Balthasar, Wilhelm.

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Balthasar, Wilhelm, born 02-02-1914 in Fulda, Hesse-Kassel, was the son of forester August Balthasar who on 25-10-1914 was killed in action as a Hauptmann on the Western Front of World War I. In 1933, Balthasar joined the Reichswehr with Artillerie Regiment 3, an artillery regiment of the 3rd Division. In 1935, he transferred to the Luftwaffe and was promoted to Leutnant on 20-04-1935. In November 1936, he volunteered to join Sonderstab W, named after its commander, half Jew, General Helmuth Wilberg,

for deployment in the Spanish Civil War.

Following his arrival in Spain in mid-October 1936, Balthasar served with Kampfgruppe K/88 under command of Major Robert Fuchs and Aufklärungsgruppe A/88 flying bomber and reconnaissance missions in Junkers Ju 52 and Heinkel He 70. On 16 March, he made a forced landing at Almorox following combat damage sustained by his He 70. He 70. Balthasar was also involved in the testing of the Heinkel He 112 V4 under combat conditions. On 20-01-1937, he was credited with his first aerial victory when he shot down a Spanish Republican Air Force Polikarpov I-16 on 20-01-1937. During the Battle of Alfambra, Balthasar claimed four Tupolev SB bombers shot down.

Balthasar flew 465 missions in Spain and returned to Germany on 23-03-1938. For his service in Spain, he was awarded the Spanish Cross in Gold with Swords and Diamonds  He then served at the Jagdfliegerschule (fighter pilot school) in Werneuchen. On 01-08-1938, Balthasar was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 1. Staffel of under command of Hauptmann Bernhard Woldenga who survived the war and died 19-01-1999 aged 97, this unit became 1. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader on 1 November and was again renamed on 01-05-1939 and was referred to 1. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 1 under command of Oberstleutnant Carl-August Schumacher , from then on. In mid-August 1939, 1. Staffel was ordered to move from Jesau, near present-day Bagrationovsk, to Schippenbeil, present-day Sępopol, in preparation for the German Invasion of Poland. Carl Schumacher survived the war and died 22-05-1967, aged 71, in Bad Godesberg

World War II in Europe began on Friday 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland . On 6 September, I. Gruppe (1st group) of Jagdgeschwader 1, to which 1. Staffel was subordinated, was withdrawn and ordered to Lübeck-Blankensee and then on 15 September to Vörden where the unit stayed until January 1940. There, the Gruppe flew fighter protection during the “Phoney War” on the German border to the Netherlands. On 23-09-1939, Balthasar received the Iron Cross 2nd Class . He was promoted to Hauptmann on 01-12-1939. In January 1940, I. Gruppe moved to Plantlünne and on 11 March to Gymnich, patrolling the area Düren–Aachen–Cologne.

On 10-05-1940, German forces launched the Battle of France. During this campaign, I. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 1 was subordinated to the Stab (headquarters unit) of Jagdgeschwader 27. under command of Oberstleutnant Max Ibel, That day, I. Gruppe flew combat air patrols in the area of Venlo–Tirlemont–Liège and later that day to Maastricht. The following day, Balthasar claimed three Belgian Air Force Gloster Gladiator fighters and a French Air Force Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighter in the combat area of Maastricht. Four Belgian Air Force Gladiators from 1/I/2 (1st Squadron, 1st Group, 2nd Wing) were shot down by 1./JG 1 on 13 May while flying a fighter escort mission for Belgian bombers, although the Germans claimed seven, only six were sent on the mission. Three badly damaged Belgian Battles of the 5/III/3 from the nine dispatched returned. Two Fairey Foxes were also claimed on this date by the pilots. On 13 May Balthasar claimed a Hurricane from No. 87 Squadron RAF, who claimed one of the Bf 109s—neither side reported on losses.

