Karl Heinz Schnell

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Karl-Heinz Schnell
Born 10 January 1915
Germany
Died 13 March 2013(2013-03-13) (aged 98)
Costa Rica
Allegiance  Nazi Germany (to 1945)
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1936–45
Rank Major
Unit Jagdgeschwader 20
Jagdgeschwader 51
Jagdverband 44
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 1 August 1941

Deutsches Kreuz in Gold on 10 October 1942[1]

Karl-Heinz Schnell[2] (10 January 1915 – 13 March 2013)[3] was a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. For the fighter pilots, it was a quantifiable measure of skill and success. Schnell was credited with 72 aerial victories in over 500 combat missions.[4]

Military career[edit]

At the start of the war, Lieutenant Karl-Heinz ‘Bubi’ Schnell was assigned to I./JG 71,[5] an independent fighter-group. When this unit was flagged for absorption into Jagdgeschwader 51 (the 51st Fighter Wing) on 1 November 1939 he was transferred to the newly formed 3./JG 20 - itself part of an independent fighter-group, but also seconded to JG 51.

Through the opening of the campaign in the west, in May 1940, I./JG 20 met very little aerial opposition covering the advance into Holland and then Belgium. Instead, all attention was focused on the dramatic breakthrough to the south. Indeed, it was only on the day the unit transferred to airfields at Ghent, on 29 September, against the Allied evacuation at Dunkirk, that Schnell got his first victory - an RAF Spitfire. The rest of the French campaign was very quiet - a second victory on 11 June - as JG 51 pushed west down the French coast. But as most other fighter units were sent home to rest before the expected battles with the RAF, JG 51 (and I./JG 20) was left on overwatch on the English Channel. Far from being a quiet respite, it yielded three further victories for Schnell over the next weeks.

A period of leave followed over July and August. During his absence, on 4 July, I./JG 20 was officially renamed III./JG 51 (merely reflecting the reality of operations in the field). His own unit was renamed 9./JG 51 and upon his return, as the battle neared its climax, he quickly set about making up for lost time, doubling his score to eight in the next busy fortnight as well as earning a promotion to Oberleutnant. On 1 October he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) replacing Arnold Lignitz (himself promoted to command III./JG 54).

After that, it was obvious that the battle could not be won, and operations therefore wound down. Schnell only scored a solitary victory (on 25 October) in the next nine months on the Channel front, until his unit was finally withdrawn to the Reich in May 1941. It was only a short lay-over though, until transferred to airbases east of Warsaw for the upcomingOperation Barbarossa - the invasion of Russia.

Although he missed out on the opening day’s carnage, Schnell quickly made up for it on 24 June, downing seven bombers in 3 missions (including four in four minutes)[6] when JG 51 in total claimed 82 victories.[7] By the time JG 51 became the first Geschwader to claim 1000 victories in the war, on 30 June, Schnell’s own tally had risen to 22.

Schnell soon became one of the leading scorers in III./JG 51, reaching 31 by the end of July. In recognition of this, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 1 August, becoming the fourth in his Gruppe to be so honoured. When JG 51’s collective total reached 2000 victories on 7 September with the Battle of Smolensk raging (doubling in less than ten weeks), Schnell’s personal score had risen to 38. Over the rest of the year, as the weather worsened, his unit fought in the major encirclement of Kiev and then in the abortive attack on Moscow.

Schnell was fortunate to be spared the bitter Russian winter when he was seconded on temporary assignment (as many experienced pilots were) as commander of the newly established 5./JFS 5 – a fighter-pilot training unit – from October 1941 to the end of April 1942.[8] He was recalled to JG 51 to take command of the 5th Squadron on 23 May, succeeding Hans Strelow, a 68-victory ace who had been shot down behind enemy lines.

Although II./JG 51 covered a very stable part of the front (it stayed based in Bryansk from January to August 1942), there were still sporadic periods of intense air activity, as the Soviets staged offensives to distract and draw off support from their collapsing southern front. Schnell continued to score; he claimed seven in one day (5 July) to take him to 52 victories. A further six (or five[9]) victories on 2 August took his score to 58 victories.

