Wolf-Udo Ettel

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Wolf-Udo Ettel
Wolf-Udo Ettel.jpg
Wolf-Udo Ettel
Born(1921-02-26)26 February 1921
Free City of Hamburg, German Empire
Died17 July 1943(1943-07-17) (aged 22)
Catania, Sicily, Fascist Italy
war cemetery at Motta Sant'Anastasia
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branchBalkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service1939–43
RankOberleutnant (first lientenant)
UnitJG 3, JG 27
Commands held8./JG 27
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (posthumous)

Wolf-Udo Ettel (26 February 1921 – 17 July 1943) was a German World War II Luftwaffe flying ace and a posthumous recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, the highest award in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. Ettel is listed with 124 aerial victories—that is, 124 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—claimed in over 250 missions.[1] He was killed in action by anti-aircraft artillery on 17 July 1943 over Fascist Italy.

Early life and schooling[edit]

Ettel was born on 26 February 1921 in Hamburg in the Weimar Republic. He was the son of a representative of the Junkers aircraft manufacture. Due to his father's work, the family lived in Teheran and in Colombia where he attended the German school. Following his parents' divorce and return to Germany in 1934, he and his two younger brothers attended the Potsdam National Political Institutes of Education (Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalt—Napola) which was a secondary boarding school founded under the recently established Nazi state. The goal of the Napola schools was to raise a new generation for the political, military and administrative leadership of Nazi Germany.[2]

World War II[edit]

World War II in Europe began on Friday 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland. On 15 November 1939, Ettel volunteered for military service in the Luftwaffe. Following various training courses, he attended blind flying school in January 1941 and passed his A/B pilot license at Prenzlau.[Note 1] He then attended a Jagdfliegerschule (fighter pilot training school) based in Paris, France. In September 1941, he was posted to a Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe (supplementary fighter group), a fighter pilot training unit based in Denmark.[2]

On 10 April 1942, Leutnant Ettel was posted to 4. Staffel (squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 3 "Udet" (JG 3—3rd Fighter Wing),[Note 2] a II. Gruppe (2nd group) squadron.[2] At the time, II. Gruppe had been placed under the overall command of Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53—53rd Fighter Wing) and was based at San Pietro Clarenza, Sicily, flying combat missions during the Siege of Malta.[5]

Eastern Front[edit]

On 5 May 1942, Adolf Hitler issued his directive No. 41 which summarized his orders for the summer campaign in the Soviet Union and resulted in Case Blue, the Wehrmacht plan for the 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia. In preparation for this campaign, II. Gruppe was moved to the Eastern Front, arriving in Pilsen from Sicily on 27 April. The Gruppe was then placed under the command of Hauptmann Kurt Brändle and refit for the summer campaign.[6] After three weeks of rest, II. Gruppe, as part of the VIII. Fliegerkorps, was placed on the left wing of Army Group South and ordered to relocate to an airfield at Chuguyev, first elements arriving on 19 May. On 24 June, II. Gruppe moved to Shchigry, a forward airfield approximated 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Kursk close to the front lines.[7] That day, Ettel claimed his first two victories when he shot down two Ilyushin Il-2 "Shturmovik" ground-attack aircraft.[8]

He, himself, was shot down approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) north Voronezh on 10 July while destroying a Soviet-flown Douglas Boston bomber, his seventh claim in total. He bailed out of his damaged Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4 "White 1" (Werknummer 8383—factory number) behind Soviet lines, swam across the Don River and returned to his unit four days later.[9] On 24 July 1942, he received the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) and the Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse) on 2 August. Ettel claimed his 20 aerial victory on 9 August, his 30th on 7 October, and was awarded the Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for Fighter Pilots (Frontflugspange für Jagdflieger) on 23 October. Three further claims were filed on 31 October, his last victories in 1942, leading to the presentation of the German Cross in Gold (Deutsches Kreuz in Gold) in December 1942.[10]

