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Walter Krupinski
Walter Krupinski
Nickname Graf Punski
Born (1920-11-11)11 November 1920
Died 7 October 2000(2000-10-07) (aged 79)
Place of birth Domnau, East Prussia
Place of death Neunkirchen-Seelscheid
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (to 1945)
West Germany West Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe (Wehrmacht)
Bundeswehr Kreuz.svg Luftwaffe (Bundeswehr)
Years of service 1940–1945
Rank Hauptmann (Wehrmacht)
Generalleutnant (Bundeswehr)
Unit JG 52, JG 5 and JV 44
Commands held JG 52 and JG 5
JaBoG 33
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub

Walter "Graf Punski" Krupinski (11 November 1920 – 7 October 2000) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace of World War II and a senior West German air force officer after the war. He was one of the highest-scoring pilots, credited with 197 victories in 1,100 sorties. He was called by his fellow pilots Graf Punski (Count Punski) due to his Prussian origins. Krupinski was one of the first to fly the Me 262 jet fighter in combat as a member of the famous aces squadron JV 44 led by Adolf Galland.

Childhood, education and early career

Krupinski was born on 11 November 1920, in the town of Domnau in the Province of East Prussia, and grew up in Braunsberg (Braniewo). He was the first son of Friedrich Wilhelm Krupinski, a Obergerichtsvollzieher (bailiff), and his wife Auguste, née Helmke. His two younger brothers were Paul and Günther.[1] Paul joined the Kriegsmarine and entered the Unterseeboot service, and was killed in action on 11 November 1944 while serving on U-771 as an Oberleutnant zur See, which was sunk off the Norwegian coast by the British submarine HMS Venturer.[2]

Krupinski entered the Luftwaffe in September 1939 as an ensign. From November 1939 to October 1940, Krupinski entered basic air training and, after being assigned as a fighter pilot, the fighter school.[Note 1] Following two weeks of vacation, Krupinski completed his training at Jagdfliegerschule 5 (5th fighter pilot school) in Wien-Schwechat to which he was posted on 1 July 1940. Jagdfliegerschule 5 at the time was under the command of the World War I flying ace and recipient of the Pour le Mérite Eduard Ritter von Schleich. One of his course mates was Hans-Joachim Marseille, who had been posted to the Jagdfliegerschule 5 in late 1939 but had not yet graduated out of disciplinary reasons.[3] His three room mates at the school were Walter Nowotny, Paul Galland, the brother of Adolf Galland, and Peter Göring, a nephew of the Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.[4]

World War II

After completing his flight training at Jagdfliegerschule 5 Krupinski was sent to Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Merseburg on 1 October 1940. He then joined his new unit Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—52nd Fighter Wing), where he was placed in 6. Staffel in February 1941.[Note 2] 6. Staffel at the time was under the command of Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) Rudolf Resch. Resch later gave Krupinski the nickname "Graf Punski" ("Count Punski") or sometimes just "Der Graf" ("The Count"). The nickname had its origins in a late-night conversation between Krupinski and Resch. His father was a professor of Slavic studies in Dresden. When Krupinski tried to explain his East Prussian origin, Resch informed him that the ending in "-ski" or "-zky" denoted a landowner, or that it indicated a Freiherr ("free lord"), and thus the lowest level in the medieval nobal hierarchy in the East. The witty banter which then followed, led at first in his squadron, then in his group and eventually in the entire German fighter force to his nickname which stuck with for the rest of his life.[5] He flew combat missions over England, but did not gain any successes.

Günther Rall after his 200th aerial victory. Walter Krupinski (second from right) standing to his left.

Krupinski won his first aerial victory in the early stages of the Russian campaign. By December 1941 his tally stood at seven confirmed victories and by August 1942 at 50, for which he was awarded the German Cross in gold. After another six victories Krupinski was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. In March 1943, Krupinski was promoted to Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) and was given command of 7. Staffel. At this time Erich Hartmann, who went on to become the highest scoring Ace of the war, served as his wingman. Hartmann adopted Krupinki's close-quarters method of attack.

The Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross

Krupinski was awarded the Oak Leaves for his Knight's Cross for his 174th victory. Both Krupinski and Hartmann were ordered to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Ministry of Aviation) in Berlin for the Oak Leaves presentation. Both arrived in Berlin on 23 March 1944 only to learn that the presentation would be made at the Führerhauptquartier (Führer Headquarter). They were instructed to go the Anhalter Bahnhof where they would take an overnight train to the Führerhauptquartier. Here they met fellow JG 52 pilots Gerhard Barkhorn, who was to receive the Swords to his Knight's Cross, and Johannes Wiese. Also present were Kurt Bühligen, Horst Ademeit, Reinhard Seiler, Hans-Joachim Jabs, Dr. Maximilian Otte, Bernhard Jope and Hansgeorg Bätcher from the bomber force, and the Flak officer Fritz Petersen, all destined to receive the Oak Leaves. Krupinski assumed that they were heading for the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia but the train was heading for the Berghof in Berchtesgaden.[6] On the train, all of them got drunk on cognac and champagne. Supporting each other and unable to stand, they arrived at Berchtesgaden. Major Nicolaus von Below, Hitler's Luftwaffe adjutant, was shocked. After some sobering up, they were still intoxicated. Hartmann took a German officer's hat from a stand and put it on, but it was too large. Von Below became upset, told Hartmann it was Hitler's and ordered him to put it back.[7]

