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Fritz Fliegel
Born 30 November 1907
Died 18 July 1941(1941-07-18) (aged 33)
Place of birth Wilmersdorf, Berlin
Place of death Atlantic Ocean
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Rank Hauptmann (captain)
Commands held I./KG 40

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Fritz Fliegel (30 November 1907 – 18 July 1941) was a German Luftwaffe bomber pilot and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. On 18 July 1941, Fiegel was killed in action flying a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 during the Battle of the Atlantic in an attack on convoy OB 346. He targeted the 7,046-ton freighter Pilar de Larrinaga. However, the gunners shot his starboard wing off and he crashed into the sea, killing all on board.

Early life and career[edit | edit source]

Fliegel was born on 30 November 1907 in Wilmersdorf, a borough of Berlin, in the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1934, he transferred from the infantry of the Reichsheer (Army) to the newly emerging Luftwaffe (Air Force) of the Third Reich. Following his flight training, he served as flight instructor at the pilot schools A/B 42 in Salzwedel and A/B 113 in Brünn.[Note 1] There he was promoted to Hauptmann (captain) on 1 March 1939.[2]

World War II[edit | edit source]

World War II in Europe began on Friday, 1 September 1939, when German forces invaded Poland. Fliegel flew combat missions over Poland and received the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse) on 15 September 1939. In early May 1940 when I. Gruppe (1st group) of Kampfgeschwader 40 (KG 40—40th Bomber Wing), a unit equipped with the long-range Focke-Wulf Fw 200 "Condor" reconnaissance and anti-shipping/maritime patrol bomber aircraft, Fliegel was transferred to the 2. Staffel (2nd squadron) of KG 40.[Note 2] The unit initially operated against enemy shipping from airbases in Denmark. There he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class (Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse) on 13 May 1940.[2]

A Fw 200 C similar to those flown by Fliegel

In mid-1940, I. Gruppe relocated to the airbase Bordeaux-Mérignac at the Atlantic coast near Bordeaux in France. In October 1940, he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 2. Staffel of KG 40. Flying the Fw 200 to its maximum range, I. Gruppe was credited with the destruction of 39 enemy merchant ships totaling 206,000 gross register tons (GRT), further damaging 20 ships of 115,000 GRT.[2]

On 6 February 1941, U-37 under the command of Kapitänleutnant (Captain Lieutenant) Nicolai Clausen, spotted convoy HG 53, 19 merchant ships escorted by HMS Velox and Deptford, heading for Liverpool. Clausen reported the sighting, which was relayed to KG 40 by Fliegerführer Atlantik. On 9 February, KG 40 sent five Fw 200s to attack the convoy which was spotted at 4 pm roughly 640 kilometers (400 miles; 350 nautical miles) southwest of Lisbon. In the attack at 35°42′N 14°38′W / 35.7°N 14.633°W / 35.7; -14.633, the Fw 200's managed to sink five ships (Britannic, Dagmar I, Jura, Tejo and Varna), and Deptford damaged the Fw 200 piloted by Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Erich Adam, who managed to fly his aircraft to Spain. U-37 sank three further ships from HG 53.[3][4] This achievement earned him his first mention in the Wehrmachtbericht, an information bulletin issued by the headquarters of the Wehrmacht.[2]

Fliegel was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 25 March 1941. In mid-April 1941 he was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of I. Gruppe of KG 40, replacing Major (Major) Edgar Petersen. He was mentioned a second time in the Wehrmachtbericht on 20 June 1941 after the number of enemy shipping destroyed by his Gruppe increased by a further 24 ships, reaching 109 enemy ships sunk.[2] By early 1941 I. Gruppe of KG 40 had five holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross reflecting the success of the Condors in Atlantic Ocean operations.[5]

Killed in action[edit | edit source]

On 18 July 1941, Fliegel and his crew—copilot Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) Wolf-Dietrich Kadelke, first radio operator Oberfeldwebel (Staff Sergeant) Johannes Rottke, second radio operator Gefreiter (Airman) Karl Becker, flight engineer Unteroffizier (Sergeant) Johann Kothe and air gunner Unteroffizier Karl Meurer—were reported missing in action over the Atlantic in the vicinity northwest of Ireland.[2] Their Fw 200 C-3 "F8+AB" (Werknummer 0043—factory number) was shot down in an attack on convoy OB 346. During the attack on the freighter Pilar de Larrinaga, the gunners onboard the freighter scored a hit on the Fw 200's starboard wing which tore it off.[6]