On 19 May the RAF Advanced Air Striking Force utilised the Westland Lysander liaison aircraft as a bomber as the situation in the air was now desperate for the Belgians, French and British. Balthasar claimed one near Amiens. Two aircraft from No. 26 Squadron RAF are known to have been lost on this date. Flight Lieutenant Ian Gleed, 87 Squadron, observed the Bf 109 attack that shot down the Lysanders and engaged the enemy. Gleed and his pilots made several victory claims. 2(J)/LG 2 and II./JG 26 were involved in this combat. Later that day, the British recorded the loss of two Lysanders from a formation of six sent up by No. 16 Squadron RAF —one source suggests this was the one claimed by Balthasar. One of the crews force-landed unhurt, but the other crew were killed. Flight Lieutenant Ian Gleed was shot down on 16-04-1943, age 26, near Cap Bon, Tunisia.

On 23-05-1940 he, here with the ace Walter “Gulle” Oesau, claimed three Hawker Hurricane fighters near Douai. RAF Fighter Command lost six in total this day over France—one 32 Squadron aircraft near Arras to 109s with pilot Sergeant GL Nowell wounded. 242 lost four on an escort mission; Flying Officer JW Graafstra and Pilot Officer GA Malone were killed in action with Bf 109s, Pilot Officer John “Jack” Benzie was wounded and JB Smiley was captured. 253 Squadron pilot DJ Ford survived and 605 Squadron Flight Lieutenant PG Leeson was taken prisoner. Three days later, on the final day of the Siege of Calais, Balthasar claimed two Spitfires over the port. Six Spitfires were shot down after combat with Bf 109s this day; No. 19 Squadron RAF lost three destroyed and two damaged; Squadron leader Geoffrey Dalton Stephenson was captured and sent to Colidtz prison, Pilot Officer PV Wilson died of wounds on 28 May, Sergeant CA Irwin was killed, Pilot Officer MD Lyne and Flying Officer GE Ball were wounded. Pilot Officer KG Hart from 65 Squadron force-landed and Pilot Officer JL Allen DFC, was rescued after parachuting into the English Channel. On 08-11-1954, Commodore Stephenson was flying a USAF F-100A-10-NA Super Sabre, near Auxiliary Field 2 of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He was flying at 13,000 ft (4,000 m) as he joined formation with another F-100, flown by Capt. Lonnie R. Moore, jet ace of the Korean campaign, when his fighter dropped into a steep spiral, impacting at ~14:14 in a pine forest on the Eglin Reservation,

On 5 June, Balthasar became an “ace-in-a-day”, claiming two Lioré et Olivier LeO 45 medium bombers, a Potez 63 bomber a two M.S.406 fighters shot down. The next day, he claimed four further victories, three LeO 451s and a M.S.406, which brought his World War II tally to 21. For this achievement, on 14-06-1940, Balthasar was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross , becoming the second Luftwaffe fighter pilot after Werner Mölders, to be so decorated. With 23 aerial victories, Balthasar was the most successful German fighter pilot of the Battle of France.

On 01-09-1940, Balthasar was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 3, replacing Hauptmann Walter Kienitz during the Battle of Britain.  On 4 September, Balthasar led III. Gruppe on a fighter escort mission for German bombers targeting Canterbury. Over Canterbury, he claimed a Supermarine Spitfire fighter destroyed, probably from No. 222 Squadron but was himself wounded in the leg. Despite the injury, he managed to fly back to Desvres. Two Spirifres from 222 Squadron were destroyed by enemy fire. Flying Officer John Wintringham Cutts   age 20, 04-09-1940, was shot down over Maidstone at approximately 13:30 and Sergeant John William Ramshaw crashed in the same area.

