Wilhelm Herget

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Wilhelm Herget
Nickname(s) Der Kleine
Born (1910-06-30)30 June 1910
Stuttgart, German Empire
Died 27 March 1974(1974-03-27) (aged 63)
Stuttgart, Germany
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1939–45
Rank Major
Unit ZG 76, NJG 3, NJG 1, NJG 4, JV 44
Commands held I./NJG 4
Battles/wars
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Other work Publisher

Wilhelm Herget (30 June 1910 – 27 March 1974) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator during World War II, a night fighter ace credited with 73—15 daytime and 58 nighttime—enemy aircraft shot down in over 700 combat missions. The majority of his victories were claimed over the Western Front in Defense of the Reich missions against the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command.

Born in Stuttgart, Herget grew up in the grew up in the German Empire, Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Following graduation from school and a vocational education in printing, he joined the military service in the Luftwaffe. Herget flew his first combat missions in the 1939 Invasion of Poland and in 1940, in the Battle of France and Britain. In May 1941, he participated in the Anglo-Iraqi War. In November 1941, Herget transferred to the night fighter force, initially serving with Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1—1st Night Fighter Wing). In September 1942, Herget became group commander of I. Gruppe (1st group) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (NJG 4—4th Night Fighter Wing), a position he held until December 1944. Following his 63rd aerial victory, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 11 April 1944. The Knight's Cross (German: Ritterkreuz), and its variants were the highest awards in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. Herget flew his last combat missions with Jagdverband 44 (JV 44—44th Fighter Detachment), a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter unit, in 1945. After the war, he worked in publishing. Herget died on 27 March 1974 in Stuttgart.

Early life and career[edit]

Herget was born on 30 June 1910 in Stuttgart in the Kingdom of Württemberg of the German Empire, the son of a printer. After graduation from school, he learned the trade of printing and completed his Meister (master craftsman) training. Herget also served in the Sturmabteilung (SA) as Rottenführer (section leader). In parallel, he served in the military reserve force with an Aufklärungsgruppe (aerial reconnaissance group). In August 1939, Herget was posted to 6. Staffel (6th squadron) of Zerstörergeschwader 76 (ZG 76—76th Destroyer Wing) flying a Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter.[1]

World War II[edit]

On Friday 1 September 1939, German forces invaded Poland starting World War II in Europe. Herget flew his first combat mission with ZG 76 during the invasion and was promoted to Leutnant der Reserve (second lieutenant of the reserves) on 25 October 1939. In May 1940, he fought in the Battle of France and later that year in the Battle of Britain.[1] Herget, due to his short built, had to fly a customized Bf 110 with wooden blocks attached to the rudder pedals in order to reach them. He claimed three Supermarine Spitfire fighters shot down in May 1940 and a Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter in June and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz zweiter Klasse). On 30 August 1940, Herget claimed a Hawker Hurricane and a Spitfire on the next day. On 1 September, he claimed three further Spitfires and another on 2 September.[2] In May 1941, Herget was transferred to Sonderkommando Junck, also referred to as Fliegerführer Irak , a Luftwaffe task force under the command of Oberst (Colonel) Werner Junck which participated in the Anglo-Iraqi War.[1]

Night fighter career[edit]

Herget was promoted to Oberleutnant der Reserve (first lieutenant of the reserves) on 1 November 1941 and transferred to the night fighter force.[3] There he was posted to 7. Staffel (7th squadron) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (NJG 3—3rd Night Fighter Wing). On 15 January 1942, 7./NJG 3 was redesignated and became the 4. Staffel (4th squadron) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1—1st Night Fighter Wing). Herget was awarded the German Cross in Gold (Deutsches Kreuz in Gold) on 7 February 1942.[4] Herget claimed his first nocturnal victory on the night of 5/6 April 1942.[5]

On 1 May 1942, Herget was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 9. Staffel (9th squadron) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (NJG 4—4th Night Fighter Wing) and promoted to Hauptmann der Reserve (captain of the reserves) on 1 October 1942. In October 1942, he became Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of I. Gruppe NJG 4 and served in this position until December 1944. Herget received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 20 June 1943 for 31 aerial victories and the destruction of five ground targets. The presentation was made by Generalleutnant (lieutenant general) Josef Kammhuber.[4]

Herget was promoted to Major der Reserve (major of the reserves) on 1 October 1943. On the night of 20/21 December 1943, Herget was credited with the destruction of five Halifax and three Lancaster bombers within 45 minutes, making him an "ace-in-a-day".[6] Following his 63rd aerial victory, Herget was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 11 April 1944, the 451st soldier to receive this distinction. The presentation was made by Adolf Hitler at the Berghof, Hitler's residence in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps, on 5 May 1944.[4]

