|Nickname(s)||Star of Africa to the Germans
Jochen to his friends
13 December 1919|
|Died||30 September 1942
Sidi Abdel Rahman, Egypt
|Buried at||Heroes Cemetery in Derna
Memorial Gardens at Tobruk (reinterred)
|Years of service||1938–42|
|Unit||LG 2, JG 52 and JG 27|
|Commands held||3./JG 27|
|Awards||Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare|
Hans-Joachim Marseille (13 December 1919 – 30 September 1942; German pronunciation: [hants joˈaχɪm mɑrˈseɪ]) was a Luftwaffe fighter pilot and flying ace during World War II. He is noted for his aerial battles during the North African Campaign and his Bohemian lifestyle. One of the most successful fighter pilots, he was nicknamed the "Star of Africa". Marseille claimed all but seven of his "official" 158 victories against the British Commonwealth's Desert Air Force over North Africa, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter for his entire combat career. No other pilot claimed as many Western Allied aircraft as Marseille.
Marseille, of French Huguenot ancestry, joined the Luftwaffe in 1938. At the age of 20 he graduated from one of the Luftwaffe's fighter pilot schools just in time to participate in the Battle of Britain, without notable success. A charming person, he had such a busy night life that sometimes he was too tired to be allowed to fly the next morning. As a result, he was transferred to another unit, which relocated to North Africa in April 1941.
Under the guidance of his new commander, who recognised the latent potential in the young officer, Marseille quickly developed his abilities as a fighter pilot. He reached the zenith of his fighter pilot career on 1 September 1942, when during the course of three combat sorties he claimed 17 enemy fighters shot down, earning him the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten (Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds). Only 29 days later, Marseille was killed in a flying accident, when he was forced to abandon his fighter due to engine failure. After he exited the smoke-filled cockpit, Marseille's chest struck the vertical stabiliser of his aircraft. The blow either killed him instantly or incapacitated him so that he was unable to open his parachute.
- 1 Early life
- 2 World War II
- 3 Memorials
- 4 Victory claims and notable actions
- 5 Summary of career
- 6 Marseille and his environment
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Hans-Joachim "Jochen" Walter Rudolf Siegfried Marseille was born to Charlotte (maiden name: Charlotte Marie Johanna Pauline Gertrud Riemer) and Hauptmann Siegfried Georg Martin Marseille, a family with paternal Huguenot ancestry, in Berlin-Charlottenburg Berliner Strasse 164 on 13 December 1919 at 11:45 pm.[Note 1] As a child, he was physically weak, and he nearly died from a serious case of Influenza. His father Siegfried was an Army officer during World War I, and later left the armed forces to join the Berlin Police force. Siegfried later rejoined the Army in 1933, and was promoted to General in 1935. Promoted again he attained the rank of Generalmajor on 1 July 1941. He served on the Eastern Front from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Siegfried Marseille was killed by partisans near Pyetrykaw on 29 January 1944. He was buried in the cemetery of Selasje. Hans-Joachim also had a younger sister, Ingeborg "Inge". While on sick leave in Athens at the end of December 1941, he was summoned to Berlin by a telegram from his mother. Upon arriving home, he learned his sister had been "slain by a jealous lover"; Hans-Joachim never recovered emotionally from this blow.
When Marseille was still a young child his parents divorced and his mother subsequently married a police official named Reuter. Marseille initially assumed the name of his stepfather at school (a matter he had a difficult time accepting) but he reverted to his father's name of Marseille in adulthood. He acquired the reputation of being a rebel from a lack of discipline, a characteristic that would plague him early on in his Luftwaffe career. Marseille also had a difficult relationship with his natural father whom he refused to visit in Hamburg for some time after the divorce. Eventually he attempted a reconciliation with his father, who subsequently introduced him to the nightlife that was to initially hamper his military career during his early years in the Luftwaffe. However, the rapproachment with his father did not last and he did not see him again thereafter.
Marseille attended the 12th Volksschule Berlin (1926–1930), and from the age of 10, the Prinz Heinrich Gymnasium in Berlin-Schöneberg (1930–1938). He was considered to be a lazy student at first, and was constantly playing pranks and getting into trouble. Toward the end of his school years he started to take his education more seriously and qualified as one of the youngest (at 17 years, six months) to achieve his Abitur, graduating in early 1938. Marseille then expressed his desire to become a "flying officer."
Entry into the Luftwaffe
Although not athletic in physique, Marseille received a good report for a term with the Reichsarbeitsdienst ("State Labour Service") Abtlg. 1/177 in Osterholz-Scharmbeck near Bremen, between 4 April and 24 September 1938.
He joined Luftwaffe on 7 November 1938, as a Fahnenjunker (officer candidate) and received his military basic training in Quedlinburg in the Harz region. On 1 March 1939 Marseille was transferred to the Luftkriegsschule (LKS 4—air war school) near Fürstenfeldbruck. Among his classmates was Werner Schröer. Schröer reports that Marseille was often in breach of military discipline. Consequently Marseille was ordered to stay on base while his class mates were on weekend leave. Quite frequently Marseille ignored this and left Schröer a note: "Went out! Please take my chores." On one occasion, while performing a slow circuit, Marseille broke away and performed an imaginary weaving dogfight. He was reprimanded by his commanding officer, Hauptmann Mueller-Rohrmoser, and taken off flying duties and his promotion to Gefreiter postponed. Soon after, during a cross-country flight, he landed on a quiet stretch of Autobahn (between Magdeburg and Braunschweig) and ran behind a tree to relieve himself. Some farmers came to enquire if he needed assistance, but by the time they arrived Marseille was on his way, and they were blown back by his slipstream. Infuriated, the farmers reported the matter and Marseille was again suspended from flying. Those he graduated with had been made full officers by early 1940, while Marseille's indiscipline left him with the rank of Oberfähnrich at the end of 1941.
Marseille completed his training at Jagdfliegerschule 5 (5th fighter pilot school) in Wien-Schwechat to which he was posted on 1 November 1939. Jagdfliegerschule 5 at the time was under the command of the World War I flying ace and recipient of the Pour le Mérite Eduard Ritter von Schleich. One of his teachers at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 was the Austro-Hungarian World War I ace Julius Arigi. Marseille graduated from Jagdfliegerschule 5 with an outstanding evaluation on 18 July 1940 and was assigned to Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Merseburg. Marseille's unit was assigned to air defence duty over the Leuna plant from the outbreak of war until the fall of France.
On 10 August 1940 he was assigned to I. Jagd/Lehrgeschwader 2, based in Calais-Marck, to begin operations over Britain and again received an outstanding evaluation this time by his Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur, Herbert Ihlefeld.
World War II
Battle of Britain
In his first dogfight over England on 24 August 1940, Marseille was involved in a four-minute battle with a skilled opponent.[Note 2] He defeated his opponent by pulling up into a tight chandelle, to gain an altitude advantage before diving and firing. The British fighter was struck in the engine, pitching over and diving into the English Channel; this was Marseille's first victory. Marseille was then engaged from above by more enemy fighters. By pushing his aircraft into a steep dive then pulling up metres above the water, Marseille escaped from the machine gun fire of his opponents: "skipping away over the waves, I made a clean break. No one followed me and I returned to Leeuwarden [sic—Marseille was based near Calais, not Leeuwarden]."  Marseille did not take any pleasure in this victory and found it difficult to accept the realities of aerial combat. In a letter to his mother, dated 24 August, he said:
"Today I shot down my first opponent. It does not sit well with me. I keep thinking how the mother of this young man must feel when she gets the news of her son's death. And I am to blame for this death. I am sad, instead of being happy about the first victory."
On his second sortie, he scored another victory, and by the 15 September 1940, had claimed his fourth victory. Marseille became an ace on 18 September after claiming a fifth enemy aircraft. While returning from a bomber-escort mission on 23 September 1940 flying Werk Nummer (W.Nr) 5094, his engine failed 10 miles off Cap Gris Nez after combat damage sustained over Dover. He tried to radio his position but was forced to bail out over the sea. He paddled around in the water for three hours before being rescued by a Heinkel He 59 float plane based at Schellingwoude. Severely worn out and suffering from exposure, he was sent to a field hospital. I.(Jagd)/LG 2 claimed three aerial victories for the loss of four Bf 109s that day.
According to one source, Marseille's victor was a well-known ace. Werk Nummer (W.Nr) 5094 was destroyed in this engagement by Robert Stanford Tuck, who had pursued a Bf 109 to that location and whose pilot was rescued by a He 59 naval aircraft. Marseille is the only German airman known to have been rescued by a He 59 on that day and in that location. Tuck's official claim was for a Bf 109 destroyed off Griz Nez at 09:45—the only pilot to submit a claim in that location. Marseille was in serious trouble when arriving back at the airfield. He had abandoned his leader Staffelkapitän Adolf Buhl, who was shot down and killed. He received a stern rebuke and final warning from Herbert Ihlefeld, during which he tore up his flight evaluations with a visibly upset Marseille looking on. Other pilots were voicing their dissent concerning Marseille. Because of his alienation of other pilots, his arrogance and unapologetic nature, Ihlefeld would eventually dismiss Marseille from LG 2.
Another account recalled how Marseille once ignored an order to turn back from a fight when outnumbered by two to one, but seeing an enemy aircraft closing on his wing leader, Marseille broke formation and shot the attacking aircraft down. Expecting nothing but "a well done Jochen" when he landed, he was thoroughly criticised for his actions, receiving three days of confinement for failing to carry out an order. Days later, Marseille was passed over for promotion and was now the sole Fähnrich in the Geschwader. This was a humiliation for him, suspecting that his abilities were being suppressed so the squadron leaders could take all the glory in the air.
Shortly afterwards, in early October 1940, after having claimed seven aerial victories all them flying with I.(Jagd)/LG 2 Marseille was transferred to 4./Jagdgeschwader 52,[Note 3] flying alongside the likes of Johannes Steinhoff and Gerhard Barkhorn. He wrote off four aircraft as a result of operations during this period.[Note 4] Steinhoff, later recalled:
"Marseille was extremely handsome. He was a very gifted pilot, but he was unreliable. He had girl friends everywhere, and they kept him so busy that he was sometimes so worn out that he had to be grounded. His sometime irresponsible way of conducting his duties was the main reason I fired him. But he had irresistible charm." 
As punishment for "insubordination"—rumoured to be his penchant for American jazz music, womanising and an overt "playboy" lifestyle—and inability to fly as a wingman, Steinhoff transferred Marseille to Jagdgeschwader 27 on 24 December 1940. When he joined his new unit, it was difficult to foresee his outstanding career. His new Gruppenkommandeur, Eduard Neumann, later recalled:
“His hair was too long and he brought with him a list of disciplinary punishments as long as your arm. Of the 7 "kills" he had claimed fighting along the English Channel, 4 had not been confirmed [sic: the victories were granted]– a large percentage. On top of it all, he was a Berliner... In trying to create an image, he wasn't averse from talking about the many girls he had been to bed with, among them a famous actress. He was tempestuous, temperamental and unruly. Thirty years later, he would have been called a playboy.” 