Although his leg was not yet fully healed, Balthasar led his Group again from the air on 23 September. That day the target area was southeast England. III. Gruppe claimed three aerial victories, including two Spitfires by Balthasar, for the loss of two of their own. 92 Squadron suffered one damaged in a crash landing near Gravesend at 10:00 with pilot Officer AJS Pattinson was wounded; P3971 was repaired. At approximately 10:30 Pilot Officer BW Brown of 72 Squadron bailed out after combat with 109s in the same area. Spitfire II, P7362 disappeared at approximately 11:30 to an unknown cause, 26-year old Sergeant DH Ayres’ body was recovered from the water off Southwald on 4 October. A number of Hawker Hurricanes were also lost. P2960, from 257 Squadron was lost in combat with 109s at approximately 09:50 over the Thames Estuary and pilot Sergant DJ Austin was wounded. 73 Squadron suffered the loss of four at approximately 10:55, near Faversham and over or near the Isle of Sheppey. All four pilots parachuted to safety but three were wounded; one rescued from the water with burns. One 229 Squadron Hurricane was lost over the Hoo Peninsula at 10:50. Pilot Officer POD Allcock was wounded—the incident was caused by an attack by enemy fighters. Balthasar claimed a Sptifire north of Cap Gris-Nez that same day. No. 234 Squadron RAF lost Spitfire I, R6896. Flying Officer TM Kane became a prisoner of war and was sent to Stalag Luft III . He claimed another Spitfire on 27 September. That day, the Luftwaffe targeted London and lost 19 Bf 109s, 19 Bf 110s and 17 Ju 88s. RAF Fighter Command lost 18 Spitfires destroyed or damaged to all causes in the days air battles. Balthasar claimed his last aerial victories with JG 3 on 29 October  On the second mission of the day targeting Kent, Balthasar claimed two Spritfires shot down. In November 1940, Balhasar had to be submitted to a hospital as his injury sustained on 4 September had still not fully healed.

In 1940, Balthasar married Lore Drohn. The marriage produced their son Wolff Balthasar born on 10-04-1941.

On 16-02-1941, Balthasar was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Jagdgeschwader 2 “Richthofen”, named after the after World War I fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen. Balthasar thus succeeded Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Greisert who had assumed temporary command of JG 2 following the death of Helmut Wick on 28-11-1940. On 22-07-1942, Greisert became engaged in a low-level aerial combat with Russian I-16 fighters. His Bf 109 F-4 aircraft was damaged and he was forced to bail out. Greisert escaped from his aircraft but being at very low altitude his parachute failed to open fully before he struck the ground, and he was killed, age 34.

Between 22 June and 27-06-1941, Balthasar claimed another nine Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft, including two Bristol Blenheim bombers on 22 and 23 June each, which brought his victory total to 40. For this milestone, he was awarded Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 02-07-1941. He was the 17th member of the German armed forces to be so honored. The claims for the 22 June cannot be verified; no Blenheims were lost. On 23 June two were lost.

Death and burial ground of Balthasar, Wilhelm.

The next day 03-07-1941, age 27, Balthasar was killed in action in his Bf 109 F-4 (Werknummer 7066—factory number) near the road from Aire to Saint-Omer at 15:25 hours. His victor may have been Squadron Leader Michael Lister-Robinson from No. 609 Squadron. Lister Robinson failed to return from a sweep on 10th April whilst leading the Wing at the head of 340 Squadron. It is believed that his Spitfire Vb W3770 was shot down by Fw190s of JG26. age 24.  Other RAF pilots observed and reported that one of the Bf 109’s wings had come off. Lister-Robinson reported a wing came off after he used his cannon against a Messerschmitt. It is also possible that Wing Commander Harry Broadhurst  could have made a head-on attack on his Messerschmitt, receiving severe punishment himself and crash-landing his Spitfire at Hornchurch wrecking it off. “Broady”Broadhurst survived the war and died 29-08-1995 aged 89, in Birdham, Chichester District, West Sussex, England  Balthasar was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major and buried at a World War I cemetery in Illies Cemetery Illies, Departement du Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France alongside his father.. His former Gymnasium, the Freiherr-vom-Stein-Schule, an advanced secondary school in Fulda, was named the Wilhelm-Balthasar-Schule in 1942 and carried this name until the end of World War

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