Dietrich "Dieter" Hrabak
Dietrich Hrabak was born in Groß-Deuben on December 19, 1914. Hrabak showed an interest in aviation at an early age, but ironically joined the German navy in 1934. Two years later, he was able to transfer to the fledgling Luftwaffe when he qualified as a pilot.
In 1938, after the Austrian annexation, Hrabak was posted to the Vienna Jagdgruppe, I./JG 138. This unit would be later redesignated I./JG 76 during the Polish Campaign, before finally becoming II./JG 54 on April 6, 1940.
During the Polish Campaign, Hrabak was shot down on his very first mission; he was able to make a belly landing. On May 13, 1940, he claimed his first victory, a Potez 63 (a twin-engined fighter, which was surprisingly maneuverable and had heavy firepower).
During the Battle of Britan, Hrabak became a founding member of JG 54, as all three Gruppen were brought together to form the new Geschwader. He became Kommodore of II./JG 54 on August 26, 1940, during the height of the battle. Long since promoted to Hauptmann, Dietrich Hrabak was awarded the Knights Cross on May 13, 1940 for his 16 victories.
Hrabak served ably as Kommodore as JG 54 traveled to the Balkans and finally the steppes of Russia. On November 1, 1942, he left JG 54 to become Kommodore of JG 52, which was assigned to southern sector. Hrabak left his mark on many a successful fighter pilot, eventually molding JG 52 into the highest scoring Geschwader with over 10,000 victories!
Dietrich Hrabak was famous for saying: "If you return from a mission with a victory, but without your Rottenflieger, you have lost your battle." One pilot who took this to heart was Erich Hartmann (highest scoring fighter pilot of all time with 352 victories). During the course of Hartmann's famous career, he never lost a wingman.
On November 25, 1943, Oberstleutnant Dietrich Hrabak became the 337th soldier to be awarded the Oakleaves. The reward was for his 118 victories to date. On September 20, 1944, Hrabak scored the last of his 125 victories.
On October 1, 1944 Hrabak returned to the Geschwader he had helped found, JG 54. He served as its last Kommodore until the Armistice.
In all, Dietrich Hrabak flew over 1,000 missionsin compiling 125 victories. This great leader of men passed away in 1997.