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Wolfgang Tonne
Wolfgang Tonne
Born (1918-02-28)28 February 1918
Died April 20, 1943(1943-04-20) (aged 25)
Place of birth Moosbach in Schleiz, Thuringia
Place of death Protville in Tunisia
Buried at German Military Cemetery at Bordj-Cedria
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1937 – 1943
Rank Hauptmann
Unit JG 53
Commands held 3./JG 53

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves

Wolfgang Tonne (28 February 1918 – 20 April 1943) was a German former Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German language: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) during World War II. 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. Tonne was credited with 122 aerial victories before being killed in a flying accident on 20 April 1943 at Protville, Tunisia.

World War II

Wolfgang Tonne joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 as an officer cadet. Tonne was posted to 3./Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) on 6 December 1939. Leutnant Tonne achieved his first aerial victory against a Royal Air Force (RAF) Bristol Blenheim twin-engined bomber over Sedan on 14 May 1940. Later the same day, he was shot down near Bouillon. He bailed out landing in enemy territory. However, he returned safely to his own lines, uninjured.

Over England and the Channel he was to gain a further three victories by the spring of 1941. On 1 July, Tonne was appointed Adjutant of I./JG 53. Tonne participated in the invasion of Russia. In June and July 1941, he scored eight further victories.

In December 1941, I./JG 53 was transferred to the Mediterranean theatre. On 24 January 1942, Tonne was appointed Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 53. Tonne flew 116 combat missions over Malta, without adding to his victory total, before being transferred back to the Eastern front.

File:Wilhelm Crinius Oak Leaves.jpg

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

From 31 May 1942 to 29 September 1942, Tonne flew 155 combat missions and shot down 88 aircraft in the Russian theatre. Oberleutnant Tonne was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 6 September 1942 following his 54th victory. The Oak Leaves were awarded on 24 September for 101 victories.

In November 1942, Tonne led 3./JG 53 to North Africa. He gained his first victory in this theatre on 26 December 1942 shooting down a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) P-38 Lightning twin-engine fighter. He specialised in shooting down Supermarine Spitfire fighters claiming ten of the type in a short time. Tonne flew 82 combat missions and claimed 21 victories over Tunisia. Wolfgang Tonne was killed in a flying accident caused in the attempt to celebrate his 122nd victory over the airfield at Protville, Tunisia on 20 April 1943 in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 (Werknummer 16523—factory number).

Wolfgang Tonne was credited with 122 victories in 641 missions. He scored 26 victories over the Western Front, including 16 Supermarine Spitfire. 10 of his 96 victories claimed over the Eastern front were Il-2 Sturmoviks.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Thomas 1998, p. 387.
  2. Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 478.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 748.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945 (in German). Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 - 1945 (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 3-87341-065-6.
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 - 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
  • Prien, Jochen (1998). Jagdgeschwader 53 A History of the "Pik As" Geschwader Volume 2:May 1942 - January 1944 (in German). Schiffer Military History. ISBN 0-7643-0292-2.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). 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 (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 3-7648-2300-3.
  • Frey, Gerhard; Herrmann, Hajo: Helden der Wehrmacht III - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2007. ISBN 978-3-924309-82-4.

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