|Born||22 January 1919|
|Died||6 April 1943(aged 24)|
|Place of birth||Sonnefeld, Oberfranken|
|Place of death||Ghent, Belgium|
|Years of service||1937–1943|
|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[Note 1] (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.
Friedrich "Fritz" Geißhardt was born on 22 January 1919 in Sonnefeld, near Coburg in Oberfranken. 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.[Note 2]
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.
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./JG 77
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mentioned three times in the Wehrmachtbericht
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|Sunday, 29 June 1941||Leutnant Geißhardt in einem Jagdgeschwader erzielte am 23. Juni seinen 19. und 20. Abschuß.||Leutnant Geißhardt in a fighter wing achieved on 23 June his 19th and 20th victory.|
|Tuesday, 21 April 1942||Hauptmann Ihlefeld errang gestern an der Ostfront seinen 89. bis 95., Oberleutnant Geißhardt der gleichen Jagdfliegergruppe seinen 52. bis 56. Luftsieg.||Hauptmann Ihlefeld achieved yesterday on the Eastern front his 89th to 95th, Oberleutnant Geißhardt of the same fighter group his 52nd to 56th aerial victory.|
|Thursday, 14 May 1942||Oberleutnant Geißhardt errang gestern seinen an der Ostfront seinen 61. bis 67. Luftsieg.||Oberleutnant Geißhardt achieved on the Eastern front his 61st to 67th aerial victory yesterday.|
- Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 51.
- Weal 1996, p. 10.
- Bergström and Mikhailov 2001, p. 76.
- Weal 2007, p. 26.
- Caldwell 1998, p. 43.
- Thomas 1997, p. 194.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 133.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 193.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 330.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 60.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 592.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 92.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 97.
- 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 (in German). Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939–1945 (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 3-87341-065-6.
- Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941–1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 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 New York: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84603-177-X.
- 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.
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