Ihlefeld, Herbert.

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Ihlefeld, Herbert, born 01-06-1914, in Pinnow, volunteered for military service in the Reichswehr of Nazi Germany in 1933. Initially serving in the Heer (Army), he transferred to the Luftwaffe (Air Force) in 1935. Following flight training, he volunteered for service with the Condor Legion under command of Generalmajor Hugo Sperrle during the Spanish Civil War where he was assigned to Jagdgruppe 88 (J/88—88th Fighter Group) under command of Hauptmann Hubertus Merhardt von Bernegg. From February–July 1938, he claimed nine aerial victories, two remained unconfirmed. For his service in Spain he was awarded the Spanish Cross in Gold with Swords. Prominent members of J/88 were Prominent members of J/88 were Hauptmann Gotthard Handrick, winner of the modern pentathlon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, arrived in the summer of 1937 to assume command of Jagdgruppe 88, remaining until September 1938, during which time he had claimed 5 victories. Handrik survived the war and died 30-05-1978, aged 69, in Ahrensburg. Oberleutnant  Werner Mölders Leutnant Wilhelm Balthasar joined Jagdgruppe 88 in September 1937, and gained six victories, including four Tupolev SB-2 bombers shot down in one mission on 07-02-1938.  Balthasar was killed age 27 on 03-07-1941, in a aerial combat with RAF fighters near Aire, France, and Oberleutnant later Luftwaffe General Adolf Galland was appointed Staffelkapitän of 3. Staffel, in July 1937, eventually flying 200 ground attack missions in the Heinkel He 51.

Following service in Spain, Ihlefeld was posted to Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2—2nd Demonstration Wing, under command of Oberstleutnant Eberhard Baier. With this unit he participated in the Invasion of Poland and Battle of France. During the height of the Battle of Britain on 13-09-1940, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross after 21 aerial victories in World War II. Ihlefeld, who had been appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of I. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing) in September 1940, fought in the aerial battles of the Balkan Campaign. On 26-02-1941, Ihlefeld shot down Sergeant Howard Squire, his 30th victory of the war, in his Spitfire from No. 54 Squadron on Circus No. 5 mission. After the war Ihlefeld and Howard Squire became friends. During Operation Barbarossa , the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 27-06-1941. Ten months later, following his 101st aerial victory of the war, Ihlefeld was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 24-04-1942. On 22-06-1942, Ihlefeld was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—52nd Fighter Wing). succeeding Oberstleutnant Friedrich Beckh On 21-06-1942 Beckh, age 34, was airborne in his Bf 109 F-4 “weiße 4” W.Nr 13362  with his wingman for a low-level sortie of the type he preferred in the area of Izium-Kupiansk-Waluiki, east of Charkov. East of Waluiki the duo observed a Russian air base with Russian fighters on the ground. Beckh dived, claiming two fighters, but his wingman observed Beckh’s F-4 taking a number of flak hits before it too nosed down and appeared to plunge to the ground. The Bf 109 came down in a marsh near Valuyki. His body was found inside his fighter when the site was excavated 60 years later. At the time of his death Beckh claimed over 40 aircraft in aerial combat and a dozen on the ground.

Ihlefeld was injured in combat on 22-07-1942 and after convalescence, he was given command of Jagdfliegerschule 3 (3rd Fighter Pilot School). On 21-07-1943, he was tasked with leadership of a high flying de Havilland Mosquito intercept unit called Jagdgeschwader 25 (JG 25—25th Fighter Wing) in Defense of the Reich. This unit failed to achieve its objective and Ihlefeld was assigned to the Stab (headquarters unit) of the 30th Fighter Division. On 20-05-1944, he took command of Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oesau” (JG  1—1st Fighter Wing) and participated in Operation Bodenplatte.

As Geschwaderkommodore, Ihlefeld was ordered to Berlin on 22-01-1945 and attended the meeting with Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering which was later dubbed the Fighter Pilots’ Mutiny. This was an attempt to reinstate Generalleutnant Adolf Galland as General der Jagdflieger who had been dismissed for outspokenness regarding the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, and had been replaced by Oberst Gordon Gollob. The meeting was held at the Haus der Flieger in Berlin and was attended by a number of high-ranking fighter pilot leaders which included Ihlefeld, Günther Lützow,  Hannes Trautloft, Hermann Graf, Gerhard Michalski, Helmut Bennemann, Kurt Bühligen and Erich Leie, and their antagonist Goering supported by his staff Bernd von Brauchitsch and General der Flieger Karl Koller .

Michalski, age 28, was involved in a motor vehicle accident on 22-02-1946 and died in a hospital in Kaltenkirchen. His brother Werner was killed in action as a Leutnant on 10-04-1942 serving with Jagdgeschwader 26 “Schlageter”. Bennemann survived the war and died 17-11-2007, age 92,in Bad Sassendorf. Kurt Bühligen died on 11-08-1985, age 67 and was buried at the city cemetery at Nidda in section D, grave 42 and Erich Leie after crashing a Yak-9 fighter in his Bf 109 G-14/AS on 07 -03-1945, aged 28, near Drogomyśl, baled out at an altitude of 60 metres (200 feet), too low for his parachute to fully deploy.  He was buried at the German war cemetery in Valašské Meziříčí.. Bernd von Brauchitsch the son of Generalfeldmarschall der Artillerie Walther von Brauchitsch died age 63, on 19-12-1974.

The fighter pilots, with Lützow taking the lead as spokesman, criticized Goering and made him personally responsible for the decisions taken which effectively had led to the lost air war over Europe

Death and burial ground of Ihlefeld, Hermann.

Ihlefeld, above second from left, died on 08-08-1995, age 81, in Wennigsen, Lower Saxony and is buried with his wife Ulla, in a urn field at the Old cemetery in Kirchheim unter Teck, Baden-Württemberg.

Major Ihlefeld, here left with Galland and Oesau was listed with 130 enemy aircraft shot down in over 1,000 combat missions. He claimed seven victories in the Spanish Civil War, and during World War II, 67 on the Eastern Front and 56 on the Western Front, including 15 four-engined bombers and 26 Supermarine Spitfires. He survived being shot down eight times during his 1,000 combat missions.

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