Nevertheless, Neumann quickly recognised Marseille's potential as a pilot. He stated in an interview: "Marseille could only be one of two, either a disciplinary problem or a great fighter pilot." Jagdgeschwader 27 was soon relocated to North Africa.
Arrival in North Africa
Marseille's unit briefly saw action during the invasion of Yugoslavia, deployed to Zagreb on 10 April 1941, before transferring to Africa. On 20 April on his flight from Tripoli to his front airstrip Marseille's Bf 109 developed engine trouble and he had to make a forced landing in the desert short of his destination. His squadron departed the scene after they had ensured that he had got down safely. Marseille continued his journey, first hitchhiking on an Italian truck, then, finding this too slow; he tried his luck at an airstrip in vain. Finally he made his way to the general in charge of a supply depot on the main route to the front, and convinced him that he should be available for operations next day. Marseille's character appealed to the general and he put at his disposal his own Opel Admiral, complete with chauffeur. "You can pay me back by getting fifty victories, Marseille!" were his parting words. Nevertheless he caught up with his squadron and arrived on 21 April.
He scored two more victories on 23 and 28 April, his first in the North African Campaign. However, on 23 April, Marseille himself was shot down during his third sortie of that day by Sous-Lieutenant James Denis, a Free French pilot with No. 73 Squadron RAF (8.5 victories), flying a Hawker Hurricane. Marseille's Bf 109 received almost 30 hits in the cockpit area, and three or four shattered the canopy. As Marseille was leaning forward the rounds missed him by inches. Marseille managed to crash-land his fighter. Just a month later, records show that James Denis shot down Marseille again on 21 May 1941. Marseille engaged Denis, but overshot his target. A turning dogfight ensued, in which Denis once again bested Marseille.
Neumann (a Geschwaderkommodore as of 10 June 1942) encouraged Marseille to self-train to improve his abilities. By this time, he had crashed or damaged another four Bf 109E aircraft, including a tropicalised aircraft he was ferrying on 23 April 1941. Marseille's kill rate was low, and he went from June to August without a victory. He was further frustrated after damage forced him to land on two occasions: once on 14 June 1941 and again after he was hit by ground fire over Tobruk and was forced to land blind.
His tactic of diving into enemy formations often found him under fire from all directions, resulting in his aircraft being damaged beyond repair, consequently, Eduard Neumann was losing his patience. Marseille persisted, and created a unique self-training programme for himself, both physical and tactical, which resulted not just in outstanding situational awareness, marksmanship and confident control of the aircraft, but also in a unique attack tactic that preferred a high angle deflection shooting attack and shooting at the target's front from the side, instead of the common method of chasing an aircraft and shooting at it directly from behind. Marseille often practiced these tactics on the way back from missions with his comrades. Marseille became known as a master at deflection shooting.
As Marseille began to claim enemy aircraft regularly, on occasion he would organise the welfare of the downed pilot personally, driving out to remote crash sites to rescue downed Allied airmen. On 13 September 1941 Marseille shot down Pat Byers of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 451 Squadron. Marseille flew to Byers' airfield and dropped a note informing the Australians of his condition and treatment. He returned several days later to second the first note with news of Byers' death. Marseille repeated these sorties after being warned by Neumann that Göring had forbade any more flights of this kind. After the war, Marseille's JG 27 comrade Werner Schröer stated that Marseille attempted these gestures as "penance" for a group that "loved shooting down aircraft" but not killing a man; "we tried to separate the two. Marseille allowed us that escape, our penance I suppose."
Finally on 24 September 1941, his practice came to fruition, with his first multiple victory sortie, claiming four Hurricanes of No. 1 Squadron, South African Air Force (SAAF). By mid December, he had reached 25 victories and was duly awarded the German Cross in Gold. His Staffel was rotated to Germany in November/December 1941 to convert to the Bf 109F-4/trop, the variant that was described as the Experten (experts) "mount." These victories represented his 19–23rd victory.
The "Star of Africa"
Marseille always strove to improve his abilities. He worked to strengthen his legs and abdominal muscles, to help him tolerate the extreme g forces of air combat. Marseille also drank an abnormal amount of milk and shunned sunglasses, to improve his eyesight.
To counter German fighter attacks, the Allied pilots flew "Lufbery circles" (in which each aircraft's tail was covered by the friendly aircraft behind). The tactic was effective and dangerous as a pilot attacking this formation could find himself constantly in the sights of enemy pilots. Marseille often dived at high speed into the middle of these enemy defensive formations from either above or below, executing a tight turn and firing a two-second deflection shot to destroy an enemy aircraft. The successes Marseille had begun to become readily apparent in early 1942. He claimed his 37–40th victories on 8 February 1942 and 41–44th victories four days later which earned him the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross that same month for 46 victories.
Marseille attacked under conditions many considered unfavourable, but his marksmanship allowed him to make an approach fast enough to escape the return fire of the two aircraft flying on either flank of the target. Marseille's excellent eyesight made it possible for him to spot the enemy before he was spotted, allowing him to take the appropriate action and manoeuvre into position for an attack.
In combat, Marseille's unorthodox methods led him to operate in a small leader/wingman unit, which he believed to be the safest and most effective way of fighting in the high-visibility conditions of the North African skies. Marseille "worked" alone in combat keeping his wingman at a safe distance so he would not collide or fire on him in error.
In a dogfight, particularly when attacking Allied aircraft in a Lufbery circle, Marseille would often favour dramatically reducing the throttle and even lowering the flaps to reduce speed and shorten his turn radius, rather than the standard procedure of using full throttle throughout. Emil Clade said that none of the other pilots could do this effectively, preferring instead to dive on single opponents at speed so as to escape if anything went wrong. Clade said of Marseille's tactics:
Marseille developed his own special tactics, which differed significantly from the methods of most other pilots. (When attacking a Lufbery circle) he had to fly very slowly. He even took it to the point where he had to operate his landing flaps as not to fall down, because, of course he had to fly his curve (turns) more tightly than the upper defensive circle. He and his fighter were one unit, and he was in command of that aircraft like no-one else.
Friedrich Körner (36 victories) also recognised this as unique: "Shooting in a curve (deflection shooting) is the most difficult thing a pilot can do. The enemy flies in a defensive circle, that means they are already lying in a curve and the attacking fighter has to fly into this defensive circle. By pulling his aircraft right around, his curve radius must be smaller, but if he does that, his target disappears in most cases below his wings. So he cannot see it anymore and has to proceed simply by instinct."
His success as a fighter pilot also led to promotions and more responsibility as an officer. 1 May 1942 saw him prematurely promoted to Oberleutnant followed by his appointment to Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 27 on 8 June 1942, thus succeeding Oberleutnant Gerhard Homuth who took command of I./JG 27.
In a conversation with his friend Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt, Marseille commented on his style, and his idea of air-to-air combat:
I often experience combat as it should be. I see myself in the middle of a British [sic] swarm, firing from every position and never getting caught. Our aircraft are basic elements, Stahlschmidt, which have got to be mastered. You've got to be able to shoot from any position. From left or right turns, out of a roll, on your back, whenever. Only this way can you develop your own particular tactics. Attack tactics, that the enemy simply cannot anticipate during the course of the battle – a series of unpredictable movements and actions, never the same, always stemming from the situation at hand. Only then can you plunge into the middle of an enemy swarm and blow it up from the inside.
Marseille had a narrow escape on 13 May 1942, when his Bf 109 was damaged during a dogfight with 12 Kittyhawks (Mk I) from No. 3 Squadron RAAF, southeast of Gazala and over the Gulf of Bomba ("Gazala Bay"). With a wingman, Marseille bounced the Kittyhawks. After he downed one of the Australian pilots, Flying Officer Graham Pace in AL172, Marseille's Bf 109 took hits in the oil tank and propeller, likely from Flying Officer Geoff Chinchen (1919–2005), who reported damaging one of the Messerschmitts. Marseille nevertheless managed to shoot down another Kittyhawk (Sergeant Colin McDiarmid; AK855), before nursing his overheating aircraft back to base. The repairs to Marseille's Bf 109 took two days. The aerial victories were recorded as numbers 57–58.
Weeks later, on 30 May, Marseille performed another mercy mission after witnessing his 65th victory—Pilot Officer Graham George Buckland of No. 250 Squadron RAF—strike the tail plane of his fighter and fall to his death when the parachute did not open. After landing he drove out to the crash site. The P-40 had landed over Allied lines but they found the dead pilot within German territory. Marseille marked his grave, collected his papers and verified his identity, then flew to Buckland's airfield to deliver a letter of regret. Buckland died two days before his 21st birthday.
His attack method to break up formations, which he perfected, resulted in a high proportion of kills, and in rapid, multiple victories per attack. On 3 June 1942, Marseille attacked alone a formation of 16 Curtiss P-40 fighters and shot down six aircraft of No. 5 Squadron SAAF, five of them in six minutes, including three aces: Robin Pare (six victories), Douglas Golding (6.5 victories) and Andre Botha (five victories). This success inflated his score further, recording his 70–75th victories. Marseille was awarded the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub on 6 June 1942. His wingman Rainer Pöttgen, nicknamed Fliegendes Zählwerk the ("Flying Counting Machine"), said of this fight:
All the enemy were shot down by Marseille in a turning dogfight. As soon as he shot, he needed only to glance at the enemy plane. His pattern [of gunfire] began at the front, the engine's nose, and consistently ended in the cockpit. How he was able to do this not even he could explain. With every dogfight he would throttle back as far as possible; this enabled him to fly tighter turns. His expenditure of ammunition in this air battle was 360 rounds (60 per aircraft shot down).
Schröer, did however, place Marseille's methods into context:
He was the most amazing and ingenious combat pilot I ever saw. He was also very lucky on many occasions. He thought nothing of jumping into a fight outnumbered ten to one, often alone, with us trying to catch up to him. He violated every cardinal rule of fighter combat. He abandoned all the rules.
On 17 June 1942, Marseille claimed his 100th aerial victory. He was the 11th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. Marseille then returned to Germany for two months leave and the following day was awarded the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. On 6 August, he began his journey back to North Africa accompanied by his fiancée Hanne-Lies Küpper. On 13 August, he met Benito Mussolini in Rome and was presented with the highest Italian military award for bravery, the Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare. While in Italy Marseille disappeared for some time prompting the German authorities to compile a missing persons report, submitted by the Gestapo head in Rome, Herbert Kappler. He was finally located. According to rumours he had run off with an Italian girl and was eventually persuaded to return to his unit. Unusually, nothing was ever said about the incident and no repercussions were visited upon Marseille for this indiscretion.
Leaving his fiancée in Rome, Marseille returned to combat duties on 23 August. 1 September 1942 was Marseille's most successful day, destroying 17 enemy aircraft (nos. 105–121), and September would see him claim 54 victories, his most productive month. The 17 enemy aircraft shot down included eight in 10 minutes, as a result of this feat he was presented with a type 82 Volkswagen Kübelwagen by an Italian Regia Aeronautica squadron, on which his Italian comrades had painted "Otto" (Italian language: Otto = eight). This was the most aircraft from Western Allied air forces shot down by a single pilot in one day. Only one pilot, Emil "Bully" Lang on 4 November 1943, would better this score, against the Soviet Air Force on the Eastern Front. On 3 September 1942 Marseille claimed six victories (nos. 127–132) but was hit by fire from the British-Canadian ace James Francis Edwards.
