Background and Early Life
On March 20, 1919 at Königsberg, Prussia, Gerhard Barkhorn was born. At the age of 18, he joined the Luftwaffe and became a Fahnenjunker. He began his pilot training after serving a year in Luftwaffe. After he completed his pilot training, he was assigned as a Lieutenant and worked with Jagdgeschwader 2 Richthofen. This was an old unit formed during World War I. He was trained by one of the existing fighter ace pilot, Franz Stigler.
Work and Career
- 1937 Joined Luftwaffe
- May 1940 His first combat battle during the Battle of France and Britain but he was not able to claim any victories.
- July 1941 His first victory against the Soviet air force.
- Nov 1941 He was promoted as Oberleutnant for winning 10 aerial combats.
- May 1942 He was appointed as the Staffelkapitän of 4./JG 52.
- July 19, 1942 He became an "ace in one day" for destroying 6 aircraft in his Bf 109F fighter.
- July 1942 He was wounded and was asked to take a rest. He had destroyed 30 Soviet aircrafts by this time
- August 1942 He was awarded the Ritterkreuz for destroying 59 Soviet aircraft.
- Oct 1942 He returned to combat.
- Jan 1943 He tallied 105 victories which included killing Soviet pilots Lieutenant Vasiliyev and Podpolkovnik Lev Shestakov
- Jan 1943 He received the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross.
- Feb 1944 His unit was able to tally 350 victories, 50 of these victories were personally claimed by Barkhorn. The Soviet Red Air Force placed a price on his head.
- March 1944 He was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. He also attended the wedding of Erich Hartmann where he acted as Best Man.
- May 1944 He was promoted to Major.
- May 1944 He claimed his 273rd victory but he was shot down by a Soviet P-39 Airacobra. Luckily, he was able to crash-land far from enemy lines.
- Sep 1944 He tallied 15 victories.
- Nov 1944 He tallied 23 victories.
- Dec 1944 He tallied 28 victories.
- Jan 5, 1945 He was able to score his 301st combat victory.
- Jan 16, 1945 He was assigned as Geschwaderkommodore to Jagdgeschwader 6 (JG 6). The unit was composed mostly of new recruits. They had many losses which resulted in him being advised to rest due to the physical and mental strain of command.
- Apr 21, 1945 This was his last mission, he was attacked by P-51 Mustang fighters which severally damaged his aircraft. He was able to crash-land but suffered major injuries.
- Sep 25, 1945 He was released following being taken prisoner by the Western Allies.
- 1956 He joined the Bundesluftwaffe and was promoted to commander of the JaboG 31 “Boelcke”.
- 1976 He retired with the rank of Generalleutnant.
Details of Death
Barkhorn and his wife, Christl, were involved in a car accident on January 6, 1983 during a winter storm on an autobahn near Cologne. His wife died on the spot and he was rushed to the nearest hospital. He died 2 days later due to major injuries. The couple were buried in Tegernsee, Bavaria.