19 July 1912|
|Died||25 August 1941
near Yelnya, southwest of Bryansk
|Allegiance|| Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Service/branch|| Reichsheer (1931–35)
|Years of service||1931–41|
|Commands held||1./JG 51, I./JG 51|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Hermann-Friedrich Joppien (19 July 1912 – 25 August 1941) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator during World War II, a fighter ace credited with 70 enemy aircraft shot down in roughly 270 combat missions. He claimed 42 victories over the Western Front, of which 23 were Supermarine Spitfires, the remaining victories were recorded over the Eastern Front.
He was also recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. It was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Hermann-Friedrich Joppien.[Note 1] Joppien was killed in action with Soviet fighters on 25 August 1941.
Early life and career
Joppien was born on 19 July 1912 in Bochum in the Province of Westphalia, a province of the Kingdom of Prussia. His father was a laborer and when he found new work in 1917, the family moved to Hersfeld. After Joppien completed his schooling, he received a vocational education and learned the trade of a typesetter in a printing firm. In October 1931, Joppien joined the military service with Infanterie-Regiment 15 (15th Infantry Regiment) of the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic in Gießen. There he was promoted to Unteroffizier (corporal) in 1933
In parallel to his military service at Gießen, Joppien was very much interested and involved in glider construction and glider flight. His transfer to the Luftwaffe was somewhat delayed as Joppien had been tasked with the training of new officer recruits. On 15 October 1935, his transfer to the Luftwaffe was finally authorized. Until Christmas 1935, he had logged 100 solo flights and in June 1936 he became a flight instructor. He was promoted to Unterfeldwebel (junior non-commissioned officer) on 1 October 1936, to Feldwebel (non-commissioned officer) on 1 February 1937, and to Oberfeldwebel (staff sergeant) on 1 July 1937.
He was then selected for officer training and posted to a Kriegsschule (war school). Graduating among the top of his class of 130 students, he was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) on 23 December 1938. Initially serving as a pilot and Staffeloffizier (squadron officer) in Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing),[Note 2] named after the after World War I fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, he was promoted to Oberleutnant (first lieuntenant) on 1 June 1939. He then held the position of Technischer Offizier (technical officer) with Stab of Jagdgruppe 176 (176th Fighter Group), which later formed the basis of II. Gruppe (2nd Group) of Zerstörergeschwader 76 (ZG 76—76th Destroyer Wing). In mid 1939, Joppien was posted to the 1. Staffel (1st Squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing).
World War II
World War II in Europe began on Friday, 1 September 1939, when German forces invaded Poland. On 23 November 1939, on the Western Front, Joppien claimed his first victory, an Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 of GC III/7, piloted by Sergent (Sergeant) Guillaume who crash landed at Heillecourt where the aircraft completely burned out. During the encounter, his Messerschmitt Bf 109 was damaged by enemy fire resulting in undercarriage failure on landing. His aircraft overturned, fortunately for Joppien, he escaped unhurt. For this achievement he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) on 13 December 1939.
Battle of France and Britain
The Battle of France, the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, began on 10 May 1940. During this campaign, Joppien was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse) on 10 June 1940. By 25 June 1940, the date which marked the end of the French campaign, he claimed three further victories, which brought his total to four aerial victories. On 6 August 1940 Joppien became Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of the 1. Staffel (1st squadron) of JG 51.
Joppien then led his Staffel in the Battle of Britain against the Royal Air Force (RAF) which began on 10 July and was fought until 31 October 1940. During these battles, after 29 aerial victories, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 16 September 1940. Two days later, he was promoted to Hauptmann (captain). One month later, on 18 October 1940, he was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of the I. Gruppe (1st group) of JG 51. His number of aerial victories increased to 30 by 5 December, the last of 1940. His next two victories were claimed on 26 February 1941.
He accumulated further victories against the RAF and on account of his 40th victory achieved on 21 April was honorably mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht radio report, the first of three such mentions, on 22 April. The next day, he was the 11th officer or soldier of the Wehrmacht honored with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) which was presented to him by Adolf Hitler.
Operation Barbarossa and death
In June 1941, JG 51 and the majority of the Luftwaffe were transferred to the Eastern Front in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. There, on 30 June 1941, he shot down five Soviet bombers near Bobruysk in eastern Belarus, his aerial victories 47–51. This "ace-in-a-day" achievement earned him his second mention in the Wehrmachtbericht on 1 July 1941. On 5 July 1941, he was wounded following his 58th victory claimed and spent several weeks in convalescence.
On 25 August 1941, Joppien and his wingman, Leutnant Erwin Fleig, engaged in combat with Soviet fighters and bombers near Yelnya, 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of Bryansk. In the subsequent action Joppien was shot down and killed in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2 (Werknummer 9670—factory number) "Black <<" by a Soviet Polikarpov I-16 fighter. Fleig later gave to protocol that he and Joppien had attacked a three Petlyakov Pe-2 bombers, escorted by three I-16 fighter aircraft, at an altitude of 600–700 meters (2,000–2,300 feet). Fleig saw that Joppien had attacked a Pe-2 bomber, which trailing smoke, was going down. Fleig then observed Joppien's Bf 109 making a sharp right turn and crashed into the ground. By this date, Joppien had shot down 70 enemy aircraft claimed in roughly 270 combat missions. The Wehrmachtbericht announced his death on 29 August 1941.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mentioned three times in the Wehrmachtbericht
- Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign, in the military order of the Third Reich. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern).
- For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
- According to Scherzer as pilot in the I./Jagdgeschwader 51. According to Von Seemen as Staffelkapitän in the I./Jagdgeschwader 51.
- Williamson & Bujeiro 2004, pp. 3, 7.
- Stockert 1996, p. 97.
- Shores; Foreman & Ehrengardt 1992, p. 116.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 45.
- Weal 2006, pp. 67–68.
- Stockert 1996, p. 98.
- Thomas 1997, p. 331.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 245.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 423.
- Von Seemen 1976, p. 182.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 54.
- Von Seemen 1976, p. 25.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) . Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1939 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7.
- 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.
- Shores, Christopher F.; Foreman, John; Ehrengardt, Chris (1992). Fledgling eagles. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-42-7.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
- Stockert, Peter (1996). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1] (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-9802222-7-3.
- Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4.
- Weal, John (2006). Jagdgeschwader 51 'Mölders'. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-045-1.
- Williamson, Gordon; Bujeiro, Ramiro (2004). Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves Recipients 1939–40. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-641-6.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.