On the 15 June 1944 he was shot down by British ace, Branse Burbridge. Herget and his crew bailed out and the Junkers Ju 88 G-1 (Werknummer—factory number 710833) crashed south-west of Nivelles.[7] The crash site was initially excavated in the summer of 2008.[8] According to Boiten and Obermaier, Herget claimed his last aerial victory as a night fighter, a de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber, on the night 14/15 June 1944.[5][9] This claim is not documented by Foreman, Matthews and Parry, authors of Luftwaffe Night Fighter Claims 1939 – 1945.[10]

Messerschmitt Me 262 and Jagdverband 44[edit]

Me-262 variants:
 • the A-1a/U4
 • the A-2a/U2
 • the C-1a

In January 1945, Herget underwent conversion training and learned to fly the then new Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. He then served with Sonderkommission Kleinrath, a specialized task force named after Generalleutnant (Lieutenant General) Kurt Kleinrath. This task force of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM—Ministry of Aviation) main objective was to optimize test-flying and delivery schedules of newly manufactured aircraft. In this function, Herget was involved in improving production of the Me 262 and was subsequently exposed to the slave labor system employed by the various Messerschmitt factories and subcontractors.[11] Herget pointed out that aircraft manufacturing based on slave labor was counterproductive. News of his analysis reached Reichsmarschall (Marshal of the Reich) Hermann Göring who forbade him to visit another factory.[12]

On 5 April 1945, Herget began testing a prototype variant of the Me 262 at the Lechfeld, the Messerschmitt test airfield. The Me 262A-1a/U4 which Herget tested was equipped with an adapted 50 mm (1.969 in) MK 214 long barreled cannon. It was believed that this weapon could bring down enemy bombers from outside their defensive firing range. The weapon system suffered from technical problems and was prone to jamming. On 16 April, Herget flew the Me 262A-1a/U4 in an unsuccessful combat mission against an United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) bomber formation. The weapon failed and no shot was fired. The Me 262 was then flown to Munich-Riem by Herget where it was placed under the control of Adolf Galland's Jagdverband 44 (JV 44—44th Fighter Detachment).[12]

Herget's last missions of World War II were flown with JV 44. On 27 April, Herget, accompanied by Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Heinrich Bär and Unteroffizier Franz Köster, engaged USSAF fighters near the Munich-Riem airfield and claimed his only aerial victory flying the Me 262, a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and last of the war.[5][13] During the final days of the World War II in Europe, Galland who had been injured in combat on 26 April, attempted to surrender JV 44 to American forces from his hospital bed. On 1 May 1945, Galland instructed Herget to fly to Oberschleißheim, which had already fallen into US hands, and negotiate the terms of surrender. At dawn, Herget and Hauptmann Hugo Kessler, Galland's aide, flew to Oberschleißheim in a Fieseler Fi 156 "Storch". The Americans then drove the two Germans to the command post of the US 45th Infantry Division in the vicinity of Feldmoching. There they met with General Pearson Menoher, Chief-of-Staff of the XV Corps, General Jesse Auton, commander of the 65th Fighter Wing, and Colonel Dorr E. Newton, commander of XII Tactical Air Command. Herget handed over a letter from Galland which advocated the idea of surrendering a fully operational jet fighter unit to the Americans.[14]

Aerial victory claims[edit]

Herget was credited with 73—15 daytime and 58 nighttime—aerial victories, claimed in over 700 combat missions. His 15 daytime claims includes one aerial victory flying the Me 262 jet fighter.[5]

  This and the ♠ (Ace of spades) indicates those aerial victories which made Herget an "ace-in-a-day", a term which designates a fighter pilot who has shot down five or more airplanes in a single day.

