Ubben, Kurt “Kuddel”.

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Ubben, Kurt “Kuddel”, Kurt born 18-11-1911 in Dorstadt, the son of an officer in the Imperial German Navy, at the time in the Province of Hanover of the Kingdom of Prussia, of the German Empire. On 01-10-1931, Kurt joined the military service with the Reichsmarine, the German Navy during the Weimar Republic. During his service with the Reichsmarine, Kurt went on a cruise on board the school ship Gorch Fock. On 03-05-1933 the ship was launched and named Gorch Fock in honor of German writer Johann Kinau,  who wrote under the pseudonym “Gorch Fock”. Kinau had died in the 1916 Battle of Jutland aboard the cruiser SMS Wiesbaden.

On 01-04-1935, “Kudde” transferred to the newly emerging Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany and was trained as a naval aviator in 1935/36.

On 01-09-1936, Ubben was transferred to 1. Staffel (1st squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 136 (JG 136—136th Fighter Wing), and in November was posted to the newly created I. Gruppe (1st group) of Jagdggruppe 186 (II./186—186th Fighter Group). This group, also known as the Trägerjagdgruppe (Carrier Fighter Group), was destined to be stationed on the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin which was never completed initially consisted of two squadrons, 4./186 (T) equipped with the Junkers Ju 87 dive bomber, and 6./186 (T), a fighter squadron to which Ubben was assigned. At the time, 6./186 (T) was equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109B, the carrier variant Bf 109 T-1 was not available, and trained at Travemünde on a mockup carrier landing deck. On 15-07-1939, II./186 (T) was augmented by a third squadron, designated 5./186 (T) to which Ubben was transferred.

World War II in Europe began on Friday, 01-09-1939, when German forces invaded Poland.  In preparation, 5./186 (T) had been moved to Brüsterort, near Königsberg on 22 August. In the early morning hours of 1 September, 5./186 (T) flew its first combat missions, providing fighter protection for 4./186 (T) attacking the naval base of the Polish Navy at Hel and for the old German battleship Schleswig-Holstein bombarding the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. The next, II./186 (T) flew further bomber escort missions and was withdrawn from this theater on 6 September, relocating to Hage, East Frisia.

On 01-05-1940, Ubben was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant) with a rank age dated back to 01-10-1936, and at the same time received the rank of Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) of the reserves with a rank age dated back to 01-06-1939. His first aerial victory was over a Dutch Fokker D.XXI fighter claimed over the Netherlands on 10-05-1940, the opening day of the Battle of France. This earned him the Iron Cross 2nd Class (Eisernes Kreuz zweiter Klasse) that day. In support of Operation Weserübung, the Germany assault on Denmark and Norway, II./186 (T) was ordered to relocate to Norway on 2 June. There it augmented II.

Following the decision by Adolf Hitler to halt work on the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin, II./186 (T) was redesignated and became the III. Gruppe of Jagtgeschwader 77.   In consequence, Ubben’s Staffel 5./186 (T) became the 8. Staffel of JG 77 which was headed by Oberleutnant Lorenz Weber. On 22-07-1940, Ubben was made Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 8. Staffel of Jagtgeschwader 77 after his predecessor Weber was killed in action the day before. A week later, III. Gruppewas withdrawn from this theater of operations and relocated to Döberitz where it was tasked with fighter protection of Berlin. In November, JG 77 was ordered to the English Channel to continue fighting the Royal Air Force (RAF)  in the aftermath of the Battle of Britain. 8. Staffel moved to an airfield at Cherbourg-en-Cotentin on 30-11-1941

