Military Wiki
Erwin Hentschel
Born 29 October 1917
Died 20 March 1944(1944-03-20) (aged 26)
Place of birth Niederthalheim,
Place of death Dniester River, Ukraine
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1938–44
Rank Oberfeldwebel (staff sergeant)
Unit StG 2
SG 2

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Erwin Hentschel (29 October 1917 – 20 March 1944) was a German non-commissioned officer during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross, and its variants were the highest awards in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany. During his career in the Luftwaffe (air force), Hentschel flew 1,490 combat missions as a radio operator and air gunner, and claimed seven aerial victories.


Erwin Hentschel.jpg

Hentschel was born on 29 October 1917 in Niederthalheim, present-day a borough of Mittweida, at the time in the Kingdom of Saxony, a federated state of the German Empire. He joined the Luftwaffe on 30 November 1938, initially serving with in a flak regiment. In June 1939, he was transferred to the 2nd squadron of Kampfgeschwader 51 (KG 51—51st Bomber Wing) based at Landsberg-Lech Air Base where he trained as a radio operator and tail gunner. He was then posted to the Stuka school at Graz-Thalerhof, present-day Graz Airport, followed by a transfer to the Supplementary Dive Bomber Squadron of 8th Air Corps and Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (StG 2—2nd Dive Bomber Wing).[1]

On 21 May 1941, Hentschel flew his first combat missions on the Eastern Front of World War II. In late September 1941, he became Hans-Ulrich Rudel 's regular air gunner. Flying with the I. and III. Gruppe of StG 2, he received the Honor Goblet of the Luftwaffe on 16 March 1942, was promoted to Feldwebel (technical sergeant) on 1 December 1942, received the German Cross in Gold on 9 January 1943, and was promoted to Oberfeldwebel (senior technical sergeant) on 1 June 1943. Hentschel flew his 1,200th combat mission on 9 October 1943,[2] and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 December 1943 after approximately 1,300 combat missions.[1] On 20 March, Rudel landed behind enemy lines, trying to rescue a downed aircrew. The takeoff failed due to the soft ground. Walking back to German held territory, the four attempted to swim across the Dniester River. Hentschel drowned in the attempt.[3]




  1. 1.0 1.1 Obermaier 1976, p. 123.
  2. Weal 2012, p. 75.
  3. Ward 2004, p. 217.
  4. Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 179.
  5. Scherzer 2007, p. 382.


  • Obermaier, Ernst (1976) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe 1939–1945 Band II Stuka- und Schlachtflieger [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe 1939–1945 Volume II Dive Bomber and Attack Aircraft]. Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-021-3. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001) (in German). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2]. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Ward, John (2004). Hitler's Stuka Squadrons: The Ju 87 at War, 1936–1945. St. Paul, MN: MBI. ISBN 978-0-7603-1991-8. 
  • Weal, John (2012). Junkers Ju 87 Stukageschwader of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78200-530-8.