Erich Hartmann, nicknamed ”Bubi” which means ”young boy” in German. He had the hightest number for enemy aircraft kills: 352. That’s right, you might be suprised, so his commanders was.
Erich Hartmann was in the aviation business since he was 14 years old. At this age, he start to learn flying bi-planes with his mother. Hartmann’s family also had a flying school but when the Great Depression came, they had to sell their planes and move to China until the Chinese Civil War, 1928. With the rise of Nazism, aviation became important again and young Erich joined the Luftwaffe. He spent one and half year before his first flying mission. In that mission, he disobeyed orders and made acrobatical stunts and his commander forbidden him from flying for few months. Lucklily for him, the pilot that took his position died on a crash and Erich start his career on the Eastern Front.
Unlike most pilots, Erich would wait for his victim to come closer from the right-left side until it become a decent target to shoot, plus that tactic would cause confusion in the enemy lines. . Only problem was the broken parts that would be hard to avoid.
The reason why Erich used this tactic is because enemy pilots could easily make escape moves and be a very hard target to shoot if you try to shoot from the planes back. Secondly, with this tactic, killing enemy pilot was much more easier. You could see it from the picture.
After a while, Erich paint his propeller black and paint a black tulip on his tail. Soon, Soviets realized this and gave him the nickname ”Black Devil” Suprisingly, Erich didn’t like that and gave his plane to amateurs.
Being shot down
Now, some say due to engine failure, some say his planes radiator was shot down, some say due to debris damage, but he had to make an emergency landing behind the Soviet lines in 1944. He fake his injuries and he was put on a trucks back with just 1 Soviet guard. Somehow, he managed to escape and return to German lines. He was promoted to Squadron Leader after this succes.
By the end of December, 1943, he was credited with 159 kills. At this point, commanders start to think that he was making it up and assing some soldiers to observe him. Turns out, he really was that succesful.
First class iron cross
In 1944, he had almost 300 kils and he was awarded with first class of iron cross and was given to him by Hitler himself. He also achive a special medal with two swords. This medal was given to just 27 people in history…
When the war was over, he had 352 kills and he was captured by Americans first, but was delivered to Soviet Union. He was sentenced to 25 years in labor camps but he only served 10 years. Then, he returned to West Germany as an officer in the air force.
Interwiew with Erich Hartmann
Although he has the most aircraft kills in history, he denied to call himself ”world’s succesful pilot” He said that his favorite pilot was Manfred Von Richtofen (Red Baron) and Hans Joachim Marseille. Hartmann died in 1993.