Thursday, February 10, 2011


 Hans-Joachim Marseille - Der Stern von Afrika (The Desert Eagle)

Born: 13 December, 1919 in, Berlin- Charlottenburg, Germany
Died: 30 September, 1942 near Sidi Abd el Rahman, Egypt

Unit(s): LG2, JG52, JG27.
Theatre(s): Western and Mediterranean Theatres
Total combat sorties: 382.
Total victories: 158. (17 In One Day), (7 Battle of Britain, 151 North Africa. 101 P-40s, 30 Hurricanes, 16 Spitfires, 4 two-engine bombers)

"Jochen was a practical joker; he was forever playing pranks. He came to see me and my squadron - No. 8 Staffel - one day in his colorful Volkswagen jeep. He called it Otto. After a talk, a cup of sweet coffee and a glass of Italian Doppio Kümmel, he got into his jeep and drove it straight at my tent flattening everything. Then he drove off with a grin stretching across his face."
Werner Schrör, 8/JG 27, 61 Kills in North Africa
Captain Hans-Joachim Marseille rolled out of bed on the morning of 30 September, 1942 and was greeted by Mathias, his personal batman from the Transvaal. The strain of one and a half years of almost continual aerial combat showed heavily on his young face of 22 years. Marseille, the youngest captain in the Luftwaffe, appeared to have everything going his way. He was confident, cocky, and by far the most famous and successful fighter pilot in the North African desert. After a slow start as a fighter pilot on the Channel Front during the Battle of Britain, having downed seven aircraft while losing several aircraft himself, Marseille overcame initial weaknesses as a pilot and made his Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter, with the big yellow 14 painted on the side, the scourge of the desert air war. During the previous 29 days, he had coolly dispatched no less than 54 British, South African, and Australian fighter aircraft, 17 of those in one day. Fourteen days earlier he had been promoted to Captain and had just been notified of being the fourth man awarded Germany's highest military award: The Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds. Without a doubt, young Marseille was well on his way to becoming among the first group of Luftwaffe pilots to shoot down 200 enemy aircraft.

The morning of 30 September brought the prospect of another day's hunt in the skies over Egypt. More victories and more glory bestowed upon the young man from Berlin. But this morning, a freak accident would reduce perhaps the greatest fighter pilot of the war from the hero of the German nation to a lifeless historical footnote on the floor of the North African desert.

Marseille is still acknowledged as among the best marksmen in the Luftwaffe. The Germans were very meticulous in filing combat reports with all relevant data to include time of battle, area of operation, opposition encountered, as well as an in-depth armorers report. At the end of a mission, the armorers would count the number of bullets and cannon shells expended during the fight. Marseille would often average an astonishing 15 bullets required per victory, and this with a combat resulting in his downing of several allied aircraft. No other German pilot was close to Marseille in this area.

2000 will mark the 58th anniversary of the death of Hans-Joachim Marseille, arguably the greatest of all World War II fighter pilots. With the coming of the anniversary, the debate as to just how great the young Berliner was will certainly continue to rage within historical aviation circles.

The basis of the debate stems from Marseille's actual, yet almost mythical, combat record in North Africa. He was credited with destroying 158 Allied aircraft, all but seven of those within an intense eighteen month period in the desert. All but four of his victories were against fighter aircraft, and all were against pilots of the western nations. No other pilot destroyed as many aircraft on the Western Front as did Marseille. During this same period, although shot down several times himself, Marseille escaped death from the angry guns of Allied pilots in over 388 combat missions. Twenty-nine other German pilots would go on to score more victories than Marseille, however, those pilots scored the majority of their victories against Russian opponents on the Eastern Front.

"When Marseille came to JG-27 he brought a very bad military reputation with him, and he was not at all a sympathetic fellow. He tried to show off, and considered his acquaintance with a lot of movie stars to be of great importance.
In Africa, he became ambitious in a good way, and completely changed his character. After some time there, it became a matter of some importance to movie stars to know him.
He was too fast and too mercurial to be a good leader and teacher, but his pilots adored him. He thanked them by protecting them and bringing them home safely.
He was a mixture of the fresh air of Berlin and French champagne-a gentleman."
Eduard Neumann, Kommodore JG-27 Horrido, p.116
Marseille, a German of French Huguenot ancestry, was in the words of the General of the German Fighter Arm, Adolf Galland, "The unrivaled virtuoso of fighter pilots." His ability to sometimes destroy entire squadrons of enemy aircraft in a single sortie is the substance legends are made of, and the kind of material ripe for critics to study and either deny or defend. Marseille is still regarded by most German Luftwaffe pilots to have been the best of the best; excelling as a marksman, an acrobatic pilots, as well as one of the best combat tacticians in the Luftwaffe. Together, the synergy created by the accumulation of these talents forged one of the most lethal fighter pilots of his era.