In preparation for Operation Marita, the German invasion of Greece, III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 77 under command of Major Gotthard Handrick was moved to Deta in western Romania on 04-04-1941.Kurt Ubben claimed a No. 33 Squadron  Hawker Hurricane fighter near Larissa on 19 April, although his Bf 109 E-7 was badly damaged in the engagement and Ubben forced-landed behind Allied lines near Doblatan. He was rescued by a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch and flown back to his unit. No. 33 Squadron claimed four Bf 109s during the battle, though only three were brought down. Among the claimants was RAF ace Squadron leader Marmaduke Thomas St John Pattle  who claimed two Bf 109s shot down. Squadron leader  Pattle died in a airfight 20-04-1941 (aged 26) and is buried at Alamein Memorial in Alamein, Maṭrūḥ, Egypt Column 239.. Kurt Ubben may have been one of his victims. III. Gruppe followed the German advance and relocated to Almyros on 22 April and to Tanagra on 27 April. The conquest of Greece was completed on 30 April and JG 77, starting a brief period of rest and maintenance for JG 77.

In support of Operation Merkur, the German invasion of Crete, III. Gruppe was moved to an airfield at Molaoi on 11 May. During the battle, Ubben also carried out many ground-attack and fighter-bomber operations against Allied naval forces during mid-1941. On 22 May, Ubben and Oberleutnant Wolf-Dietrich “Wolfdieter” Huy claimed hits on the Royal Navy battleship HMS Warspite. A bomb damaged her starboard 4-inch and 6-inch batteries, ripped open the ship’s side and killed 38 men. The following day, JG 77 sank five Royal Navy motor torpedo boats (MTB). MTB 67, MTB 213, MTB 214, MTB 216, and MTB 217 were sunk in the Souda Bay, including one by Kurt Ubben. Oberleutnant Huy survived the war and died died on 13-07-2003, age 85, in Gernsbach.

In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, III. Gruppe was moved to Bucharest and was located in the sector of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South), under command of Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt.  III. Gruppe arrived in Bucharest on 16 June. Four days later, III. Gruppe moved to Roman. That evening, the pilots and ground crews were briefed of the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union, which opened the Eastern Front. On 22 June, the first day of the invasion, Ubben claimed a Polikarpov I-16 fighter destroyed on a fighter escort mission for Heinkel He 111 bombers from III. Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 27 Boelcke) (KG 27—27th Bomber Wing) attacking a Soviet airfield at Bălți. On 26 June, he claimed four Soviet bombers shot down.

Kurt Ubben claimed his 21st aerial victory on 25 July. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) in September for 32 aerial victories, 26 aircraft destroyed on the ground and some 15 armoured vehicles claimed destroyed. In September 1941, Ubben was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III. Gruppe of JG 77. He replaced Oberleutnant Wolf Dietrich Huy who had temporarily led the Gruppe after its former commander, Major Akexander von Winterfeldt

had been transferred on 2 August. Ubben was credited with his 50th aerial victory on 19-10-1941 over a Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Gudkov LaGG-3 fighter. On 9 December, he claimed four aerial victories over the Mius-Front. Major Alexander von Winterfeld died on 16-05-1942 as Kommandeur Jagdflieger-Vorschule 4 at Vienna-Schwechat.

On 01-02-1942, Ubben was promoted to Hauptmann (captain) and became an active officer. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 12-03-1942 for 69 victories. He was the 80th member of the German armed forces to be so honored. The presentation was made on 05-04-1942 by Hitler at the Führer Headquarter Wolfsschanze in Rastenburg (now Kętrzyn in Poland). Also present at the award ceremony were the fighter pilots Hauptmann Hans Philipp who received the Swords and Oberleutnant Max-Hellmuth Ostermann who also received the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross. Hauptmanbn Philipp was shot down 08-10-1943 (aged 26) near Wielen and Oberleutnant Ostermann was killed in action on 09-08-1942, age 24, far behind Soviet lines east of Lake Ilmen

