Kurt Ubben

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Kurt Ubben
Kurt Ubben.jpg
Kurt Ubben
Nickname(s)"Kuddel"
Born(1911-11-18)18 November 1911
Dorstadt, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died27 April 1944(1944-04-27) (aged 32)
near Fère-en-Tardenois, German-occupied France
Buried
Allegiance Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch
Years of service1931–44
RankMajor (major)
UnitSSS Gorch Fock
JGr 186, JG 77, JG 2
Commands held8./JG 77, III./JG 77, JG 2
Battles/wars
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Kurt "Kuddel" Ubben (18 November 1911 – 27 April 1944) was a German Luftwaffe wing commander and military aviator during World War II, a fighter ace listed with 110 aerial victories—that is, 110 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—claimed in approximately 500 combat missions.

Born in Dorstadt, Ubben volunteered for military service with the Reichsmarine in 1931. He transferred to the Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany in 1935. Following flight training, he was posted to Jagdgruppe 186 (JG 186—186 Fighter Group) and later to Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing). He claimed his first aerial victory during the Battle of France on 10 May 1940. In July 1940, he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 8. Staffel (8th squadron) of JG 77. With this unit, Ubben then fought in the Battle of Greece and Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 4 September 1941 and was given command of III. Gruppe (3rd group) of JG 77 two days later. His unit transferred to the North African Theatre of operations, taking part in the retreat from Tunisia to Sicily and Italy. He received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 23 July 1942 and claimed his 101st aerial victory in January 1943.

In March 1944, Ubben was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing), tasked with defense of the Reich missions. He was killed in action in aerial combat with United States Army Air Forces 356th Fighter Group near Fère-en-Tardenois, France on 27 April 1944.

Early life and career[edit]

Ubben, the son of an officer in the Imperial German Navy, was born on 18 November 1911 in Dorstadt, at the time in the Province of Hanover of the Kingdom of Prussia, of the German Empire. On 1 October 1931, he joined the military service with the Reichsmarine, the German Navy during the Weimar Republic. During his service with the Reichsmarine, he went on a cruise on board the school ship Gorch Fock. On 1 April 1935, Ubben transferred to the newly emerging Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany and was trained as a naval aviator in 1935/36.[1][Note 1]

On 1 September 1936, Ubben was transferred to 1. Staffel (1st squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 136 (JG 136—136th Fighter Wing), and in November was posted to the newly created I. Gruppe (1st group) of Jagdggruppe 186 (II./186—186th Fighter Group).[Note 2] This group, also known as the Trägerfliegergruppe (carrier flyers group), was destined to be stationed on the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin which was never completed.[1] II./186 (T) initially consisted of two squadrons, 4./186 (T) equipped with the Junkers Ju 87 dive bomber,[Note 3] and 6./186 (T), a fighter squadron to which Ubben was assigned.[3] At the time, 6./186 (T) was equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109B, the carrier variant Bf 109 T-1 was not available, and trained at Travemünde on a mockup carrier landing deck. On 15 July 1939, II./186 (T) was augmented by a third squadron, designated 5./186 (T) to which Ubben was transferred.[4]

World War II[edit]

World War II in Europe began on Friday, 1 September 1939, when German forces invaded Poland. In preparation, 5./186 had been moved to Brüsterort, near Königsberg on 22 August.[5] In the early morning hours of 1 September, 5./186 flew its first combat missions, providing fighter protection for 4./186 attacking the naval base of the Polish Navy at Hel and for the old German battleship Schleswig-Holstein bombarding the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig on the Baltic Sea.[6] The next, II./186 flew further bomber escort missions and was withdrawn from this theater on 6 September, relocating to Hage, East Frisia.[7] Ubben first aerial success was a Dutch Fokker D.XXI fighter claimed over the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, the opening day of the Battle of France.[8] This earned him the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz zweiter Klasse) that day.[9]

