25 February 1916|
|Died||7 March 1949
Leck in Schleswig-Holstein
|Years of service||1934–45|
|Unit||JG 301, JG 300, NJGr 10, Kdo Stamp, Kdo Welter and NJG 11|
|Commands held||Kdo Welter, 10./NJG 11|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Kurt Welter (25 February 1916 – 7 March 1949) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace and the most successful Jet Expert of World War II.[Note 1] A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He claimed a total of 63 aerial victories—that is, 63 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—achieved in only 93 combat missions. He recorded 56 victories at night, including 33 Mosquitos,[Note 2] and scored more aerial victories from a jet fighter aircraft than anyone else in World War II and potentially in aviation history.[Note 3]
Welter was born in Cologne-Lindenthal (Köln-Lindenthal) on 25 February 1916. He joined the military service of the Luftwaffe in 1934 and was trained as a pilot. He showed a strong natural ability as a pilot and was subsequently selected for flight instructor training and served many years as a flight instructor. In 1943 Welter transferred to an operational night fighter unit flying contemporary piston engine fighter aircraft. On 18 October 1944, after 40 combat missions, Welter was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). In early 1945, Welter transferred to an experimental jet night fighter unit flying the Messerschmitt Me 262. On 11 March 1945 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) for 48 aerial victories. Welter survived the war and was killed in an accident at a railroad crossing on 7 March 1949.
Welter was born in Cologne-Lindenthal. He joined the Luftwaffe on 1 October 1934 and was trained as a pilot. Because of his skill as a pilot he was trained as a flight instructor. During World War II, Welter was promoted to Feldwebel on 1 August 1940 and transferred to flight training school Flieger-Ausbildungs-Regiment 63 and later on to the flight instructor school at Quedlinburg. Here Welter served as a flight instructor until 10 August 1943 when he was transferred to Blindflugschule 10 (school for instrument flight training) in Altenburg with the rank of Oberfeldwebel as a night fighter instructor.
On 2 September 1943, Welter was transferred to 5. Staffel/Jagdgeschwader 301 (JG 301), a night fighter squadron that experimented with the use of largely radar-less single-seat Fw 190A-5 and Fw 190A-6 fighter aircraft by night, often equipped with the FuG 350 Naxos device, used in the form of German night-fighter operations without AI radar — due to Düppel interference from RAF Bomber Command aircraft — dubbed Wilde Sau (wild boar). On his first Wilde Sau intercept mission against Allied bombers on the night of 22 September 1943, Welter shot down two Allied four-engine bombers. He shot down a further two on his third mission on the night of 3 October 1943. By the beginning of April, he had accumulated 17 victories in only 15 missions. Subsequently on 10 May 1944 Welter was awarded the German Cross in Gold. Leutnant Welter was transferred to 5. Staffel/Jagdgeschwader 300 (JG 300) on 7 July 1944.
In July, Welter claimed two United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-17 four-engined bombers and three P-51 fighters shot down by day. From 25 July 1944, Welter served with 1. Staffel/Nachtjagdgruppe 10 (NJGr 10) performing further Wilde Sau missions. He claimed four Royal Air Force (RAF) Lancaster four-engine bombers shot down on the night of 29 August 1944 to record his 24th through 27th victories.
Welter transferred to 10./JG 300 on 4 September 1944. 10. Staffel/JG 300 was established to counter intrusions by RAF Mosquito twin-engined bombers, flying specially optimized for speed Bf 109G-6/AS fighters. In September, Welter claimed seven Mosquitos downed, including one by ramming. It is thought that during his service with 1./NJG 10 and 10./JG 300, Welter recorded 12 victories in only 18 missions. On the night of 19 September 1944, Welter may have shot down Wing Commander Guy Gibson who was leading a 300-bomber attack on Mönchengladbach and Rheydt. Gibson's Mosquito crashed near Steenbergen in the Netherlands. Welter was the only German pilot to have claimed a Mosquito shot down that night and Gibson's Mosquito the only Mosquito lost. Welter was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 18 October 1944 for 33 victories in just 40 missions.
