Barkhorn, Gerhard “Gerd”, born on 20-03-1919 in Königsberg. Königsberg was at the end of the war a famous fortress defended by General der Infanterie, Otto Lasch. Gerhard was one of four children of Stadtbauoberinspektor (urban design inspector) Wilhelm Barkhorn and his wife Therese. Barkhorn had two brothers, Helmut and Dieter, and a sister Meta. Following four years of Volksschule (primary school), Barkhorn attended the Wilhelms-Gymnasium, a secondary school, where he graduated with his Abitur (diploma). After his compulsory Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labour Service) Barkhorn joined the military service in the Nazi German Luftwaffe in November 1937 as a Fahnenjunker (Cadet).
Barkhorn became the second most successful fighter ace of all time after fellow Luftwaffe pilot Erich “Bubi” Hartmann . Another famous ace was Hans-Ulrich Rüdel . Barkhorn joined Goering’s (see did you know) Luftwaffe in 1937 and completed his training in 1939. He was commissioned as a Leutnant. In 1940, he was assigned to a Staffel in Jagdgeschwader 2 Richthofen which was the unit with old traditions from World War I. Barkhorn flew his first combat missions in May 1940, during the Battle of France and then the Battle of Britain (see Bomber Arthur Harris) without scoring a skill.
His first victory came on 02-07-1941 over the Eastern Front. On his best single mission Barkhorn scored four victories, on his best day seven. He claimed with his Messerschmitt 301 victories in but his success did not come without cost. He was shot down many times, some source say 7, some 9, he bailed out once, and was wounded twice. He with flyer ace, Hans Joachim “Jochen” Marseille would be the most successful Air Fighters. On 31-05-1944, Barkhorn was flying his sixth mission of the day in Bf 109 G-6, ‘Black 5, when he was bounced by a Russian Air Cobra and shot down. He received severe wounds to his right arm and leg which put him out of action for four months. He returned to combat duty at the end of October. On 16-01-1945, Major Barkhorn was transferred to take command of 6th Fighter Squadron “Horst Wessel” serving for flying duties in defence of the Reich, based at Posen. He was still suffering the effects of his wounds and eventually relinquished command for another spell in hospital. On recovery he joined the 44th Fighting Squadron, JV 44, nicknamed “The Galland Zirkus” commanded by General der Flieger, Adolf “Dolfo” Galland.
Barkhorn with flyer ace, Hartmann and flyer ace, Major, Günther Rall and flyer ace, Oberst, Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff followed a training with the new jet fighters.
On 21-04-1945, flying a Me 262 jet fighter, an engine failed, he broke off his attack on some American bombers and returned to base at Riem. Pursued by the Mustang fighter escort he crash-landed his crippled machine in a clearing. The cockpit canopy, which he had opened to enable a quick escape, slammed shut on his neck. This put him back in hospital and out of the war. American troops advanced on the JV 44 base near Salzburg and shortly before surrendering, the remaining Me 262’s were blown up by JV 44 personnel, grenades being inserted into the engine intakes. Some of the JV 44 Me 262s were earlier flown out to Innsbruck where they met JV 44 personnel under command of Oberst Hans Ekkehard Bob , who was ordered to prepare the Innsbruck airfield for operations. Hans Bob died very old age of 96, on 12-08-2013 in Freiburg. Barkhorn was the best man when Bubi Hartmann, his buddy, married. Gerd would marry Christl Fischer and the couple would have three daughters, Ursula on the photo below and daughters Eva and Dorle came later.
After the war Barkhorn became a Generalleutnant in the Bundesluftwaffe.
Death and burial ground of Barkhorn, Gerhard “Gerd”.
He retired in 1976 and lived in the small town Tegernsee. He died ironical when involved in a tragical car accident in Frechen, near Cologne, during a winter storm on an autobahn, with his wife Christl, age 62, died instantly and Gerhard, without regaining consciousness, died two days later on 08-01-1983, at the age of 63 in hospital. The name of his wife Christl was painted on his aircraft during the complete war period.
Gerhard Barkhorn is buried with his wife Christi, on the cemetery of Tegernsee, near the graves of Generalmajor der Flieger, Kommandeur District München, Johannes “Hans” Höfert and SS Obergruppenführer, Freiherr Friedrich von Eberstein. Barkhorn claimed 301 victories in 1,100 combat missions. He was shot down nine times, bailed out once and was wounded twice.
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Barkhorn here with ace Dietrich Hrabak left.