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Hans-Joachim Birkner

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Hans-Joachim Birkner

Hans-Joachim Birkner
Born 22 October 1921
Schönwalde, Germany
Died 14 December 1944(1944-12-14) (aged 23)
Kraków, Poland
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1940–44
Rank Leutnant
Unit JG 52

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Hans-Joachim Birkner (22 October 1921 – 14 December 1944) was a Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Birkner was credited with 117 aerial victories—that is, 117 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft.


Birkner was born on 22 October 1921 at Schönwalde (East Prussia). Feldwebel Birkner was posted to 9./Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52—52nd Fighter Wing) on the Eastern Front in summer 1943 and recorded his first victory, a P-39 Airacobra, on 1 October.[Note 1] By the end of the year he had claimed 24 victories in total. Over the next few months Birkner often flew as Rottenflieger (wing man) to the high scoring aces Günther Rall and Erich Hartmann, claiming any of his victories whilst flying with them. On 15 January 1944 Birkner claimed five P-39 fighters shot down. In April, he claimed a further 29 victories, including six in one day on 19 April. In May he claimed 17 victories, including five on 30 May. In June he claimed a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) P-51 Mustang escort fighter over Rumania on 24 June for his 92nd victory.

Birkner was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 July 1944 for 98 victories. On 1 October 1944, Birkner was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) 9./JG 52. In October Birkner claimed another 18 victories, including his 100th victory on 14 October. He was the 95th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.[1]

Birkner was killed on 14 December 1944 when he suffered engine failure landing at Krakau in a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-14.[2]

Hans-Joachim Birkner was credited with 117 victories in 284 missions, and some 121 combats. All his victories were recorded over the Eastern Front. Included in his total are at least 15 Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmoviks.[3]



  1. ^ For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organisation of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  2. ^ According to Scherzer as pilot in the III./Jagdgeschwader 52.[7]



  1. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
  2. ^ Weal 2003, p. 81.
  3. ^ Weal 2003, p. 80.
  4. ^ Patzwall 2008, p. 52.
  5. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 43.
  6. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 133.
  7. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 222.


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