Erich Hartmann – the Ace of Aces
The top scoring fighter pilot of all time
Two of his fighters:
A Bf109G-10 on the Eastern Front (1945) and a F86-F Sabre in the new Bundesluftwaffe (1959)
By Bjørn Jacobsen
Erich Hartmann was the top scoring fighter pilot of all the combatants in World War II. He survived the war with 352 confirmed victories, a higher total than any other fighter pilot in history. These victories were attained on 1,404 combat sorties, resulting in 825 aerial combats. Of his 352 victories, 260 were achieved against fighters – and seven against U.S. Fifteenth Air Force Mustangs.
His story is so amazing, that I take the opportunity to tell it here, even if you have heard it before:
The young Erich Hartmann arrived as a Lieutenant to 7./JG 52 in the Caucasus on 10 October 1942.
His first acquaintance with the Soviet airmen told him not to underestimate them; his Bf 109 was shot up, and he was lucky to survive a belly-landing.
It took the veterans of 7./JG 52 much hard work to teach the young Hartmann the name of the game. It was during this time that he got the nick-name "Bubi", "Little Boy."
Hartmann achieved his first aerial victory against an Il-2 of Soviet on 5 November 1942, but he got himself shot down again. It was not until on his 41st combat sortie, on 27 January 1943, that Hartmann managed to down his second Soviet aircraft.
In March 1943, Oblt. Walter "Graf Punski" Krupinski arrived to assume command of 7./JG 52. He was a totally "wild man" in the sky, and all the NCO veterans refused to serve as his wingman. He therefore picked the unexperienced Hartmann.
Krupinski never avoided any air combat, and on repeated occasions, he led Hartmann against Soviet aircraft formations from a terribly disadvantageous position. Flying together with Krupinski meant air combat on almost every mission, and slowly Hartmann's victory tally began to rise. But both Hartmann and Krupinski got themselves shot down several times. This was during the air battle over Kuban - the northwestern corner of the Caucasus where the Soviet aviation opposed to JG 52 counted some of the best Soviet aces at that time.
On 25 May 1943, when Hartmann was downed for the fifth time - this time when he was rammed by or collided with a LaGG-3 - he suffered a nervous breakdown, and was sent back to Germany to rest. Back home his father told him that he was convinced that Germany had no chance to win the war. Hartmann returned to the Eastern Front in June 1943 determined to prove that his father was wrong.
It was now that Hartmann's rise to success started. He had learned his lessons and after 180 combat missions, he was able to master the Bf 109 magnificently. The Soviet novice pilots, who still suffered from shortened training schemes, stood no chance at all against Erich Hartmann.
The next three weeks, Erich Hartmann's name would become famous throughout and beyond JG 52. Between 1 and 20 August 1943, he carried out 54 combat sorties and shot down 49 Soviet aircraft. This remarkable victory row ended on August 20, when he was downed twice. On the second occasion, he went down in Soviet-held territory, and was captured, but managed to escape and made it back to his own lines.
Erich Hartmann continued to shoot down Soviet aircraft at an amazing pace.
He claimed three victories on 25 September, three on the 26th and two the
next day. One on 28th, two fighters on the 29th, and three on the last day of
September 1943. By that time his victory total stood at 115, achieved on
333 combat sorties.
His Soviet adversaries soon learned to fear the pilot with the “Black Tulip”
painted on his airplane nose, and nick named him Cherniy Chort (Black Devil)
The Soviet Command put a price of 10,000 rubles on his head.
Near the end of WWII, in early May 1945, the Luftwaffe command ordered
Major Hartmann, then Gruppenkommandeur of JG52, to fly to the British
sector and surrender. He disregarded this order, because he felt responsible for the Jagdgeschwaders pilots, ground crew and other civilians who had joined the Geschwader, seeking protection against fierce aggression by the Czechs.
Hartmann led the Geschwader west and on May 8th, 1945, the soldiers and civilians surrendered to US troops in Pisek (Czechoslovakia). What they did not know was that according to the agreement of the victory powers, all persons who was taken prisoner by the Americans east of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia, were to be handed over to the advancing Russians.