Soon after on 8 August, now as a Hauptmann (captain), he was promoted to command his former unit, III./JG 51, succeeding the long-serving Richard Leppla, his commander since November 1940, who had been severely injured. Based at Dugino, directly west of Moscow, he was straight away into the frantic battles for air superiority over the Rzhev salient. Forced to bail out twice in the month, he later noted:

“As I was swinging down in my parachute in a wonderful stillness, I thought of those at home. Back home, my parents calmly had their Sunday morning coffee by that time.” [10]

Now also burdened with the administrative duties of command, combat opportunities were more limited after his 65th victory in late September. During his tenure, he was awarded the German Cross in Gold (on 10 October 1942) and also oversaw the unit’s transition onto the new Fw190A fighter in November.

On 17 January 1943, in a tragic take-off accident, JG 51’s Kommodore Karl-Gottfried Nordmann’s plane collided with that of I./JG 51 Kommandeur Rudolf Busch, killing the latter. So traumatized was Nordmann by the incident that he refused to fly combat missions again, and Schnell unofficially took over leading the Geschwader in the air.[11] This gave him the opportunity to pick up another half-dozen victories over the next few months, as the German Army finally withdrew from in front of Moscow to straighten the front line.

A lull finally fell over the central front in June 1943. Because of either niggling wounds[12] or his increasingly outspoken criticism of the High Command’s running of the campaign[13][14] on 23 June Karl-Heinz was transferred back to the Reich (now on 72 victories) to command another pilot-training unit: I./JG 106. But barely a fortnight later, he was again transferred, this time to the Mediterranean theatre to take temporary command of II./JG 53 in the absence of regular Kommandeur Gerhard Michalski, and which had just been pulled out from the invasion of Sicily. In his two-month stay he scored no victories, but supervised the unit’s retreat from the toe of Italy, past Naples and Rome, onto Lucca in Tuscany, as the Western Allies prepared to storm ashore onto mainland Europe.

On 24 September 1943, with Michalski’s return, Schnell was recalled to I./JG 106. Although promoted to major on 1 October, he remained “in exile" for the next year. This probably saved his life, unlike so many of his contemporaries left in the meat-grinder that was the last year of the war. He was given command of the JG 102 training unit in August 1944 until it was nominally disbanded on 15 March 1945. By then he was already in hospital nursing his ongoing injuries. Schnell was finally drawn back to a front-line unit, answering Johannes Steinhoff’s call to join Adolf Galland’s band of elite ‘malcontents’ in JV 44. There he served as Platzausbau officer (in charge of airfield infrastructure)[15] until the end of the war. One of his last duties, on 4 May 1945, was being dispatched by his CO, Heinz Bär, from their last airbase in Salzburg, Austria, to the nearby American forces to get their surrender instructions.[16]

Karl-Heinz Schnell flew over 500 missions and is credited with 72 air victories. Of these, 9 were scored on the Western Front and the remaining 62 were over Russia.

Victories[edit]

