15 April 1892|
Düren, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
|Died||2 February 1975
Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
|Service/branch|| Kaiserliche Marine
|Years of service||1914–44|
|Commands held||JG 51|
Theodor "Theo" Osterkamp (15 April 1892 – 2 January 1975) was a World War I and World War II Luftwaffe fighter ace. He achieved 32 victories in World War I. In World War II, he led Jagdgeschwader 51 through the Battle of Britain and claimed a further 6 victories, in the process becoming one of only a few men to score victories in both world wars.
World War I
Osterkamp flew as a naval pilot operating over the Western Front. On 14 August 1914, he joined the Marinefliegerkorps. He then flew with the 2. Marine-Fliegerabteilung in Flanders. During 1915–1916, he served as an air observer, and became the first German pilot to fly a land-based aircraft to England on a reconnaissance-mission. In March 1917, he joined the Kampffliegerschule (Combat pilot school) in Putzig and then joined the Marine-Jagdstaffel 1. On 15 October 1917, Leutnant Osterkamp took command over Marine-Jagdstaffel 2. He scored a total of 32 victories during the war, and was awarded the Prussian military order Pour le Mérite on 2 September 1918, and was the last individual to receive it.
Between the two World Wars, Osterkamp was involved in the formation of the new Luftwaffe, amongst other things by setting up Jagdfliegerschule 1. He also participated in the second, third and fourth FAI International Tourist Plane Contest Challenge 1930 (11th place), Challenge 1932 (12th place) and Challenge 1934 (5th place).
World War II
On 19 September 1939, Oberst Osterkamp was appointed Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing).[Note 1] During the Battle of France, he claimed four victories. During the Kanalkampf period of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, he claimed a further two victories, (a Bristol Blenheim on 1 June and a Spitfire on 13 July 1940) bringing his total to six. He was replaced as commander of JG 51 by Werner Mölders on 23 July. Promoted to Generalmajor, Osterkamp was awarded his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 22 August 1940. Following his replacement in JG 51, Osterkamp was appointed Jagdfliegerführer 2, the commander of fighter aircraft in Luftflotte 2.
On 1 August 1942, he was transferred to Luftgaustab z.b.V. Afrika. On 5 April 1943, he was appointed Jagdfliegerführer Sizilien and served until replaced on 15 July by Adolf Galland. He then served in a number of staff positions until being appointed Inspekteur der Luftwaffen-Bodenorganisation (Inspector of Luftwaffe ground organisation) in 1944. After criticism from High Command, he was dismissed from the service on 21 December 1944.
Awards and decorations
- Abzeichen für Marine-Flugzeugführer
- Iron Cross (1914)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords
- Baltic Cross
- 2nd Class
- Pour le Mérite (2 September 1918)
- Cross of Honor
- Flugzeugführer- und Beobachter-Abzeichen
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 22 August 1940 as Generalmajor and Jagdfliegerführer of Luftflotte 2[Note 2]
- Ärmelband Afrika
- Pilots who flew in combat in both World Wars
- Harry von Bülow-Bothkamp, German ace in both World War I and II
- Otto Höhne
- Erich Mix
- Stanley Vincent
- Marcel Haegelen
- 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.
- 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.
|Commander of Jagdgeschwader 51 Mölders
25 November 1939 – 23 July 1940
Major Werner Mölders
|Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 1
22 July 1940 – 1 January 1941
Generalmajor Kurt-Bertram von Döring
|Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 2
1 December 1940 – 1 August 1941
Oberst Joachim-Friedrich Huth
General Stefan Fröhlich
|Acting Commander of Fliegerführer Afrika
April 1942 – 12 April 1942
General Otto Hoffmann von Waldau
|Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Sizilien
5 April 1943 – 15 June 1943
Generalleutnant Adolf Galland