When looking at the number of victories scored by top WWII fighter pilot aces, the German’s by far take the #1 position. Three of Germany’s top ten fighter pilots also received the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves Swords and Diamonds medal awarded by Hitler. Hitler only awarded a total of 27 of these medals and eight of them were given to German aces. The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL has one of the rare 27 Knights Cross with Oak Leaves Sword and Diamond medals on display in the German Farmhouse diorama at the museum. The medal on display was awarded to Lt. General Karl Mauss, commander of the 7th Panzer Division and is accompanied by two of Mauss’ uniforms.
The impressive numbers for these German fighter pilots cannot be disputed, but some extenuating facts do attribute to their fame. First, many of the victories were against the Russians, whose defense paled in comparison to the German’s. Also, a number of the missions occurred in close proximity to the battle, therefore each pilot could do three or four sorties per day. And finally, the Germans also did not send their pilots home for training. They enforced a “fly until you die” guideline. However despite what could best be described as “advantages”, the German fighter pilots of World War II still had and extraordinary record which commands respect.
Below is a list of top ten World War II aces from Germany, based on the number of victories.
The Top Ten List
Erich Hartmann – 352 Victories – Awarded Knights Cross
Gerhard Barkhorn – 301 Victories
Gunther Rall – 275 Victories
Otto Kittel – 267 Victories – KIA
Walter Nowotny – 258 Victories – Awarded Knights Cross – KIA
Wilhelm Batz – 237 Victories
Erich Rudorffer – 224 Victories
Heinz Bar – 221 Victories
Hermann Graf – 212 Victories – Awarded Knights Cross
Heinrich Ehrler – 208 Victories – KIA
Theodor Weissenberger – 208 Victories
Eleven names actually made this top ten list as #10 and #11 both scored the same total number of victories. The majority of these pilots flew either the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke Wulf 190. These top ten are the first on a very long list of successful WWII German fighter pilots.