Three days later Edwards likely killed Günter Steinhausen, a friend of Marseille. The next day, 7 September 1942, another close friend Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt was posted missing in action. These personal losses weighed heavily on Marseille's mind along with his family tragedy. It was noted he barely spoke and became more morose in the last weeks of his life. The strain of combat also induced consistent sleepwalking at night and other symptoms that could be construed as Posttraumatic stress disorder. Marseille never remembered these events.
Marseille continued scoring multiple victories throughout September, including seven on 15 September (nos. 145–151). Between 16 and 25 September, Marseille failed to increase his score due to a fractured arm, sustained in a force landing soon after the 15 September mission. As a result, he had been forbidden to fly by Eduard Neumann. But the same day, Marseille borrowed the Macchi C.202 '96–10' of the Italian ace Tenente Emanuele Annoni, from 96a Squadriglia, 9° Gruppo, 4° Stormo, based at Fuka, for a test flight. But the one-off flight ended in a wheels-up landing, when the German ace accidentally switched the engine off, as the throttle control in Italian aircraft was opposite to that of the German aircraft.
Marseille had nearly surpassed his friend Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt's score of 59 victories in just five weeks. However, the massive material superiority of the Allies meant the strain placed on the outnumbered German pilots was now severe. At this time, the strength of German fighter units was 112 (65 serviceable) aircraft against the British muster of some 800 machines. Marseille was becoming physically exhausted by the frenetic pace of combat. After his last combat on 26 September, Marseille was reportedly on the verge of collapse after a 15-minute battle with a formation of Spitfires, during which he scored his seventh victory of that day.
Of particular note was Marseille's 158th claim. After landing in the afternoon of the 26 September 1942, he was physically exhausted. Several accounts allude to his Squadron members being visibly shocked at Marseille's physical state. Marseille, according to his own post-battle accounts, had been engaged by a Spitfire pilot in an intense dogfight that began at high altitude and descended to low-level. Marseille recounted how both he and his opponent strove to get onto the tail of the other. Both succeeded and fired but each time the pursued managed to turn the table on their attacker. Finally, with only 15 minutes of fuel remaining, he climbed into the sun. The RAF fighter followed and was caught in the glare. Marseille executed a tight turn and roll, fired from 100 metres range. The Spitfire caught fire and shed a wing. It crashed into the ground with the pilot still inside. Marseille wrote, "That was the toughest adversary I have ever had. His turns were fabulous... I thought it would be my last fight". Unfortunately the pilot and his unit remain unidentified.
- Werk Nummer (W.Nr) 3579, sustained 50% damage on 2 September 1940 in aerial combat and crash landed near Calais-Marck.[Note 4]
- W.Nr 5597, sustained 75% damage on 11 September 1940 in aerial combat and made an emergency landing near Wissant.
- W.Nr 5094, sustained 100% damage on 23 September 1940 Marseille bailed out after aerial combat near Dover.
- W.Nr 4091, sustained 35% damage on 28 September 1940 Marseille made an emergency landing after engine failure near Théville.
- W.Nr 1259, sustained 80% damage on 20 April 1941 Marseille made an emergency landing after engine failure near Cahela.
- W.Nr 5160, sustained 100% damage on 23 April 1941 Marseille made an emergency landing after combat and belly landing near Tobruk.
- W.Nr 1567, sustained 40% damage on 21 May 1941 in aerial combat and made an emergency landing near Tobruk.
Marseille flew four different Bf 109F-4/Z aircraft:
- Werk Nummer (W.Nr) 12593, in which his score rose to 50 on 23 February 1942
- W.Nr. 10059, with 68 victory bars on the rudder. On 15 September 1942 this aircraft lost a wing in a midair collision when its pilot Leutnant Friedrich Hoffmann of 3./JG 27 collided with a Bf 109 piloted by Unteroffizier Heinrich Pein of 5./JG 27. Unteroffizier Pein was killed in the resulting crash. Leutnant Hoffmann bailed out only to succumb to his injuries five weeks later.
- W.Nr. 10137, with the number "70" within an open-topped wreath and 31 victory bars on the rudder
- His final F-4/trop, W.Nr. 8673 with the early-F Variant rear-fuselage horizontal support bars welded along the lower rear fuselage seam joining the fin/rudder and the stabiliser/elevators to the next forward fuselage section, a black-outlined yellow 14, and, on the rudder, "100" enclosed within a wreath, atop 51 victory bars.
The two missions of 26 September 1942 had been flown in Bf 109G-2/trop, in one of which Marseille had shot down seven enemy aircraft. The first six of these machines were to replace the Gruppe's Bf 109Fs. All had been allocated to Marseille's 3 Staffel. Marseille had previously ignored orders to use these new aircraft because of its high engine failure rate, but on the orders of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, Marseille reluctantly obeyed. One of these machines, WK-Nr. 14256 (Engine: Daimler-Benz DB 605 A-1, W.Nr. 77 411), was to be the final aircraft Marseille flew.
Over the next three days Marseille's Staffel was rested and taken off flying duties. On 28 September Marseille received a telephone call from Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel asking to return with him to Berlin. Hitler was to make a speech at the Berlin Sportpalast on 30 September and Rommel and Marseille were to attend. Marseille rejected this offer, citing that he was needed at the front and had already taken three months vacation that year. Marseille also revealed he wanted to take leave at Christmas, to marry his fiancée Hanne-Lies Küpper.
On 30 September 1942, Hauptmann Marseille was leading his Staffel on a Stuka escort mission, covering the withdrawal of the group and relieving the outward escort, III./Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53), which had been deployed to support JG 27 in Africa. Marseille's flight was vectored onto enemy aircraft in the vicinity but the enemy withdrew and did not take up combat. Marseille vectored the heading and height of the formation to Neumann who directed III./JG 27 to engage. Marseille heard 8./JG 27 leader Werner Schröer claim a Spitfire over the radio at 10:30. While returning to base, his new Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2/trop's cockpit began to fill with smoke; blinded and half asphyxiated, he was guided back to German lines by his wingmen, Jost Schlang and Lt Rainer Pöttgen. Upon reaching friendly lines, "Yellow 14" had lost power and was drifting lower and lower. Pöttgen called out after about 10 minutes that they had reached the White Mosque of Sidi Abdel Rahman, and were thus within friendly lines. At this point, Marseille deemed his aircraft no longer flyable and decided to bail out, his last words to his comrades being "I've got to get out now, I can't stand it any longer".
Eduard Neumann was personally directing the mission from the command post:
I was at the command post and listening to the radio communication between the pilots. I realised immediately something serious had happened; I knew they were still in flight and that they were trying to bring Marseille over the lines into our territory and that his aircraft was emitting a lot of smoke.
His Staffel, which had been flying a tight formation around him, peeled away to give him the necessary room to manoeuvre. Marseille rolled his aircraft onto its back, the standard procedure for bail out, but due to the smoke and slight disorientation, he failed to notice that the aircraft had entered a steep dive (at an angle of 70–80 degrees) and was now travelling at a considerably faster speed (about 400 mph). He worked his way out of the cockpit and into the rushing air only to be carried backwards by the slipstream, the left side of his chest striking the vertical stabiliser of his fighter, either killing him instantly or rendering him unconscious to the point that he could not deploy his parachute. He fell almost vertically, hitting the desert floor 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) south of Sidi Abdel Rahman. As it transpired, a gaping 40 cm (16 in) hole had been made in his parachute and the canopy had spilled out, but after recovering the body, the parachute release handle was still on "safe," revealing Marseille had not even attempted to open it. Whilst checking the body, Oberarzt Dr Bick, the regimental doctor for the 115th Panzergrenadier-Regiment, noted Marseille's wristwatch had stopped at exactly 11:42 am. Dr. Bick had been the first to reach the crash site, having been stationed just to the rear of the forward mine defences, he had also witnessed Marseille's fatal fall.
In his autopsy report, Dr. Bick stated:
"The pilot lay on his stomach as if asleep. His arms were hidden beneath his body. As I came closer, I saw a pool of blood that had issued from the side of his crushed skull; brain matter was exposed. I turned the dead pilot over onto his back and opened the zipper of his flight jacket, saw the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Marseille never actually received the Diamonds personally) and I knew immediately who this was. The paybook also told me."
Oberleutnant Ludwig Franzisket collected the body from the desert. Hans-Joachim Marseille lay in state in the Staffel sick bay, his comrades coming to pay their respects throughout the day. As a tribute they put on the record "Rhumba Azul" that he had enjoyed listening to; it played over and over until the close of day. Marseille's funeral took place on 1 October 1942 at the Heroes Cemetery in Derna with Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring and Eduard Neumann delivering a eulogy.
The last entry in his flight book by Eduard Neumann read: "Flight duration 54 minutes, time of landing "black cross". Took to parachute 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) south of Sidi Abdel Rahman. Remarks: Engine damage. Flights 1–482, 388 combat flights and a total of 158 kills: Certified in the field 30 September 1942".
An enquiry into the crash was hastily set up. The commission's report (Aktenzeichen 52, Br.B.Nr. 270/42)[Note 5] concluded that the crash was caused by damage to the differential gear, which caused an oil leak. Then a number of teeth broke off the spur wheel and ignited the oil. Sabotage or human error was ruled out. The aircraft, W. Nr. 14256, was ferried to the unit via Bari, Italy. The mission that ended in its destruction was its first mission.
Impact of Marseille's death
JG 27 was moved out of Africa for about a month because of the impact Marseille's death had on morale. The deaths of two other German aces, Günter Steinhausen and Marseille's friend Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt, just three weeks earlier reduced spirits to an all-time low. One biographer suggests these consequences were instigated by a failure in the command style of Marseille, although it was not entirely within his control. The more success Marseille had, the more his staffel relied on him to carry the greater share of aerial victories claimed by the unit. So his death, when it came, was something which JG 27 had seemingly not prepared for.
Historians Hans Ring and Christopher Shores also point to the fact that Marseille's promotions were based on personal success rates more than any other reason, and other pilots did not get to score air victories, let alone become Experten themselves. They flew support as the "maestro showed them how it was done", and often "held back from attacking enemy aircraft to build his score still higher". As a result there was no other Experten to step into Marseille's shoes if he was killed. Eduard Neumann explained:
"This handicap [that very few pilots scored] was partially overcome by the morale effect on the whole Geschwader of the success of pilots like Marseille. In fact most of the pilots in Marseille's staffel acted in secondary role as escort to the "master"."
Still Neumann, who was himself one of the Luftwaffe 's most able operational leaders, in the assessment of his subordinate commander's quality was not necessarily easily imitable:
"As a fighter pilot Marseille was absolutely supreme... Above all, he possessed lightning reflexes and could make a quicker judgment in a bigger orbit than anyone else... Marseille was unique..."
