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Wilhelm Crinius
The head and shoulders of a young man, shown in semi-profile. He wears a military uniform with an Iron Cross displayed at the front of his white shirt collar. His hair is blond, short and combed to his back, his nose is long and straight, and his facial expression is emotionless; looking to the right of the camera.
Wilhelm Crinius
Born (1920-12-02)2 December 1920
Died 26 April 1997(1997-04-26) (aged 76)
Place of birth Hohenhausen in Kalletal
Place of death Stuhr-Fahrenhorst
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1939–1945
Rank Leutnant
Unit JG 53

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
Other work Senior manager, private industry

Wilhelm Crinius (2 December 1920 – 26 April 1997) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace during World War II. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat.[1] Crinius is credited with 114 aerial victories claimed in approximately 400 combat missions. He recorded 100 victories over the Eastern front. Of his 14 victories claimed over the Western front, one was a four-engined bomber.[2] On 23 September 1942, Crinius became the only German fighter pilot to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) and the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) simultaneously.[2]

Early life

Wilhelm Crinius was born in Hohenhausen, Kalletal on 2 December 1920. His father, also named Wilhelm, was a master craftsman and house painter and decorator, his mother née Tölle.[3] Crinius attended the Volksschule, a primary school, in Hohenhausen from 1927 until 1935. In 1935 he started his merchant apprenticeship at the savings and loans bank in Hohenhausen. Parallel to his apprenticeship, he attended the vocational school. He worked at the saving and loans bank in Hohenhausen as an employee from Easter 1938 until November 1938.[4]

Military service

Crinius joined the Luftwaffe in January 1940 to undergo pilot training. In February 1942, Gefreiter (lance corporal) Crinius was posted to 3 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53—53rd Fighter Wing) based in Sicily.[Note 1] In March and April 1942, he flew 60 missions over Malta. On 1 April, he was promoted to Unteroffizier (non-commissioned officer). In May 1942, I./JG 53 was transferred to the Eastern front near Kursk. Crinius achieved his first victories on 9 June when he shot down two Il-2 Sturmoviks. On 8 July, Crinius shot down two Douglas Boston bombers west of Voronezh, although his aircraft was hit by Russian anti-aircraft fire and he was forced to belly-landed his Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4 between the enemy lines, where he was rescued by a German patrol and safely returned to his unit.

File:Wilhelm Crinius Oak Leaves.jpg

Wilhelm Crinius (shaking hands with Adolf Hitler) next to Hans Beißwenger receiving the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross

In July 1942, I./JG 53 was sent to the southern sector of the Eastern front, where Crinius claimed his 15th kill on 1 August.[5] He claimed his 24th victory on 11 August 1942. The next day I./JG 53 relocated from Bereska to Tusov, closer to the front and Crinius shot down three Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3s, bringing his total to 27 victories.[6] Crinius recorded his 49th victory on 27 August which was also the 1,000th victory for I. Gruppe (1st group) of JG 53.[2] After his 55th victory on 1 September he was promoted to Feldwebel (Sergeant). Hereafter Crinius was particularly successful, claiming some 40 victories in August and 46 victories in the timeframe 1–22 September, including his 100th on 22 September.[2] He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 23 September and promoted to Leutnant (2nd Lieutenant). In November 1942, Crinius relocated with I./JG 53 to Tunisia.

In Africa, Crinius claimed another 14 victories, including a B-17 Flying Fortress on 26 December 1942 over Bizerte.[7] On 13 January 1943, he engaged in aerial combat with Royal Air Force (RAF) Supermarine Spitfire fighters near El Kala, Crinius' aircraft was hit and he was wounded in the thigh. Breaking off combat, he headed for his base but his engine then caught fire. He ditched his damaged Bf 109 G-2 (Werknummer 10805—factory number) in the sea. He spent 24 hours in the water before being rescued by French sailors and Arabs. After hospitalisation for his wounds, Crinius became a prisoner of war.[2][8]

Later life

After World War II, Wilhelm Crinius worked in private industry, serving as a director in the German branch of the Dutch Philips GmbH. He was appointed chairman of the board of directors of the Ernst Düllmann GmbH in 1971.[9] On 18 June 1989, as a pensioner, Crinius ran for the European Parliament in Hesse as candidate for the right-wing German People's Union (Deutsche Volksunion).[10] He died on 26 April 1997 in Stuhr-Fahrenhorst, Lower Saxony.[7]



  1. For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization
  2. According to MacLean on 30 April 1942.[12]
  3. According to MacLean on 25 June 1942.[12]


  1. Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Obermaier 1989, p. 53.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 MacLean 2007, p. 99.
  4. MacLean 2007, p. 98.
  5. Prien 1998, p. 416.
  6. Prien 1998, p. 419.
  7. 7.0 7.1 MacLean 2007, p. 97.
  8. Scutts 1996, p. 56.
  9. "Chronicle" (in German) (web). Die Zeit. 18 June 1989. Retrieved 4 June 2010. 
  10. "Ballot of 1989 EP elections - List 14" (in German) (pdf). Wiesbaden. 18 June 1989. Retrieved 2 June 2010. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Thomas 1997, p. 105.
  12. 12.0 12.1 MacLean 2007, p. 96.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 263.
  14. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 155.
  15. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 61.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Prien, Jochen (1998). Jagdgeschwader 53 A History of the "Pik As" Geschwader May 1942 - January 1944. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History. ISBN 0-7643-0292-2.
  • 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. 
  • Scutts, Jerry (1994). Bf 109 Aces of North Africa and the Mediterranean. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-448-2.
  • 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 (2001). Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited. ISBN 1-84176-084-6.
  • Weal, John (2007). Jagdgeschwader 53 'Pik-As'. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84603-204-0.

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