No Date Time Unit & Airfield Gruppe Kommandeur[17] Location / Planquad Claimed Aircraft Source / Comments[18][19]
1 29 May 1940 19:15 3./JG 20 – Ghent-St Denis Hptm Hannes Trautloft NE of Calais Spitfire OKL, Prien & Bock
2 11 June 1940 19:35 3./JG 20 – Estrées-lès-Crécy Hptm Hannes Trautloft S of Rouen Beaufort OKL, Prien & Bock
3 28 June 1940 19:20 3./JG 20 – St. Omer-Nord Hptm Hannes Trautloft 10 km W of Calais Hurricane C.2036/II, Prien & Bock
4 30 June 1940 12:50 3./JG 20 – St. Omer-Nord Hptm Hannes Trautloft S of St Omer Blenheim C.2036/II, Prien & Bock
5 24 August 1940 9:40 9./JG 51 – St. Omer-Nord Hptm Hannes Trautloft  ? Curtiss P-36 ? OKL, Prien & Bock
6 28 August 1940 18:10 9./JG 51 – St. Omer-Nord Hptm Walter Oesau Canterbury : 6000m Hurricane OKL, Prien & Bock
7 4 September 1940 14:24 9./JG 51 – St. Omer-Nord Hptm Walter Oesau S of London Spitfire OKL, Prien & Bock
8 4 September 1940 14:25 9./JG 51 - St. Omer-Nord Hptm Walter Oesau S of London Hurricane OKL, Prien & Bock
9 25 October 1940 13:15 9./JG 51 - St. Omer-Nord Hptm Walter Oesau  ? Hurricane OKL, Prien & Bock
10 24 June 1941 10:58 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? DB-3 C.2036/II AnerkNr 64
11 24 June 1941 14:00 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 68
12 24 June 1941 14:00 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 69
13 24 June 1941 17:51 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 79
14 24 June 1941 17:52 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 81
15 24 June 1941 17:53 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 82
16 24 June 1941 17:53 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 83
17 26 June 1941 10:55 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla Belorussia ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 87
18 26 June 1941 15:50 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla SE of Wygonowskie See SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 88
19 29 June 1941 17:50 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla  ? SB-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 90
20 30 June 1941 14:28 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla  ? DB-3 C.2036/II AnerkNr 92
21 30 June 1941 18:55 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla  ? DB-3 C.2036/II AnerkNr 96
22 30 June 1941 19:00 9./JG 51 - Halaszi Hptm Richard Leppla 5 km NE of Bobruisk DB-3 Prien & Bock
23 2 July 1941 14:50 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? DB-3 C.2036/II AnerkNr 97
24 5 July 1941 15:22 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? DB-3 C.2036/II AnerkNr 98
25 5 July 1941 15:23 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? DB-3 C.2036/II AnerkNr 99
26 11 July 1941 6:25 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 101
27 11 July 1941 14:07 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 102
28 11 July 1941 19:20 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 104
29 13 July 1941 16:45 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? I-16 C.2036/II AnerkNr 103
30 13 July 1941 16:55 9./JG 51 - Stara Bychow Hptm Richard Leppla  ? I-16 Prien & Bock
unc. 28 July 1941  ? 9./JG 51 - Smolensk Hptm Richard Leppla  ? DB-3 Prien & Bock
31 29 July 1941 18:10 9./JG 51 - Smolensk Hptm Richard Leppla  ? DB-3 C.2036/II AnerkNr 108
32 9 August 1941 13:05 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 110
33 9 August 1941 13:05 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 111
34 9 August 1941 13:07 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 171
35 9 August 1941 13:09 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 172
36 11 August 1941 7:45 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 Prien & Bock
37 13 August 1941 17:08 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Il-2 C.2032/II AnerkNr 399
38 7 September 1941 12:25 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? Pe-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 160
39 7 September 1941 17:40 9./JG 51 - Schatalovka Hptm Richard Leppla  ? I-16 C.2036/II AnerkNr 161
 ? 28 May 1942 9:35 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Richard Leppla N of Roslavl : 800m Il-2 C.2036/II AnerkNr 101
 ? 2 July 1942 17:50 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser 36 212 : treetop Il-2 C.2025/I AnerkNr ASM
46 5 July 1942  ? 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser  ?  ?
47 5 July 1942  ? 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser  ?  ?
48 5 July 1942  ? 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser  ?  ?
49 5 July 1942  ? 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser  ?  ?
50 5 July 1942  ? 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser  ?  ?
51 5 July 1942  ? 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser  ?  ?
52 5 July 1942  ? 5./JG 51 - Bryansk Hptm Hartmann Grasser  ?  ?
53 2 August 1942 13:15 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 47 554 : 300m Il-2 C.2025/I
54 2 August 1942 13:20 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 47 552 : 300m Il-2 C.2025/I
55 2 August 1942 13:25 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 47 542 : 300m Il-2 C.2025/I
56 2 August 1942 15:10 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 47 553 : 500m Il-2 C.2025/I AnerkNr 445
57 2 August 1942 16:37 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 47 581 : 500m Il-2 C.2025/I
58 3 August 1942 12:35 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 47 554 : 400m Il-2 C.2025/I AnerkNr 450
59 8 August 1942 18:24 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 47 524 : 2000m Pe-2 C.2025/I AnerkNr 389
60 22 August 1942 16:01 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 54 434 : 400m Pe-2 C.2032/II AnerkNr 407
61 22 August 1942 18:35 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 54 421 : treetop Il-2 C.2032/II AnerkNr 410
62 22 August 1942 18:35 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 54 421 Il-2 C.2032/II AnerkNr 456
63 23 August 1942 17:31 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser 54 414 : treetop Il-2 C.2032/II AnerkNr 419
64 5 September 1942 17:03 5./JG 51 – Orel-Nord Hptm Hartmann Grasser SE of Styschupka Il-2 C.2032/II AnerkNr 475
65 26 September 1942 12:25 III./JG 51 – Dugino Maj Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 47 521 : 2000m LaGG-3 C.2032/II AnerkNr 127
66 29 January 1943 10:20 III./JG 51 – Orel Maj Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 63 451 : 100m Il-2 C.2035/I AnerkNr 134
67 29 January 1943 10:22 III./JG 51 – Orel Maj Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 63 451 : 100m Il-2 C.2035/I AnerkNr 135
68 29 January 1943 10:25 III./JG 51 – Orel Maj Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 63 451 : 100m Il-2 C.2035/I AnerkNr 137
69 6 February 1943 13:25 III./JG 51 – Orel ObtLt Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 63 624 : 50m Il-2 C.2035/I AnerkNr 134
70 24 February 1943 10:25 III./JG 51 – Dugino ObtLt Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 44 434 : 200m Il-2 C.2035/I AnerkNr 140
71 9 March 1943 8:12 III./JG 51 – Dugino ObtLt Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 63 294 : 3000m LaGG-3 C.2032/II AnerkNr 141
72 13 May 1943 5:10 III./JG 51 – Dugino ObtLt Karl-Gottfried Nordmann 63 223 : 1200m LaGG-3 C.2032/II AnerkNr 142

