Hackler, Heinrich “Heinz”.

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Hackler, Heinrich “Heinz” born 14-12-1918, in Siegen, Kreis Siegen-Wittgenstein, Nordrhein-Westfalen, was a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He was with the 77th Jagdgeschwader Herz As (“Ace of Hearts”) in Messerschmitt Bf 109K-4, Nr: 330196. 77th Jagdgeschwader under command of Major Erich Leie On 07-03-1945, Leie, age 28, claimed his last two aerial victories and was killed in action. At 14:56, he claimed a La-5 shot down. Half an hour later, he claimed a Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter west of Bielitz, present-day Bielsko-Biała, but collided in mid-air with the crashing Yak-9 fighter in his Bf 109 G-14/AS. He baled out at an altitude of 60 metres (200 feet), too low for his parachute to fully deploy. Posthumously, he was nominated for the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves which was not approved. Leie was buried at the German war cemetery in Valašské Meziříčí

Death and burial ground of Hackler, Heinrich “Heinz”

Although Hackler never achieved any particularly conspicuous victory rows, the experience that he amassed turned him into one of the backbones of III./JG 77. Hackler had achieved his first aerial victory on the Eastern Front on June 26-06-1941, and in May 1942 he scored his thirtieth. When he was awarded with the Knight’s Cross on 19-08-1944, his score stood at sixty-seven. Heinrich Hackler’s final score is unknown, at least sixty-seven confirmed victories.

The highest-scoring fighter ace of all time was Erich Hartmann, who flew the Bf 109 and was credited with 352 aerial victories.

From November 1943 he flew over Romania in defence of the Ploesti oil fields with III./JG 77.  In the period April-July 1944 he may have downed seven B-24s,  two B-17s and two P-51s. Kapitän of 11./JG 77 and leading III. Hackler served already on the Eastern Front and later in the defence of the Reich as Heinz Hackler was listed as missing in action near Antwerp, Belgium after being hit by Allied flak during Operation Bodenplatte on 01-01-1945, age 26, over Raamberg, Zundert Municipality, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. After a hit he managed to control his aircraft and headed northeast. After a few minutes he flew west of Zundert and locals going to church saw the low flying Messerschmit; “The fighter flew very low and came from the south. The pilot looked down and looked down on some pedestrians going to church. Suddenly the pilot seemed to try to avoid a farmhouse and turned left hitting the trees in front of the house with his left wing. It hit the ground and overturned several times disintegrating completely. Remains of the plane and pilot were spread over the field. English soldiers buried the remains in a fieldgrave at the side of the road. A wooden crosss with his name marked the grave, According to the English soldiers it was a very experienced pilot who had been awarded with the Iron Cross. It seems unlikely that an expierenced pilot such as Heinz Hackler would hit some trees during the low-level flight and it may have been that he was already wounded during the encounter with the Anti Aircraft Artillery and that his erratic flying was caused by his injuries. His aircraft crashed in a village called Raamsberg, a few kilometres north of Zundert. His field grave remained their for several years. His widow and other relatives  searched for many years to find a trace of him but failed to do so as the name after all these years was disappeared on the wooden cross and the name was remembered as Hachler. And rebuired to Ysselstein this name came on the new cross. In August 1997 his fate was official noted and his grave was identified and the name corrected in Hackler and his widow and other next of kin informed.

During the World War II, some 6,000 military aircraft crashed over the Netherlands. More than 1,000 of them ended up in Noord-Brabant, the webmaster’s residential area. This concerns both Allied (British, American and Canadian aircraft with crews consisting of many more nationalities) and German aircraft.

Heinz Hackler was credited with 56 aerial victories. He first was buried in a  fieldgrave in the small hamlet of Raamberg, Zundert, but rebuired to Ysselsteyn German war cemetery, Section X- Row 11- Grave 260.

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