Defence of the Reich

After achieving 177 victories, Krupinski was transferred from the Russian front to Germany, where he was assigned to 1.Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 5. Promoted to the rank of Hauptmann (captain) in May 1944, Krupinski was made commander of II. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 11. After the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, the Gruppe was rushed to Normandy to operate on low-level Army support missions. Krupinski claimed 10 Allied aircraft shot down before he was wounded and burned on 12 August. By September he was transferred as Commanding Officer of III. Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 26. In March 1945, Krupinski was transferred to the aces unit Jagdverband 44, which flew the Messerschmitt 262 jet, claiming his last two aerial victories of the war on 16 and 26 April 1945. At 3:00 pm on 24 April 1945, Krupinski was one of four pilots to take off from Munich-Riem to intercept a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-26 Marauder aircraft formation. Günther Lützow, who failed to return from this mission, led the flight of four. Lützow's fate remains unknown to this date. One of the other two pilots was Leutnant Klaus Neumann.[8]

After having claimed 197 enemy planes (177 Eastern Front, 20 against the Western Allies, in about 1100 missions), Krupinski went into American captivity on 5 May 1945. He was held in US custody at Salzburg, Aibling, Heilbronn, Heidelberg, in England, France, Munich-Oberföhring and Tegernsee before being released on 26 September 1945. Krupinski had bailed out four times and had been wounded five times.

Gehlen Organization

The former General Reinhard Gehlen had offered his services to the Americans in the end of 1945. Gehlen had served as chief of Fremde Heere Ost (FHO), the German Army's military intelligence unit on the Eastern Front. The Gehlen Organization was in need for people who were familiar with the air war. Krupinski was hired and helped gather information about the armed forces in the Soviet occupation zone until 1953. There are many conflicting or missing bits of information about this stage of Krupinski's life. He had done little to lift this veil of uncertainty.[9]


File:Generalleutnant Walter Krupinski.jpg

Generalleutnant Walter Krupinski

Krupinski entered the Amt Blank (Blank Agency), named after Theodor Blank, the forerunner of the German Federal Ministry of Defence on 15 December 1952. Given the rank of major in 1957, Krupinski went to lead Jagdbombergeschwader 33 (FBW33) the first postwar German jet fighter wing. In 1966 Krupinski took command of the German forces of the Luftwaffen-Ausbildungs-Kommando in Texas with the rank of brigadier general. In July 1969 Krupinski became commander of the 3rd Luftwaffe division. In 1971 he became chief of staff of Second Allied Tactical Air Force. In October 1974 Krupinski was promoted commanding officer of the airfleet. Due to the Rudel Scandal he was forced into early retirement on 8 November 1976 holding the rank of Lieutenant-general. Krupinski died in Neunkirchen-Seelscheid in 2000.



  1. Flight training in the Luftwaffe progressed through the levels A1, A2 and B1, B2, referred to as A/B flight training. A training included theoretical and practical training in aerobatics, navigation, long-distance flights and dead-stick landings. The B courses included high-altitude flights, instrument flights, night landings and training to handle the aircraft in difficult situations.
  2. For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization
  3. According to Obermaier in May 1942.[11]


  1. Braatz 2010, pp. 13–14.
  2. Braatz 2010, p. 152.
  3. Braatz 2010, p. 28.
  4. Braatz 2010, p. 29.
  5. Braatz 2010, pp. 14–15.
  6. Braatz 2010, p. 118.
  7. Braatz 2010, p. 119.
  8. Braatz 2005, p. 365.
  9. Braatz 2010, pp. 177–181.
  10. Patzwall 2008, p. 127.
  11. Obermaier 1989, p. 61.
  12. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 258.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Thomas 1997, p. 418.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 479.
  15. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 276.
  16. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 79.
  17. Helden der Wehrmacht II, p. 121
  • Braatz, Kurt (2005). Gott oder ein Flugzeug - Leben und Sterben des Jagdfliegers Günther Lützow (in German). Moosburg, Germany: NeunundzwanzigSechs Verlag. ISBN 3-9807935-6-7.
  • Braatz, Kurt (2010). Walter Krupinski - Jagdflieger, Geheimagent, General (in German). Moosburg, Germany: NeunundzwanzigSechs Verlag. ISBN 978-3-9811615-5-7.
  • 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]. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Forsyth, Robert (2008). Jagdverband 44 Squadron of Experten. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-294-3.
  • 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. 
  • Schaulen, Fritjof (2004) (in German). Eichenlaubträger 1940 – 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe II Ihlefeld – Primozic. Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 3-932381-21-1. 
  • 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. 
  • Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4. 
  • 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 (1999). Bf 109F/G/K Aces of the Western Front. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-905-0.
  • Frey, Gerhard; Herrmann, Hajo: Helden der Wehrmacht II (in German). FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2003. ISBN 3-924309-62-0.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of Jagdbombergeschwader 33
1 October 1958 – 31 December 1962
Succeeded by
Oberst Georg Wroblewski
Preceded by
Generalmajor Günter Proll
Commander of 3. Luftwaffendivision (Bundeswehr)
July 1969 – 30 September 1972
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Gerhard Limberg

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