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Archive Report: Axis Forces
1914-1918   1935-1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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Ernst-Erich Hirschfeld: Luftwaffe Ace
Ernst-Erich Hirschfeld: Luftwaffe ace with attacks against bomber streams

Ernst-Erich Hirschfeld (born 25 August 1918 at Breslau, died 28 July 1944) was a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. 

At the outbreak of World War 2, Hirschfeld was serving in a flak regiment but then transferred to the Luftwaffe. Following the completion of his flying training, he became a flying instructor, serving in this role until early 1943. He was promoted to the rank of Leutnant on 1 February. On 27 March 1943, Hirschfeld was transferred to 5/JG 54 based on the Eastern front. His first known Soviet victory, was a LaGG-5 on 26 May, 1943. 

Hirschfeld transferred to 5./JG 300 on 3 August 1943 to undertake ‘Wilde Sau’ (Wild Boar) single-engine fighter night interception missions. On the night of 23/24 August, he claimed his first night victory when he shot down an RAF four-engine bomber. His victories included 14 four engine bombers and 8 Night victories. 

He downed a Stirling at Hannover on 22 September, 1943.

From February 1944, 5./JG 300 were operating against the daylight bombing raids of the USAAF. Hirschfeld recorded his first American victim on 21 February, when he shot down a B-24 four-engine bomber near Aachen. On 8 March, he shot down a USAAF P-38 twin-engine fighter near Twente a B-24 in the Achmer area on 21 February, 1944. His eighth victory was a P-38 north of the Twente airfield on 8 March, 1944 but he was then shot down by USAAF P-47 fighters near Weerselo. Hirschfeld baled-out of his stricken Fw 190 A-5 (W.Nr. 1231) ‘Red 2N’ with slight burns to his legs. On the same day, he had downed a P-47, location unknown. In late March 1944, Hirschfeld was appointed Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 300. 

His tenth and eleventh were a B-24 and a B-17 inside Berlin on 21 June, 1944. Later that same day, he downed a B-24 south of Berlin. 

A B-24 south of Tulln is recorded on 26 June, 1944 and a  B-24 in the Magdeburg area on 7 July, 1944. A B-17 north west of Munich is recorded on 16 July, 1944. and a P-51 at Immenstadt on 19 July, 1944. A B-24 was downed in the Ostmarkischer area on 25 July, 1944 followed  by A P-51 and a B-17 east of Graz on 26 July, 1944.

On 28 July 1944, whilst flying the FW 190A-5, he was shot through the elbow, and although he managed to bail out over Weerselo, Holland, his parachute failed to open. He was posthumously awarded the Knight’s Cross on 24 October 1944. During his career he was credited with 24 aerial victories, 23 on the Western Front and 1 on the Eastern Front. (Bowers/Lednicer credits him with 45 victories)

On 28 July 1944 readers may be interested in a summary of air activity over the Western and Eastern fronts, including mention of Hirschfeld’s loss:

WESTERN FRONT: The US 4th Armored Division enters Coutances, France. They have achieved the first objective of Operation Cobra.

In France, the USAAF’s IX Bomber Command operates in support of the US First Army, bombing rail bridges, supply dumps and ammunition dumps in the Foret de Conches, Dreux, and Le Mans areas; fighters escort bombers, fly armed reconnaissance in the Le Mans, Laval, and Dreux areas and furnish cover over assault areas and armed columns. 

The USAAF’s Eighth Air Force in England flies Mission 501 Part 1: 291 B-24s in 2 forces are dispatched to hit signal depots, fuel dumps and V-weapon supply sites and a bridge in Belgium and France but the forces are recalled because of cloud cover over the targets; the first force of 180 B-24s is dispatched to northwestern France V-weapon sites, fuel dumps and a railroad bridge; escort is provided by 235 P-47s and P-51 Mustangs. The second force of 111 B-24s is dispatched to hit Brussels and Vilvorde fuel and supply depots; escort is provided by 40 P-51s.

The USAAF’s Eighth Air Force in England flies Mission 502: 6 B-17s drop leaflets in France during the night.

EASTERN FRONT: Brest-Litovsk and Przemysl fall to the Russians.

Another loss for Eastern front fighter units. Uffz. Ulrich Zemper of 1./JG 53 was killed in action having achieved five victories.

