Leopold Steinbatz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Leopold Steinbatz
Leopold Steinbatz.jpg
Leopold Steinbatz
Born (1918-10-25)25 October 1918
Vienna
Died 23 June 1942(1942-06-23) (aged 23)
Vovchansk
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1937–42
Rank Leutnant (posthumous)
Unit JG 52
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

Leopold Steinbatz (25 October 1918 – 23 June 1942) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace during World War II and the only non-officer recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords during World War II. He was "ace-in-a-day" twice, shooting down five aircraft on a single day.

Early life and career[edit]

Steinbatz was born on 25 October 1918 in Stammersdorf, present-day in Floridsdorf, one of the district of Vienna, in Austria-Hungary. In his youth, he learned to fly glider aircraft and received a vocational education as a butcher.[1] Following his vocational education, he joined the Austrian Air Force and received pilot training with Flieger-Ausbildungsregiment (Flight Training Regiment) in Wiener Neustadt on 1 October 1937. Following the Anschluss in March 1938, the forced incorporation of Austria into Nazi Germany, was transferred to the Luftwaffe and was trained as a fighter pilot at the Jagdfliegerschule in Wien-Aspern.[1]

World War II[edit]

World War II in Europe had begun on Friday, 1 September 1939, when German forces invaded Poland. Steinbatz was transferred to 2. Staffel (6th squadron) of the Ergänzungsgruppe of Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—52nd Fighter Wing), a supplementary and training fighter group of JG 52.[Note 1] There he first met Hermann Graf, his future wingman on the Eastern Front.[1] In August 1940, Steinbatz was transferred to 9. Staffel (9th squadron) of JG 52, a squadron of III. Gruppe (3rd Group) and was then assigned to the Luftwaffenmission Rumänien (Luftwaffe Mission Romania) under the command of Generalleutnant Wilhelm Speidel. The military mission from Germany supported General Ion Antonescu in the reorganization of his country's armed forces.[1][2] III./JG 52 was transferred to Bucharest in mid-October and temporarily renamed I./Jagdgeschwader 28 (I./JG 28) until 4 January 1941.[3]

During the Invasion of Yugoslavia of April 1941, III./JG 52 was kept back in reserve to guard the Ploiești oil installations.[4] On 15 May, III./JG 52 was moved to Athens and together with other Luftwaffe units, flews its first combat missions in support of the Battle of Crete. During this campaign, Steinbatz flew multiple ground support missions against Greek forces and other Allied forces.[1]

Eastern Front[edit]

In mid-June III./JG 52 returned to Bucharest to re-equip onto the Bf 109F just in time for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. But again, tasked with protecting the oilfields, and being the southernmost Gruppen on the front, it had very little to do except to intercept bombers raiding the Romanian ports. So it was only once the Gruppen transferred to the Ukraine that Graf and Steinbatz were able to open their accounts - both shooting down I-16 fighters on the 4 August while escorting a Ju 87 formation. But it could have all been so different: Graf had dived in behind an enemy fighter and was set to fire, then nothing! Only then, he realized that he had forgotten to prime his guns. Then from out of nowhere another fighter fell in on his tail. Graf expected to be shot down, then the Soviet fighter itself suddenly burst into flames and fell out of the sky. Steinbatz, like every good wingman had been hanging back and carefully covering his leader's tail. Correcting his mistake, Graf got his first victory soon afterward.

For the rest of the year he often flew as Graf's wingman, flying as a potent combination. As the battle for Kharkov started at the end of September he was scoring consistently, and by the beginning of December he had 25 victories. On the 8 December he was awarded the Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe (Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe). As one of the few fighter units not committed to the Battle of Moscow (Operation Taifun), III./JG 52 was shuttling alternately between the attack in the Ukraine, the Crimea and Rostov. At this time the Soviets retook Rostov and forced the unit back to the relative safety of Kharkov for the winter. After a dismal start to the eastern campaign, III./JG 52 ended as the most successful unit on the southern front.