Awards[edit | edit source]

Wehrmachtbericht references[edit | edit source]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Monday, 10 February 1941 Fernkampfflugzeuge unter Führung des Hauptmanns Fliegel griffen gestern etwa 500 km westlich der portugiesischen Küste einen durch Kriegsschiffe gesicherten britischen Geleitzug an, versenkten nach bisher vorliegenden Meldungen Handelsschiffe mit zusammen 24 500 BRT und beschädigten vier weitere Schiffe schwer. Der Geleitzug wurde damit völlig zersprengt.[10] Long-range aircraft under the command of Captain Fliegel attacked yesterday about 500 km west of the Portuguese coast a British convoy of British, protected by warships, and sunk, according to available reports, merchant ships with a total of 24 500 GRT and heavily damaged four more ships. The convoy was thus completely dispersed.
Friday, 20 June 1941 Eine Gruppe eines Kampfgeschwaders unter Führung von Major Petersen und später von Hauptmann Fliegel vernichtete seit Mitte April 1940 durch rastlose kühne Angriffe gegen die britische Versorgungsschiffahrt um England bis weit in den Atlantik hinaus insgesamt 109 Handelsschiffe mit rund 636 000 BRT und beschädigte weitere 63 Schiffe durch Bombentreffer schwer.[11] A group of a bomber wing under the leadership of Major Petersen and later by Captain Fliegel destroyed since mid-April 1940, in restless and daring attacks against British supply shipping near England reaching far into the Atlantic, a total of 109 merchant ships totalling 636 000 GRT and severly damaged another 63 ships with bomb hits.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Flight training in the Luftwaffe progressed through the levels A1, A2 and B1, B2, referred to as A/B flight training. A training included theoretical and practical training in aerobatics, navigation, long-distance flights and dead-stick landings. The B courses included high-altitude flights, instrument flights, night landings and training to handle the aircraft in difficult situations.[1]
  2. For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.

References[edit | edit source]

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. Bergström, Antipov & Sundin 2003, p. 17.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Kaiser 2010, p. 154.
  3. McNab 2012, p. 317.
  4. Bertke; Smith & Kindell 2009, p. 286.
  5. Goss 2005, p. 50.
  6. Forczyk 2010, p. 53.
  7. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 182.
  8. Scherzer 2007, p. 312.
  9. Von Seemen 1976, p. 128.
  10. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, pp. 418–419.
  11. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 582.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Bergström, Christer; Antipov, Vlad; Sundin, Claes (2003). Graf & Grislawski – A Pair of Aces. Hamilton MT: Eagle Editions. ISBN 978-0-9721060-4-7. 
  • Bertke, Donald A; Smith, Gordon; Kindell, Don (2009). World War II Sea War, Volume 3: The Royal Navy is Bloodied in the Mediterranean. Dayton, Ohio: Bertke Publisher. ISBN 978-1-937470-01-2. https://books.google.de/books?id=tdbEAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA286&dq=convoy+HG+53. 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). 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]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Forczyk, Robert (2010). Fw 200 Condor Vs Atlantic Convoy, 1941–43. Oxford; Long Island City, NY:: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-917-1. https://books.google.de/books?id=GUIQMw6dAq0C&lpg=PA9&dq=Fritz%20Fliegel%20Luftwaffe. 
  • Goss, Chris (2005). Sea Eagles. Vol. 1: Luftwaffe Anti-Shipping Units, 1939–41. Hersham: Classic Publication. ISBN 978-1-903223-55-0. 
  • Kaiser, Jochen (2010) (in German and English). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kampfflieger—Band 1 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Bomber Flyer—Volume 1]. Bad Zwischenahn, Germany: Luftfahrtverlag-Start. ISBN 978-3-941437-07-4. 
  • McNab, Chris (2012). Hitler's Eagles: The Luftwaffe 1933–45. Oxford; Long Island City, NY: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78096-283-2. https://books.google.de/books?id=SQulAwAAQBAJ&lpg=PA317&dq=Fritz%20Fliegel%20Luftwaffe. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). 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]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

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