22 January 1919|
6 April 1943 24) (aged|
|Years of service||1937–43|
|Unit||LG 2, JG 77, JG 26|
|Commands held||III./JG 26|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Friedrich "Fritz" Geißhardt (22 January 1919 – 6 April 1943) was a German former Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during World War II. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, with its higher grade Oak Leaves, was awarded to recognise exceptional battlefield bravery or military leadership.
"Fritz" Geißhardt is credited with 102 victories in 642 combat missions, including 37 close air support missions. He achieved 63 of his victories over the Eastern Front. In his total are at least seventeen Spitfires. Geißhardt was mortally wounded in combat with US bombers on 5 April 1943 and succumbed to his injuries the next day.
Early life and career
Friedrich "Fritz" Geißhardt was born on 22 January 1919 in Sonnefeld, near Coburg in Oberfranken. He was the son of a teacher who had died early from wounds sustained during World War I. Aged fifteen he joined the Flying Hitler Youth (Flieger-HJ) and became a glider pilot. He joined the military service of the Luftwaffe in 1937 and was transferred to the 2./Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2—2nd Squadron of the 2nd Demonstration Wing) on 1 July 1939.
World War II
During the opening phase of the German invasion of Poland, I.(Jagd)/LG 2 (1st Fighter Group of the 2nd Demonstration Wing) relocated to Lauenburg (now Lębork), near Bromberg, in support of the 4. Armee (4th Army). Unteroffizier (a non-commissioned officer) Geißhard claimed his first aerial victory, a PWS-26 biplane, that day. The following day, flying his Messerschmitt Bf 109, Geißhardt had to make an emergency landing behind Polish lines. After several hours in Polish captivity, he escaped during the confusion caused by a German Stuka (Dive Bomber) attack. He reached German lines after walking for five days.
Geißhardt was transferred to the 1./LG 2 (1st Squadron of the 2nd Demonstration Wing) on 27 February 1940. By the end of 1940, he claimed six Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft shot down during the Battle of Britain, followed by six more claims in early 1941. He achieved four victories on 6 April 1941 in the aerial battles of the Balkans Campaign, and two Hawker Hurricanes in the German Invasion of Crete.
He was posted as an adjutant of the Stab to the I.(Jagd)/LG 2 at the end of April 1941. He achieved his 20th aerial victory on 23 June 1941 and received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 30 August 1941, after 27 aerial victories. He shot down further enemy aircraft in quick succession in the early part of 1942. On 3 and 4 February 1942 Geißhardt and Oberleutnant Erwin Clausen shot down three Polikarpov R-5s or Polikarpov R-Zs of 622 LBAP (Legkii Bombardirovochnyy Aviatsionyy Polk—Light Bomber Aviation Regiment) and 672 LBAP. He claimed his 40th victory on 1 March 1942, his 50th on 19 April 1942, 52nd–56th on 20 April 1942, 61st–67th on 25 April 1942. He was appointed Staffelkapitän of the 3./Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—3rd Squadron of the 77th Fighter Wing).
Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Geißhardt was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 23 June 1942 for 79 aerial victories. The award was presented at the Führerhauptquartier at Rastenburg on 28 and 29 June 1942. By this date, he had claimed three more victories for an accumulated number of 82 victories.
Shortly after the Oak Leaves presentation, the Gruppe transferred from the Eastern Front to Sicily in Italy. Geißhardt destroyed nine enemy aircraft in the aerial battles of Malta by the end of October 1942 (83–91). He added nine more victories in the North African Campaign, among them his century on 10 November 1942. He was the 30th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.
Hauptmann (Captain) Geißhardt arrived at Wevelgem on 11 January 1943 to take over command as Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of the III. Gruppe (3rd group) of Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26) from Major Josef Priller. Geißhardt's arrogance grated on some of the pilots, who felt that he treated his fellow pilots who had not yet earned the Knight's Cross with too much disdain.
Hauptmann Geißhardt, who was flying Fw 190 A-4 (Werknummer 7051—factory number) in Major Priller's Schwarm, was severely wounded in combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-17 Flying Fortress of the 306th Bomb Group on 5 April 1943. He had been hit by the defensive fire from the bombers. He was bleeding profusely from a wound in the abdomen but managed to make a smooth landing on the airfield at Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Belgium. He succumbed to his injuries early the next morning on 6 April 1943.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for fighter pilots
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (13 July 1941)
- Bild des Reichsmarschalls im Silberrahmen
- German Cross in Gold on 24 April 1942 as Leutnant in the I./Jagdgeschwader 77
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mentioned three times in the Wehrmachtbericht
- Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 51.
- Stockert 2012, p. 1.
- Weal 1996, p. 10.
- Bergström and Mikhailov 2001, p. 76.
- Weal 2007, p. 26.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
- Caldwell 1998, p. 43.
- Thomas 1997, p. 194.
- Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 133.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 193.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 330.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 60.
- Bergström, Christer; Mikhailov, Andrey (2001). Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume II, Resurgence January–June 1942. California: Pacifica Military History. ISBN 0-935553-51-7.
- Caldwell, Donald L. (1998). JG 26 War Diary Volume Two 1943–1945. London: Grub Street. ISBN 1-898697-86-8.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) . 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.
- 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.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 978-0-8041-1696-1.
- Stockert, Peter (2012) . Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2] (in German) (4th ed.). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-9802222-9-7.
- 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 (1996). Bf 109D/E aces, 1939–1941. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-487-3.
- Weal, John (2007). More Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-177-9.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.