Josef Zwernemann

Josef Zwernemann

Josef Zwernemann
Nickname(s) "Jupp"
Born 26 March 1916
Died 8 April 1944(1944-04-08) (aged 28)
near Gardelegen
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Luftwaffe
Years of service 1935–44
Rank Hauptmann
Unit JG 52, JG 77, JG 11
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Josef Zwernemann was born on 26 March 1916 in Kirchworbis in the Province of Thuringia. During World War II he served as a fighter pilot in German Luftwaffe. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Military career

Zwernemann initially served in the Kriegsmarine where he completed his basic training. Unteroffizier Zwernemanns' service with 7./Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—52nd Fighter Wing) began on 1 March 1940 and participated in the Battle of France.[Note 1] He claimed his first aerial victory over a Supermarine Spitfire in July 1940. In May 1941 he fought in the Battle of Crete.

Wolfgang Schenck, Friedrich Lang and Zwernemann receive the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross from Adolf Hitler on 21 November 1942.

With the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, his tally increased and he became one of the most successful pilots of his Jagdgruppe (fighter group). By the end of 1941 his score stood at twenty and he was awarded Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe on 12 December 1941. In May 1942 the number of victories had increased to thirty and he was honored with the German Cross in Gold on 25 May 1942. The Oberfeldwebel received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for 57 victories on 23 June 1942. In the month of September 1942 he claimed over thirty victories. On 1 October 1942 claimed four victories increasing his score to 103, for which he received the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross. He was the 26th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.[1] He was promoted to Leutnant in the spring of 1943. One of Zwernemanns' wingmen and students was history's top-scoring ace Erich Hartmann.

While serving with 9./JG 52, Zwernemann claimed his 113th victory on 15 April 1943 and victory 117 on 7 May 1943. One of his victories on 15 April 1943 was Starshiy Leytenant Dmitriy Glinka, who had already been recommended to be appointed a Hero of the Soviet Union. At the end of May 1943 he was posted to the fighter pilot training school, Ergänzungsgruppe Ost. He returned to combat service in the fall of 1943, this time serving with 3./Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) in Italy. From here he was posted to 1./JG 11 (JG 11—11th Fighter Wing) on 15 December 1943 serving in Defense of the Reich duties and claimed a further 9 victories. As of 15 December he was acting Staffelkapitän (squadron leader), representing Hauptmann Siegfried Simsch. Zwernemann was promoted to Hauptmann on 1 April 1944.

On 8 April 1944 1st Staffel took off from Rotenburg together with I. and II./JG 11 to intercept an inbound B-24 Liberator bomber formation, which was protected by P-51 Mustang escort fighters. JG 11 reported the destruction of 8 bombers and 6 P-51 Mustangs for the loss of 20 fighters. Eleven pilots were killed in action and three wounded in action.

Among those killed in action was Josef Zwernemann. Zwernemann had claimed his sixth heavy bomber and one P-51 in the space of little more than 60 seconds before he himself was shot down by two P-51s. His comrades reported that Zwernemann bailed out but was shot in his parachute.[2] Josef Zwernemann was killed 8 April 1944 near Gardelegen, Altmark after more than 600 combat missions and 126 aerial victories.



  1. For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization
  2. According to Obermaier on 12 December 1941.[5]



  1. Obermaier 1989, p. 244.
  2. Weal 2011, p. 70.
  3. 1 2 Thomas 1998, p. 478.
  4. Patzwall 2008, p. 225.
  5. Obermaier 1989, p. 55.
  6. Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 534.
  7. 1 2 Scherzer 2007, p. 810.


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  • Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9. 
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