Wilcke, Wolf-Dietrich “Fürst” .

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Wilcke, Wolf-Dietrich.
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Wilcke, Wolf-Dietrich,  “Fürst” , born 11-03-1913S, in Schrimm, Posen, volunteered for military service in the Reichswehr of the Third Reich in 1934. Initially serving in the Heer (Army), he transferred to the Luftwaffe in 1935. Following flight training, he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 2 “Richthofen”  under command of Oberstleutnant, later Generalleutnant  “Gerd” Friedrich Wilhelm von Massow , in April 1936. Von Massow died age 71 in 1967. After an assignment as fighter pilot instructor he volunteered for service with the Condor Legion  under command of Generalmajor Hugo Sperrle, during the Spanish Civil War in early 1939. After his return from Spain, he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of the 7. Staffel (7th squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 53. Following the outbreak of World War II, he claimed his first aerial victory on 07-11-1939. On 18-05-1940, during the Battle of France, he was shot down and taken prisoner of war. After the armistice with France, he returned from captivity and was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of the III of JG 53, succeeding Hauptmann Harro Harder, during the Battle of Britain, claiming 10 victories over England. Harder, age 27, was killed on 12-08-1940 when his Bf 109 E-3 was shot down by a Spitfire east of the Isle of Wight. On 13 September, his body was washed ashore near Dieppe.

Wilcke then fought in the aerial battles of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union  . There, after 25 aerial victories, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 06-08-1941. In September 1941, he relocated with his group to the Mediterranean Theater, where he was able to claim further victories. At the end of May 1942, he was transferred to the Stab (headquarters unit) of Jagdgeschwader 3 “Udet”, under command of Oberst Günther Lützow

and that August he was appointed as its Geschwaderkommodore Günther Lützow was reported missing in action flying the Me 262 on 24-04-1945 while attempting to intercept a U.S. Army Air Forces B-26 Marauder raid near Donauwörth, in the river Danube.. His body was never recovered. Following his 100th aerial victory on 6 September, he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, on 17 December, Wilcke, here with Generalfeldmarschall der Luftwaffe Albert Kesselring , claimed his 150th aerial victory. On 23-12-1942, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, his total now 155 aerial victories.

Death and burial ground of Wilcke, Wold-Dietrich,  “Fürst”.

Wilcke was promoted to Oberst on 01-12-1943 and requested permission to fly operationally and lead his Geschwader from the air. In February 1944, although still officially banned from flying operations, Wilcke ignored the order and flew several missions leading his Stabsschwarm against the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF)   in Defense of the Reich missions. He claimed his 157th victory, over a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, on 10 February and his 158th, over a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, on 24 February. He shot down two Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers on 04-03-1944, his 159th and 160th aerial victories. On 06-03-1944, his Bf 109G-6 was crippled in aerial combat and he made an emergency landing at Neuruppin. Combat on 6 March cost both sides heavy losses. The Eighth Air Force lost 75 four-engined bombers and 14 escort fighters, the Luftwaffe lost 65 aircraft; 36 German pilots were killed and 27 wounded.

On 23-03-1944, Wilcke led JG 3 “Udet” named after Generaloberst of the Luftwaffe Ernst Udet, against a USAAF bomber formation near Braunschweig. On this day, the USAAF was attacking aircraft factories at Braunschweig and other targets of opportunity in Münster, Osnabrück and Achmer. In total, the Eighth Air Force had committed 768 B-17s and B-24s bombers to this attack, supported by 841 long-range fighters. The Luftwaffe countered this attack with 13 day fighter Gruppen, mustering 259 fighters on this day. Following combat, the Luftwaffe claimed the destruction of 51 enemy aircraft, including 44 four-engined bombers. The Luftwaffe suffered 16 pilots killed and six wounded as well as 33 aircraft lost. The USAAF admitted the loss of 29 bombers and 5 escort fighters while claiming 62 German aircraft shot down and another 2 destroyed on the ground.

During this engagement, Wilcke shot down a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and a North American P-51 Mustang fighter, but was then shot down in his Bf 109G-6 (Werknummer 160 613—factory number) near Schöppenstedt. It is assumed that the victors were Captain Don Gentile and Captain John Trevor Godfrey of the 4th Fighter Group. under command of Lieutenant Colonel Clairborne Holmes Kinnard Jr., Kinnard died 18-09-1966, age, 53, of a brain tumour.

By this date, Wilcke had claimed 162 enemy aircraft in 732 combat missions. Wilcke had been nicknamed “Fürst” (prince) by his comrades on account of his attitude towards his men and paternal sense of responsibility. He had also been very conscious of his style and appearance and wore a very expensive and custom tailored leather coat, a trade which also added to his perception and fostered the nickname. His funeral ceremony was held at the airfield in Mönchengladbach (then “München Gladbach”). Among others, the funeral ceremony was attended by his stepfather. Wilcke is buried in the honor section of the cemetery in Mönchengladbach-Holt

 

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