Chronicle of aerial victories
Victory
(total)
Victory
(nocturnal)
Date Time Type Location Serial No./Squadron No.
– 6./Zerstörergeschwader 76 –
1 25 May 1940 16:50 Spitfire
2 29 May 1940 14:00 Spitfire
3 29 May 1940 14:00 Spitfire west of Dunkirk
4 18 June 1940 07:05 Hawk 75A southeast of Cherbourg
5 30 August 1940 12:30 Hurricane
6 31 August 1940 09:50 Spitfire
7 1 September 1940 14:45 Spitfire
8 1 September 1940 14:50 Spitfire
9 1 September 1940 15:00 Spitfire
10 2 September 1940 17:30 Spitfire London
11 4 September 1940 14:20 Spitfire Royal Tunbridge Wells
12 11 September 1940 17:00 Hurricane 5–10 km (3.1–6.2 mi) east of the Isle of Wight
13 4 July 1941 17:00 Handley
14 30 July 1941 17:00 Blenheim off Texel No. 139 Squadron RAF[15]
– 4./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 –
15 1 6 April 1942 02:10 Hereford[16] 2 km (1.2 mi) west of Roly-Neuville
Stab of II./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 –
16 2 6/7 May 1942 Halifax[17] 10 km (6.2 mi) southwest of Saint-Hubert
– 9./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 –
17 3 20 May 1942 01:09 Halifax[17] northwest of Saint-Hubert
18 4 17 June 1942 02:14 Stirling[18] west of Limont-Fontaine
19 5 25 August 1942 02:15 Wellington[19] 2 km (1.2 mi) southwest of Marly[disambiguation needed]
20 6 28 August 1942 23:04 Halifax[19] Dinant
21 7 28 August 1942 23:22 Hampden[19] northwest of Philippeville
22 8 2 September 1942 03:30 Halifax[20] 5 km (3.1 mi) south of Dixmuiden
23 9 20 September 1942 01:15 Wellington[21] 20 km (12 mi) north of Reims
24 10 20 September 1942 03:28 Lancaster[21] west of Berlaimont
Stab of I./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 –
25 11 22 November 1942 20:46 Wellington[22] north of Laon
26 12 21 December 1942 23:30 Lancaster[23] 1 km (0.62 mi) west of Steenbuyne
27 13 11 April 1943 03:23 Wellington[24] Nivelles
28 14 11 April 1943 03:55 Wellington[24] 1 km (0.62 mi) south of Le Havre
29 15 17 April 1943 04:06 Halifax[25] Rance
30 16 17 April 1943 04:23 Lancaster[25] Villers-Deux-Églises ED800/No. 50 Squadron RAF
– 3./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 –
31 17 15 June 1943 01:55 Lancaster[26] 1 km (0.62 mi) north of Oijen
32 18 22 June 1943 01:27 Lancaster[27] 2 km (1.2 mi) south of Asten
33 19 22 June 1943 01:38 Wellington[28] 20 km (12 mi) west-southwest of Venlo
34 20 22 June 1943 02:15 Lancaster[28] Leitler-Heide
35 21 23 June 1943 02:01 Halifax[28] 1 km (0.62 mi) northwest of Vechel
36 22 29 June 1943 01:30 Halifax[29] 1.5 km (0.93 mi) southwest of Roermond
Stab of I./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 –
37 23 4 July 1943 02:23 Wellington[30] Solre-sur-Sambre HZ478/No. 196 Squadron RAF[31]
38 24 14 July 1943 02:35 Wellington[30] northwest of Givet
39 25 14 July 1943 02:40 Halifax[30] northeast of Givet
40 26 24 August 1943 01:23 Lancaster[32] 1 km (0.62 mi) southeast of Thomsdorf
41 27 28 August 1943 01:50 Halifax[33] Nuremberg
42 28 1 September 1943 00:56 Halifax[34] southwest of Trebbin
43 29 1 September 1943 01:11 Lancaster[34] northeast of Trebbin
44 30 4 October 1943 20:49 Halifax[35] Givet
45 31 4 October 1943 21:30 Halifax[35] west-northwest of Neufchâteau
46 32 4 October 1943 22:08 B-17[35] Friedberg
47 33 26 November 1943 03:35 Halifax[36] 4 km (2.5 mi) east of St. Vith No. 35 Squadron RAF[37]
48 34 26 November 1943 19:40 Lancaster[36] east-southeast of Trier
49 35 26 November 1943 20:06 Lancaster[36] northeast of Frankfurt am Main
50 36 26 November 1943 20:08 Lancaster[36] northeast of Frankfurt am Main
51 37 2 December 1943 20:29 Stirling[38] Berlin
52 38 2 December 1943 20:55 Stirling[38] Berlin
53 39♠ 20 December 1943 19:27 Halifax[39] Münstermaifeld
54 40♠ 20 December 1943 19:35 Halifax[39] Wiesenheim
55 41♠ 20 December 1943 19:37 Halifax[39] Flörsheim am Main
56 42♠ 20 December 1943 19:43 four-engined bomber[39] 12 km (7.5 mi) west-southwest of Frankfurt am Main
57 43♠ 20 December 1943 19:47 Lancaster[39] northeast of Hanau
58 44♠ 20 December 1943 19:57 Halifax[40] Hanau
59 45♠ 20 December 1943 20:00 Lancaster[40] Rossdorf
60 46♠ 20 December 1943 20:15 Lancaster[40] west of Schwalbach am Taunus
61 47 2 January 1944 05:46 Lancaster[41] Grandrieux DV308/No. 207 Squadron RAF[42]
62 48 2 January 1944 23:10 Lancaster[43] Sautour
63 49 26 March 1944 22:55 four-engined bomber[44] Dinant
64 50 26 March 1944 23:00 four-engined bomber[44] north of Philippeville
65 51 22 April 1944 23:50 four-engined bomber[45] Soissons
66 52 23 April 1944 00:57 Lancaster[45] 9 km (5.6 mi) south-southeast of Namur
67 53 28 April 1944 02:50 Lancaster[46] northwest of Dunkirk
68 54 28 May 1944 03:17 unknown[47] Ostend-Bruges
69 55 8 June 1944 03:05 Lancaster[48] northwest of Fécamp
70 56 8 June 1944 03:14 Stirling[48] northwest of Fécamp
71 57 13 June 1944 01:36 Lancaster[49] Saint-Sauflieu/Amiens
72 58 13 June 1944 01:45 Lancaster[49] Saint-Just
Jagdverband 44 –
73 27 April 1945
P-47[13] near Munich-Riem