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "SCHNELL, Karl-Heinz". World War 2 Awards. 10 October 1942. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Schnell". Leisure Galleries. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 - 1945". Ritterkreuz. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  4. ^ "Pilot Profile - Karl-Heinz Schnell". World naval ships. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Weal 2006, pg. 90.
  6. ^ Bergström, Dikov, Antipov 2006, pg109.
  7. ^ Weal 2006, pg. 60.
  8. ^ Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries website.
  9. ^ Bergström, Dikov, Antipov 2006, pg113.
  10. ^ Bergström, Dikov, Antipov 2006, p. 121.
  11. ^ Weal 2006, p. 90.
  12. ^ Forsyth, pg. 26.
  13. ^ Weal 2006, pg. 90.
  14. ^ Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries website.
  15. ^ Forsyth, pg. 63.
  16. ^ Forsyth, pp. 119-120.
  17. ^ Luftwaffe Air Units: Single–Engined Fighters website.
  18. ^ Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
  19. ^ Worldnavalships.com website.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bergström, Christer; Dikov, Andrey; Antipov, Vlad (2006). Black Cross, Red Star Vol 3 Eagle Editions Ltd ISBN 0-9761034-4-3
  • Forsythe, Robert (2008). Aviation Elite Units #27: Jagdverband 44 - Squadron of "Experten". Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84603-294-3
  • Weal, John (2001). Bf109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd ISBN 1-84176-084-6.
  • Weal, John (1996). Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Aces of the Russian Front. London, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-518-7.
  • Weal, John (2006). Aviation Elite Units #22: Jagdgeschwader 51 "Mölders". Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84603-045-5.
  • Weal, John (2007). Aviation Elite Units #25: Jagdgeschwader 53 "Pik-As". Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84603-204-2.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Oblt Arnold Lignitz
Squadron Leader of 9./JG 51
1 October 1940 – 2 November 1941
Succeeded by
Oblt Gottfried Schlitzer
Preceded by
unknown
Squadron Leader of 5./JFS 5
3 November 1941 – 26 April 1942
Succeeded by
unknown
Preceded by
Ltn Hans Strelow
Squadron Leader of 5./JG 51
23 May 1942 – 8 August 1942
Succeeded by
Ltn Ralph Furch
Preceded by
Hptm Richard Leppla
Group Commander of III./JG 51
25 September 1942 – 18 June 1943
Succeeded by
Hptm Fritz Losigkeit
Preceded by
Maj Hans Mihlan
Group Commander of I./JG 106
23 June 1943 – 9 July 1943
Succeeded by
Hptm Friedrich Kerkmann
Preceded by
Hptm Gerhard Michalski
Group Commander of II./JG 53
10 July 1943 – 28 September 1943
Succeeded by
Hptm Gerhard Michalski
Preceded by
Hptm Friedrich Kerkmann
Group Commander of I./JG 106
29 September 1943 – 31 July 1944
Succeeded by
Hptm Max Buchholz
Preceded by
Obstlt Jürgen Roth
Group Commander of I./JG 102
1 August 1944 – 15 March 1945
Succeeded by
none: unit disbanded