Through the winter they would often fly patrols and not encounter any enemy aircraft. But with their unit not being rotated back for extended rest and refit over winter, Graf and Steinbatz kept up their success into the new year. Of one such encounter, on 8 January, he wrote to his wife:

Today was my lucky day. Early this morning we took off on a free-hunt mission and we actually spotted three Soviets... I flew together with a young comrade who had never been in combat before as the three 'brothers' appeared. Of course I immediately attacked one of the fighters. With a short burst of fire I blew off his left wing and he went down vertically.


Pulling up, I saw the second fighter below. He was watching his descending comrade. I dived again and attacked him. I hit his radiator and he made a forced landing. We shot the aircraft on fire.

Now the turn had come for the third aircraft, the bomber. My wingman had been attacking him but wasn't able to bring him down. As I approached him, he fired like mad. I came in very close, and then I shot him in flames with a few rounds. Burning, he crashed into a village.[5]

Hermann Graf was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernes Kreuzes) on 24 January 1942 for 42 victories and Steinbatz received the German Cross in Gold (Deutsches Kreuz in Gold) the day after. On 14 February, he too was awarded the Knight's Cross for also reaching 42 victories, and sent on extended leave.[6] Graf was promoted to Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 52 in March, and by the beginning of April, his unit had racked up over 200 victories in Russia, for the loss of only 8 pilots of their own.[7] When the unit transferred to the Crimea at the end of April, the pair took off on an unprecedented victory spree. The opening of the next Axis offensive was against the fortress of Sevastopol and the Kerch peninsula with very rugged defence. In two weeks, Graf's squadron shot down 93 aircraft, without any loss.[8] Steinbatz claimed 7 victories on 8 May to take his own score to 58.

But a large Soviet counter-attack in May, south of Kharkov, forced III./JG 52 to be urgently dispatched to that sector. The Gruppe claimed 89 victories in just its first two days over Kharkov, with Graf becoming the first pilot in JG 52 to reach the century (on 14 May). Ofw Steinbatz got his 75th on 20 May, and although the ground offensive was blunted by the next day, the intense aerial combat continued. He claimed four victories apiece on 1 and 2 June and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 2 June for the 83 victories to date - being the first NCO in the Luftwaffe to receive this honour.

However the strain of ten months' almost non-stop combat was starting to show. In a letter to Frau Steinbatz, Graf wrote:

After his return he proved absolutely reckless... He entered upon an unparalleled victory march, scoring one victory after another! As he had achieved his No.80 and was expected to be awarded with the Oak Leaves. I urged him to take some leave. The combats had put a tremendous strain on his nerves. This was shown on several occasions. I grounded him for a couple of days, but then he requested that I allow him to start flying combat sorties again. As I was called to the Führer's Headquarters (on 24 May 1942), I exhorted him to 'cool down a bit'. But I knew that his goal was to reach his '100'.[6]

By 11 June he had 95 victories, but on 15 June, he dived into a larger group of Soviet fighters. After claiming three quick victories (to take his score to 99) and eager to be the first NCO to top the century mark, he pursued them into a heavily defended AA zone. His Bf 109F4 "Yellow 2" was hit by Soviet AA fire and plummeted into the forests near Volzhansk, killing Steinbatz, although his body was never found.[9] Eight days later, on 23 June, Leopold "Bazi" Steinbatz was awarded the Schwerter (Swords to the Knight's Cross) - this time becoming the only NCO in the entire Wehrmacht to be awarded this honour. He was also promoted to Leutnant. His 99 victories on the Eastern Front had been scored in only about 300 combat missions, and at the time, he was the 11th-ranking ace in the Luftwaffe.

His friend, Hermann Graf would survive the war, becoming the second man to reach 150 victories (on 4 September). Then, after a phenomenal scoring spree over Stalingrad, on 2 October he became the first pilot to ever score 200 victories. He ended the war with the rank of Oberstleutnant (Lt Colonel) and commander of Jagdgeschwader 52.

