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Heinrich Setz
Heinrich Setz
Born (1915-03-12)12 March 1915
Died 13 March 1943(1943-03-13) (aged 28)
Place of birth Gundelsdorf near Kronach
Place of death near Le Tréport, France
Buried at war cemetery at Bourdon, France
block 32-row 11-grave 427
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1936–1943
Rank Major (posthumous)
Unit JG 77, JG 27
Commands held 4./JG 77, I./JG 27

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
Relations Franz Ruhl (Cousin)

Heinrich Setz (12 March 1915 – 13 March 1943) was a German World War II Luftwaffe 138 aerial victories Flying ace and recipient of the coveted Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German language: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat.[1] 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 - for the fighter pilots, it was a quantifiable measure of skill and combat success. He was killed in action on his 274th combat mission in a midair collision with a Supermarine Spitfire on 13 March 1943.

Military career

Heinrich Setz was born on 12 March 1915 in Gundelsdorf near Kronach, Upper Franconia in the Kingdom of Bavaria. He joined the military service of the Luftwaffe as a Fahnenjunker (cadet) in April 1936. Setz was chosen for fighter pilot training even though he initially wanted to become a bomber pilot. In July 1938 he was posted to the I./Jagdgeschwader 135 (1st Group of the 135th Fighter Wing).[Notes 1] From April 1939 onwards he was posted to various fighter pilot training schools as an instructor. He joined 4./Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—4th squadron of the 77th Fighter Wing) on 1 July 1940.[2] and then across to 6./ JG 77 by September 1940.[3] Unlike most of the rest of the Luftwaffe based in France for the upcoming Battle of Britain, JG 77 was based at Kristiansand, in southern Norway.[4] Here he claimed his first three aerial victories: his first being a Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft over Norway's west coast on 27 August 1940.[5] In March 1941 he was posted as an instructor, setting up the new combat-training squadron of JG 77, 2(Sch.)/ ErgGr 77. A post he nominally held until 6 August 1941.[3]

Russian Front

By the time of the opening of Operation Barbarossa, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union, on 22 June 1941, Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Setz was back scoring victories with 4./JG 77. On 6 August 1941, now with 9 victories, he was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 4./JG 77, which he led across southern Russia until November 1942.[3] Through the rest of 1941 he claimed a further 36 aerial victories. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 31 December 1941 for his 45 aerial victories.[2] and granted extended leave over the winter.


Gordon Gollob (hidden) and Max-Hellmuth Ostermann receive the Oak Leaves with Swords, Helmut Lent, Heinrich Setz and Friedrich Geißhardt receive the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross from Adolf Hitler on 28 or 29 June 1942

In March 1942 his Staffel (squadron) was located to the Crimea. JG 77 was assigned as fighter cover as the Wehrmacht set about storming the great pre-war fortress of Sevastopol as a prelude to the main summer campaign into the Caucausus, Fall Blau. In a remarkable run of success, Setz claimed his 46–50th aerial victories on 19 March 1942, 58–60th aerial victories on 21 April, 3 more (68–70th v.) on 13 May 1942 and his 81st victory on 23 June, just a year after first arriving in Russia. Oblt Setz was immediately awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on the same day.[2] The award was presented at the Führerhauptquartier (Führer Headquarters) at Rastenburg on 28/29 June 1942.

Returning to the front, and with Sevastopol fallen, JG 77 moved further north to Kursk and covered the advance onto Voronezh. Setz briefly commanded II./JG 77 in July for Gruppenkommandeur Anton Mader. He claimed two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3s on 23 July 1942.[6] and then reached his century the next day, on 24 July. He continued to score freely until in early October, with his victory tally now at 135, he was wounded. While recuperating in hospital his unit, II./JG 77, was initially pulled back to the Reich for rest and refit, then transferred in December to North Africa in response to the recent Torch landings.

Western Front

Setz however did not rejoin his unit. On 12 November he was appointed the new Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 27, to replace Hauptmann (Captain) Gerhard Homuth who had to resign the command because of illness. This unit had formerly led the assault in North Africa but after being shattered in the recent battles around El Alamein had been pulled back for rest and rebuild. Setz took over his command in Bari, Italy on 20 November 1942.[7] and soon led the transferral back to Krefeld in Germany, where they arrived on 28 November 1942.[4]

After a brief period of recreation the group began preparations for a transfer to France on 2 January 1943. The Stab (headquarter unit), 1st and 3rd Staffel transferred to Evreux on 31 January 1943[8] The remaining groups followed and new pilots and new Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-4 joined the group. Now fighting a completely different type of air-war, versus the big box-formations of bombers of the American 8th Air Force, Setz had the entire group conduct training flights and reported operational readiness on 20 February 1943.[9]

His first success however, was also unfortunately his last. On 13 March 1943, on his 274th combat mission he dispatched two Supermarine Spitfires in five minutes over Abbeville, but it is believed he was killed when he collided with a third fifteen minutes later at high altitude.[10]

In recognition of his leadership, he was posthumously promoted to Major.



  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 Obermaier 1989, p. 51.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries website.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Luftwaffe Air Units: Single–Engined Fighters website.
  5. Weal 1996
  6. Bergström, Dikov, Antipov, and Sundin (2006), p. 36.
  7. Prien, Rodeike and Stemmer 1998, p. 314.
  8. Prien, Rodeike and Stemmer 1998, p. 319.
  9. Prien, Rodeike and Stemmer 1998, p. 321.
  10. Luftwaffe 39-45 Historia website.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Thomas 1998, p. 317.
  12. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 442.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 702.
  14. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 399.
  15. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 60.
  • Bergström, Christer & Mikhailov, Andrey (2001), Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume II, Resurgence January–June 1942, California: Pacifica Military History. ISBN 0-935553-51-7.
  • Bergström, Christer; Dikov, Andrey, Antipov, Vlad and Sundin, Claes (2006). Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume 3, Everything for Stalingrad. Hamilton MT: Eagle Editions Ltd. ISBN 0-9761034-4-3.
  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Stalingrad – The Air Battle: 1942 through January 1943. Midland Publications ISBN 1-857802-76-4
  • 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. 
  • Prien, Jochen, Peter Rodeike and Gerhard Stemmer (1998). Messerschmidt Bf 109 im Einsatz bei Stab und I./Jagdgeschwader 27 1939 - 1945 (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck. ISBN 3-923457-46-4.
  • 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 (1998) (in German). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z]. Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9. 
  • Weal, John (1996). Bf109D/E Aces 1939-41. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-487-3.
  • Weal, John (1999). Bf109F/G/K Aces of the Western Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-905-0.
  • Weal, John (2001). Bf109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd ISBN 1-84176-084-6.
  • Weal, John (2003). Aviation Elite Units #12: Jagdgeschwader 27 'Afrika’. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-538-4.

External links

Military Offices held

Military offices
Preceded by
none: new unit
Squadron Leader of 2.(Schul.)/Erg.Gruppe JG 77
March, 1941 – 6 August 1941
Succeeded by
Oblt Hans Brockmann
Preceded by
Hptm Walter Jänisch
Squadron Leader of 4./JG 77
6 August 1941 – 11 November 1942
Succeeded by
Ltn Lutz-Wilhelm Burckhardt
Preceded by
Hptm Gerhard Homuth
Group Commander of I./JG 27
12 November 1942 – 13 March 1943
Succeeded by
Hptm Erich Hohagen

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