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Wilhelm Balthasar (2 February 1914 – 3 July 1941) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator and wing commander during World War II. As a fighter ace, he is credited with seven aerial victories during the Spanish Civil War and further 40 aerial victories on the Western Front of World War II. He flew about 300 combat missions during World War II in addition to 465 in Spain.

Wilhelm Balthasar
Wilhelm Balthasar.jpg
Born(1914-02-02)2 February 1914
Fulda
Died3 July 1941(1941-07-03) (aged 27)
near Saint-Omer, France
Buried
German war cemetery at Illies, France
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branchBalkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service1933–41
RankMajor (major)
UnitCondor Legion
JG 1, JG 27, JG 3, JG 2
Commands heldJG 2
Battles/wars
AwardsSpanish Cross in Gold with Swords and Diamonds
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Born in Fulda, Balthasar grew up in the Weimar Republic. Following graduation from school, he volunteered for military service in the Reichswehr in 1933. Initially serving with the Army, he transferred to the Luftwaffe in 1935. During the Spanish Civil War, he volunteered for service in the Condor Legion. In Spain, he claimed his first aerial victory on 20 January 1937. For his service in Spain, he was decorated with the Spanish Cross in Gold with Swords and Diamonds. During World War II, Balthasar claimed his first victory on 11 May 1940 during the Battle of France. Balthasar emerged as Germanys leading fighter pilot of the Battle of France and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 14 June 1940.

In September 1940, Balthasar was given command of III. Gruppe (3rd group) of Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3—3rd Fighter Wing) which was fighting in the Battle of Britain. In February 1941, he was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing) and claimed his 40th aerial victory during World War II on 27 June. For this achievement he was awarded 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, on 2 July 1941.[Note 1] The next day, Balthasar was killed in action near Saint-Omer, France.

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Balthasar was born on 2 February 1914 in Fulda, Hesse-Kassel. He was the son of forester August Balthasar who on 25 October 1914 was killed in action as a Hauptmann on the Western Front of World War I. In 1933, Balthasar joined the Reichswehr with Artillerie Regiment 3, an artillery regiment of the 3rd Division. In 1935, he transferred to the Luftwaffe and was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) on 20 April 1935.[2] In November 1936, he volunteered to join Sonderstab W, named after its commander General Helmuth Wilberg, for deployment in the Spanish Civil War.[3]

Legion CondorEdit

Following his arrival in Spain in mid-October 1936, Balthasar served with Kampfgruppe K/88 and Aufklärungsgruppe A/88 flying bomber and reconnaissance missions in Junkers Ju 52 and Heinkel He 70.[4] On 16 March, he made a forced landing at Almorox following combat damage sustained by his He 70. Balthasar was also involved in the testing of the Heinkel He 112 V4 under combat conditions.[5] On 20 January 1937, he was credited with his first aerial victory when he shot down a Spanish Republican Air Force Polikarpov I-16 on 20 January 1937.[6] During the Battle of Alfambra, Balthasar claimed four Tupolev SB bombers shot down.[7]

Balthasar flew 465 missions in Spain and returned to Germany on 23 March 1938.[8][3] For his service in Spain, he was awarded the Spanish Cross in Gold with Swords and Diamonds (Spanienkreuz in Gold mit Schwertern und Brillanten).[9] He then served at the Jagdfliegerschule (fighter pilot school) in Werneuchen. On 1 August 1938, Balthasar was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 1. Staffel (1st squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 131 (JG 131st—131st Fighter Wing), this unit became 1. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 130 (JG 130—130th Fighter Wing) on 1 November and was again renamed on 1 May 1939 and was referred to 1. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1—1st Fighter Wing) from then on.[10] In mid-August 1939, 1. Staffel was ordered to move from Jesau, near present-day Bagrationovsk, to Schippenbeil, present-day Sępopol, in preparation for the German Invasion of Poland.[11]

World War IIEdit

World War II in Europe began on Friday 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland. On 6 September, I. Gruppe (1st group) of JG 1, to which 1. Staffel was subordinated, was withdrawn and ordered to Lübeck-Blankensee and then on 15 September to Vörden where the unit stayed until January 1940. There, the Gruppe flew fighter protection during the "Phoney War" on the German border to the Netherlands.[12] On 23 September 1939, Balthasar received the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz zweiter Klasse)[8][Note 2] He was promoted to Hauptmann (captain) on 1 December 1939.[14] In January 1940, I. Gruppe moved to Plantlünne and on 11 March to Gymnich, patrolling the area DürenAachenCologne.[12]

