Hans Philipp

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-4

Flown by Hauptman Hans Philipp Stab I/JG 54, Krasnogvardeisk, Russia, December 1942 © Claes Sundin

Hans Philipp was born on March 17, 1917 in Meissen in Saxony.

As a member of I./JG 76 (later to become II./JG 54), Philipp saw action over Poland and scored his first victory. Later during the Battle of Britain, Hans Philipp was made the Staffelkapitan of 4./JG 54.

Philipp soon gained a reputation for being a superb dogfighter, often preferring to battle it out with enemy fighters rather than bombers. Philipp's successes in combat were recognized on November 4, 1940 when he was awarded the Knights Cross for his twenty victories to date. In typical celebratory fashion, he claimed a Hurricane ten days later.

On March 26, 1941, Yugoslavia pronounced its defiance of Hitler and joined the Allied cause. Fearing offensive operations from Yugoslavian territory, Hitler issued Directive No. 25 - the subjugation of Yugoslavia and Greece. On the second day of attacks, April 7, 1941, the Grunherz Geschwader engaged the Jugoslovensko Kraljevsko Ratno Vazduhoplovstvo (JKRV) in a massive air battle. In daring attacks, the JKRV manned Me 109s attacked twenty-six Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers, escorted by double that amount of fighters. During this dogfight, Hans Philipp managed to down two of the JKRV 109s.

Operation Barbarossa saw Philipp's score begin to climb. On August 24, 1941, Philipp became the 33rd member of the German Armed Forces to be awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knights Cross. On a sad note, Franz Eckerle, Kommandeur of I./JG 54, was posted missing on February 14, 1942. The high scoring Hans Philipp was chosen as his successor. As Kommandeur of I./JG 54, he oversaw the early careers of many young fighter pilots, among them Walter Nowotny.

March 1942 saw Philipp reach some incredible milestones. On March 12, 1942, he became the first member of JG 54 to be awarded the Swords to the Knight Cross (8th overall). Even more remarkable, on March 31, 1942 Philipp became the fourth Luftwaffe fighter pilot to achieve 100 victories.

April 1, 1943 saw Philipp transferred to Defense of the Reich duties as Kommodore of JG 1. There he battled the growing menace of the 8th Air Force and continued to score victories as his duties allowed.

The following is an excerpt (in italics) from Eric Mombeek's book "Defending the Reich: The History of Jagdgeschwader 1 - Oesau"

Reichmarshall Goring issued the following edict after an 8th AF raid on October 4, 1943:

  1. There are no meterological conditions which would prevent fighters from taking off and engaging in combat.
  2. Every fighter pilot taking off in a machine not showing any sign of combat, or without having recorded a victory will be prosecured by a court-martial.
  3. In the case of where a pilot uses up his ammunition, or if his weapons are unusable, he should ram the enemy bomber.

Kommodore Philipp's response: "As far as I'm concerned, I categorically refuse to allow myself to be held to such advice; I know what I have to do!"

On October 8, 1943, the 8th AF dispatched 156 bombers to targets in Bremen and Vegesack. The force was escorted by 250+ Thunderbolts from six different fighter groups.

The Stab Flight of the Geschwader heard Philipp announce a victory over a Thunderbolt. The last tranmission from him was: "Reinhardt, attack!" Feldwebel Reinhardt was Philipp's wingman on this day. He last saw the Kommodore's aircraft disappear in a cloud. Reinhardt was wounded after colliding with an enemy aircraft, but made a successful forced landing. Later that evening, the Geschwader learned that their Kommodore had been shot down and killed.

In the all too brief career of this dogfight artist, Philipp scored 206 victories over the course of 500+ missions.