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 records for 98 aerial victory claims, plus one further unconfirmed claim, all of which claimed on the Eastern Front.[10]

  This and the ♠ (Ace of spades) indicates those aerial victories which made Steinbatz an "ace-in-a-day", a term which designates a fighter pilot who has shot down five or more airplanes in a single day.
  This and the – (dash) indicates unconfirmed aerial victory claims for which Steinbatz did not receive credit.

Awards[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations, see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  2. ^ According to Obermaier on 8 December 1941.[32]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Stockert 1996, p. 444.
  2. ^ Bergström, Antipov & Sundin 2003, pp. 23–31.
  3. ^ Weal 2004, p. 55.
  4. ^ Weal 2004, p. 56.
  5. ^ Bergström & Mikhailov 2001, p. 72.
  6. ^ a b Bergström 2007, p. 52.
  7. ^ Weal 2004, p. 71.
  8. ^ Weal 2004, p. 73.
  9. ^ Bergström et al. 2006, pp. 9–10.
  10. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1252–1254.
  11. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1252–1253.
  12. ^ Prien et al. 2003, p. 69.
  13. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2003, p. 75.
  14. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003, p. 71.
  15. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003, p. 76.
  16. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2003, p. 72.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al. 2003, p. 77.
  18. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2003, p. 74.
  19. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, p. 1253.
  20. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2005, p. 153.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Prien et al. 2005, p. 154.
  22. ^ Prien et al. 2005, p. 155.
  23. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp. 1253–1254.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Prien et al. 2006, p. 544.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Prien et al. 2006, p. 546.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Prien et al. 2006, p. 547.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al. 2006, p. 545.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al. 2006, p. 548.
  29. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2006, p. 549.
  30. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 345.
  31. ^ Patzwall 2008, p. 199.
  32. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 32.
  33. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 456.
  34. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 720.
  35. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, pp. 409, 505.
  36. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 327.
  37. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 59.
  38. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 29.
  39. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 40.
  40. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 14.
  41. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, pp. 103, 157.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
  • Bergström, Christer; Mikhailov, Andrey (2001). Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume II, Resurgence January–June 1942. Pacifica, California: Pacifica Military History. ISBN 978-0-935553-51-2. 
  • Bergström, Christer; Antipov, Vlad; Sundin, Claes (2003). Graf & Grislawski—A Pair of Aces. Hamilton MT: Eagle Editions. ISBN 978-0-9721060-4-7. 
  • Bergström, Christer; Dikov, Andrey; Antipov, Vlad; Sundin, Claes (2006). Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume 3, Everything for Stalingrad. Hamilton MT: Eagle Editions. ISBN 978-0-9761034-4-8. 
  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Stalingrad – The Air Battle: November 1942 – February 1943. London, UK: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-276-4. 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. 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. 
  • Matthews, Andrew Johannes; Foreman, John (2015). Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims — Volume 4 S–Z. Walton on Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 978-1-906592-21-9. 
  • 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. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Trophy for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3. 
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2003). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 6/II—Unternehmen "BARBAROSSA"—Einsatz im Osten—22.6. bis 5.12.1941 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 6/II—Operation "BARBAROSSA"—Action in the East—22 June to 5 December 1941] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-70-0. 
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2005). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 9/I—Winterkampf im Osten—6.12.1941 bis 30.4.1942 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 9/I—Winter War in the East—6 December 1941 to 30 April 1942] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-76-2. 
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2006). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 9/II—Vom Sommerfeldzug 1942 bis zur Niederlage von Stalingrad—1.5.1942 bis 3.2.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 9/II—From the 1942 Summer Campaign to the Defeat at Stalingrad—1 May 1942 to 3 February 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-77-9. 
  • 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 (2006). Aces of the Reich. Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-675-6
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Weal, John (2001). Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-084-1. 
  • 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 (2004). Jagdgeschwader 52: The Experten (Aviation Elite Units). Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-786-4. 
  • Weal, John (2007). More Bf109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84603-177-X.
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross, Oak-Leaves and Swords Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-643-0. 
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.