Battle of FranceEdit

On 10 May 1940, German forces launched the Battle of France. During this campaign, I. Gruppe of JG 1 was subordinated to the Stab (headquarters unit) of Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27—27th Fighter Wing). That day, I. Gruppe flew combat air patrols in the area of VenloTirlemontLiège and later that day to Maastricht.[15] The following day, Balthasar claimed three Belgian Air Force Gloster Gladiator fighters and a French Air Force Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighter in the combat area of Maastricht.[16]

On 5 June, Bathasar became an "ace-in-a-day", claiming two Lioré et Olivier LeO 45 medium bombers, a Potez 63 bomber a two M.S.406 fighters shot down.[17] The next day, he claimed four further victories, three LeO 451s and a M.S.406, which brought his World War II tally to 21.[18] For this achievement, on 14 June 1940, Balthasar was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), becoming the second Luftwaffe fighter pilot after Werner Mölders, to be so decorated.[19] With 23 aerial victories, Balthasar was the most successful German fighter pilot of the Battle of France.[20][Note 3]

Group commanderEdit

On 1 September 1940, Balthasar was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3—3rd Fighter Wing), replacing Hauptmann Walter Kienitz.[21] On 4 September, Balthasar led III. Gruppe on a fighter escort mission for German bombers targeting Canterbury. Over Canterbury, he claimed a Supermarine Spitfire fighter destroyed, probably from No. 222 Squadron but was himself wounded in the leg. Despite the injury, he managed to fly back to Desvres.[22]

Although his leg was not yet fully healed, Balthasar led his Gruppe again from the air on 23 September. That day the target area was southeast England. III. Gruppe claimed three aerial victories, including two Spitfires by Balthasar, for the loss of two of their own.[23] He claimed another Spitfire on 27 September. That day, the Luftwaffe targeted London and lost 19 Bf 109s, 19 Bf 110s and 17 Ju 88s.[24] Balthasar claimed his last aerial victories with JG 3 on 29 October.[24] On the second mission of the day targeting Kent, Balthasar claimed two Spritfires shot down.[25] In November 1940, Balhasar had to be submitted to a hospital as his injury sustained on 4 September had still not fully healed.[26] In 140, Balthasar married Lore Drohn. The marriage produced their son Wolff Balthasar born on 10 April 1941.[27]

Wing commander and deathEdit

 
August and Wilhelm Balthasar's grave at the German War Cemetery Illies

On 16 February 1941, Balthasar was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing), named after the after World War I fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen. Balthasar thus succeeded Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Greisert who had assumed temporary command of JG 2 following the death of Helmut Wick on 28 November 1940.[28] Between 22 June and 27 June 1941, he claimed another nine Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft, including two Bristol Blenheim bombers on 22 and 23 June each, which brought his victory total to 40. For this milestone, he was awarded Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 2 July 1941. He was the 17th member of the German armed forces to be so honored.[29]

The next day, Balthasar was killed in action in his Bf 109 F-4 (Werknummer 7066—factory number) near the road from Aire to Saint-Omer.[30] His victor may have been Squadron Leader Michael Lister-Robinson from No. 609 Squadron. Other RAF pilots observed and reported that one of the Bf 109's wings had come off.[9] He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major and buried at a World War I cemetery in Flanders alongside his father at Illies.[3][29][31] His former Gymnasium, the Freiherr-vom-Stein-Schule, an advanced secondary school in Fulda, was named the Wilhelm-Balthasar-Schule in 1942 and carried this name until the end of World War II.[32]

Summary of careerEdit

Aerial victory claimsEdit

Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for more than 45 aerial victory claims, plus one further unconfirmed claim. This number includes 6 claims during the Spanish Civil War and 38 on the Western Front of World War II.[33]

AwardsEdit

PromotionsEdit

20 April 1935: Leutnant (Second Lieutenant)[2]
18 January 1938: Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant)[2]
1 December 1939: Hauptmann (Captain)[14]
posthumously in 1941: Major (Major)[3]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign, in the military order of Nazi Germany. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was officially surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern), however the first presentation of the Swords to Adolf Galland was made prior to this date on 21 June 1941.[1]
  2. ^ According to Thomas on 20 September 1939.[13]
  3. ^ At the time, Werner Mölders was credited with 25 aerial victories, two more than Balthasar. However, of Mölders 25 victories, nine of which had been claimed during the "Phoney War".[21]
  4. ^ According to Forsyth this claim is unconfirmed.[34]
  5. ^ a b According to Matthews and Foreman, Balthasar claimed a Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 which was unconfirmed.[9]
  6. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 16:35.[9]
  7. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman, on 12 March 1943 Bühlingen shot down a Bloch MB.151 fighter for his 26th aerial victory, including six claims during the Spanish Civil War.[37] However, Prien, Stemmer, Rodeike and Bock do not list this claim.[36]
  8. ^ This claim is not listed by Matthews and Foreman.[9]
  9. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 20:30.[9]
  10. ^ According to Scherzer as Staffelkapitän of the 1./Jagdgeschwader 1[44]