Therefore, on May 17th, the US Army delivered all the Geschwader personnel and civilians to the Red Army.
Like all the others POWs, Hartmann was deported to the Gulags in Siberia, where he was sentenced to 25-50 years of hard labor for “war crimes”.
The Soviet offered him his freedom if he would help them build the new East German Air Force. He flatly refused. It was only after Chancellor Adenauer personally visited Moscow in 1955 and arranged for his release that a gaunt and haggard Erich Hartmann was released after 10 years in the terrible conditions of the Gulags.
Hartmann quickly regained his health and joined the new West German Air Force in 1956 where he contributed to the build-up of new fighter units.
In 1959, he was given command of the Bundesluftwaffe’s first all-jet division: The Jagdgeschwader 71 "Richthofen"
Hartmann had the noses of their Canadair F-86 Sabres painted with the distinctive black tulip design he used on the Bf109s in the old 9./JG52
Again, the famous “Black Tulip” was on the nose of a German fighter plane!
Hartmann was always open and direct and ill-disposed to “diplomatic” solutions. He always spoke his mind, regardless consequences, and in the early 1960s, he vigorously opposed the Bundesluftwaffe's purchase of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter which he believed to be unsafe and unfit for the new and unexperienced West German Luftwaffe. He was overruled by the politicians and his superiors who badly wanted this new super fighter. Unfortunately, his concerns proved true when over 100 German pilots were lost in F-104-related accidents.
Increasingly unpopular due to continued criticism of the F-104, Hartmann was forced into early retirement in 1970 with the rank of colonel.
Erich Hartmann died September 1993.
I am building two of Erich Hartmann's
famous "Black Tulip" fighters:
The “Black Tulip” Bf109 in which he achieved his unbelievable victories during WWII.
The F86-F Sabre “Black Tulip” in which he led the first German Jet-Geschwader in
the new German Luftwaffe
Erich Hartmann used the Bf109 through all his missions at the Eastern Front. As far as I know, he piloted the following versions: G-4, G-6, G-10, G-14 and K-4. All his aircrafts had the code “Yellow One” (or White One). But from Des 1944, he was promoted to Gruppenkommandeur, and used the Gruppenkommandeur’s double Chevrons.
The latest aircraft he flew was the Bf109 K-4 in which he scored his last victory, a Soviet Yak, just a few hours before the war ended on May the 8th 1945.
The model I am building is the G-10 version made at the Erla factory, easily recognized by the "Erla-Haube" clear-view canopy.
I It can be argued that the Erla-built G-10 was the ultimate Bf 109. It was lighter in weight, more streamlined and actually performed better than the Bf 109 K-4.
The G-10 was the fastest of all the Messerschmitt Bf 109s.
In the hands of Erich Hartmann it was certainly the most deadly weapon in the sky over the Eastern Front.
The Kit is the Revell 1:32 Bf109G-10
As far as I can judge, this is one of the best Bf109-kits available. A real pleasure to build and
I am building right out of the box, without any aftermarket stuff, except for a pilot from PJ Production. I want this model with closed canopy and a pilot inside.
The cockpit is nicely detailed, but with a pilot inside the narrow cockpit, there is very little to be seen of the interior. When German fighter pilots tried the US Mustang after the war, they was most of all amazed by the spacious and warm cockpit – nothing like the cramped Bf109-cockpit!
After sanding and putty any
irregularities and cracks
(which was not many),
fixing the canopy and
replace all plastic antennas
with homemade brass
antennas, the model is
ready for priming.
Then the compulsory tracing of panel lines and the first color paint, which in this case was the light blue/grey color.
The fighter had the typical camouflage of a 1944/45 fighter: A light blue/grey underside and fuselage sides (RLM 76), two color camouflage on the top of wings and fuselage: Braun Violet (RLM81) and Light Green (RLM82).
In addition, there were spots and patches of
different colors on the fuselage sides.
