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Franz-Josef Beerenbrock
The head and shoulders of a young man, shown from the front. He wears a field cap and a military leather pilot jacket, with an Iron Cross displayed at the front of his collar. His facial expression is a determined and confident smile; his eyes are looking into the camera.
Franz-Josef Beerenbrock
Born (1920-04-09)9 April 1920
Died December 13, 2004(2004-12-13) (aged 84)
Place of birth Datteln, Germany
Place of death Olfen, Germany
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1938–1945
Rank Leutnant
Unit JG 51

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Franz-Josef Beerenbrock (9 April 1920 – 13 December 2004) was one of the most successful German fighter aces of World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German language: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Beerenbrock claimed 117 aerial victories in approximately 400 combat missions, all on the Eastern Front. In November 1942 he became a Prisoner of War for the rest of the war in Russia.

In the Luftwaffe

Beerenbock joined a flak artillery unit on 1 October 1938 and in 1939 was trained as a pilot. In March 1941, Beerenbrock was transferred to 12./Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51). Unteroffizier Beerenbrock was soon promoted to Oberfeldwebel.

He achieved his first aerial victory on 24 June 1941. On 1 August 1942 he claimed nine more victories and reached his 100th aerial victory often flying as wingman of Karl-Gottfried Nordmann. At that point he was the most successful fighter pilot of JG 51. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.

In air combat on 9 November 1942 with numeralically superior Russian fighters over Welish, he downed three Russian fighters but his Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2 fighter received a hit in the radiator and he went down over Russian-held territory and was taken prisoner of war.

A few days later, the Russian fighter units in this area suddenly started using the very same tactics as Beerenbrock had used with such success. Some of Beerenbrock's old friends in JG 51 were certain. Beerenbrock, who had a Russian mother, has gone over to the Russian side, although there are no facts and is merely speculation.[citation needed]It has been said that Beerenbrock in Russian captivity was one of the founders – together with General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach and others – of the well-known pro-Soviet German prisoners' organisation, the League of German Officers (German language: Bund deutscher Offiziere), but this also is only speculation.

Several years after the war in mid-December 1949 Beerenbrock returned to West Germany. In 1955 he joined the Luftwaffe as an officer of the Bundeswehr.

Franz-Josef Beerenbrock was credited with 117 victories in approximately 400 missions, all on the Eastern Front of which at least 12 were Il-2 Sturmoviks.[1]



  1. Franz Josef Beerenbrock
  2. Obermaier 1989, p. 52.
  3. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 32.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Thomas 1997, p. 35.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 210.
  6. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 60.
  • Bergstrom, Christer. Red Star – Black Cross: Russian and German Fighter Pilots in Combat 1941–1945
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1941 – 1945]. Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7. 
  • 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 Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Thomas, Franz (1997) (in German). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K]. Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6. 

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