Marseille's impact on enemy fighter pilots and their morale is unclear. Andrew Thomas quoted Pilot Officer Bert Houle of No. 213 Squadron RAF; "He was an extremely skilled pilot and a deadly shot. It was a helpless feeling to be continually bounced, and to do so little about it." Robert Tate on the other hand is sceptical that enemy pilots would have been familiar with each other, "How well was Marseille known to DAF personnel in the Desert? Apparently not so well. Although there is little indication that some Allied pilots may have heard of Marseille, this information did not readily make its way down to Allied Squadrons. Fanciful stories abound of how pilots knew of one another and hoped to duel with each other in the skies. This was more than likely not the case."
- Hans-Joachim Marseille appeared four times in the Deutsche Wochenschau. The first time on Wednesday 17 February 1942 when Oberst Galland, the General der Jagdflieger, visited an airport in the desert. The second time on Wednesday 1 July 1942 when Marseille travelled to Rastenburg to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords from Adolf Hitler. The third time on Wednesday 9 September 1942 announcing Marseille's 17 aerial victories from 1 September 1942 and that he had been awarded the Diamonds to his Knight's Cross. His last appearance dates from Wednesday 30 September 1942 showing Hauptmann Marseille visiting Erwin Rommel.
- A wartime pyramid was constructed by Italian engineers at the site of Marseille's fall but over time it decayed. On 22 October 1989, Eduard Neumann and other JG 27 survivors in co-operation with the Egyptian government, erected a new pyramid that stands there to this day.
- In the weeks following Marseille's death morale was low. In an attempt to improve morale Oberleutnant Fritz Dettmann persuaded Eduard Neumann to rename 3./JG 27 the "Marseille Staffel" (seen in photographs as "Staffel Marseille").
- His grave bears a one-word epitaph: Undefeated. It is understood that after the war, Hans-Joachim Marseille's remains were brought from Derna and reinterred in the memorial gardens at Tobruk; it was there that his mother visited his grave in 1954. His remains are now in a small clay coffin (sarcophagus) bearing the number 4133.
- In 1957, a German film, Der Stern von Afrika (The Star of Africa) directed by Alfred Weidenmann, was made starring Joachim Hansen as Hans-Joachim Marseille.
- On 24 October 1975, the Bundesluftwaffe's Uetersen-Appen Barracks was renamed the "Marseille Barracks".
- The Memorial of the Reuter-Marseille family can be found in the graveyard in Berlin, Alt-Schöneberg. The left side bears the insignia.
|Hans-Joachim Marseille||Hans-Joachim Marseille|
|Inh. d. Eichenlaubs m. Schwertern||Recipient of the Oak Leaves with Swords|
|u. Brillanten zum Ritterkreuz||and Diamonds to the Knight’s Cross|
|Der höchsten Ital. Tapferkeitsmedaille||The highest Italian Medal of bravery|
|in Gold u.a. Auszeichnungen||in Gold and other Awards|
|Geb. 13 December 1919 gef. i. Derna i. Afrika 30 September 1942||Born 13 December 1919 killed in Derna in Africa 30 September 1942|
- The tail rudder of his second to last Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4/trop (Werknummer 8673) now bearing 158 victory marks is on display at Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr in Berlin Gatow. It had initially been given to his family as a gift by Hermann Göring and was donated to the museum in the 1970s.
- Twenty-five years after Marseille's death, fighter pilot veterans of World War II gathered to honour Marseille at an "International Fighter Pilots Meeting" on 7–8 October 1967 at Fürstenfeldbruck. Attending this meeting were fighter pilots from six different countries, including Erich Hartmann, Robert Stanford Tuck, Adolf Galland, Günther Rall and Mike Martin, who was shot down by Marseille on 3 June 1942. The guests of honour at this meeting were Marseille's mother, Frau Charlotte Reuter-Marseille and his ex-fiancée Hanne-Lies.
- The 16th Deutsches Afrikakorps reunion took place on 1–2 September 1984 in Stuttgart. The German Bundesregierung invited as guest of honour Corporal Mathew P. Letuku from South Africa. Matthew, alias Mathias to everyone in JG 27, was a black South African soldier taken prisoner of war by German troops on the morning of 21 June 1941 at fortress Tobruk. Mathias initially worked as a volunteer driver with 3. Staffel then befriended Marseille and became his domestic helper in Africa.
Victory claims and notable actions
Fähnrich Hans-Joachim Marseille was transferred to his first combat assignment with the I.(Jagd)/Lehrgeschwader 2 at the time stationed at Calais-Marck on Sunday 10 August 1940. Two days later he arrived at this unit on 12 August 1940.
He was assigned to the 1. Staffel of this Gruppe. Staffelkapitän was Oberleutnant Adolf Buhl. One of the Schwarmführer was Oberfeldwebel Helmut Goedert, to whom Marseille was assigned as wingman. Marseille already flew his very first combat mission on the next day, Wednesday 13 August 1940 and claimed his first aerial victory on 24 August 1940. In over little more than two years he would amass another 157 aerial victories. His 158 aerial victories were claimed in 382 combat missions.
Ace of spades) indicates those days which made Marseille an ace-in-a-day, a term which designates a fighter pilot who has shot down five or more airplanes in a single day. This and the ♠ (
 This indicates that the aerial combat report is missing from the German National Archives.
Russell Brown has expressed doubt regarding the veracity of Marseille's claims. This indicates that Australian historian
|– 1940 –
I. (Jagd)/LG 2
|1||24 August 1940||Claim: Hurricane/Spitfire over Kent.|
|I. (J) LG 2 was ordered to fly three combat missions over the area of Kent. The 1. Staffel claimed three aerial victories out of ten victories claimed by I.(J)/LG 2 in total in return for three losses. Fighter Command lost 14 fighters to enemy fighter action that day.|
|2||2 September 1940||Claim: Spitfire over Detling, Kent. Only one Spitfire was lost in the Detling area—Maidstone—at around 16:25. Sergeant J. Stokes, No. 603 Squadron RAF was wounded. The identity of his attackers is unknown. Seven Spitfires were destroyed and four damaged in combat on this day.|
|Marseille's aircraft was severely hit so that he had to crash land near Calais-Marck. Bf 109 E-7 W.Nr. 3579 was 50% damaged. I.(J)/LG 2 claimed six aerial victories and reported one loss.[Note 4]|
|3||11 September 1940||17.05||Claim: Spitfire over southern England.|
|Marseille flew as wingman to promoted Hauptfeldwebel Helmut Goedert. Marseille's aircraft was severely damaged by a Hurricane pilot forcing him to crash-land at the French coast near Wissant. Bf 109 E-7 W.Nr. 5597 was 75% damaged. Only two Hurricane Squadrons filed claims for Bf 109s on that date—253 and No. 303 Squadron RAF. 303 Squadron made their claims at around 16:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) the same time (17:00 Central European Time, CET), Marseille was in the air. I.(J)/LG 2 claimed seven aerial victories for the loss of two in this engagement. One source asserts no RAF fighters were reported lost in or around 17:05, or between 16:20 – 17:30 on this date. The only other aircraft reported lost at 17:30 were two Bristol Blenheim's of 235 Squadron RAF which were shot down by Bf 109s whilst raiding Calais. However another source gives the loss of one No. 266 Squadron RAF Spitfire at 17:10. Pilot Officer R.J.B Roach baled out and P7313 was destroyed. Given the one hour time difference, two other Spitfires may fit the time-frame—one from No. 72 Squadron RAF piloted by Pilot Officer B. Douthwaite and another from No. 222 Squadron RAF piloted by Pilot Officer W.R Asseheton—were damaged and force-landed at 16:05 and 16:01 respectively. Given the large aerial battles that were fought on this date, the German opponents of these Squadrons at the time of these losses remain unknown.|
|4||15 September 1940||Claim: Hurricane over the River Thames, England.|
|I.(J)/LG 2 claimed four aerial victories in return for two losses. Only two Hurricanes were lost over the Thames on this date. Pilot Officer A Hess in R4085 and Sgt J Hubacek in R4087, both of 310 Squadron. Both pilots survived.|
|5||18 September 1940||Claim: Spitfire over southern England.|
|6||27 September 1940||Claim: Hurricane over London.|
|I.(J)/LG 2 claimed six aerial victories sustaining four losses including the Staffelkapitän Adolf Buhl. Oberleutnant Buhl was shot down and killed in action when his aircraft crashed into the sea, victims of No. 46 Squadron RAF near RAF Biggin Hill. The time of Marseille's claims are unknown. No. 46 Squadron suffered one loss when an unknown pilot force-landed, his machine damaged, after combat in the same battle. Nine Hurricanes were destroyed and seven damaged on this day. Six of the destroyed and three of the damaged machines suffered the damage on combat with Bf 109s.|
|7||28 September 1940||Claim: Spitfire over southern England.
Fighter Command lost four Spitfires in action with Bf 109s on this date. All were shot down near 10:30. Three were from No. 41 Squadron RAF and one from No. 605 Squadron RAF. H.A.J MacDonald of 605 Squadron was killed as was J.G. Boyle of No. 41 Squadron. Pilots H.H Chalder and E.S Aldous suffered serious and minor wounds respectively.
|– 1941 –
|8||23 April 1941||12.50||Claim: Hurricane over Tobruk.|
|The adversaries could have been Hurricanes from No. 73 Squadron RAF. This unit lost three aircraft in aerial combat with Bf 109 around noon. At least one further Hurricane was lost in combat by No. 6 Squadron RAF. I./JG 27 claimed seven Hurricanes in two engagements: four between 10.40 – 11.05 and three from 12.50 – 13.00.
