school) at Gatow. On 10 April he was appointed the final Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 6 (JG 6—6th Fighter Wing) based in northern Czechoslovakia.
After serving on the Eastern Front for approximately one month, Schöpfel was captured by Soviet forces, and was interned for four and a half years in the Soviet Union. He returned to Germany upon his release in December 1949.
He took jobs as a chauffeur and a merchant before obtaining an executive position with Air Lloyd in Bonn in the 1960s, in an office next to his former commander Adolf Galland. He died of natural causes on 17 May 2003 aged 90.
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (27 August 1940)
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st class
- German Cross in Gold on 9 December 1941 as Hauptmann in the III./JG 26
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 11 September 1944 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of the III./JG 26 "Schlageter"
- Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries website
- "Gerhard Schöpfel". Aces of the Luftwaffe. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
- Luftwaffe 39-45 Historia website.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 422.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 680.
- Caldwell, Donald L (1993). JG26 – Top Guns of the Luftwaffe Ballantine ISBN 0-87938-845-5
- 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.
- 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.
- Musciano, Walter (1989). Messerschmitt Aces Tab Books ISBN 0-8306-8379-8
- 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.
- 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.
- Spick, Mike (2003). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-560-1
- Spick, Mike (2006). Aces of the Reich. Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-675-6
- Sundin, Claes & Bergström. Christer (1997). Luftwaffe Fighter Aircraft in Profile. Altglen, PA: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 0-7643-0291-4 including a colour profile of aircraft (#5)
- Weal, John (1996). Bf109D/E Aces 1939-41. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-487-3.
- Weal, John (1999). Bf109F/G/K Aces of the Western Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-905-0. including a colour profile of aircraft (#24)
- Weal, John (1996). Focke-Wulf Fw190 Aces of the Western Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-595-0. including a colour profiles of aircraft (#18 & 25)
Oberst Adolf Galland
| Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
6 December 1941 – 10 January 1943
Major Josef Priller
Generalmajor Carl-August Schumacher
| Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Norwegen
18 January 1944 – May 1944
Oberstleutnant Günther Scholz
Hauptmann Walther Dahl
| Commander of Jagdgeschwader z.b.V.
6 June 1944 – 15 June 1944
none: unit renamed
| Commander of Jagdgeschwader 4
15 June 1944 – 6 August 1944
Oberleutnant Gerhard Michalski
none: new command
| Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Ungarn
August 1944 – 7 January 1945
none: command disbanded
Major Gerhard Barkhorn
| Commander of Jagdgeschwader 6 Horst Wessel
10 April 1945 – 17 April 1945
Major Richard Leppla