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Hans-Joachim Birkner
Born (1921-10-22)October 22, 1921
Died December 14, 1944(1944-12-14) (aged 23)
Place of birth Schönwalde, Germany
Place of death Kraków, Poland
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1940–1944
Rank Leutnant
Unit JG 52

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Hans-Joachim Birkner (22 October 1921 – 14 December 1944) was a Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German language: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Birkner was credited with 117 aerial victories—that is, 117 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft.


Birkner was born on 22 October 1921 at Schönwalde (East Prussia). Feldwebel Birkner was posted to 9./Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—52nd Fighter Wing) on the Eastern front in summer 1943 and recorded his first victory, a P-39 Airacobra, on 1 October.[Note 1] By the end of the year he had claimed 24 victories in total. Over the next few months Birkner often flew as Rottenflieger (wing man) to the high scoring aces Günther Rall and Erich Hartmann, claiming any of his victories whilst flying with them. On 15 January 1944 Birkner claimed five P-39 fighters shot down. In April, he claimed a further 29 victories, including six in one day on 19 April. In May he claimed 17 victories, including five on 30 May. In June he claimed a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) P-51 Mustang escort fighter over Rumania on 24 June for his 92nd victory.

Birkner was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 July 1944 for 98 victories. On 1 October 1944, Birkner was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) 9./JG 52. In October Birkner claimed another 18 victories, including his 100th victory on 14 October.

Birkner was killed on 14 December 1944 when he suffered engine failure landing at Krakau in a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-14.[1]

Hans-Joachim Birkner was credited with 117 victories in 284 missions, and some 121 combats. All his victories were recorded over the Eastern front. Included in his total are at least 15 Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmoviks.[2]



  1. For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organisation of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  2. According to Scherzer as pilot in the III./JG 52.[6]


  1. Weal 2003, p. 81.
  2. Weal 2003, p. 80.
  3. Patzwall 2008, p. 52.
  4. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 43.
  5. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 133.
  6. Scherzer 2007, p. 222.
  • 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. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008) (in German). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Goblet for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War]. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3. 
  • 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. 
  • Weal, John (2003). Bf109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 1-84176-084-6.

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