On 23-10-1942, the British Eighth Army launched the Second Battle of El Alamein. Preceding this attack, the Luftwaffe had already planned to replace Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27—27th Fighter Wing), which had been fighting in North African theater, with JG 77. In preparation for this rotation, III. Gruppe of JG 77 was moved to Munich on 19-10-1942 where it was equipped with the Bf 109 G-2/trop. On 23 and 24 October, the Gruppe moved to Bari in southern Italy. The Gruppe then relocated to Tobruk Airfield on 26 October. The following day, the Gruppe moved to an airfield at Tanyet-Harun. Ubben claimed his first aerial victory in this theater of operation on 3 November. According to Jochen Prien in 1994, Ubben claimed his 93rd aerial victory over a Hurricane fighter shot down on a fighter escort mission for Ju 87 dive bombers to El Alamein between 06:50 and 07:40. A newer source written by Prien, Stemmer, Rodeike and Bock in 2004 lists Ubben with a claim over a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter shot down at 14:10 southwest of El Daba.

Ubben claimed his 100th victory on 14-01-1943.  He was the 33rd Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. Philipp receives the Oak Leaves with Swords, Kuddle Ubben (center) and Max Ostermann receive the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross from Hitler on 05-04-1942. In June, III. Gruppe moved to Chilivani on Sardinia. On 1 October, Ubben claimed a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress shot down in the vicinity of Livorno, Italy. According to Graham, the B-17 was an aircraft from the 301st Bombardment Group, 352d Bombardment Squadron, lost in the vicinity of Lucca. That day, he was promoted to Major. When the Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 77, Oberstleutnant Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff, went on vacation on 3 October, Ubben temporarily was put in command of JG 77, leading the Geschwader from the command post in Albano.

In October and November, in addition to his obligations as Gruppenkommandeur, Kurt Ubben also became the acting Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53—53rd Fighter Wing) until he handed over command to Oberstleutnant Helmut Bennemann. Bennemann survived the war and died old age 92 on 17-11- 2007, in Bad Sassendorf.  On 24 October, Ubben received orders to move III. Gruppe to Romania. Leaving all aircraft in Italy, the Gruppe went to Mizil the next day by train. There, it provided aerial protection over the Ploiești oilfields. In Mizil, the Gruppe was equipped with the then outdated Bf 109 G-2, newer variants were unavailable. Training flight operations began on 12 November. On 19-01-1944, General der Jagdflieger, Generalmajor Adolf “Dolfo” Galland visited Ubben at Mizil. Galland stressed the importance of the Ploiești fields to the German war effort. He requested the pilots of III. Gruppe to sign an order stating, in case of a last resort, they would have to perform aerial ramming in defense of the oil fields.

Death and burial ground of Ubben, Kurt “Kuddel”.

On 02-03-1944, Oberstleutnant Egon “Connie” Mayer, Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 2 “Richthofen” (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing)   was killed in action, 02-03-1944 (aged 26) near Montmédy, German-occupied France in aerial combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighter aircraft. In consequence, Ubben succeeded Mayer in this command position. JG 2 “Richthofen”, named after World War I fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, was based in France and was engaged in Defense of the Reich. Ubben left his former III. Gruppe on 10 March, assuming his new command in March 1944. Ubben left III. Gruppe of JG 77 on 10 March. Command of the Gruppe was handed to Hauptmann Emil Omert. Omert at the time was still with II. Gruppe of JG 77 and in consequence III. Gruppe was briefly led by Hauptmann Karl Bresoschek. Hauptman Omert was killed in action on 24-04-1944, age 26, after attacking USAAF four engine bombers over Finta Mare, Romania. He bailed out of his Bf 109 G-6 and was then shot and killed by marauding US fighter aircraft while hanging in his parachute.

On 27-04-1944, Kurt “Kuddel” Ubben engaged American Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters near Fère-en-Tardenois. In the ensuing combat, Ubben was shot down in his 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. Kurt “Kuddel”  Ubben is interred at the Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux German war cemetery. Block 3 Row 40 Grave 1239. He was succeeded by Major Kurt Bühligen, later promoted to Oberstleutnant, as commander of JG 2. Bühligen survived the war and died 11-08-1985 (aged 67) in Nidda, Hesse.

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