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Gerhard Köppen
Gerhard Köppen
Born 17 May 1918
Died 5 May 1942(1942-05-05) (aged 23)
Place of birth Holzendorf
Place of death over the Sea of Azov, Russia
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1936–1942
Rank Leutnant
Unit JG 52

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Relations Eckardt Köppen (brother)

Gerhard Köppen (17 May 1918 – 5 May 1942) was a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during World War II. 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. Gerhard Köppen is credited with 85 victories in 380 sorties and was posted missing in action on 5 May 1942.

Military career[edit | edit source]

Gerhard Köppen joined the military service in 1936. His initial posting was with Kampfgeschwader 1 "Hindenburg" (KG 1) before he was selected for fighter pilot conversion training in 1939. He was transferred to the 7th Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) in 1941. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) after 40 aerial victories. He claimed four aircraft shot down on 24 February 1942 and was decorated with Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) after 72 aerial victories on 27 February 1942. He was promoted to Leutnant on 1 April 1942. He was posted as missing in action following combat flying a Bf 109 F-4 "white 4" (Werknummer 7303—factory number) north of Akmonaj. Köppen was last seen swimming in the Sea of Azov on 5 May 1942.[1]

His brother Eckardt Köppen was killed in action between Hochfließ and Grünweiden southeast of Gumbinnen on 15 January 1945 as Unteroffizier and company troop leader of the 1./Fallschirm-Panzer-Pionier-Bataillon 2 "Hermann Göring". He posthumously received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 15 March 1945.[1][2]

Awards[edit | edit source]

References in the Wehrmachtbericht[edit | edit source]

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Wednesday, 25 February 1942 Feldwebel Koeppen, Flugzeugführer in einem Jagdgeschwader, schoß am gestrigen Tage vier Gegener ab und errang damit seinen 72. Luftsieg.

[6] || Feldwebel Koeppen, pilot in a fighter wing, shot down four opponents yesterday thus achieving his 72nd aerial victory.

Sunday, 3 May 1942 Am gestrigen Tage errangen an der Ostfront Leutnant Koeppen seinen 80. bis 84. Leutnant Graf seinen 70. bis 76. und Feldwebel Steinbatz seinen 44. bis 49. Luftsieg.

[7] || Yesterday on the Eastern front, Leutnant Koeppen achieved his 80th to 84th, Leutnant Graf his 70th to 76th and Feldwebel Steinbatz his 44th to 49th aerial victory.

Wednesday, 6 May 1942 Leutnant Koeppen errang gestern an der Ostfront seinen 85. Luftsieg.

[8] || Leutnant Koeppen achieved his 85th aerial victory on the Eastern front yesterday.

Saturday, 9 May 1942 Der Flugzeugführer in einem Jagdgeschwader Leutnant Koeppen, Sieger in 85 Luftkämpfen und Träger des Eichenlaubs zum Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes, ist vom Feindflug nicht zurückgekehrt. Mit ihm verliert die Luftwaffe einen ihrer kühnsten und erfolgreichsten Jagdlflieger.

[9] || The aircraft pilot in a Fighter Wing Leutnant Koeppen, victor in 85 aerial battles and bearer of the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, failed to return from a mission against the enemy. With him the Luftwaffe loses one of its most daring and successful fighter pilots.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. According to Scherzer as pilot in the 8./Jagdgeschwader 52.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Obermaier 1989, p. 48.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 460.
  3. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 246.
  4. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 218.
  5. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 53.
  6. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 42.
  7. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 103.
  8. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 105.
  9. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 109.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [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. 
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1941 – 1945]. Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001) (in German). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2]. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • 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. 
  • Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 978-0-8041-1696-1. 
  • Thomas, Franz (1997) (in German). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K]. Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

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