Marseille, Hans Joachim “Jochen”, born on 13-12-1919, in Berlin, Joseph Goebbels (did you know) was Gauleiter of Berlin, as a child he was physically weak and nearly died from a serious case of influenza . His father Siegfried was an Army officer during World War I, and later left the armed forces to join the Berlin Police force. Siegfried later rejoined the Army in 1933, and was promoted to General in 1935. Promoted again he attained the rank of Generalmajor on 01-07-1941. He served on the Eastern Front from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Siegfried Marseille was killed by partisans near Petrykaw on 29-01-1944. He was buried in the cemetery of Selasje.
Hans-Joachim also had a younger sister, Ingeborg “Inge”. Jochen like his mother Charlotte Riemer
played the piano. While on sick leave in Athens at the end of December 1941, he was summoned to Berlin via a telegram from his mother. Upon arriving home he learned his sister had been “slain by a jealous lover” Hans-Joachim never recovered emotionally from this blow.
When Marseille was still a young child his parents divorced and his mother subsequently married a police official named Reuter. Jochen Marseille initially assumed the name of his stepfather at school (a matter he had a difficult time accepting) but he reverted to his father’s name of Marseille in adulthood. He acquired the reputation of being a rebel from a lack of discipline, a characteristic that would plague him early on in his Luftwaffe career. Marseille also had a difficult relationship with his natural father whom he refused to visit in Hamburg for some time after the divorce. Eventually he attempted a reconciliation with his father, who subsequently introduced him to the nightlife that was to initially hamper his military career during his early years in the Luftwaffe . However, the rapprochement with his father did not last and he did not see him again thereafter.
Marseille attended the 12th Volksschule in Berlin (1926–1930), and from the age of 10, the Prinz Heinrich Gymnasium in Berlin-Schöneberg (1930–1938). He was considered to be a lazy student at first, and was constantly playing pranks and getting into trouble. Toward the end of his school years he started to take his education more seriously and qualified as one of the youngest (at 17 years, six months) to achieve his Abtür, graduating in early 1938. Marseille then expressed his desire to become a “flying officer.”
Although he was not athletic in physique, he joined the Luftwaffe on 07-11-1938, as a Fahnenjunker and received his military basic training in Quedlinburg in the Harz region. Marseille completed his training at Jagdfliegerschule 5 in Wien-Schwechat to which he was posted on 01-11-1939. On 10-08-1940 he was assigned to I. Jagd/Lehrgeschwader 2, based in Calais-Marck, to begin operations over Britain and again received an outstanding evaluation this time by his Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur, Herbert Ihlefeld
, who died age 81 on 08-08-1995 in Wennigsen. Ihlefeld is credited with 132 enemy aircraft shot down in over 1,000 combat missions. Marseille’s first dogfight over England on 24-08-1940, Marseille was involved in a four-minute battle with a skilled opponent. He defeated his opponent by pulling up into a tight chandelle, to gain an altitude advantage before diving and firing. The British fighter was struck in the engine, pitching over and diving into the English Channel; this was Marseille’s first kill. Marseille did not take any pleasure in this kill and found it difficult to accept the realities of aerial combat. In a letter to his mother, dated 24 August, he said: Today I shot down my first opponent. It does not sit well with me. I keep thinking how the mother of this young man must feel when she gets the news of her son’s death. And I am to blame for this death. I am sad, instead of being happy about the first victory. Shortly afterwards, in early October 1940, after having claimed seven aerial victories all them flying with I. Jagd)/LG2 Marseille was transferred to 4. Jagdgeschwader 52, flying alongside the likes of Oberst, Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff and Major, Gerhard “Gerd” Barkhorn . Johannes Steinhoff finally grew intolerant of the undisciplined Marseille and successfully transferred him to another unit in North Africa. In retrospect, this transfer allowed Marseille to change from a good fighter pilot to a larger-than-life figure. “If there had been girls in Africa, I do not think he would have had such success”, Steinhoff would later say, concluding that the lack of girls, bars, and distractions of that type allowed him to concentrate on the war. In 1941 his sister Inge was murdered by a jealous lover. When he joined his new unit, it was difficult to foresee his outstanding career. His new Gruppenkommandeur, Eduard Neumann, Neumann died old age 93, in 09-08-2004,
later recalled: “His hair was too long and he brought with him a list of disciplinary punishments as long as your arm. Of the 7 kills he had claimed fighting along the English Channel, 4 had not been confirmed – a large percentage. On top of it all, he was a Berliner… In trying to create an image, he wasn’t averse from talking about the many girls he had been to bed with, among them a famous actress. He was tempestuous, temperamental and unruly. Thirty years later, he would have been called a playboy .” After claiming his 100th kill on 17-06-1942, Marseille returned to Germany for two months leave. It was said that Marseille’s bedroom conquests included a German General’s wife, a Hungarian Countess, singer Nilla Pizzi
actress/singer Zarah Leander, and many others. On 6 August, he began his journey back to North Africa under Erwin Rommel accompanied by his fiancée Hanne-Lies Küpper a Berlin teacher. This came as a surprise for many of his comrades given Marseille’s reputation with women. On 13 August, he met Benito Mussolini in Rome and was presented with the highest Italian military award for bravery, Annelies Küpper died age 81 on 08-12-1987 in Munich.
Death and burial ground of Marseille, Hans Joachim “Jochen”.
On 30-09-1942, Hauptmann Marseille was leading his Staffel on a Stuka escort mission, during which no contact with enemy fighters was made. While returning to base, his new Bf 109G cockpit began to fill with smoke; blinded and half asphyxiated, he was guided back to German lines by his wing man, Jost Schlang
and Lieutenant Rainer Pöttgen. Jost Schlang crashed on 01-04-1944 and Pöttgen died in 1994. Upon reaching friendly lines, “Yellow 14” had lost power and was drifting lower and lower. Pöttgen called out after about 10 minutes that they had reached the White Mosque of Sidi Abdel Rahman and were thus within friendly lines. At this point, Marseille deemed his aircraft no longer flyable and decided to bail out, his last words to his comrades being “I’ve got to get out now, I can’t stand it any longer” He worked his way out of the cockpit and into the rushing air only to be carried backwards by the slipstream, the left side of his chest striking the vertical stabiliser of his fighter, either killing him instantly or rendering him unconscious to the point that he could not deploy his parachute. He fell almost vertically, hitting the desert floor seven km south of Sidi Abdel Rahman.
As it transpired, a gaping 40 cm (16 in) hole had been made in his parachute and the canopy had spilled out, but after recovering the body, the parachute release handle was still on “safe,” revealing Marseille The death of Germany’s most beloved pilot caused so many emotions that many of Marseilles colleagues were too shocked to fly yet. Many of them were depressed and had to be brought back to Germany from Africa. General der Flieger, Kommodore Jagd Geschwader 26 “Schlageter”, Adolf “Dolfo” Galland and Major with Jagdgeschwader 52 Jagdfliegerass, 352 victories, Erich “Bubi” Hartmann regarded him as “the best”. Major, Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 52 and II./JG 11, Günther Rall said of Marseille, “an excellent pilot and brilliant marksman. I think he was the best shot in the Luftwaffe”. Marseille was initially buried in a German military cemetery in Derna, Libya during a ceremony which was attended by leaders such as Albert Kesselring and Eduard Neumann. He was later re-interned at Tobruk, Libya. In 1989, a new grave marker and a new plaque was placed at his grave site.
Memorial of the Reuter-Marseille family can be found in the graveyard in Berlin, Alt-Schöneberg.