8 November 1916|
Mittelfischach, Schwäbisch Hall
6 March 1943
south of Staraya Russa, Soviet Union
|Years of service||1937–43|
|Commands held||6./JG 54|
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Hans Beißwenger[Note 1] (8 November 1916 – 6 March 1943) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves during World War II. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. In 500 combat missions, Beißwenger was credited with 152 victories, making him the 34th highest-scoring Luftwaffe fighter pilot of World War II. He was Ace in a Day twice, shooting down five aircraft on a single day. He claimed all but one of his victories over the Eastern Front. He was reported missing in action in March 1943.
In 1937, he transferred from the army to the Flak artillery, serving with Flak-Regiment 25 in Göppingen. In 1938, he underwent fighter pilot training and became an instructor and served in this role until winter 1940. In the winter 1940, Beißwenger was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54—54th Fighter Wing).[Note 2] Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) Beißwenger was assigned to 6./JG 54 (6th squadron) and claimed his first victory on 7 April 1941, when he shot down a Yugoslav Royal Air Force Hawker Hurricane fighter during the Balkans Campaign. JG 54 had been moved to the Balkan theater to counter the pro-British coup d’état in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, known as Operation Marita.
On the Eastern Front, serving with 3./JG 54 (3rd squadron), Beißwenger became a leading scorer in I./JG 54 (1st group). Although he was shot down on 17 July 1941 behind enemy lines, he escaped capture and returned to his base. He claimed his 20th aerial victory over an I-18 fighter on 24 August 1941. By the end of 1941, his total stood at 32 aerial victories. He claimed his 40th victory on 6 April 1942, on 8 May, he achieved his 50th victory, and the following day, he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 9 May 1942 for 50 victories claimed.[Note 3] Beißwenger and Leutnant Horst Hannig received the Knight's Cross from Generalleutnant Helmuth Förster at Siverskaya. On 11 August 1942, Beißwenger was appointed Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 54.
On 15 August 1942, he claimed his 75th aerial victory and his 100th on 26 September, for which he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 30 September. He became Ace in a day on 23 August during three combat missions, when for the first time he achieved five aerial victories in one day. On 4 September 1942, Hauptmann Dietrich Hrabak, his group commander, filed an officer efficiency report requesting a preferential promotion to Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant).
Tall, slender appearance. Very good attributes as an athlete. Open, sincere character. Decisive and mature. Good general knowledge. Officer without criticism with well-rooted, clear opinions and appropriate demeanor. Very good military personality, self-assured. Very talented as a flyer, he has excelled in action as a fighter pilot. During 449 combat flights, he has 97 kills because of his audacity. As a flight and squadron leader in the air, he demonstrated discretion and good leadership talent. He enjoys the full confidence of the other pilots.
Well-liked as a comrade and superior, and correct towards superiors. Positive as a National Socialist. Leutnant Beißwenger has applied for transfer to active duty, regular peace-time officers' list. His activation would definitely be a plus for the officers corps of the Luftwaffe.
As a squadron leader, he fulfilled his task very well and he is fully eligible for promotion to Oberleutnant.
His promotion was approved and, after a short vacation, Beißwenger returned to combat duty and by the end of 1942, his victory total stood at 119. He claimed his 125th aerial victory on 23 January 1943, 135th by 11 February 1943 and five more on 5 March 1943 (146th – 150th aerial victories)
He did not return to base after an air combat south of missing in action. It may be that Beißwenger was brought down by Starshiy Leytenant Ivan Kholodov of 32 GIAP (Guard Fighter Air Regiment). Kholodov rammed the Bf 109—probably Beißwenger's—that was attacking his wingman, Leytenant Arkadiy Makarov, and managed to bail out of his own damaged craft before it crashed.
- German Cross in Gold on 17 October 1941 as Leutnant of the Reserves in the 6./JG 54
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (9 August 1941)
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for Fighter Pilots in Gold (20 August 1941)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- His name, in German, is spelled with a "sharp S"; see ß.
- For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization
- According to Weal for 47 aerial victories, but according to Obermaier he had achieved his 50th aerial victory was achieved the previous day on 8 May.
- Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
- MacLean 2007, p. 61.
- MacLean 2007, p. 60.
- Helden der Wehrmacht II 2003, p. 38.
- Weal 2001b, p. 39.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 54.
- Weal 2001b, p. 38.
- Weal 2001b, p. 57.
- Bergström and Mikhailov 2001, p. 209.
- Weal 2001b, p. 60.
- Weal 2001b, pp. 78–79.
- Christer Bergström. "Comments to Part 2 of Dymich's Article". Black Cross-Red Star. Archived from the original on 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 34.
- MacLean 2007, p. 63.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 213.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 128.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 62.
- Bergström, Christer; Mikhailov, Andrey (2001). Black Cross / Red Star Air War Over the Eastern Front, Volume II, Resurgence January–June 1942. California: Pacifica Military History.
- MacLean, French L. (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports — For the Knight's Cross Winners. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939–1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1941 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann.
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941–1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books.
- Weal, John (2001a). Bf109 Aces of the Russian Front. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited.
- Weal, John (2001b). Jagdgeschwader 54 'Grünherz'. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited.
- "Aces of the Luftwaffe". Hans Beißwenger. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
- "Ritterkreuzträger 1939–45". Hans Beißwenger. Retrieved 4 January 2010.