Following the German loss in the Battle of Stalingrad, 4. Staffel was relocated to the Kuban bridgehead, and during the months of intensive operations, Ettel claimed 28 Soviet aircraft shot down in March and 36 more in April, including five shot down on 11 April, an "ace-in-a-day" achievement. On 28 April 1943, Ettel claimed his 100th aerial victory. He was the 38th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.[11]

On 11 May, Ettel claimed his 120th victory, his last on the Eastern Front, but was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, resulting in a forced landing of his Bf 109 G-4 (Werknummer 19 453) between the front lines, west of Anastassiewskaja. During his return to German held territory, Ettel came under heavy rifle fire from Soviet infantry but escaped unharmed.[12] That same night Ettel led a Wehrmacht patrol to his damaged aircraft to salvage important equipment. Ettel was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 1 June.[13] The presentation was made by General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland while Ettel was on vacation in Berlin.[14]

Mediterranean Theatre and death[edit]

Promoted to Oberleutnant (first lieutenant), Ettel was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of the newly created 8. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27—27th Fighter Wing), a squadron of III. Gruppe JG 27, at the time based in Tanagra, Greece.[Note 3] While based at Tanagra, III. Gruppe was reequipped with a full contingent of the Bf 109 G-4 and G-6 series. In June, the Gruppe familiarized themselves with the new aircraft, flying training missions. At the end of June, III. Gruppe was moved to an airfield at Argos in Peloponnese. There, the unit was tasked with flying combat air patrol mission over the Aegean Sea.[15] The Allied invasion of Sicily resulted in the relocation of III. Gruppe to Brindisi in southern Italy on 14 July 1943.[16]

III. Gruppe flew its first missions in support of the German ground forces southeast of Catania, Sicily on 15 July. Because of the distance to the target area, the Bf 109s had to be equipped with drop tanks. The flight engaged in aerial combat north of Mount Etna where Ettel claimed his first aerial victory in the Mediterranean Theatre over a Royal Air Force (RAF) Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft.[16] The next day, he claimed another Spitfire shot down. At around noon that day, he claimed two United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-24 Liberator bombers shot down.[17]

On 17 July 1943, III. Gruppe was again tasked with flying ground support missions against British forces in the vicinity of Catania. In the vicinity of Lentini, the Gruppe lost five of ten dispatched fighters to anti-aircraft fire, among them Ettel who was shot down and killed in action.[16][18] His Bf 109 G-6 (Werknummer 18 402) crashed northeast of Lago di Lentini.[19] Ettel was posthumously awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 31 August 1943, the 289th officer or soldier of the Wehrmacht so honored.[20] He was buried at the German cemetery at Motta Sant'Anastasia in an unmarked grave.[17]

Summary of career[edit]

Aerial victory claims[edit]

Ettel is listed with 124 victories claimed in over 250 missions. Of his 120 claims on the Eastern Front, 21 were Il-2 Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft. He claimed four victories over Sicily, which included two USAAF four-engine bombers.[21]

Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for 121 aerial victory claims, plus three further unconfirmed claims. This figure of confirmed claims includes 118 aerial victories on the Eastern Front and three on the Western Front, including two four-engined bomber.[22]

Victory claims were logged to a map-reference (PQ = Planquadrat), for example "PQ 29323". 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]



  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.[3]
  2. ^ On 1 December 1941, JG 3 was given the honorary name "Udet" following the suicide of World War I fighter pilot and Luftwaffe Generalleutnant Ernst Udet.[4]
  3. ^ The original 8. Staffel under the command of Oberleutnant Dietrich Boesler was detached from III. Gruppe in May 1943, and was redesignated to 12. Staffel, forming the nucleus of the newly created IV. Gruppe. This decision lead to the recreation of a new 8. Staffel under the command of Ettel.[15]
  4. ^ This claim is listed as number 13 by Matthews and Foreman.[30]
  5. ^ Prien, Stemmer, Rodeike and Bock consider this claim confirmed.[36] Matthews and Foreman list this claim as unconfirmed.[37]
  6. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 18:00.[37]
  7. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator.[45]
  8. ^ According to Scherzer as pilot and not Staffelführer in the 4./Jagdgeschwader 3 "Udet"[50]



