Heinz Wernicke

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Heinz Wernicke
Heinz Wernicke.jpg
Heinz Wernicke
Born(1920-10-17)17 October 1920
Died27 December 1944(1944-12-27) (aged 24)
near Dobele, Latvia
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branchBalkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
RankLeutnant (second lieutenant)
UnitEJGr Ost, JG 54
Commands held1./JG 54
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Heinz Wernicke (17 October 1920 – 27 December 1944) was a Luftwaffe World War II fighter ace and was credited with 117 aerial victories—that is, 117 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest award in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. Wernicke was killed in a mid-air collision with his wingman on 27 December 1944.


Wernicke was born on 17 October 1920 in Berlin of the Weimar Republic. He joined the 3. Staffel (3rd squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—54th Fighter Wing) in early 1942 as an Unteroffizier (non-commissioned officer).[Note 1] JG 54 at the time was stationed at the Eastern Front. In the fall of 1942, he was transferred to Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Ost (Supplementary Fighter Group East) and then to 6. Staffel (6th squadron) of JG 54 in early 1943.[1] There, he claimed his first aerial victory on 7 March 1943 over an Ilyushin Il-2 ground-attack aircraft in aerial combat south of Lake Ilmen.[2] At the time, II. Gruppe (2nd group) of JG 54 was based at Rjelbitzi, an airfield south of Leningrad.[3] On 11 March, II. Gruppe under the command of Hauptmann (Captain) Heinrich Jung, relocated to Gatchina for combat in the Siege of Leningrad and east in the vicinity of the Volkhov River.[4] In this combat area, Wernicke claimed a Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Gudkov LaGG-3 fighter on 19 March, a Yakovlev Yak-4 light bomber one day later, and another LaGG-3 plus a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter on 27 March, taking his total to five aerial victories.[5]

Following five further victories in June 1943, Wernicke became a fighter pilot instructor and underwent officer training courses. On 4 July 1943, Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Horst Ademeit, his Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of the 6. Staffel, assessed Wernicke concluding that at the time Wernicke required further training to become an officer.[6]

In October 1943, he was back to front line service and claimed his 88th aerial victory on 3 August 1944, and surpassed the century mark—100 aerial victories—in mid-September 1944.[1] He was the 91st Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century-mark.[7] Wernicke was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 30 September 1944 after 112 victories. The presentation was made by General Kurt Pflugbeil. Wernicke, now Staffelkapitän of the 1. Staffel (1st squadron) of JG 54, was killed in a midair collision with his wingman Unteroffizier Wollien on 27 December 1944.[1][8]

Summary of career[edit]

Aerial victory claims[edit]

According to authors Obermaier and Spick, Wernicke claimed 117 aerial victories, all of which on the Eastern Front.[1][9] Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for 118 aerial victory claims, all of which claimed on the Eastern Front.[10]

Victory claims were logged to a map-reference (PQ = Planquadrat), for example "PQ 35 Ost 18382". The Luftwaffe grid map (Jägermeldenetz) covered all of Europe, western Russia and North Africa and was composed of rectangles measuring 15 minutes of latitude by 30 minutes of longitude, an area of about 360 square miles (930 km2). These sectors were then subdivided into 36 smaller units to give a location area 3 × 4 km in size.[11]



  1. ^ For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organisation of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  2. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman southeast of Schlüsselburg.[12]
  3. ^ a b According to Matthews and Foreman 40 km (25 mi) north-northwest of Schlüsselburg.[12]
  4. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman 45 km (28 mi) northeast of Zelenogorsk.[12]
  5. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman 40 km (25 mi) north-northeast of Leningrad.[12]
  6. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman 55 km (34 mi) north-northeast of Leningrad.[12]
  7. ^ a b According to Matthews and Foreman 15 km (9.3 mi) northwest of Zelenogorsk.[12]
  8. ^ a b c d According to Matthews and Foreman 30 km (19 mi) north of Zelenogorsk.[12]
  9. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman 30 km (19 mi) north-northeast of Zelenogorsk.[12]
  10. ^ According to Scherzer as pilot in the II./Jagdgeschwader 54.[24]



  1. ^ a b c d Obermaier 1989, p. 222.
  2. ^ Prien et al. 2012, pp. 208, 270.
  3. ^ Prien et al. 2012, p. 265.
  4. ^ Prien et al. 2012, pp. 209, 264.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2012, p. 271.
  6. ^ MacLean 2007, p. 476.
  7. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 244.
  8. ^ Weal 2001, p. 114.
  9. ^ Spick 1996, p. 229.
  10. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1402–1404.
  11. ^ Planquadrat.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 1402.
  13. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2012, p. 270.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Prien et al. 2012, p. 282.
  15. ^ Prien et al. 2012, p. 272.
  16. ^ a b Prien et al. 2012, p. 279.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2012, p. 281.
  18. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1402–1403.
  19. ^ a b Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 1403.
  20. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1403–1404.
  21. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 508.
  22. ^ Patzwall 2008, p. 217.
  23. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 443.
  24. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 780.


  • Bergström, Christer. "Bergström Black Cross/Red Star website". Identifying a Luftwaffe Planquadrat. Archived from the original on 22 December 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  • 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.
  • MacLean, French L (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports: For the Knight's Cross Winners. Two. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 978-0-7643-2658-5.
  • Matthews, Andrew Johannes; Foreman, John (2015). Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims — Volume 4 S–Z. Walton on Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 978-1-906592-21-9.
  • 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.
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Goblet for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2012). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 12/III—Einsatz im Osten—4.2. bis 31.12.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 12/III—Action in the East—4 February to 31 December 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Buchverlag Rogge. ISBN 978-3-942943-07-9.
  • 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.
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  • Weal, John (2001). Jagdgeschwader 54 'Grünherz'. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-286-9.