History written by winners      

veteran’s corner

 Tom Krabbenhoft

Happy April fool’s day. I hope you had a chance to put sugar in the salt container or pulled some other worthwhile prank.

Major Richard Bong holds the distinction of being America’s highest scoring fighter ace. He shot down 40 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. Major Bong was born in Superior Wisconsin, the oldest of 9 kids to Swedish immigrants. He became interested in flying seeing numerous mail planes flying over his family’s farm in 1928. Calvin Coolidge Summered that year in Superior Wisconsin. He entered military service and was trained in flight school by Barry Goldwater. You may have traveled over the bridge named after him in Duluth-Superior. He was killed testing one of America’s first jet fighters, the F-80 in 1945. A true hero in the history of our country.

Contrasting Germanys top fighter ace was Erich Hartmann. He downed 352 aircraft. Yes, 352. Almost nine times America’s top ace. He is the top scoring ace of all time.

Both his parents were educated and his dad a doctor. The German economy was so bad the German dad practiced in China were they lived for years. Many Germans including Erich learned to fly by gilder. He learned from his mother who was one of the first female glider pilots in Germany. He obtained a pilot’s license at 14.

In WW2 Hartmann belonged to unit JG 52 the most successful fighter unit of all in time. This unit alone is credited with downing over 10,000 aircraft. Hartmann and the next two top aces of all time Gerhard Barkhorn 301 kills and Gunther Rall 275 kills, called this unit home.

Hartmann crashed or emergency landed 16 times. Was injured many times and captured and then escaped once. Causing many of his crashes himself, he had a proclivity for attacking out of nowhere. He closed in dangerously to aircraft before he opened fire. At such a close range the machine gun and cannon fire were lethal. Many times he flew through debris of his enemies causing his crashes. He never engaged in twisting, turning and diving you see in dogfights. He would disengage and look for other targets.

A large black tulip was painted on his plane. The Russians caught on to this and would flee the battlefield. He would let other pilots borrow this plane to build confidence. Hartmann would take an unmarked plane into the sky to increase his kill streak.

 At the end of fighting, Hartmann surrendered to the Americans and was turned into the Russians. The Russians charged him with war crimes and he spent 10 years as a POW. Upon his release he joined the West German Air Force. He taught people how to fly up until his death in1993.

 Our Veterans of the week are our remaining WW2 vets.


Thanks for your service


To submit a Veteran of the week email me at 11btwk@gmail.com

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