Marseille's BF 109

Marseille's superb ability as a pilot was only outshined by his uncommon, gregarious, and sometimes boyish behavior on the ground. He wore his hair long, had a penchant for practical jokes, and listened to taboo music like American jazz and swing, which was often referred to as "Jew" and "Nigger" music. Marseille also had a fairly popular, and sometimes unpopular, reputation as being a "playboy."

Marseille's personal car - Pkw.K1 (type 82) KÜBELWAGEN nicknamed OTTO

Early in his career, he was transferred from JG-52 by his commander, the famous Johannes "Macky" Steinhoff who said, "Marseille was remarkably handsome. He was a gifted pilot and fighter, but he was unreliable. He had girlfriends everywhere, who took up so much of his time that he was often too tired to be allowed to fly. His often irresponsible understanding of duty was the primary reason I sent him packing. But he had an irresistible charm." He was quickly shipped off to JG-27 and upon his arrival in North Africa, his commanders were in possession of a thick file containing his breeches of military discipline and unorthodox behavior. To say Marseille was not the typical German fighter pilot or stereotypical Aryan Teutonic Knight would be a gross understatement.

Various pictures of Marseille and is Messerchmitt BF 109

The two missions of 26 September 1942 had been flown in Bf 109G-2/Trops, in one of which Marseille had shot down seven enemy aircraft. Over the next three days Marseille's Staffel was rested and taken off flying duties. On 28 September Marseille received a telephone call from Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel asking to return with him to Berlin, but Marseille declined for personal reasons. In a 1955 biographical movie, it was intimated that he had become aware of the Holocaust and disdained meeting Hitler on that account, but, there's no real evidence of this.

On 30 September 1942, Marseille was leading his Staffel on a Stuka escort mission, during which no contact with enemy fighters was made. While returning to base, his new Bf 109G-2/Trop's cockpit began to fill with smoke; blinded and half asphyxiated, he was guided back to German lines by his wingmen. Upon reaching friendly lines, "Yellow 14" had lost power and was drifting lower and lower. Marseille deemed his aircraft no longer flyable and decided to bail out, his last words being "I've got to get out now, I can't stand it any longer".

His Staffel, which had been flying a tight formation around him, peeled away to give him the necessary room to maneuver. Marseille rolled his aircraft onto its back, the standard procedure for bail out, but due to the smoke and slight disorientation, he failed to notice that the aircraft had entered a steep dive and was now travelling at a considerably faster speed. He worked his way out of the cockpit and into the rushing air only to be carried backwards by the slipstream, the left side of his chest striking the vertical stabiliser of his fighter, either killing him instantly or rendering him unconscious to the point that he could not deploy his parachute. He fell almost vertically, hitting the desert floor seven km south of Sidi Abdel Rahman. He had not even attempted to open his parachute, and was dead by the time he hit the ground.

His death, along with two other aces, severely affected morale in JG 27, and the unit was shortly withdrawn from North Africa. Many authorities regard Marseille as the best marksman and the best fighter pilot of WW2. The rudder of his last airplane, marked with his 158 victories, is in the Luftwaffe museum in Berlin.


"Yeah, everybody knew nobody could cope with him. Nobody could do the same. Some of the pilots tried it like Stahlschmidt, myself, and Rödel. He, he was an artist. Marseille was an artist." Using his hands to illustrate. "He was up here and the rest of us were down here somewhere."
Friedrich Körner, 36 victories, Knight's Cross winner, 2 JG-27

"...unequalled virtuoso among the fighter pilots"
Major Adolf Galland, JG 26
On 30th of September 1942 Marseille was died, and his body was brought to headquaters of JG27, "Rumba a zul" played in Marseille's tent all the day. Again and again... It was his favourite song...

Thanks to Andrey "Murz" Morozov

"As long as I look into muzzles, nothing can happen to me. Only if he pulls lead am I in danger"

Portions of this article were reproduced from Robert Tate's article
"Hans-Joachim Marseille" found at:

Funeral of Flt.Capt. Marseille of the 27th Fighter Squadron in Derny/Libya. 2th Foto: Helmuth Orschiedt. MORE PICTURES OF HELMUTH ORSCHIEDT HERE

Marseille died on Sept. 30th. He was communicating by voice radio with his group commander Lt.Col. Eduard Neumann and the report is official and the failure of his Messerschmidt plane and his bailing out was also witnessed by several escoting German fighters of his flight.

Hans-Joachim Marseille (probably already dead) recieving after the crash.
Marseille's Piramid Monument in Derna, Egypt - build in 1989

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