Marseille's Bf 109 E-7 (W.Nr. 5160) sustained 100% damage after combat and belly landing at Tobruk and being shot down by Sous-Lt. Denis.
|9||28 April 1941||09.25||Claim: Bristol Blenheim Mk IV over the sea north of Tobruk.|
|The Blenheim was T2429, from No. 45 Squadron RAF, piloted by Pilot Officer B. C. de G. Allan. The crew and passengers were killed in the crash.[Note 6]|
|10–11||1 May 1941||09.15
|Claim: Two Hurricanes south of Tobruk.|
|His adversaries were No. 274 Squadron RAF and No. 6 Squadron RAF. I./JG 27 claimed four victories. Pilot Officer Stanley Godden, an ace with seven victories, was killed in action.|
|12–13||17 June 1941||17.15
|Claim: Two Hurricanes, the first northeast of Tobruk and the second east of Sidi Omar.|
|Germans pilots claimed 13 Hurricanes in numerous engagements, the German authorities confirmed 11 claims, of which seven were credited to I./JG 27. The Allies lost at least 10 aircraft. Around noon, seven Hurricanes of No. 1 Squadron SAAF engaged Bf 109 and lost four aircraft, one of which was lost to ground fire. In the afternoon No. 73 Squadron RAF lost one aircraft to flak, No. 229 Squadron RAF lost two Hurricanes in aerial combat with Bf 109s and No. 274 Squadron RAF also lost two aircraft to German fighters. No. 33 Squadron RAF lost one Hurricane to an Italian Fiat G.50 and a German Ju 87. The Italians claimed three aerial victories. However, Marseille’s victims most likely belonged to No. 229 Squadron RAF and/or No. 274 Squadron RAF.|
|14||28 August 1941||18.00||Claim: Hurricane northwest of Sidi Barrani over the sea.|
|Marseille's adversaries were 12 Hurricanes of No. 1 Squadron SAAF. Lieutenant V.F. Williams fighter crashed into the sea. Although injured he was rescued.|
|15–16||9 September 1941||17.12
|Claim: Two Hurricanes southeast of Bardia.|
|17||13 September 1941||17.25||Claim: Hurricane south of Bardia.|
|This appears to have been Flt Lt Patrick (Pat) Byers (RAF) of No. 451 Squadron RAAF.[Note 7] Byers took off alone and was engaged and shot down by two Bf 109s on the afternoon of 13 September. Later that afternoon two Bf 109s overflew 451 Squadron's base and dropped a note informing them that Byers had survived, but was badly burned. A couple of weeks later, two Bf 109s flew through AA fire and dropped another note, stating that Byers had died of his wounds. It is thought that Marseille was one of the pilots.|
|18||14 September 1941||17.46||Claim: Hurricane southeast of Sofafi.|
|Marseille's opponents were Hurricanes from No. 33 Squadron RAF on an escort mission for Martin Marylands from No. 24 Squadron SAAF. His victim was Sergeant Nourse who bailed out. Three Hurricanes were lost in combat with 12 Bf 109s and six Fiat G.50s. The Italians and Germans combined claims were three Hurricanes in this encounter.|
|19–23||24 September 1941♠||13.30
|Claim: Four Hurricanes and a Martin Maryland of No. 203 Squadron RAF.|
|Nine Hurricanes were from No. 1 Squadron SAAF and nine were from an unidentified unit. The South Africans lost a total of three Hurricanes. Captain C. A. van Vliet and 2nd Lieutenant J. MacRobert returned unhurt while Lieutenant B. E. Dold remains missing. I./JG 27 claimed six aerial victories in this engagement. It is possible that the unidentified aircraft were Mk IIB Tomahawks of No. 112 Squadron RAF. This unit was bounced by a Bf 109, while returning from a shipping escort mission. Pilot Officer D. F. "Jerry" Westenra, a New Zealander and a future ace, bailed out. However, some sources state that Westenra was shot down the following day and/or by Gerhard Homuth.|
|24–25||12 October 1941||08.12
|Claim: Two P-40s near Bir Sheferzan.|
|JG 27 aircraft encountered 24 Mk IIB Tomahawks, belonging to No. 2 Squadron SAAF and No. 3 Squadron RAAF. The Australians lost three aircraft, while the South Africans reported one loss plus one severely damaged. I./JG 27 claimed four aerial victories in this engagement. Marseille's victims were likely Flying Officer H. G. "Robbie" Roberts and Sgt Derek Scott, both of 3 Sqn RAAF. Roberts made a forced landing inside Allied lines and his aircraft was later repaired. Scott crash landed his badly damaged aircraft at his base.|
|26||5 December 1941||15.25||Claim: Hurricane.|
|The adversaries were 20 Hurricanes of No. 274 Squadron RAF and No. 1 Squadron SAAF. Both squadrons reported the loss of one aircraft. I./JG 27 reported two aerial victories in this engagement.|
|27–28||6 December 1941||12.10
|Claim: Two Hurricanes south of El Adem.|
|The adversaries were 24 Hurricanes from No. 229 Squadron RAF and No. 238 Squadron RAF. These units lost five Hurricanes in combat with Bf 109 in the vicinity of Bir el Gobi. Also involved in this aerial combat were Hurricanes from No. 274 Squadron RAF, but this unit did not report any losses. I./JG 27 and II./JG 27 claimed two Hurricanes each.|
|29||7 December 1941||09.30||Claim: Hurricane west of Sidi Omar.|
|JG 27 fought Hurricanes from No. 274 Squadron RAF, which lost three fighters in combat with 15 Ju 87s, six Bf 109s, 12 MC 202s and MC 200s. The Italians and Germans claimed three aerial victories in this engagement. His opponent was Flight Lieutenant Hobbs.|
|30||8 December 1941||08.15||Claim: P-40 southeast of El Adem.|
|Marseille's opponents were misidentified Hurricanes of No. 274 Squadron RAF. This unit lost three fighers in aerial combat with 30 Bf 109s, MC 200s and MC 202s.|
|31||10 December 1941||08.50||Claim: P-40 southeast of El Adem.|
|The victory was over a Tomahawk IIB from No. 2 Squadron SAAF. The pilot, Lieutenant B. G. S. Enslin, bailed out uninjured.|
|32||11 December 1941||09.30||Claim: P-40 southeast of Timimi.|
|A Tomahawk IIB, AK457, of No. 250 Squadron RAF. The pilot, Flight Sergeant M. A. Canty, remains missing in action.|
|33–34||13 December 1941||16.00
|Claim: Two P-40s northeast of Martuba and north east of Timimi.|
|One of his victories was a Tomahawk IIB, AM384 of No. 3 Squadron RAAF, piloted by Flying Officer Tommy Trimble, who was wounded and had to crash-land his aircraft. His second opponent was either 2nd Lieutenant Connel or Lieutenant Meek both from No. 1 Squadron SAAF.|
|35–36||17 December 1941||11.10
|Claim: Two P-40s west-northwest of Martuba and southeast of Derna.|
|Marseille's opponents were eight misidentified Hurricanes of No. 1 Squadron SAAF on an escort missions for eight Bristol Blenheim from No. 14 Squadron RAF and No. 84 Squadron RAF. The South Africans suffered heavy losses to 12 Bf 109s. Three Hurricanes were reported missing; a fourth was shot down, a fifth crash-landed and a sixth sustained heavy damage. I./JG 27 claimed five aerial victories in this engagement.|
|– 1942 –|
|37–40||8 February 1942||08.22
|Claim: Four P-40s east-northeast of Martuba, north of Martuba, northwest of Bomba Bay and over the sea northeast of Bomba Bay.|
|The first action took place directly over the airfield at Martuba. The first victory was a Flight Sergeant Hargreaves, who belly landed his fighter and was taken prisoner.
It seems that Marseille's third victory was mistakenly identified as a P-40. The victim was most likely a Hurricane IIB, Z5312, of No. 73 Squadron RAF, piloted by Flight Sergeant Alwyn Sands (RAAF), who also crash-landed. Marseille's 40th claim was probably Sgt A. T. Tonkin of No. 112 Squadron, who was killed.
|41–44||12 February 1942||13.30
|Claim: Three P-40s and a Hurricane northwest of Tobruk.|
|The Hurricanes came from No. 274 Squadron RAF. This unit lost four aircraft in aerial combat with Bf 109 fighters in the vicinity of Tobruk: Sergeant R. W. Henderson crashed south of Tobruk and Sergeant Parbury bailed out with his parachute; both of them were uninjured. Pilot Officer S. E. van der Kuhle crashed his Hurricane IIA DG616 into the sea. Flight Lieutenant Smith (Hurricane IIB BD821) did not return from this mission and remains missing in action.|
|45–46||13 February 1942||09.20
|Claim: Two Hurricanes southeast of Tobruk.|
|Marseille's adversaries were seven Hurricanes from No. 1 Squadron SAAF and No. 274 Squadron RAF. These units lost in aerial combat with three Bf 109 fighters in the vicinity of Tobruk. I./JG 27 claimed three aerial victories in this engagement. Marseille's first victory was Lieutenant Le Roux; the South African crashed his burning Hurricane but escaped the wreck, although he was injured. His aircraft exploded damaging Marseille's Yellow 14, causing its engine to stop. Marseille crash landed. Marseille then spotted Lt. Herbet's Hurricane and shot it down as he glided down to land.|
|47–48||15 February 1942||13.00
|Claim: Two P-40s southwest of Gambut|
|Kittyhawk Is from No. 3 Squadron RAAF, near Gambut airfield. The Kittyhawks were bounced by two Bf 109s during takeoff. Marseille's first victory was Kittyhawk I AK594; Pilot Officer P. J. "Tommy" Briggs, bailed out at an altitude of 100 m and was injured. The second victory was Kittyhawk I AK605: Flight Sergeant F. B. (Frank) Reid was killed when it crashed.|
|49–50||21 February 1942||12.10
|Claim: Two P-40s west of Fort Acroma.|
|Marseille's opponents were 11 Kittyhawks I from No. 112 Squadron RAF, which lost three aircraft in aerial combat with six Bf 109s. I./JG 27 reported three aerial victories in this engagement.|
|51–52||27 February 1942||12.00
|Claim: Two P-40s east-northeast of Fort Acroma.|
|Probably Mk I Kittyhawks belonging to No. 3 Squadron RAAF: Sergeant Roger Jennings, in AK665 was killed while crash landing; Pilot Officer R. C. (Dick) Hart in AK689 bailed out and returned to his unit.|
|53–54||25 April 1942||10.06
|Claim: Two P-40s north of the Italian airfield at Ain el Gazala and over the sea north of Ain el Gazala.|
|Opponents were Kittyhawks I from No. 260 Squadron RAF and Tomahawks IIB from No. 2 Squadron SAAF and No. 4 Squadron SAAF. These units had the following losses in this engagement: three Tomahawks and one Kittyhawk missing (one pilot later returned wounded), two Kittyhawks and two Tomahawks crash landed after aerial combat, and one heavily damaged and one lightly damaged Kittyhawk. On the German side I.JG 27 reported five P-40s, II./JG 27 three P-40s shot down. The combat reports indicate that Marseille's opponents were Kittyhawks from No. 260 Squadron RAF. His opponents were Squadron Leader Hanbury who crash landed and Sergeant Wareham who was killed in action.|
|55–56||10 May 1942||09.13
|Claim: Two Mk I Hurricanes, southeast of Martuba airfield.|
|The Hurricanes belonged to No. 40 Squadron SAAF and were on a patrol mission. Both pilots, Captain Cobbledick and Lieutenant Flesker, are missing in action. The first victory was a Hurricane I, serial number Z4377.|
|57–58||13 May 1942||10.10
|Claim: Two P-40s: southeast of Ain el Gazala and over Gazala Bay.|
|On this occasion, 12 Mk I Kittyhawks from No. 3 Squadron RAAF were bounced by two Bf 109s coming from the sun. Flying Officer H. G. (Graham) Pace, flying Kittyhawk I AL172, was killed by a bullet in the head. Sergeant Colin McDiarmid bailed out, injured from his Kittyhawk I AK855. Flying Officer Geoff Chinchen reported that he damaged a Messerschmitt and Marseille's aircraft was hit in the oil tank and propeller on this occasion.|
|59–60||16 May 1942||18.05
|Claim: Two P-40s, east of Ain el Gazala and east of Fort Acroma.|
|Following the first action, Sergeant E. V. Teede of No. 3 Squadron RAAF crash landed his burning Mk I Kittyhawk, AL120, west of El Adem and returned to his unit uninjured. The second combat involved four Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 450 Squadron RAAF. Pilot Officer Dudley Parker bailed out uninjured. His pilotless fighter, AK697, crashed into Kittyhawk AK604, flown by Sergeant W. J. Metherall. Both aircraft were lost in the crash and Metherall was killed in action. Marseille only observed Parker bailing out and therefore claimed only two victories.|
|61–62||19 May 1942||07.20
|Claim: Two P-40s south and southwest of Fort Acroma.|
|These were Kittyhawks from No. 450 Squadron RAAF. The Kittyhawk I AK842, piloted by Flight Sergeant Ivan Young, was hit in the engine. Young crash-landed without injury to himself; his fighter was destroyed by a resultant fire. Young managed to make it back to Allied lines.|
|63–64||23 May 1942||11.05
|Claim: Two Douglas Boston southeast of Tobruk harbour.|
|These were really Mk I Martin Baltimores, of No. 223 Squadron RAF. Four Baltimores attacked the airport at Derna, without a fighter escort and three (AG703, AG708 and AG717) were shot down. The fourth bomber crash-landed on its return flight. I./JG 27 claimed four aerial victories that day.|
|65||30 May 1942||06.05||Claim: P-40 northwest of El Adem.|
|Marseille's adversaries were 20 Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 250 Squadron RAF and No. 450 Squadron RAAF, who were attacked by four Bf 109s between Tobruk and El Adem. The Kittyhawk I AK705 of No. 250 Squadron RAF started burning and crashed. Sergeant Graham Buckland (RAAF) bailed out, but his parachute failed to open.|
|66–68||31 May 1942||07.26
|Three P-40s west of Bir-el Harmat and south-west of Fort Acroma, probably belonging to No. 5 Squadron SAAF; one of the pilots was Maj. Andrew Duncan (5.5 claims), who was killed.|
|69||1 June 1942||19.15||A P-40 southwest of Mteifel Chebir.