Holding the rank of Oberfeldwebel (sergeant), Ubben was transferred to III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) where he was assigned to 8. Staffel. There, on 1 May 1940, he was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) with a rank age dated back to 1 October 1936, and at the same time received the rank of Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) of the reserves with a rank age dated back to 1 June 1939.[1]

On 22 July 1940, Ubben was made Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 8. Staffel of JG 77. On 1 February 1942, Ubben was promoted to Hauptmann (captain) and became an active officer.[9]

Balkan and Battle of Crete[edit]

The unit transferred to the Balkans in April 1941. Ubben claimed a No. 33 Squadron Hawker Hurricane fighter over Greece on 19 April, although his Bf 109 E-7 (Werknummer 5198—factory number) was badly damaged in the engagement and Ubben forced-landed behind Allied lines near Doblatan.[10] He was rescued by a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch and flown back to his unit. No. 33 Squadron claimed four Bf 109s during the battle, though only three were brought down. Among the claimants was RAF ace Marmaduke Pattle, who claimed two Bf 109s shot down. Ubben may have been one of his victims.[11]

Ubben also carried out many ground-attack and fighter-bomber operations against Allied naval forces during mid-1941. On 22 May 1941, Ubben and Oberleutnant Wolf-Dietrich Huy claimed hits on the Royal Navy battleship HMS Warspite.[12] A bomb damaged her starboard 4-inch and 6-inch batteries,[13] ripped open the ship's side and killed 38 men.[14]

Eastern Front[edit]

Ubben and JG 77 then participated in the invasion of Russia in June 1941. He claimed a 21st victory on 25 July. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) in September for 32 air kills, 26 aircraft destroyed on the ground and some 15 armoured vehicles claimed destroyed.

In September 1941, Hauptmann Ubben was promoted to Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III./JG 77. He achieved 50 kills on 19 October, and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 12 March 1942 for 69 victories. The presentation was made on 5 April 1942 by Adolf Hitler at the Führer Headquarter Wolfsschanze in Rastenburg (now Kętrzyn in Poland). Also present at the award ceremony were the fighter pilots Hauptmann (Captain) Hans Philipp who received the Swords and Oberleutnant Max-Hellmuth Ostermann who also received the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross.[15]

Mediterranean Theater and Romania[edit]

III./JG 77 was then transferred to North Africa, by which time Ubben had 92 victories. He claimed his 100th victory on 14 January 1943. He was the 33rd Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.[16] On 1 October 1943, Ubben claimed a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress shot down in the vicinity of Livorno, Italy. According to Graham, the B-17 was an aircraft from the 301st Bombardment Group, 352d Bombardment Squadron, lost in the vicinity of Lucca.[17] That day, he was promoted to Major (major).[9] When the Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 77, Oberstleutnant Johannes Steinhoff, went on vacation on 3 October, Ubben temporarily was put in command of JG 77, leading the Geschwader from the command post in Albano.[18]

On 24 October, Ubben received orders to move III. Gruppe to Romania. Leaving all aircraft in Italy, the Gruppe went to Mizil the next day by train.[18] There, it provided aerial protection over the Ploiești oilfields. In Mizil, the Gruppe was equipped with the then outdated Bf 109 G-2, newer variants were unavailable. Training flight operations began on 12 November.[19] On 19 January 1944, General der Jagdflieger, Generalmajor Adolf Galland visited Ubben at Mizil. Galland stressed the importance of the Ploiești fields to the German war effort. He requested the pilots of III. Gruppe to sign an order stating, in case of a last resort, they would have to perform aerial ramming in defense of the oil fields.[20]

Wing commander and death[edit]

JG 2 "Richthofen" ensignia

On 2 March 1944, Oberstleutnant Egon Mayer, Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing) was killed in action in aerial combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighter aircraft. In consequence, Ubben succeeded Mayer in this command position. JG 2 "Richthofen", named after the after World War I fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, was based in France and was engaged in Defense of the Reich. Ubben left his former III. Gruppe on 10 March, assuming his new command in March 1944.[21]