  1. ^ Spick 1996, p. 242.
  2. ^ a b c Stockert 1997, p. 371.
  3. ^ Bergström, Antipov & Sundin 2003, p. 17.
  4. ^ Prien & Stemmer 2002, p. 12.
  5. ^ Prien & Stemmer 2003, p. 106.
  6. ^ Prien & Stemmer 2003, p. 134.
  7. ^ Prien & Stemmer 2003, p. 135.
  8. ^ Prien & Stemmer 2003, p. 378.
  9. ^ Prien & Stemmer 2003, pp. 138–139, 340, 380.
  10. ^ a b c d Stockert 1997, p. 372.
  11. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
  12. ^ Prien & Stemmer 2003, pp. 150, 344.
  13. ^ Weal 2001, p. 66.
  14. ^ Stockert 1997, p. 373.
  15. ^ a b Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1997, p. 207.
  16. ^ a b c Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1997, p. 208.
  17. ^ a b Stockert 1997, p. 375.
  18. ^ Scutts 1994, p. 60.
  19. ^ Prien, Rodeike & Stemmer 1997, p. 327.
  20. ^ Weal 2003, p. 97.
  21. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 59.
  22. ^ a b Matthews & Foreman 2014, pp. 292–294.
  23. ^ Planquadrat.
  24. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 145.
  25. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 151.
  26. ^ Prien et al. 2006, p. 146.
  27. ^ a b Prien et al. 2006, p. 152.
  28. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 147.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al. 2006, p. 153.
  30. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 292.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i Prien et al. 2006, p. 149.
  32. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2006, p. 154.
  33. ^ Prien et al. 2006, p. 150.
  34. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 139–141.
  35. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2012, p. 73.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Prien et al. 2012, p. 79.
  37. ^ a b Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 293.
  38. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2012, p. 75.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Prien et al. 2012, p. 80.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Prien et al. 2012, p. 76.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Prien et al. 2012, p. 81.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al. 2012, p. 77.
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Prien et al. 2012, p. 82.
  44. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2012, p. 78.
  45. ^ a b Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 294.
  46. ^ a b c d Prien et al. 2010, p. 261.
  47. ^ Patzwall 2008, p. 74.
  48. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 106.
  49. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 175.
  50. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 299.
  51. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 72.


  • Bergström, Christer. "Bergström Black Cross/Red Star website". Identifying a Luftwaffe Planquadrat. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  • Bergström, Christer; Antipov, Vlad; Sundin, Claes (2003). Graf & Grislawski – A Pair of Aces. Hamilton MT: Eagle Editions. ISBN 978-0-9721060-4-7.
  • 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 (2014). Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims — Volume 1 A–F. Walton on Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 978-1-906592-18-9.
  • 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 Goblet 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 (2002). Jagdgeschwader 3 "Udet" in WWII: Stab and I./JG 3 in Action with the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7643-1681-4.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard (2003). Jagdgeschwader 3 "Udet" in WWII: II./JG 3 in Action with the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 978-0-7643-1774-3.
  • Prien, Jochen; Rodeike, Peter; Stemmer, Gerhard (1997). Messerschmidt Bf 109 im Einsatz bei II./Jagdgeschwader 27, 1940 – 1945 [Messerschmidt Bf 109 in Action with I./Jagdgeschwader 27, 1940 – 1945] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-42-7.
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  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2012). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 12/I—Einsatz im Osten—4.2. bis 31.12.1943 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 12/I—Action in the East—4 February to 31 December 1943] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Buchverlag Rogge. ISBN 978-3-942943-02-4.
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  • 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.
  • Weal, John (2001). Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-084-1.
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Further reading[edit]

  • Ettel, Wolf (1997). Busacker-Lührssen, Ilse (ed.). Sie nannten ihn König der Kubanjäger — Feldpostbriefe 1941–1943 des Jagdfliegers Wolf Ettel [They called him King of the Kuban Hunters — Letters from 1941–1943 of the fighter pilot Wolf Ettel] (in German). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Haag + Herchen. ISBN 978-3-86137-579-1.