Potentially the involved Allied adversaries were Kittyhawks I from No. 112 Squadron RAF. This unit lost Pilot Officer Collet on this day (exact time and location is unknown). I./JG 27 claimed two aerial victories on this evening mission.
|70–75||3 June 1942♠||12.22
No. 5 Squadron SAAF, which were engaged in aerial combat with Ju 87s and Bf 109s near Bir Hakeim. Among the South African losses were four shot down Tomahawks (Tomahawk IIB AK384, AK421, AM401 and AN262) and two heavily damaged Tomahawks. Robin Pare was killed in this action; Captain RL Morrison, Lieutenant VS Muir and 2nd Lieutenant CA Douglas Golding were wounded. 2nd Lieutenant M Martin crash landed in the fortress of Bir Hacheim and returned. Captain Louis C Botha made an emergency landing at Gambut.
Three of Marseille's adversaries were SAAF aces: Douglas Golding, Robin Pare and Louis C Botha.
|76–77||7 June 1942||16.10
|Claim: Two P-40s southwest and northeast of El Adem.|
|Marseille's adversaries were two Kittyhawk Mk Is, from No. 2 Squadron SAAF. The two fighters (AK611 and AK628) were lost in combat. Lieutenant Frewen bailed out from his burning aircraft and was uninjured. Lieutenant Leonard James Peter Berrangé was killed in the action.|
|78–81||10 June 1942||07.35
|Claim: Four P-40s near Mteifel Chebir.|
|Among the opponents were 24 Hurricanes from No. 73 Squadron RAF and No. 213 Squadron RAF. These two units lost four Hurricanes in aerial combat with Bf 109s in the vicinity of Bir Hacheim. Since II./JG 27 reported aerial combat with 40 to 50 P-40s, further Allied units are likely to have been involved. It seems certain that Marseille's fourth victory was Hurricane IIB BM966 from No. 213 Squadron RAF. Pilot Officer A. J. Hancock crash landed near El Gubbi, after he was chased for more than 30 km. On the German side I./JG 27 reported the destruction of seven P-40s while II./JG 27 claimed one Hurricane.|
|82–83||11 June 1942||16.25
|Claim: One P-40 southeast of Fort Acroma and one Hurricane northwest of El Adem.|
|Both were from No. 112 Squadron RAF, which lost two Kittyhawks. One adversary was Sergeant Graves who bailed out.|
|84–87||13 June 1942||18.10
|I./JG 27 claimed four P-40s and one "Hurricane" near El Adem/Gazala. Marseille claimed four and Leutnant Hans Remmer one. These were P-40s from No. 450 Squadron RAAF; no Hurricanes were involved and only four aircraft were lost but another South African aircraft sustained heavy damage and crash-landed at base. Flight Sergeant Bill Halliday (AL127) and Flt Sgt Roy Stone (RAF) in AK952 were both killed in action. Pilot Officer Osborne (AL106) crash landed and was picked up by the army.|
|88–91||15 June 1942||18.01
|Marseille was credited with four kills in five minutes, including a P-40 near El Adem.
The Allied unit remains unidentified. I./JG 27 claimed six aerial victories in combat with 12 P-40s. An indication for the veracity of this claim is No. 204 Group RAF "Intelligence Report" which reported the loss of four aircraft that day.
|92–95||16 June 1942||18.02
|Claim: Four fighters.|
|No. 5 Squadron SAAF lost two: Lt. R. C. Denham was killed and the highest-scoring member of an SAAF squadron during the war, Major John "Jack" Frost, remains missing in action.|
|96–101||17 June 1942♠||12.02
|Marseille was credited with six kills in seven minutes over Gambut (becoming the 11th pilot to score 100 kills).|
|His adversaries were Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 112 Squadron RAF and No. 250 Squadron RAF, as well as 12 Mk IIC Hurricanes of No. 73 Squadron RAF. The first two victories were misidentified Mk IIC Hurricanes (BN121 and BN157) of 73 Sqn. The pilots, Pilot Officer Stone and Flight Sergeant Goodwin, bailed out uninjured. The next two victories were Mk IIC Hurricanes (BN277 and BN456) also of 73 Sqn. Both pilots, Squadron Leader Derek Harland Ward. and Pilot Officer Woolley, were killed in action. Marseille's century which he identified as a Hurricane, appears to have been Flight Sergeant Roy Drew (RAAF) of 112 Sqn, in Kittyhawk I, AK586. Drew was separated from his flight and did not return. Marseille's final victory that day was a Spitfire Mk IV reconnaissance aircraft, BP916, flown by Pilot Officer Squires.|
|102–104||31 August 1942||10.03
|Two Hurricanes, south-south-east of El Alamein in the morning and one Spitfire east of Alam Halfa at 6:25 pm.|
|It seems that one of Marseille's opponents was Pilot Officer L. E. Barnes. Barnes bailed out of his Hurricane IIC (BP451), but was severely wounded and died in a field hospital on 12 September 1942.|
|105–121||1 September 1942♠||08.26
|Marseille was credited with 17 kills in three separate sorties over El Taqua, Alam Halfa and Deir el Raghat.
His adversaries on the early morning missions were Mk II Hurricanes (No. 1 Squadron SAAF and No. 238 Squadron RAF) and Mk V Spitfires (No. 92 Squadron RAF). One South African, Lieutenant Bailey, was injured in a crash landing, while Major P. R. C. Metelerkamp managed to fly his heavily damaged fighter back to his base. Flying Officer I. W. (Ian) Matthews of 238 Sqn was killed. Pilot Officer Bradley-Smith (92 Sqn) bailed out of his burning Spitfire VC BR474. Bradley-Smith was uninjured.
Among Marseille’s adversaries during the midday combat were Mk IIB Tomahawks of No. 5 Squadron SAAF and Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 2 Squadron SAAF, to which was attached pilots of the 57th Fighter Group USAAF.[Note 8] Lieutenant Stearns was wounded in the crash-landing of his P-40, Lieutenant Morrison (Kittyhawk I, ET575) remains missing in action, Lieutenant W. L. O. Moon bailed out of his Kittyhawk I, EV366 and was uninjured. Lieutenant G. B. Jack also remains missing in action.
Marseille's evening opponents were Hurricanes from No. 213 Squadron RAF, of which Marseille claimed five shot down. Marseille's 117th official victory was over a Hurricane Mk IIB, BN273. The pilot, Sergeant A. Garrod, bailed out uninjured.
|122–126||2 September 1942♠||09.16
|Two P-40s and a Spitfire south of Imayid in the morning and two P-40s southeast of El Alamein in the afternoon.
Marseille's adversaries on the early morning mission were Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 2 Squadron SAAF, including pilots from the US 57th Fighter Group and Mk II Hurricanes of No. 33 Squadron RAF. Marseille's first victory was over a Lt. Stuart of 2 SAAF. One of Marseille's victories was Lieutenant Mac M. McMarrell (USAAF) who crash-landed his fighter and was wounded in this engagement. It seems certain that one of Marseille's kills was over a misidentified Hurricane II, piloted by Pilot Officer G. R. Dibbs, who remains missing in action.
Marseille's opponents in the afternoon combat were IIB Mk IIB Tomahawks of No. 5 Squadron SAAF. Marseille also shot down Lieutenant E. H. O. Carman (Tomahawk IIB AM390) and Lieutenant J. Lindbergh (Tomahawk Mk IIB, AM349) who remain missing in action.
|127–132||3 September 1942♠||07.20
|Marseille claimed two Spitfires and a P-40 near El Hammam, early in the morning, two P-40s near El Imayid in the afternoon and one more P-40 south-southeast of El Alamein in the late afternoon.
Marseille's adversaries in the early morning action were 24 Mk II Hurricanes, of No. 127 Squadron RAF and No. 274 Squadron RAF, 15 Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 260 Squadron RAF, No. 2 Squadron SAAF and No. 4 Squadron SAAF and eight Mk V Spitfires of No. 145 Squadron RAF. Pilots of the US 57th Fighter Group were attached to some of the above units. The pilot of the first aircraft destroyed by Marseille bailed out and appears to have been Sergeant M. Powers of 145 Sqn (Spitfire VB AB349), who was wounded in the engagement. The two P-40s were piloted by W/O Stan Bernier of 260 Sqn, who was killed, and a Lt Ryneke of 2 Sqn SAAF.
|133–136||5 September 1942||10.48||Marseille was credited with four kills, despite a cannon malfunction, near Ruweisat and El Taqua.
Flight Lieutenant Canham and Pilot Officer Bicksler of No. 145 Squadron RAF both bailed out of their Spitfire V. It seems that one of them was Marseille's first victory. Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 112 Squadron RAF and No. 450 Squadron RAAF were also involved in this engagement.
|137–140||6 September 1942||17.03
|Three P-40s and a Spitfire south of El Alamein.
