Dr. Ernst Kupfer: Stuka pilot at Stalingrad
Dr. Ernst Kupfer (born 2 July 1907 in Coburg, Germany, died 6 November 1943 near Thessaloniki, Greece) was an ‘old’ man by contemporary standards when war started. He was something of a dynamic force of nature. He attended the Ernestium Coburg, a secondary school but dropped out before achieving his diploma and went on to complete a banking apprenticeship instead. After becoming unemployed in the depression that settled over Germany in the 1920’s, he returned to school, completing his diploma in 1925. On 1 October 1928, he joined the Bavarian Cavalry Regiment 17, 5th Escadron.
From 1 May 1936 to 3 March 1937, he returned to university in preaparation for his Dr. jur. degree (Doctor of Law), which he attained on 4 March 1937. He joined 7/StG 2 in France in September 1940 and thus missed the mauling Stukas had received at the hands of the RAF in the Battle of Britain. Perhaps on account of his age, he rapidly gained promotion to Staffelkapitan on 1 October.
He didn’t see action till he reached the Balkans in 1941, where he sank the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Gloucester off Crete with a direct hit, for which he gained the Deutches Kreuz. Moving to the Russian front he repeated his feat, this time sinking a Russian cruiser at Kronstadt, again with a direct hit, but this time in the face of a massive barrage of anti-aircraft fire which shot away much of his Stuka including half his propellor blades! Despite becoming almost unflyable, Kupfer managed to limp the plane to safety.
(Photos: Kupfer and his Stukas. 2nd left Kupfer with Albert Speer)
Jumping straight into a new aircraft the undaunted Kupfer led a small group of five back to Kronstadt where he attacked another Russian ship, the battleship Oktober Revolution on which he scored another direct hit.
On a later visit to Kronstadt his engine took a serious hit from anti-aircraft fire and he was injured in the subsequent force landing, ending up in hospital.
Kupfer was appointed acting Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) of Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 ‘Immelmann’ (StG 2—2nd Dive-Bomber Wing) on 13 February 1943. He led StG 2 in the battles of the Kuban bridgehead and Operation Citadel. In April and May, several other fighter and ground attack groups augmented his command. Following the failure of Operation Citadel in July 1943, he took command of all local ground attack units, named Gefechtsverband ‘Kupfer’ (Combat Detachment ‘Kupfer).
On 1 April 1942 he was made Kommandeur II/StG 2 and fought over Stalingrad. Subsequently promoted to Kommodore StG on 1 March 1943 he took part in heavy actions over the massive tank battles at Kursk and over Orel.
In September 1943, Kupfer was appointed inspector of the attack aircraft (General der Schlachtflieger) and promoted to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel). In this role he handled the procurement of the Focke Wulf Fw-190, which was to replace the old obsolete Junkers Ju 87 and especially the Henschel Hs 123. For this purpose he flew and visited a number of Schlachtgeschwader (ground attack wings) to meet with the various Geschwaderkommodore (wing commanders). He visited Oberstleutnant Kurt Kuhlmey, commander of Schlachtgeschwader 3, in early November 1943 and was killed when his Heinkel He 111 crashed returning to his base in bad weather on 6 November 1943. His body lay undiscovered until 17 November. He received a posthumous promotion to Oberst (Colonel) and was posthumously awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
He is buried at Arsakli Military Cemetary near Saloniki (marked on map). He had been wounded 5 times during operations.
He achieved the remarkable feat of rescuing Oblt Thiede and R/O Ofw Stein (both Ritterkreuz winners) from behind enemy lines.
Awards: Ritterkreuz(11/23/41), EL(1/8/43). Schwerten (4/11/44 Posthumous), DK-G(11/2/42), EP(10/14/42), EK 1 & 2, Wound Badge, Dive Bomber Operational Clasp
Researched by Stefan Pietrzak Youngs from Mike Spick’s ‘Bomber Aces of the Luftwaffe’, Kracker Archive (on this site) and Wikipedia