On 2 November 1944, Welter was transferred to II. Gruppe/Nachtjagdgeschwader 11 (NJG 11), a reformation of his former unit. Here he was given command of a special Kommando subordinate to II./NJG11, set up on 11 November 1944 at Erprobungsstelle Rechlin's southern Lärz airbase (2 November 1944 – 28 January 1945), and dedicated to performing nocturnal interception with the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter of RAF Mosquitos attacking the Berlin area. According to some sources, Oberleutnant Welter added a Lancaster to his growing list of Mosquitos on the night of 12 December 1944, the first night victory by a jet fighter. Other sources state that his first aerial victory flying the Me 262 was claimed either on the night of 2 January 1945 or 5 January 1945. On 28 January 1945, the unit initially known as Sonderkommando Stamp, named after its founder Major Gerhard Stamp and then Sonderkommando Welter, was re-designated 10. Staffel/NJG 11 and transferred to the airfield at Burg near Magdeburg (28 January 1945 – 12 April 1945). The unit was equipped with radar-less Me 262 jet fighters, and tasked with intercepting Mosquito bomber aircraft of No.8 Group RAF in the Berlin area, with the aid of ground control and the searchlight defences, partially a Wilde Sau form of night combat. Welter had claimed three aerial victories while flying the Me 262 by early February 1945. Thereafter, Welter made a string of questionable air combat claims against Mosquito aircraft in the Berlin area – three on the night of 21 February 1945 (no Mosquitoes lost),[Note 4] and another three on the night of 2 March 1945 (one Mosquito damaged in aerial combat). 10./NJG11 made further claims against Mosquito aircraft attacking Berlin on the nights of 21 March 1945 (three claims; one Mosquito lost), 23 March 1945 (three claims; one Mosquito lost, another damaged in aerial combat), 24 March 1945 (two claims; one Mosquito damaged in aerial combat), 27 March 1945 (two claims; two Mosquitos lost), 30 March 1945 (four claims; one Mosquito lost and another damaged in aerial combat), 2 April 1945 (one claim; one Mosquito lost), 3 April 1945 (two claims; one Mosquito lost and another damaged in aerial combat), and 19 April 1945 (two claims, no Mosquitos lost). The last known aerial combat claim by Welter occurred on the night of 3 April 1945, when a Mosquito of 139 Squadron, RAF, was shot down over Berlin. Welter was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 11 March 1945 for 48 victories.
Much of the controversy and myth surrounding Welter's claims for success in nocturnal aerial combat with the Me 262 stems from a memorandum written by Welter on 29 May 1945 for the benefit of his British captors. In this memorandum Welter stated that between December 1944 and the end of January 1945, as the sole pilot of Kommando Welter, he flew seven Me 262 sorties and achieved three victories against Mosquito aircraft and two victories against Lancaster aircraft. Welter further stated that from the formation of 10./NJG 11 on 28 January 1945 to the end of the war, 10./NJG 11 flew around another 63 operational sorties and claimed a further 38 victories against Mosquito aircraft at night and five victories against Mosquito aircraft by day; his share being 20 Mosquitos at night and two during the day. Thus, according to the memo, a total of 25 Mosquitoes and two Lancasters were claimed in aerial combat by Welter, flying the Me 262 with the Kommando/Staffel, while other pilots of the Staffel claimed a further 21 kills (of which three were achieved with the two-seater Me 262). Official Luftwaffe documents show that by 4 April 1945, 10./NJG 11 had claimed 34 aerial victories, of which only one was claimed in a two-seater Me262.[Note 5] Research of RAF records show that only a maximum of 15 Mosquitoes could have been possibly destroyed by Kommando Welter—10./NJG 11.