On 27 April 1944, Ubben engaged United States Army Air Forces P-47 fighters near Fère-en-Tardenois. In the ensuing combat, Ubben was shot down in Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-8/R2 (Werknummer 680 113—factory number). He bailed out but his parachute failed to open either due to insufficient altitude or because of an improperly fastened harness.[21] Ubben is interred at the Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux German war cemetery.[9]

Summary of career[edit]

Aerial victory claims[edit]

Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found documentation for 93 aerial victory claims, plus 13 further unconfirmed claims. This number includes 16 on the Western Front, including one four-engined bomber, and 77 on the Eastern Front.[22]

Victory claims were logged to a map-reference (PQ = Planquadrat), for example "PQ 17692". 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.[23]

Awards[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Flight training in the Luftwaffe progressed through the levels A1, A2 and B1, B2, referred to as A/B flight training. A training included theoretical and practical training in aerobatics, navigation, long-distance flights and dead-stick landings. The B courses included high-altitude flights, instrument flights, night landings and training to handle the aircraft in difficult situations. For pilots destined to fly multi-engine aircraft, the training was completed with the Luftwaffe Advanced Pilot's Certificate (Erweiterter Luftwaffen-Flugzeugführerschein), also known as the C-Certificate.[2]
  2. ^ For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  3. ^ The suffix 'T' denotes Träger (carrier) in German use.
  4. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 17:23.[36]
  5. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 14:30.[49]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Stockert 2012, p. 378.
  2. ^ Bergström, Antipov & Sundin 2003, p. 17.
  3. ^ Prien 1992, p. 48.
  4. ^ Prien 1992, p. 51.
  5. ^ Prien 1992, p. 65.
  6. ^ Prien 1992, p. 73.
  7. ^ Prien 1992, pp. 75, 81.
  8. ^ Weal 1996, p. 95.
  9. ^ a b c d Stockert 2012, p. 379.
  10. ^ Prien 1992, pp. 525–526.
  11. ^ Shores & Cull 2008, p. 263.
  12. ^ Shores & Cull 2008, p. 357.
  13. ^ Churchill 1985, p. 257.
  14. ^ Ballantyne 2013, p. 133.
  15. ^ Steinecke 2012, p. 25.
  16. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 244.
  17. ^ Graham 2011, p. 85.
  18. ^ a b Prien 1994, p. 1761.
  19. ^ Prien 1995, p. 2014.
  20. ^ Prien 1995, p. 2026.
  21. ^ a b Weal 2000, p. 106.
  22. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1341–1343.
  23. ^ Planquadrat.
  24. ^ a b Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 1341.
  25. ^ Prien et al. 2000, p. 396.
  26. ^ Prien et al. 2003a, p. 293.
  27. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1341–1342.
  28. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2003b, p. 362.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al. 2003b, p. 365.
  30. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2003b, p. 367.
  31. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003b, p. 363.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2003b, p. 364.
  33. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003b, p. 368.
  34. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2003b, p. 369.
  35. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2003b, p. 371.
  36. ^ a b c Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 1342.
  37. ^ Prien 1995, p. 2396.
  38. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2003b, p. 373.
  39. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2003b, p. 372.
  40. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003b, p. 374.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2005, p. 322.
  42. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2005, p. 323.
  43. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2005, p. 324.
  44. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1342–1343.
  45. ^ Prien et al. 2006, p. 351.
  46. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2006, p. 353.
  47. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2006, p. 352.
  48. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2006, p. 354.
  49. ^ a b c d Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 1343.
  50. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2004, p. 331.
  51. ^ a b Prien et al. 2011, p. 533.
  52. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2011, p. 534.
  53. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2011, p. 535.
  54. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 395.
  55. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 482.
  56. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 753.
  57. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 427.
  58. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 59.

Bibliography[edit]

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Military offices
Preceded by
Major Friedrich-Karl Müller
Acting commander of Jagdgeschwader 53 Pik As
October 1943 – November 1943
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Helmut Bennemann
Preceded by
Major Egon Mayer
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 2 Richthofen
2 March 1944 – 27 April 1944
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Kurt Bühligen