After the light blue/grey color, the fuselage sides
are masked and the light green color is applied.
Then more masks, and the darker Braun Violet
color is put on. Before I do any more painting,
I apply Johnson’s Future to make the paint more
The weathering is done. The aircrafts in this theater of war was never “old”, so wear and tear was minimal. But they operated from very primitive bases, often just a muddy field, so dirt was not unknown, and the weathering is accordingly.
The spinning propeller is due to very little resistant in the propeller shaft and a went (hairdryer) blowing at it.
The long exposure makes the spinner look white.
Here are more pictures of the finished Bf 109 "Black Tulip"
Hartmann’s F86-F Sabre
- the last ”Black Tulip”
The F86-F was actually not a F-86F but a licensed build Canadair CL13B Mrk.6 Sabre.
The kit I used was the Kinetic 1:32 F-86F Nato
Sabre which is, in all respects, the same as the
Canada build CL13B.
The Kinetic kit is not up the standard you might
expect today, it’s more like a 1970-kit.
The parts are large and a bit clunky, but they fit
nicely together and with some (a lot) sanding
and putty, the end result turned out not bad at all.
The kit itself has nice recessed panel lines and detailed with rivets.
The clear parts are good with very well defined edges.
Construction starts in the cockpit. The cockpit
detail is not very detailed, but with help from
Eduard interior PE, it turned out all right.
I would chose to have a pilot in the cockpit for this
build and picked a Luftwaffe jet pilot from
The rest of the assembly is very straight forward.
You have the option to pose the flaps, rudder
and speed brakes. The Kit also had the J-47
engine (very basic) which I had no use for in this
The kit provides intake and exhaust covers, drop
tanks, bombs and Sidewinder rockets.
I did not use any of these, except for two of the
smaller drop tanks, which seems to be mandatory
on the F-86
The plane needed some lead balls as ballast to
prevent it from being a tail sitter.
The manual indicates that the main wheel doors
should be open. This is probably wrong. The
doors to the wheel wells just opens as the landing
gear are lowered and extracted. Otherwise they
The main headache was which colors to use on the plane. If you look at pictures of Erich
Hartmanns plane (JA-111) you will find pictures (and drawings) both in unpainted aluminum
and with camouflage colors. You will also find drawings with either yellow or red nose tip.
The last is easy, the yellow was
2nd Staffel and the red was 1st Staffel.
Hartmanns plane belonged to 1st Staffel an
had a red nose.
The plane might have been unpainted and
painted at different times, but the JA-111 at
display at the Berlin Museum is painted in
camouflage colors – so that’s what I will do.
After painting the model in camouflage colors
(grey and green over and light grey under),
it was time for the first coat with Johnson
Future and then the decals.The decals
provided by kinetic was really difficult.
The decal sheet was so thin that it was almost impossible to get them on the plane in one piece. They just curled up and became totally useless. The only way to get them on the model was to cut them in smaller pieces and put them on piece by piece. And even that was not always possible.
And the instruction manual for placing the decals was, if possible, even worse! An unreadable photocopy in A5-format, obvious scaled down from A4-format. I just had to find the place for the decals from other sources. Not good.
In addition, the decals were of a JG71 2nd Staffel plane (JA-344), which meant that I had to make the right codes and colors.
When looking at the picture of the plane at the Berlin Museum, it is important to understand that this is just that: A museum piece which is painted in the most basic way (camouflage and squadron colors, Geschwader emblem and a/c code.
The fuselage of the plane back in the fifties had a lot of stencil texts, all texts both in English and German.
The result was that it looks like the whole flight manual was printed on the plane, which is quite nice when you are building a model, but obviously not necessary on a museum piece.
Despite all the problems with the decals, it turns out all right in the end.
The Bundesluftwaffe’s F86-F Sabre looks both tough and nice in camouflage colors and with Hartmann’s Black Tulip identifier.
I hope you agree. Here are the results:
I hope you enjoyed this website! Thank you for visiting!
Please do not hesitate to ask if you have questions