Among Marseille's opponents were eight Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 260 Squadron RAF, Mk IIB Tomahawks of No. 5 Squadron SAAF to which was attached pilots of the US 64th Fighter Squadron (57th Fighter Group). 260 Sqn lost one Kittyhawk and a second fighter was damaged. 5 Sqn SAAF reported three losses and a fourth Tomahawk was damaged beyond repair. No. 7 Squadron SAAF lost five Hurricanes. It is unknown whether the Americans reported losses I./JG 27 claimed five aerial victories in action against 20 P-40s; II./JG 27 reported aerial combat with 23 P-40s, claiming one victory. III./JG 53 claimed one P-40 in combat with 12 P-40s and six Spitfires. Marseille's 137th victim was Pilot Officer Dick Dunbar, who was reported as missing after the action.
|141–142||7 September 1942||17.43||Two P-40s southeast of El Alamein and southwest of El Hammam.
Marseille’s opponents were Mk I Kittyhawks of No. 4 Squadron SAAF and Mk IIB Tomahawks from No. 5 Squadron SAAF. The South Africans lost two Tomahawks and one Kittyhawk. Two further Tomahawks and one Kittyhawk sustained battle damage. I./JG 27 claimed four aerial victories in this engagement. Marseille's victims might have been Lt. Cowen and Mc Carthy were shot down. Gerhard Homuth also claimed a victory. One of these men may have been Homuth's victory.
|143–144||11 September 1942||07.40
|Two P-40s southeast of El Alamein and west-southwest of Imayid.
Marseille's opponents were likely Hurricanes II from No. 33 Squadron RAF and No. 213 Squadron RAF. No. 213 Sqn RAF reported the loss of Hurricane IIC BP381. Flight Sergeant S.R. Fry was shot down. I./JG 27 reported combat with 20 fighter bombers, an indication which points more to Hurricanes rather than Spitfires V from No. 145 Squadron RAF and No. 601 Squadron RAF, these were engaged with Ju 87s and Bf 109s at the same time.
|145–151||15 September 1942♠||16.51
|Marseille was credited with seven kills against P-40s in 11 minutes. JG 27 reported combat with 36 Kittyhawks: 18 Bf 109s from I./JG 27 claimed 10 in this engagement, all of them over German-held territory; 15 Bf 109s from II./JG 27 claimed one victory and; 10 Bf 109s from III./JG 27 claimed eight P-40s and one Spitfire, four of them over German territory.
However, the records of the individual Allied squadrons involved: No. 3 Squadron RAAF, No. 112 Squadron RAF, No. 250 Squadron RAF and No. 450 Squadron RAAF (comprising No. 239 Wing) show that their total losses to enemy action that day were only five P-40s.
One of the P-40 pilots shot down was Sergeant Peter Ewing (450 Sqn), who bailed out, was captured and spent a day as a guest of I./JG 27. Sgt Gordon Scribner (3 Sqn Kiityhawk EV322 CV-I) was killed during this engagement. Further reported losses include: Jack Donald (No. 3 Sqn), whose Kittyhawk EV345 had its port aileron shot away and engine set on fire — he bailed out, landed on an Italian mess tent and became a POW; Sgt Cedric Young RNZAF (112 Sqn), who may have been shot down by AA fire and; pilots named Thorpe (250 Sqn) and Strong (450 Sqn), who both also became POWs. Sgt Ken Bee (3 Sqn) was wounded in action, but managed to get his damaged aircraft back to base, as did Pilot Officer Keith Kildey, with severe cannon damage to his tailplane.
|152–158||26 September 1942♠||09.10
|Claim: Seven kills near El Daba and south of El Hammam, including six Spitfires.[Note 9]|
|Marseille's adversaries on an early morning mission were Mk II Hurricanes of No. 33 Squadron RAF and No. 213 Squadron RAF, plus eight Mk V Spitfires of No. 92 Squadron RAF. It seems certain that Marseille's first victory was over a misidentified Hurricane IIC, BN186, flown by Pilot Officer Luxton, who crash-landed his aircraft. Marseille's last victory was Pilot Officer Turvey, who bailed out of his Spitfire VC, BR494.
Marseille's adversaries in his last aerial combat, that afternoon, included 11 Spitfires from No. 145 Squadron RAF and No. 601 Squadron RAF.
Marseille's 151 claims in North Africa included:
- 101 Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk/Kittyhawk fighters;
- 30 Hawker Hurricane fighters;
- 16 Supermarine Spitfire fighters;
- Two Martin A-30 Baltimore bombers;
- One Bristol Blenheim bomber; and
- One Martin Maryland bomber.
The German National Archives still hold records for 109 of Marseille aerial victories. A further biographer of Marseille, Walter Wübbe, has made an attempt to link these records to Allied units, squadrons and when possible even to individual pilots, in order to verify the claims as much as possible.
Dispute over claims
Some serious discrepancies between Allied squadron records and German claims have caused some historians and Allied veterans to question the accuracy of Marseille's official victories, in addition to those of JG 27 as a whole. Attention is often focused on the 26 claims made by JG 27 on 1 September 1942, of which 17 were claimed by Marseille alone. Another biographer, Franz Kurowski, claims that 24 of the 26 victories were verified through Allied records after the war. A USAF historian, Major Robert Tate states: "[f]or years, many British historians and militarists refused to admit that they had lost any aircraft that day in North Africa. Careful review of records however do show that the British [and South Africans] did lose more than 17 aircraft that day, and in the area that Marseille operated." Tate also reveals 20 RAF single-engined fighters and one twin engined fighter were destroyed and several others severely damaged, as well as a further USAAF P-40 shot down. However, overall Tate reveals that Marseille's kill total comes close to 65–70 percent corroboration, indicating as many as 50 of his claims may not have been actually kills. Tate also compares Marseilles rate of corroboration with the top six P-40 pilots. While only the Canadian James Francis Edwards' records shows a verification of 100 percent other aces like Clive Caldwell (50% to 60% corroboration), Billy Drake (70% to 80% corroboration), John Lloyd Waddy (70% to 80% corroboration) and Andrew Barr (60% to 70% corroboration) are at the same order of magnitude as Marseille's claims. Christopher Shores and Hans Ring also support Tate's conclusions. British historian Stephen Bungay gives a figure of 20 Allied losses that day.
However, the claims for 15 September 1942 are in serious doubt, following the first detailed scrutiny of the records of individual Allied squadrons by Australian historian Russell Brown. Moreover, Brown lists three occasions on which Marseille could not have downed as many aircraft as claimed.
Stephan Bungay has pointed out the low military value of shooting down DAF fighters, rather than the bombers that, by mid-1942, were having a highly damaging effect on Axis ground units and convoy routes.[Note 10] Referring to 1 September 1942, Bungay points out that even if Marseille shot down 15 of the 17 he claimed that day, "the rest of the 100 or so German fighter pilots[Note 11] between them only got five. The British [sic] lost no bombers at all... During this period the DAF lost only a few bombers, but all fell to anti-aircraft defences and evidence shows that Rommel was forced onto the defensive because of the losses inflicted by bombers.
Summary of career
|• 1 February 1940:||Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilots Badge)|
|• 9 September 1940:||Iron Cross Second Class for two air victories.|
|• 17 September 1940:||Iron Cross First Class for fourth air victory.|
|• 3 November 1941:||Honorary Cup of the Luftwaffe.|
|• 24 November 1941:||German Cross in Gold (the first German Pilot to receive this award in Africa.) for 25 victories. After returning from a combat mission having just claimed his 35th and 36th victory, the Award was presented to Marseille by Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring on 17 December 1941.|
|• 22 February 1942:||416th Knight's Cross of the Luftwaffe as Leutnant and pilot in the 3./JG 27 for reaching 46 victories. By the time the award was officially processed and handed out to him his score stood at 50 victories. Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring presented the Award to both Marseille and Oberfeldwebel Otto Schulz (4./JG 27). Unfortunately no picture of this presentation exists or has materialised until today. Also awarded near this date was the Italian Silver Medal for bravery (Medaglia d'Argento al Valor Militare).|
|• 1 May 1942:||Early promotion to Oberleutnant.|
|• 6 June 1942:||Becomes the 97th recipient of the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross as Oberleutnant and pilot in the 3./JG 27 for 75 victories. The Oak Leaves were never presented to Marseille because a few days later he was already honoured with the Swords and Oak Leaves.|
|• 18 June 1942:||12th recipient of Swords to the Knight's cross with Oak Leaves as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 3./JG 27 for 100 aerial victories (presented by Hitler on 28 June 1942 in the Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze in Rastenburg).|
|• August 1942:||Awarded Pilot/Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds (presented by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring).|
|• 6 August 1942:||Awarded highest Italian decoration for bravery, the Medaglia d'Oro, (presented by Benito Mussolini in Rome on 13 August).|
|• 3 September 1942:||Becomes only the fourth German serviceman to be awarded the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 3./JG 27.
The Diamonds were to be made in a special, by Adolf Hitler defined, fashion. Hitler had decided to present them to Marseille personally some time later in the year. However, Marseille's death prevented this. It is unclear why the Diamonds were never handed out to Marseille's family after his demise, as foreseen by Reichsgesetzblatt I S. 1573 Article 7[Note 12] (German Law of 1939 enacting the Knight's Cross).
|• 16 September 1942:||Early promotion to Hauptmann – Youngest Captain in the Luftwaffe.|
|• 7 June 1943:||Africa Cuffband (posthumously)|
|• 30 November 1962:||The Italian Minister of Defence Giulio Andreotti paid the relatives of Marseille (and relatives of Joachim Müncheberg) an honorary one-time pension of 1,500 DM.|
|• Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold with Pennant "300"|
|• Mentioned six times in the Wehrmachtbericht|
Sometime in the early 1990s, one of Marseille's biographers, Robert Tate, visited the former Marseille-Kaserne base and Museum to see and photograph Marseille's medals. When he arrived, Tate was informed the Knights Cross, Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds belonging to Marseille had already been stolen.
