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|Born||5 November 1919
|Died||8 April 1944
over Zuiderzee, Netherlands
|Buried at||Ysselsteyn German war cemetery, Netherlands|
|Years of service||?–1944|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross|
Karl "Charly" Willius (5 November 1919 – 8 April 1944) 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.
Willius was born on 5 November 1919 in Mainz-Kostheim. Following pilot training, Obergefreiter Willius was posted to 8./Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing) in May 1940. He claimed his first air victory on 18 August 1940, a Spitfire over Ramsgate.
Unteroffizier Willius participated in the invasion of Russia in June 1941, and claimed his second victory on the opening day of Operation Barbarossa, when he downed a SB-2 bomber. On 13 July Willius claimed two DB-3 bombers shot down for his 10th and 11th victories. On 14 July 1941, Willius was transferred back to Western Europe, serving with 3./Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26—26th Fighter Wing). He claimed his first victory over the Channel on 8 December, a Spitfire near Boulogne as his 13th claim. On 17 May 1942, he downed the Spitfire Vb of No. 91 Squadron RAF flown by F/L PPC "Paddy" Barthropp who bailed out and was taken prisoner. He was awarded the German Cross in Gold in October 1942 for 22 victories. Feldwebel Willius was posted as an instructor in January 1943 before returning to 3./JG 26, now based in Russia, in March 1943.
He claimed nine victories over the Soviet Air Force, including three Pe-2 bombers and a MiG-3 fighter on 13 May. Willius had 33 victories to his credit when I./JG 26 returned to France. In August 1943 Willius transferred to 2./JG 26, and became Staffelkapitän in November.
Leutnant Willius claimed his 40th victory, a B-17 shot down near Cousolre on 4 February 1944.
On 8 April 1944 Willius made a head-on attack against a formation of B-24 bombers of the 44th Bombardment Group, downing one in flames for his 50th, and last, victory. The Fw 190s reformed as P-47 fighters of the 361st Fighter Group bounced them over Zuiderzee, the Netherlands. Willius' Fw 190 A-8 (Werknummer 170009—factory number) “Black 5” was seen to spin into the ground and explode. Willius was awarded a posthumous Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 June and promotion to the rank of Oberleutnant.
His body was not recovered until 1967, found in his aircraft excavated from a Dutch polder. He was then interred in the War Cemetery at Ysselstein, Netherlands.
During his career he was credited with 50 aerial victories in 371 missions. 17 victories over the Eastern Front, and of his 34 victories over the Western Front, 11 were four-engine bombers and 16 were Spitfires.
Awards and decorations
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (22 July 1942)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- German Cross in Gold on 15 October 1942 as Feldwebel in the 3./Jagdgeschwader 26
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 June 1944 as Oberfeldwebel and Staffelkapitän in the 2./Jagdgeschwader 26 "Schlageter"
- Obermaier 1989, p. 224.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 515.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 362.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.