Heinz Bretnütz

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Heinz Bretnütz
Nickname(s) "Pietzsch"
Born 24 January 1914
Died 27 June 1941(1941-06-27) (aged 27)
German field hospital in Jurbarkas, Lithuania
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1938–41
Rank Hauptmann
Unit Condor Legion
JG 53
Commands held II./JG 53

Spanish Civil War

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Heinz "Pietzsch" Bretnütz (24 January 1914 – 27 June 1941) was a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.


On 1 July 1937 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. From 1938 to 1939, he flew in the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. He scored his first two victories there, and was awarded the Spanish Cross and the Cruz de Guerra. On 25 September 1939 he achieved his first victory of the Second World War when he shot down a French Curtiss P-36 Hawk over Bienwald, Germany. He was appointed Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 53 in June 1940. During the Battle of Britain, he was one of the most successful Luftwaffe fighter pilots. On 10 October 1940, Bretnütz was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 53. On 20 October he shot down a Hawker Hurricane to reach his 20th victory. He claimed his 30th victory of World War II on 3 May 1941.

Bretnütz led II./JG 53 during the invasion of Russia. On 22 June 1941, the first day of the invasion, he shot down a Russian SB-2 twin-engine bomber but his Bf 109 F-2 was hit by return fire, damaging the aircraft and injuring the pilot. A round had entered his left knee and became lodged in his thigh. Bretnütz made an emergency landing between Erzvilkas and Nemaksciai behind enemy lines and was able to get out of the aircraft. He was found by Lithuanian farmers, who hid him from Russian soldiers. Four days later they were able to get him to advancing German troops who took him to a forward medical facility. The leg wound had become gangrenous. Hospitalised, he had his left leg amputated but died the following day, on 27 June.

"Pietzsch" Bretnütz was credited with 35 victories in 244 missions, the first two of which were during the Spanish Civil War. Bretnütz is also credited with destroying 12 barrage balloons over England.



  1. ^ According to Scherzer on 22 October 1940.[2]



  1. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 144.
  2. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 243.


  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1939 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 978-0-8041-1696-1. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Major Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn
Commander of II. Jagdgeschwader 53
9 October 1940 – 27 June 1941
Succeeded by
Hauptmann Walter Spies