The USAAF’s Eighth Air Force in England flies Mission 501 Part 2: 766 B-17s are dispatched to bomb the synthetic oil plant at Merseburg, Germany; 652 hit the primary while 36 hit Leipzig/Taucha oil refinery, 18 hit the Wiesbaden marshalling yards and 8 hit targets of opportunity; they claim 1-2-1 Luftwaffe aircraft; 7 B-17s are lost. Escort is provided by 386 P-38 Lightnings and P-51s; they claim 4-1-1 Luftwaffe aircraft; 2 P-51s are lost. 

The Luftwaffe wasn’t up in force that day. Units known to have been ordered up were I./JG 300 (Bf 109s), II./JG 300 (Fw 190s), II./JG 27 (Bf 109s) and I./JG 302 (Bf 109s). However, these two latter units were ordered to alter course to the South, so that only I. and II./JG 300 flew on North, engaging combat in the Naumburg area (South of Merseburg) at about 10:05-10:15 hours. Also sent to intercept were six Me 163 Komets of I./JG 400. Only two bombers were claimed shot down, none by the rocket fighters because the high closing speeds of the little fighter disoriented the German fighter pilots and spoiled their aim. But the Luftwaffe again lost valuable pilots. Near Erfurt, the new Sturmgruppe of JG 300, II Gruppe, lost the Staffelkapitän of 5./JG 300, Oblt. Ernst-Erich Hirschfeld in action against the heavy bombers. Oblt. Hirschfeld had twenty-four victories including eight as a ‘Wilde Sau’ pilot. Gefr. Walter Weinzierl of 3./JG 302 was shot down and killed having achieved only five victories in combat. Also lost for a time during this action was Fw. Willi Maximowitz of IV(Sturm)./JG 3 who was shot down by escorting fighters but survived with slight injuries and returned to operations the next day. Reported as missing in action was Ofhr. Wolfgang Köcher of 3./JG 300.

A new problem presented itself when the six Me 163s returned to base. The rocket aircraft, now out of fuel and arriving at the airfield at nearly the same time, tried landing all at once, causing some tense moments and near misses. All went safely but it did not bode well for the future of the little rocket plane.

Personal Memory: (Dick Johnson)

New crews that arrived a couple of weeks ago are now ready for their first mission. And I am the guy who is starting them out, taking their pilot as my copilot. FUN!! This is to be my 26th mission and our target is Mersberg, the most heavily defended city in Germany. I don’t expect a milk run! I’m flying the “Betty Jane” today that I have flown several times before including the ill fated glide bomb raid on Cologne. The 303rd put up 37 B-17s that were all in the air in 29 minutes. We formed up over the Harrington Buncher at 9,000 feet with our ten, five hundred pound bombs. During the forming up phase I was approached by another B-17 and to avoid a collision I turned away and did a 360 degree turn. Pulling up or diving would have put too much strain on the wings and tail of this overloaded bomber. I was now not able to catch up with the 303rd so I latched onto the 379th which I knew was going to the same target. My new copilot for this mission was J.A. Drewry with all his crew except for his copilot who was flying with another experienced crew. My regular group saw no enemy aircraft on this mission but my new group saw a few. Our top turret gunner, E. H. Koch fired at a FW190 that was trying to tow a bomb on a long wire through our formation. For some reason the bomb didn’t explode. The 190 was about three thousand feet above us and the other German planes were hanging back, evidently waiting for the big explosion which never came. We encountered flak at seven different locations and our “Betty Jane” suffered two minor wounds on this trip. It was overcast at the target and we had been discharging chaff which seemed to work to our advantage as the flak always seemed to be behind us. Evidently we didn’t do such a great job on the Luena synthetic oil plant as we soon learned that this would also be our target tomorrow. This target takes a flight time of eight hours and ten minutes with four hours and twenty minutes over enemy territory. During my PIC training an attempt on Hitler’s life occurred on July 20. Too bad it didn’t succeed as hundreds, if not thousands of lives could have been saved by shortening the war. Score: Milk Runs 13, Others 13. (I did not consider this a milk run.) 

Summarizing Hirschfeld’s record: he was credited with 24 victories in approximately 100 missions. The majority of his victories were recorded over the Western front and included 12 four-engine bombers by day and nine victories by night. 

(Image: List of victories, courtesy Gregor Winter)

Victories : 24 
Awards : Flugzeugführerabzeichen, Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe, Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (15 April 1944), Iron Cross (1939) 2nd Class 1st Class, German Cross in Gold (10 September 1944), Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 24 October 1944 as Oberleutnant and pilot in the 5/Jagdgeschwader 3001

Units : JG 54, JG 300

Researched by Stefan Pietrzak Youngs from the Kracker Archive (on this site), Gregor Winter and private sources 

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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