Freytag, Siegfried “Gustav” “the Lion of Malta”.

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Freytag, Friedrich "Justav".

Freytag, Siegfried “Gustav”. born 10-11-1919 in Danzig-Langfuhr was a World War II German Luftwaffe pilot and wing commander. He grew up in the Free City of Danzig.

Siegfried Freytag’s career is paved with joy, victory, suffering and the deepest loneliness. He once told Foreign Correspondent journalist Mark Corcoran in the post-war period when he visited the Legion nursing home in 2002 that the happiest time of his life was the day he joined the Air Force, the cruelest time he learned his mother was slaughtered by the Red Army in West Prussia. As a fighter ace, he was credited with 102 aerial victories of which 49 victories were claimed over the Eastern Front. Among his victories over the Western Front are at least 2 four-engine bombers. He was a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross Freytag had been nominated for the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, but the war ended before the paperwork had been processed. Freytag joined the Luftwaffe in 1938. After completing training as a fighter pilot he was posted to 6. Staffel (squadron) Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—Fighter Wing 77) , under the command of Oberstleutnant Eitel Roediger von Manteuffelin the autumn of 1940. Freytag claimed his first victory on 31-10-1940 on the final day of the Battle of Britain.

The Battle of Britain ( “air battle for England”) was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the Royal Navy defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe. It was the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces. The British officially recognise the battle’s duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz, that lasted from 07-09-1940 to 11-05-1941. German historians do not follow this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to May 1941, including the Blitz.

Oberstleutnant Eitel-Friedrich Roediger Freiherr von Manteuffel died age 88, on 31-07-1984 in Wiesbaden  In April 1941 he participated in the Balkans Campaign, the Battle of Greece and Battle of Crete. In June Freytag was deployed to the Eastern Front with JG 77 for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.

On June 22, 1941, Germany begins a major attack on the Soviet Union, the communist state, which consists of Russia and a number of neighboring countries. This attack is codenamed ‘Operation Barbarossa’ and has been prepared for months by Hitler and the army. Three million German soldiers cross the border. This ends the non-aggression pact between the two countries, which they concluded before the invasion of Poland in 1939. There are three fronts. One aimed at the Baltic states in the north, a second moving towards Moscow and a third attacking Ukraine and southern Russia.

Freytag passed five victories becoming a flying ace and by 03-06-1942 he had claimed 50 enemy aircraft destroyed. In 1945 JG 77 was relocated to Germany itself to help with the Reichsverteidigung (Defense of the Reich). In the last months of the war part of JG 77 was employed against the Soviet Air Force in Silesia. In this area on 07-03-1945 the last Kommodore Major Erich Leie , a 118-kill ace, was killed in combat with Yak-9 fighters on 07-03-1945, aged 28, near Drogomyśl.

Jagdgeschwader 77 took part in the invasion of Poland on 01-09-1939, while attached to Luftflotte/Airfleet 3. under command of Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Otto Sperrle,

Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Hugo Otto Sperrle  (07-02-1885 – 02-04-1953, age 68), also known as Hugo Sperrle, was a German military aviator in World War I and a Generalfeldmarschall in the Luftwaffe during World War II.

In April 1940  JG 77 took part in Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. After the invasion of France, I. Gruppe supported 10th Air Corps (under Luftflotte 5) in operations against the United Kingdom from bases in Norway. While stationed in Norway and Denmark in 1940 II./JG 77 claimed some 79 victories, for 6 pilots killed, before leaving in November 1940 for defence duties in Brest, France. In May 1941 II. and III./JG 77 were used in support of the invasion of Greece and the paratroop assault on Crete.

Following the operations in Crete, JG 77 was withdrawn to Romania; III. Gruppe was converted to the new Bf 109F. As Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, started on 22-06-1941, II. and III. Gruppe plus Stab supported the advance East as part of Army Group South, while I. Gruppe served on the Finnish front. The Jagdgeschwader scored quickly. On 25 June, Major  Walter Hoeckner of 6./JG 77 shot down 8 of 10 Tupolev SB claimed by III./JG 77, while on 26 June, Hoeckner, age 29, was killed in an aircrash on 25-08-1944.

Oberleutnant. Kurt “Kuddel” Ubben shot down 4 SB and Ofw. Reinhold Schmetzer shot down 5 SB. In the period from 22 June to December 1941 the unit, and its attachment I.(J)/LG 2, destroyed 1,166 Soviet aircraft, in return for 52 losses in aerial combat and two aircraft on the ground.

Oberleutnant “Kuddel” Ubben on 27-04-1944, age 32, engaged American Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters near Fère-en-Tardenois. In the ensuing combat, Ubben was shot down in Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-8/R2. He bailed out but his parachute failed to open either due to insufficient altitude or because of an improperly fastened harness. Ubben is interred at the Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux German war cemetery. He was succeeded by Major Kurt Bühligen, later promoted to Oberstleutnant, as commander of JG 2.  Kurt Buhligen was a German World War II flying ace who served in the Luftwaffe from 1936 until early 1945. He was credited with downing 112 enemy aircraft in over 700 operations becoming the fourth highest Luftwaffe scorer against the Western Allies. He was taken prisoner by the Soviets in 1945 and finally released in 1950. He received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. He survived the war and died 11-08-1985 (age 67) in Nidda, Wetteraukreis, Hessen.

On 27-06-1942, Freytag was appointed Staffelkapitän (Squadron leader) of 1. Staffel and relocated to the Mediterranean Theatre.  Luftwaffe’s aces (L-R) Siegfried Freytag 102 kills, Bär, Oskar-Heinz, “Pritzl”   220 kills, Gerhard Michalski 73 kills. died age 28, on 22-02-1946 in Kaltenkirchen/Schleswig-Holstein.

Freytag participated in the air battle over Malta. On 03-07-1942 Freytag was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for 53 aerial victories. He became the most successful German pilot over Malta. Freytag was transferred with his unit to North Africa with Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps to assist the collapsing Axis forces. On 13-03-1943, Freytag was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) of II./JG 77. By this date he had claimed 85 victories. Freytag continued operations over Sicily where he was shot down and wounded in action on 12-07-1943.

Thereafter, Freytag led the group in Defence of the Reich operations. On 13-06-1944 Freytag scored his 100th victory. In December 1944 Freytag commanded Jagdgeschwader 77 in air superiority operations on the Western Front at the beginning Ardennes Offensive until 25-12-1944 when he was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) on a temporary basis. Freytag scored his 102nd and last aerial victory during Operation Bodenplatte, on 01-01-1945. In April 1945 Freytag served with Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—Fighter Wing 51) under command of Major Heinz Lange , Lange died age 88 in 2006. and Jagdgeschwader 7 (JG 7—Fighter Wing 7), under command of Major Theodor Weissenberger, where he flew the Messerschmitt Me 262 until the German surrender in May 1945.

In 1952, Siegfried Freytag, volunteered in the Legion thinking that the Legion would recruit pilots; at least, that was the official version of a wrong assumption. Assigned to the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment after his basic training at Sidi Bel Abbès, Legionnaire Siegfried served and fought with distinction for 18 years with the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion; the former Free French Demi-Brigade, in the Indochina War, the Algerian War and Djibouti. Promoted to Sergeant in 1962, he asked to be demoted to the rank of Caporal Chef and served in the 1st Foreign Regiment from 1965 to 1970, the year in which he retired from active duty.

Death and burial ground of Freytag, Siegfried “Gustav””the Lion of Malta”

Freytag died on 02-06-2003 in Marseille, age 83. He was interred in the Carré militaire of the Institution des Invalides de la Légion étrangère in Puyloubier.

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