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

  1. ^ Williamson & Bujeiro 2004, pp. 3, 7.
  2. ^ a b c Stockert 2012, p. 124.
  3. ^ a b c d Obermaier 1989, p. 45.
  4. ^ Laureau 2010, p. 31.
  5. ^ Laureau 2010, p. 33.
  6. ^ Forsyth 2011, p. 78.
  7. ^ Laureau 2010, p. 126.
  8. ^ a b Prien et al. 2001a, p. 35.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 32.
  10. ^ Prien et al. 2000, p. 94.
  11. ^ Prien et al. 2000, p. 89.
  12. ^ a b Prien et al. 2001a, p. 33.
  13. ^ a b Thomas 1997, p. 21.
  14. ^ a b Stockert 2012, p. 125.
  15. ^ Prien et al. 2001b, p. 70.
  16. ^ Prien et al. 2001b, pp. 70, 77.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Prien et al. 2001b, p. 78.
  18. ^ Prien et al. 2001b, pp. 78–79.
  19. ^ Nauroth 1999, p. 133.
  20. ^ Weal 2000, p. 72.
  21. ^ a b Prien & Stemmer 1996, p. 41.
  22. ^ Prien & Stemmer 1996, pp. 41–42.
  23. ^ Prien & Stemmer 1996, p. 44.
  24. ^ a b Prien & Stemmer 1996, pp. 44, 475.
  25. ^ Prien & Stemmer 1996, pp. 46, 475.
  26. ^ Prien & Stemmer 1996, p. 47.
  27. ^ Balthasar 2009.
  28. ^ Prien et al. 2003, p. 78.
  29. ^ a b Stockert 2012, p. 126.
  30. ^ Prien et al. 2003, p. 412.
  31. ^ German War Cemetery Illies.
  32. ^ Mott 2001, p. 128.
  33. ^ a b Matthews & Foreman 2014, pp. 32–33.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g Forsyth 2011, p. 105.
  35. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al. 2001b, p. 77.
  36. ^ a b c d e Prien et al. 2001b, p. 79.
  37. ^ a b c d Matthews & Foreman 2014, p. 33.
  38. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2002, p. 245.
  39. ^ a b c Prien et al. 2002, p. 247.
  40. ^ a b Prien et al. 2003, p. 80.
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i Prien et al. 2003, p. 410.
  42. ^ Nimmergut 2001, p. 2091.
  43. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 121.
  44. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 201.
  45. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 54.

BibliographyEdit

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  • 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.
  • Forsyth, Robert (2011). Aces of the Legion Condor. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84908-347-8.
  • Laureau, Patrick (2010). Condor: The Luftwaffe in Spain, 1936–39. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-8117-0688-9.
  • 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.
  • Mott, Michael (2001). Fulda einst und heute: wenn Häuser, Plätze und Strassen Geschichte(n) erzählen, Band 2 [Fulda Once and Now: If Houses, Squares and Streets tell Story(s), Volume 2] (in German). Parzeller. ISBN 978-3-7900-0330-7.
  • Nauroth, Holger (1999). Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" Eine Bildchronik [Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen", A Photographic History] (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-01935-5.
  • Nimmergut, Jörg (2001). Deutsche Orden und Ehrenzeichen bis 1945 [German Orders and Decorations until 1945]. Württemberg II – Deutsches Reich. Band 4. München, Germany: Zentralstelle für wissenschaftliche Ordenskunde. ISBN 978-3-00-001396-6.
  • 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.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard (1996). Messerschmitt BF 109 im Einsatz bei der III./Jagdgeschwader 3 in 1940 – 1945 [Messerschmidt Bf 109 in Action with the III./Jagdgeschwader 3 in 1940 – 1945] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-33-5.
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried (2000). Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 1—Vorkriegszeit und Einsatz über Polen—1934 bis 1939 [The Fighter Units of the German Air Force 1934 to 1945—Part 1—Pre-War Period and Action over Poland—1934 to 1939] (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 978-3-923457-54-0.
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  • "Illies/Nord—Département du Nord". German War Graves Commission. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
Military offices
Preceded by
Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Greisert
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen"
16 February 1941 – 3 July 1941
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Walter Oesau