Military Wiki
Josef Priller
File:Josef Priller.jpg
Josef Priller
Nickname Pips
Born (1915-07-27)27 July 1915
Died 20 May 1961(1961-05-20) (aged 45)
Place of birth Ingolstadt
Place of death Böbing
Buried at Westfriedhof Augsburg
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1935 – 1945
Rank Oberstleutnant
Unit JG 71, JG 51 and JG 26
Commands held JG 26
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern
Other work Manager at a Brewery

Josef "Pips" Priller (27 July 1915 – 20 May 1961) was a German World War II fighter ace. He has become famous because of the publicity regarding his Focke-Wulf's Fw 190A-8's single strafing pass attack on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), accompanied by his wingman Heinz Wodarczyk. This act was first brought to the world's attention by the book, and then the film, The Longest Day. Contrary to popular belief, Priller and his wingman were not the only Luftwaffe forces to attack the beachhead on 6 June 1944. Both Luftwaffe Hauptmann (Captain) Helmut Eberspächer, leading a ground-attack four-plane element of Fw 190As of SKG 10 which was responsible for downing a quartet of RAF Avro Lancasters at 0500 over the invasion area, and the Luftwaffe bomber wing Kampfgeschwader 54 made several attacks on the British beachheads on D-Day. Priller was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Early life

Priller was born in Ingolstadt. He joined the Luftwaffe in the mid-1930s.

World War II

The outbreak of war saw Priller serving with the pre-war fighter unit designated I./Jagdgeschwader 71 (JG 71—71st Fighter Wing),[Notes 1] later redesignated II./Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing), becoming Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 6./JG 51 soon after. He made his first victory claims in May 1940 over Dunkirk versus Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters. He claimed six victories during the French campaign, and by the end of August his victory total was 15. In October Priller claimed his 20th kill, resulting in the award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). In November 1940 Priller was transferred as Staffelkapitän to 1./Jagdgeschwader 26 "Schlageter" (JG 26—26th Fighter Wing).

Between 16 June and the 11 July 1941 he claimed 19 RAF aircraft. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) in October 1941 for 41 victories. Now a Hauptmann, Priller became Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III./JG 26 in December 1941, with his score at 58. Five feet four inches tall, of stocky build and jovial character, Priller was a popular commander with his men, and, in spite of a reputation for talking back to his superiors, he skillfully utilised the limited resources of JG 26 in North West Europe in order to inflict the maximum damage on the RAF Fighter Command fighter sweeps through the summer campaigns of 1941-43. He recorded his 70th victory in May 1942. By the end of 1942 Priller had added 11 more confirmed victories to his tally.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress shot down by Priller on 19 August 1943

January 1943 Priller became Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 26. By now the increasing US bomber offensive was putting pressure on the Jagdwaffe (Fighter Force) in the west, and JG 26's losses rose alarmingly through 1943. The night prior to the Normandy invasion, Priller and his wing-man Heinz Wodarczyk got drunk and subsequently attacked the beachhead while hung-over. Oberstleutnant Priller brought down his 100th claim in July 1944, a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Consolidated B-24 Liberator. On New Year's Day 1945, he led JG 26 in the ill-fated mass attack on Allied airfields, Operation Bodenplatte (an operation that saw his long-serving wingman Wodarczyk killed). Later that month Priller was appointed to the staff job of Inspector of Day Fighters (East).

Josef Priller flew 1307 combat missions to claim 101 victories. All his victories were recorded over the Western Front, and consisted of 11 USAAF heavy bombers, 68 Spitfires (the highest Luftwaffe ace's tally for these aircraft), 11 Hurricanes, 5 medium bombers, and 5 USAAF fighters.

Post war

Post-war Diplom-Braumeister "Pips" Priller became general manager of the S. Riegele brewery after his marriage with the owner of the brewery Johanna Riegele-Priller. He was one of several D-day combatants to advise on the making of the film The Longest Day, in which he was portrayed by Heinz Reincke.[1]

He died suddenly on 20 May 1961 from a heart attack in Böbing, Upper Bavaria. He was buried at the Westfriedhof (western cemetery) in Augsburg.[2]


References in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Saturday, 2 May 1942 Hauptmann Priller errang gestern im Westen seinen 70. Luftsieg.[10] Hauptmann Priller achieved his 70th aerial victory in the west yesterday.
8 October 1944 (addendum) Das Jagdgeschwader "Schlageter" unter Führung von Oberstleutnant Priller schoß seit Beginn der Invasion 300 anglo-amerikanische Flugzeuge ab und erzielte damit seinen 2500. Luftsieg im Western.[11] The fighter wing "Schlageter", under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Priller, shot down 300 Anglo-American aircraft since the beginning of the invasion and thereby achieved its 2,500th aerial victory in the west.


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


  1. The Longest Day at the Internet Movie Database
  2. MacLean 2007, p. 236.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Berger 2000, p. 272.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Thomas 1998, p. 173.
  5. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 359.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Scherzer 2007, p. 605.
  7. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 345.
  8. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 55.
  9. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 43.
  10. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 2, p. 102.
  11. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, p. 281.
  • Berger, Florian (1999) (in German). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War]. Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6. 
  • 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. 
  • Hagen, Hans-Peter (1998) (in German). Husaren des Himmels Berühmte deutsche Jagdflieger und die Geschichte ihrer Waffe [Hussars of Heaven Famous German Fighter Pilots and the History of their Weapon]. Rastatt, Germany: Moewig. ISBN 978-3-8118-1456-1. 
  • MacLean, French L. (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports — For the Knight's Cross Winners. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 978-0-7643-2657-8.
  • 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 (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. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 
  • Frey, Gerhard; Herrmann, Hajo: Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Karl Vieck
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 2
January 11, 1943 – September 6, 1943
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Johann Schalk
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Walter Oesau
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 4
September 6, 1943 – April 1, 1944
Succeeded by
Oberst Hilmer von Bülow-Bothkamp
Preceded by
Major Gerhard Schöpfel
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
January 11, 1943 – January 27, 1945
Succeeded by
Major Franz Götz

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