Awards[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to Scherzer as Hauptmann of the Reserves.[52]
  2. ^ According to Scherzer as Major of the Reserves.[52]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Stockert 2007, p. 109.
  2. ^ Bowman 2016, p. 70.
  3. ^ Stockert 2007, pp. 109–110.
  4. ^ a b c Stockert 2007, p. 110.
  5. ^ a b c d Obermaier 1989, p. 64.
  6. ^ Bowman 2014, p. 79.
  7. ^ Bowman 2005, p. 181.
  8. ^ "PONT-A-CELLES: Des restes d'un avion allemand abattu !". Charleroi (in French). Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Boiten 1997, p. 94.
  10. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 188.
  11. ^ Forsyth 2008, p. 61.
  12. ^ a b Forsyth 2008, p. 62.
  13. ^ a b Forsyth 2008, p. 93.
  14. ^ Forsyth 2008, pp. 111–112.
  15. ^ Bowman 2006.
  16. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 37.
  17. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 40.
  18. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 46.
  19. ^ a b c Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 56.
  20. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 57.
  21. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 59.
  22. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 62.
  23. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 63.
  24. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 74.
  25. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 75.
  26. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 86.
  27. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 87.
  28. ^ a b c Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 88.
  29. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 91.
  30. ^ a b c Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 92.
  31. ^ Chorley 1996.
  32. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 106.
  33. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 107.
  34. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 110.
  35. ^ a b c Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 119.
  36. ^ a b c d Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 130.
  37. ^ Bowman 2016, p. 227.
  38. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 131.
  39. ^ a b c d e Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 133.
  40. ^ a b c Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 134.
  41. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 137.
  42. ^ Bowman 2015, p. 23.
  43. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 144.
  44. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 160.
  45. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 168.
  46. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 172.
  47. ^ Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 180.
  48. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 185.
  49. ^ a b Foreman, Matthews & Parry 2004, p. 187.
  50. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 179.
  51. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 223.
  52. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 384.
  53. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 81.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Boiten, Theo (1997). Nachtjagd: the night fighter versus bomber war over the Third Reich, 1939–45. London: Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1-86126-086-4. 
  • Bowman, Martin (2005) [1997]. De Havilland Mosquito. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 978-1-86126-736-8. 
  • Bowman, Martin (2006). The Reich Intruders: RAF Light Bomber Raids in World War II. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Books. ISBN 978-1-78340-965-5. 
  • Bowman, Martin (2014). Last of the Lancasters. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Books. ISBN 978-1-78383-174-6. 
  • Bowman, Martin (2015). The Night Air War. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Books. ISBN 978-1-4738-6426-9. 
  • Bowman, Martin (2016). Nachtjagd, Defenders of the Reich 1940–1943. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Books. ISBN 978-1-4738-4986-0. 
  • Chorley, William R. (1996). Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War: Aircraft and crew losses: 1943. Midland Counties Publications. ISBN 978-0-90459-790-5. 
  • 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. 
  • Foreman, John; Matthews, Johannes; Parry, Simon W. (2004). Luftwaffe Night Fighter Combat Claims, 1939–1945. Walton on Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 978-0-9538061-4-0. 
  • Forsyth, Robert (2008). Jagdverband 44: Squadron of Experten. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-294-3. 
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Stockert, Peter (2007). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 5 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 5] (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. OCLC 76072662. 
  • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.