Officially Kurt Welter was credited with 63 victories in 93 missions, of which 56 victories were achieved at night and seven by day. Among his claimed 63 victories are up to 33 Mosquitos. Thus, there remains some controversy about the exact number of victories achieved while flying the Me 262, with only three of the Mosquito kills coinciding with RAF records: Welter may have been guilty of overclaiming Welter survived the war and was killed on 7 March 1949 in Leck in Schleswig-Holstein waiting at a level crossing, when logs falling from an improperly loaded passing train crushed his car.
- Dienstauszeichnung 4th Class (1938)
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (20 March 1944)
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for night fighter pilots in Gold
- German Cross in Gold on 10 May 1944 as Fahnenjunker-Oberfeldwebel in the 5./JG 301
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- For a list of Luftwaffe jet aces see List of German World War II jet aces
- For a list of Luftwaffe night fighter aces see List of German World War II night fighter aces
- Nikolay Sutyagin, believed to be the top jet ace in "jet-against-jet" aerial combat, and Giora Epstein of Israel as the top ace in supersonic-capability jet fighters
- According to a comprehensive documentary survey by Boiten and Mackenzie 2008, the losses described in this section relate only to Mosquitos tasked with attacking Berlin or Magdeburg, and exclude attrition due to non-combat accidents, aircraft known to have crashed well outside of the Berlin area of operations, or attrition due to causes other than fighter attack
- According to Boiten and Mackenzie 2008, a radar-equipped Me 262B-1a/U1 two-seater night fighter, flown by Lt. Herbert Altner and his radar operator Uffz. Lommatsch, was first used operationally on the night of 27 March 1945, and was never flown in combat by Welter
- According to Fellgiebel as Leutnant and pilot in the 2./NJG 11.
- Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
- Samuel 2004, p. 46.
- Smith & Creek 2000, p. 453.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 73.
- Morgan & Weal 1998, p. 63.
- Hinchliffe 1998, p. 294.
- Radinger & Schick 1993, p. 74.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 212.
- Hinchliffe 1998, p. 306.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 208.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 275.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 289.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 341.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 342.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 343.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 347.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 348.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 353.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 363.
- Morgan & Weal 1998, p. 64.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 350.
- Boiten & Mackenzie 2008, p. 351.
- Radinger & Schick 1993, p. 75.
- Hinchliffe 1998, pp. 210, 294.
- Kurt Welter @ Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 505.
- Thomas 1998, p. 434.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 777.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 441.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 98.
- Boiten, Theo and Mackenzie, Roderick (2008). "The Nachtjagd War Diaries. An Operational History of the German Night Fighter Force in the West. Volume Two April 1944 – May 1945". Walton on Thames, UK: Red Kite. ISBN 978-1-906592-00-4.
- 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.
- Hinchliffe, Peter (1998). Luftkrieg bei Nacht 1939–1945 [Air War at Night 1939–1945] (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-01861-7.
- Morgan, Hugh; Weal, John (1998). German Jet Aces of World War 2. London; New York: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-634-7.
- 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.
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- Radinger, Willy and Schick, Walther (1993). Messerschmitt Me 262 Development Testing Production. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-88740-516-9.
- Samuel, Wolfgang W.E. (2004). American Raiders – The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's Secrets. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-649-2.
- 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 Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Sims, Edward H. (1982). Jagdflieger;Die großen Gegner von einst;1939–1945; Luftwaffe, RAF und USAAF im kritischen Vergleich . Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-87943-115-9.
- Smith, J. Richard and Creek, Eddie J. (2000). Me 262 Volume Three. Crowborough, East Sussex, England: Classic Publications. ISBN 978-1-903223-00-0.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: The Jagdflieger and their combat tactics and techniques. Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.
- Petr Kacha. "Kurt Welter". Aces of the Luftwaffe. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- "Kurt Welter" (PDF). Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945. Retrieved 15 November 2012.