Heinrich Ehrler, born 17-09-1917 in Oberalbach, started his career in Goering’s (did you know) Luftwaffe in early 1940, when he started his pilot training after transferring from a flak-artillery unit. Ehrler joined 4./Jagdgeschwader 77, nicknamed “Herz As” on his first operational posting and achieved his first victory in May 1940. JG 77 was based in Norway and he spent most of the war on the Northfront. JG 77 was restructured as JG 5 Eismeer in January 1942. JG 5 operated from bases in northern Norway and Finland and they mostly engaged Russian aircraft, but were also given the task of intercepting British raids on Norway. Ehrler achieved his second victory on 19-02-1942. He was promoted to Lieutenant and made squadron leader in 6./Jagdgeschwader 5 after his 11th victory on 20 July. On 4 September, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz, Knights Cross, for 64 aerial victories. By 01-06-1943 he was promoted to Hauptmann and appointed Gruppenkommandeur, Group Commander, for II./JG 5. During this period he was also awarded the Eichenlaub, Oak Leaves to his Ritterkreuz. On 25-05-1944 he achieved nine victories in one day, bringing his tally up to 155. On 1 August he was appointed to Geschwaderkommodore, Wing Commander of JG 5 and at the same time was promoted to Major. On 12-11-1944 a message reporting incoming British bombers reached the 27 year old Geschwaderkommodore of JG 5, nicknamed “Eismeer” . Ehrler, with his score at 199 victories, scrambled to intercept the Lancasters of 9 and 617 Squadrons at the head of a Gruppe of Bf 109s. The fighters were too late. The British Lancasters sank the battleship Tirpitz north of Tromsö with the loss of a thousand sailors. The first bombs narrowly missed the target, but then, in rapid succession, came three direct hits. A column of steam and smoke shot up to about 300 feet and within a few minutes the ship had started to list badly. About 10 minutes after the first bomb struck, the Tirpitz had completely turned turtle with only the hull visible from the air.
Ehrler was called to account for this disaster and at his court martial was accused of flying to get his 200th victory, instead of guiding his fighters from ground control. Ehrler was sentenced to three years Festungshaft, a more honourable punishment than imprisonment. Ehrler had been nominated for the Schwerten prior to the battleship disaster. The award was never made. He was stripped of his command. However, he was able to record his 200th victory on 20-11-1944. Ehrler joined JG 7, nickname “Nowotny” on 27-02-1945.
Ehrler engaged a third B-24 Liberator, “Trouble in Mind,” piloted by Captain John Ray, over Kyritz, at 52°57N, 12°23E. A reference is made by surviving crew members to a cannon hit in the fuselage that destroyed the Liberator, but Ehrler had, only moments before, radioed Major, JG 7 Geschwaderkommodore, Theodor Weissenberger that he was running out of ammunition and intended to ram the bomber. In any case, both planes were destroyed in the ensuing explosion. The B-24 crashed at Krullenkempe, near Havelberg, as Ehrler’s jet fell to earth in the woods of Scharlibbe, where he was killed. His body was recovered the following day at Scharlibbe, near Stendal, where he was buried. Ehrler’s grave at Stendal confirms the date of death as 04-04-1945. His comrades knew that the old fire had been burned out of the gifted Ehrler. He was buried on the cemetery of Stendal Ehrenteil, section of honor.