References in the Wehrmachtbericht
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|Thursday, 4 June 1942||Hauptmann Müncheberg errang am 2. Juni seinen 80., Oberleutnant Marseille am 3. Juni in Nordafrika seinen 70. bis 75. Luftsieg.||Hauptmann Müncheberg recorded on 2 June, his 80th, Oberleutnant Marseille on 3 June in North Africa his 70th to 75th aerial victory.|
|Friday, 12 June 1942||Oberfeldwebel Steinbatz errang an der Ostfront seinen 95. Oberleutnant Marseille in Nordafrika seinen 78. bis 81. Luftsieg.||Oberfeldwebel Steinbatz recorded his 95th on the Eastern Front, Oberleutnant Marseille in North Africa his 78th to 81st aerial victory.|
|Thursday, 18 June 1942||Oberleutnant Marseille schoß in Nordafrika innerhalb vierundzwanzig Stunden zehn feindliche Flugzeuge ab und erhöhte damit die Zahl seiner Luftsiege auf 101.||Oberleutnant Marseille in North Africa within 24 hours shot down 10 enemy aircraft and increased his count of aerial victories to 101.|
|Friday, 4 September 1942||Oberleutnant Marseille, Staffelkapitän in einem Jagdgeschwader, errang am 2. September an der ägyptischen Front seinen 125. Luftsieg, nachdem er in Luftkämpfen des vorangegangenen Tages 16(17) britische Gegner bezwungen hatte.||Oberleutnant Marseille, Staffelkapitän in a fighter wing, recorded on 2 September on the Egyptian front his 125th aerial victory, after he defeated 16 (17)[Note 13] British [sic] adversaries the preceding day.|
|Wednesday, 16 September 1942||An der ägyptischen Front errang Oberleutnant Marseille seinen 145. bis 151. Luftsieg.||Oberleutnant Marseille recorded his 145th to 151st aerial victory on the Egyptian front.|
|Thursday, 1 October 1942||Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille, Träger der höchsten deutschen Tapferkeitsauszeichnung, fand, unbesiegt vom Feind, auf dem nordafrikanischen Kriegsschauplatz den Fliegertod. Erfüllt von unbändigem Angriffsgeist, hat dieser junge Offizier in Luftkämpfen 158 britische Gegner bezwungen. Die Wehrmacht betrauert den Verlust eines wahrhaft heldenhaften Kämpfers.||Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille, recipient of the highest German medal of bravery, found, undefeated by the enemy, at the North African theatre of war his flier's death. Full of fighting spirit, this young officer had defeated 158 British [sic] adversaries. The Wehrmacht mourns the loss of a truly heroic warrior.|
Dates of rank
Hans-Joachim Marseille joined the military service in Wehrmacht on 7 November 1938. His first station was Quedlinburg in the Harz region where he received his military basic training as a Luftwaffe recruit.
|7 November 1938:||Flieger|
|13 March 1939:||Fahnenjunker|
|1 May 1939:||Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter|
|1 July 1939:||Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier|
|1 November 1939:||Fähnrich|
|1 March 1941:||Oberfähnrich|
|1 April 1941:||Leutnant (16 June 1941 effective as of:)|
|1 April 1942:||Oberleutnant (8 May 1942 effective as of:)|
|1 September 1942:||Hauptmann (19 September 1942 effective as of:)|
Stations of operation
- Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Merseburg
|18 July 1940||–||10 August 1940||Merseburg-West|
- I.(Jagd)/LG 2
|10 August 1940||–||30 September 1940||Calais-Marck|
- II./JG 52
|30 September 1940||–||5 November 1940||Peuplingues|
|5 November 1940||–||22 December 1940||Mönchengladbach|
|22 December 1940||–||15 January 1941||Leeuwarden|
|15 January 1941||–||10 February 1941||Ypenburg|
|10 February 1941||–||21 February 1941||Berck sur Mer|
- I./JG 27
|21 February 1941||–||3 March 1941||Döberitz|
|3 March 1941||–||4 April 1941||Ghedi|
|4 April 1941||–||11 April 1941||Graz-Thalerhof|
|11 April 1941||–||14 April 1941||Zagreb|
|14 April 1941||–||16 April 1941||München-Riem|
|18 April 1941||–||22 April 1941||Castel Benito near Tripoli in North Africa|
|22 April 1941||–||7 December 1941||Ain el Gazala|
|7 December 1941||–||12 December 1941||Timimi|
|12 December 1941||–||17 December 1941||Martuba|
|17 December 1941||–||23 December 1941||Magrum|
|23 December 1941||–||26 December 1941||Sirte|
|26 December 1941||–||1 January 1942||Acro Philaenorum|
|1 January 1942||–||22 January 1942||Ajdabiya|
|22 January 1942||–||27 January 1942||El Agheila|
|27 January 1942||–||1 February 1942||Ajdabiya|
|1 February 1942||–||7 February 1942||Benina|
|7 February 1942||–||22 May 1942||Martuba|
|22 May 1942||–||14 June 1942||Timimi|
|14 June 1942||–||16 June 1942||Derna|
|16 June 1942||–||22 June 1942||Ain el Gazala|
|22 June 1942||–||25 June 1942||Gambut|
|25 June 1942||–||27 June 1942||Sidi Barrani|
|27 June 1942||–||2 July 1942||Bir el Astas|
|2 July 1942||–||7 July 1942||Mumin Busak|
|7 July 1942||–||20 July 1942||Turbiya|
|20 July 1942||–||2 October 1942||Quotaifiya|
Absence from the Geschwader
|16 January 1941||–||20 February 1941:||Vacation at home.|
|18 June 1941||–||25 August 1941:||Vacation at home.|
|15 October 1941||–||3 December 1941:||Conversion from Bf 109 E-7/trop to Bf 109 F-4/trop in München-Riem and Erding.
Stop over in Venice, Hotel Goldener Stern (Albergo Stella d'Oro).[Note 14]
|26 December 1941||–||6 February 1942:||Hospital stay in Athens and short visit of his parents in Berlin.|
|28 February 1942||–||24 April 1942:||Vacation at home. Beginning 9 March two weeks at the Luftwaffen-Hospital in Munich. Engagement to Hanne-Lies. A short stay in Rome on his return from Berlin. Here he was presented the Italian Silver Medal for bravery (Medaglia d'Argento al Valor Militare), Italian Pilots Badge and the German-Italian Campaign Badge Africa in Silver.|
|19 June 1942||–||21 August 1942:||Vacation at home. A short stay in Rome on his return from Berlin. Here he was presented the Italian Golden Medal for bravery (Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare).|
Marseille and his environment
Several biographers of Hans-Joachim Marseille have written about his distain for authority and for the National Socialist movement in general. This first came to the fore in the movie, The Star of Africa, the fictionalised 1957 movie about his life, which described an incident that occurred shortly after Marseille was presented the Swords to the Knight's Cross. The young Oberleutnant, while on visit in Germany, was presented with evidence of the Final Solution (Holocaust). Shocked by this information, he did not return to North Africa but went into hiding in Italy instead. Only after the Gestapo established his whereabouts and pressured him did he return to his Geschwader. [Note 15]
Further research by other biographers has unearthed some truth to this story and his attitude to the ruling Nazi movement. Marseille demonstrated his lack of respect for the Nazi elite during his visit to Germany in June–August 1942. Marseille was a gifted pianist and was invited to play a piece at the home of Willy Messerschmitt, an industrialist and designer of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter Marseille had achieved so much success in. Guests at the party included Adolf Hitler, party chairman Martin Borman, Hitler's deputy and Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler and Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. After impressing with a display of piano play for over an hour, including Ludwig van Beethoven's Für Elise, Marseille proceeded to play American Jazz, which was considered degenerate in Nazi ideology. Hitler stood, raised his hand, and said "I think we've heard enough" and left the room. Magda Goebbels found the prank amusing and Artur Axmann recalled how his "blood froze" when he heard this "Ragtime" music being played in front of the Führer.
Later that month Marseille was invited to another function, despite his stunt. Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, Persönlicher Stab Reichsführer-SS to the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, confirmed that during his visit Marseille overheard a conversation which mentioned the mistreatment of Jews. He stated:
Globocnik and I were talking about Operation Reinhard, which was in full effect following Heydrich's murder, and also the construction of Sobibor and Treblinka. I know I asked him about Höss, who was also standing there and had been summoned by Himmler regarding logistics or something regarding the new camp (Auschwitz). Then Globocnik mentioned to me and Kaltenbrunner that Lidice had been cleared, and all the Jews and Czechs had been dealt with. I noticed that this young pilot, who I later learned was Marseille, must have overheard, and I debated whether I should go over and say something to him. I decided against it.
When Marseille returned to his unit he asked his friends Franzisket, Clade and Schröer, whether they had heard what was happening to Jews and if perhaps something was underway that they did not know about. Franszisket recalled that he had heard Jews were being relocated to territory gained in the East but no more. Marseille recounted how he had attempted to ask questions about Jews who had vanished from his neighbourhood, including the family doctor that had delivered him at birth. Regardless of his hero status, when he attempted to bring the subject into any conversation with people who approached him, his enquiries were either met with awkward silences, or people changed the subject or even turned away. Franzisket noticed a change in Marseille's attitude toward his nation's cause. He never spoke of this with his comrades again.
- Birth certificate Nr. 696, Charlottenburg, 15 December 1919.
- Marseille's first combat victory is uncertain. Sources conflict over the aircraft type citing it as a Hawker Hurricane or Supermarine Spitfire.
- For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe organisation.
- One Bf 109E, W.Nr. 3579, which it is claimed he crash-landed, has been recovered, restored, and painted in the colours of "White 14", an aircraft with which he was associated.
- Commission Report by Oberstleutnant Walter Schmidt-Coste
- Eyewitness to this aerial battle was Jan Yindrich, author of the book "Fortress Tobruk", Uk, Panther 1956. According to Hans Ring a vivid account is given in this book.
- Flight Lieutenant Patrick Joseph Anthony Byers, a 25-year old RAF officer serving with 451 Sqn RAAF under Article XV of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, died on 20 September 1941 and is buried in Benghazi (Commonwealth War Graves Commission, "Byers, atrick Josep Anthony"). He may have been from South Africa, as his parents resided there. Robert Tate, quoting Geoffrey Morley-Mower (a pilot with 451 Sqn at the time), states that Byers was one of Marseille's victims. Walter Wübbe states that Byers was in Hurricane I V7775. However, another source states that V7775 was not among the 10 Mk I Hurricanes assigned to 451 Sqn, although V7772 and V7779 were (ADF Serials).
- It is not clear that P-40Fs, assigned to the 57th FG at the time, were involved; the unit was not officially operational until 6 October. However, individual USAAF personnel had been attached to DAF units since July.
- Walter Wübbe lists the last three aerial victories at 15.56, 15.59 and 16.10 while authors Robert Tate, Jochen Prien, Peter Rodeike and Gerhard Stemmer state 16.56, 16.59 and 17.10.
- One of the reasons Rommel cites for breaking off the Battle of Alam el Halfa on 2 September was the "Allied air superiority" which had played a key role in crippling his supply lines.
- The figure of "100 or so German pilots" represents the Geschwader's entire strength. According to Kurowski at most 50 pilots took part in the three missions.
- see Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for the wording
- The Wehrmachtbericht originally stated 16 victories; the 17th had not been confirmed by the time the communiqué went out.
- according to Kurowski, Marseille began his leave of absence in November not October.
- The biographical film, Der Stern von Afrika, also known as The Star of Africa, was directed by Alfred Weidenmann and starred Joachim Hansen (actor) as Marseille.
- Feist 1993, p. 2.
- Kaplan 2007, p. 172.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 90.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 9.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 12.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 89.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 127.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 11.
- Tate 2008, pp. 84–85.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 99.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 14.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 19
- Berger 1999, p. 208.
- Kurowski 1994, pp. 19, 20.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 111.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 114.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 126.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 15.
- Tate 2008, p. 83.
- Wübbe 2001, p. 26.
- Mason 1969, p. 408.
- Foreman 2003, p. 244.
- Heaton and Lewis 2012, pp. 18-20.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 17.
- Kurowski 1994, p. 19.
- Scutts 1994, p. 28.
- Tate 2008, p. 94.
- Heaton, Colin D. "Interview: Luftwaffe Eagle, Johannes Steinhoff."[dead link] World War II magazine (published online by www.tarrif.net), February 2000. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
- Lucas 1983, p. 151.
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