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Heinrich Hoffmann
The head and upper body of a young man, shown in semi-profile. He wears a field cap and a military uniform with numerous military decorations including an Iron Cross displayed at the front of his shirt collar. His hair is dark and short, his nose is long and straight, and his facial expression is a determined and confident smile; his eyes gaze into the distance.
Heinrich Hoffmann
Born (1913-03-08)8 March 1913
Died 3 October 1941(1941-10-03) (aged 28)
Place of birth Worms, Germany
Place of death south of Yelnya
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Rank Oberfeldwebel
Unit JG 77, JG 51

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (posthumously)

Oberfeldwebel Heinrich Hoffmann (8 March 1913 – 3 October 1941) was a German World War II Luftwaffe Flying ace. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat.[1] Hoffmann is credited with 63 aerial victories in 261 combat missions and was the first non-commissioned officer and first soldier of the Wehrmacht to be awarded posthumously the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub).[2][3] 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.


Heinrich Hoffmann received his pilot's license while serving in the Military reserve force before World War II. He began active service at the outbreak of World War II. On 18 May 1940, Unteroffizier Hoffmann was assigned to the 3./Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77).[Notes 1] The squadron was later re-designated 12./Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51). He claimed his first aerial victory over a Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft on 7 September 1940 in the Battle of Britain.[2]

Hoffmann's most successful period as a fighter pilot began in July 1941 during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. He claimed 20 aerial victories during July and 25 in August. He often flew as wingman to Heinrich Bär, contributing to Bär's record of 220 claimed kills, pilot slang for the destruction of an enemy aircraft.[2] On 22 July 1941 Hoffmann claimed his 23rd aerial victory of the war over an Ilyushin Il-2.[4] The Il-2 Shturmovik was a heavily armoured ground attack aircraft which was very difficult to shoot down. Hoffmann became an expert by aiming for the Il-2's non-retractable oil cooler. These kills are listed as "R-3s" on his personal victory list.[2]

He achieved his 33rd aerial victory on 2 August 1941, shooting down three Polikarpov R-5s, one Polikarpov I-15 and two Neman R-10 bombers, making him an Ace in a Day.[5] Hoffmann received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) after 40 aerial victories on 12 August 1941. He also destroyed three locomotives and 10 trucks in numerous ground support missions[2] He claimed his 50th aerial victory on 2 September 1941 by destroying four R-3s, which may have been R-5s or Polikarpov R-Zs. Two days later he claimed two Ilyushin DB-3s and one Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3[6] On 8 September, Hoffmann claimed two more Tupolev SBs, bringing his total to 55 aerial victories. These were his last successes on the Leningrad front. His unit, IV./JG 51, was relocated further south.[7]

On 3 October 1941, the Luftwaffe officially listed Oberfeldwebel Heinrich Hoffmann as missing in action after a low altitude engagement with several Il-2s near Shatalovo in the early evening hours.[2] He was flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2 Werknummer (factory number) 12876 and may have been shot down by the Soviet 233 IAP's (233rd Fighter Aviation Regiment) Starshiy Leytenant Sergeyev, who claimed his first aerial victory in the vicinity where Hoffmann disappeared.[8]



  1. For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization


  1. Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Obermaier 1989, p. 47.
  3. Weal 2007, p. 22.
  4. Bergström and Mikhailov 2000, p. 116.
  5. Bergström and Mikhailov 2000, p. 118.
  6. Bergström and Mikhailov 2000, pp. 142–143.
  7. Bergström and Mikhailov 2000, p. 184.
  8. Bergström and Mikhailov 2000, p. 194.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Thomas 1997, p. 293.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 398.
  11. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 231.
  12. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 55.
  • Bergström, Christer & Mikhailov, Andrey (2000), Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume I, Operation Barbarossa 1941, California: Pacifica Military History. ISBN 0-935553-48-7.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 978-0-8041-1696-1. 
  • 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. 
  • Weal, John (2006). Jagdgeschwader 51 'Mölders'. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited. ISBN 1-84603-045-5.
  • Weal, John (2007). More Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-177-9. 

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