Hans-Ekkehard Bob was one of the most remarkable and experienced pilots of JG 54. Known as a fair but resolute leader, he enjoyed great popularity and led his men with typical Allemanian humor.
Hans-Ekkehard Bob was born on January 24th, 1917 in Freiburg/Breisgau (near the Black Forest). He grew up in the little village of Staufen and had his first contact with aviation in 1927. A veteran WWI pilot, flying a Raab-Katzenstein biplane, showed the ten year old boy his first aerobatics maneuvers. After this strong experience, he decided learn how to fly. Graduating from high school, Hans-Ekkehard Bob joined the re-established Luftwaffe in 1936. After enduring the thorough military training, he started his fighter pilot career by being assigned to an Arado Ar68 equipped unit. He had to fly his first missions during the Czechoslovakian crisis. Later, he went through advanced pilots training. He completed this difficult course by earning both the expanded military pilot's and the blind-flying pilot's certificate (instrument flight). Fresh with advanced training, he flew nearly any type of German aircraft (Ju 52, Ju 86, Do 11, Do 17, Do 23, etc.)
In July 1939, Hans-Ekkehard Bob was assigned to the 3. Staffel of JG 21, which was stationed near Königsberg/East Prussia at the time. It was here that he gained first experiences with his favorite type of fighter: The Bf 109. As a member of the Luftwaffe, Hans-Ekkehard Bob flew nearly all kinds of 109’s until the end of the war: B, C, D, E, F, and G-models.
When 3./JG21 was changed to 9./JG54, he flew his first combat missions in Poland and France as a Schwarmführer (leader of four aircraft). On May 10, 1940 Hans-Ekkehard Bob claimed his first victory, a Gloster Gladiator. Later he was given command of 7.Staffel, taking the place of Oblt. Günther Scholz, who had left to lead III.Gruppe after the death of Hptm Fritz Ultsch on September 5, 1940. Less than six weeks later, on November 28, Hans-Ekkehard Bob joined the unit he is most often associated with: the 9.Staffel, which he lead until August 1, 1943.
When H.-E. Bob was switched as Staffelkapitän of the 7.Staffel to 9.Staffel, he thought a distinctive badge was needed for 9./JG54. For example, a wooden shoe was the badge of the 7.Staffel. He asked an Unteroffizier (airman 1st class) of logistics, who was very skilled in drawing and painting, to create 5 to 7 different possibilities of a devil's-head. H.-E. Bob chose one of them and this badge was applied to every aircraft, automobile, truck and other equipment. So it happened, that the Bf 109 of Hans-Ekkehard Bob wore two badges for a short time: the wooden shoe of 7.Staffel and the devils’-head of 9.Staffel. A short time after H.-E. Bob left the unit, the devil's-head badge disappeared.
By November 11, 1940, Hans-Ekkehard Bob had scored 19 victories, for which he was awarded the Knights Cross by Reichsmarschall Göring on March 7, 1941. During the Battle of Britain, his unit was one of the first equipped with 250kg bombs - the birth of fighter/bombing (Jabo) units. The 9.Staffel mostly attacked marine targets with these bombs.
During the Balkan-campaign (it started for the Stab, II./JG 54 and III./JG 54 on March 29, 1941 and ended on May 12, 1941 in Stolp-Reitz) Hans-Ekkehard Bob shot down two Yugoslavian Bf 109 D-types.
On June 22, 1941, 03:05am, JG 54, including the 9.Staffel of Hans-Ekkehard Bob, flew their first sorties of Operation Barbarossa - the long and hard journey in Russia had begun. By the end of 1941, Hans-Ekkehard Bob had claimed his 39th victory. September 29, 1942, he reached the magic 50th victory mark and was also promoted to Hauptmann. The experience in Russia ended for the 9.Staffel on February 12, 1943, when III.Gruppe and 4.Staffel were ordered by the General der Jagdflieger, Adolf Galland, to change positions with parts of JG 26. This tactical operation was canceled, but III.Gruppe stayed in the West and was separated from its parent Geschwader for the remainder of the war.
The Reichsverteidigung (Defense of the Reich) was set up. Now the 9.Staffel had a new enemy to combat: large American bomber formations. The defense against these units could not work by forming Rotten (2 aircraft) or Schwärme (4 aircraft). The 9.Staffel had to learn to attack to the mass bomber formations as a closed unit. On April 17, 1943, Hans-Ekkehard Bob claimed his 57th victory by ramming a B-17 Flying Fortress (see The Pilots Speak for a description of this episode).
On August 1, 1943, Hans-Ekkehard Bob had to leave "his" unit, the 9.Staffel. He was promoted to Major and became the Kommandeur of IV./JG 51. On May 9, 1944, exactly one year before the end of the war, H.-E. Bob took command of II./JG 3. Today, looking back, he did not like fighting in the strength of a Gruppe, but it how the combat in the West was done. In August 1944, he became Kommandeur of II./EJG 2 and stayed for a short time on the Staff of General Kammhuber, in Berlin. Then he had to prepare an airfield at Innsbruck for an Me 262 unit (from München-Riem). He went by car to Innsbruck and became a member of the legendary JV 44; the Me 262 equipped unit led by the now former General der Jagdflieger, Adolf Galland. After the capitulation on May 8, 1945, he was in Koppl, a small village near Salzburg. From there he walked 817 Km in 6 weeks to Celle, which is near Hannover.
After the war he founded the BOMAG company in Celle, a manufacturer of drilling equipment, which does business in 87 countries. Hans-Ekkehard Bob is still flying today, having substituted a Robin DR400 for his beloved Bf 109.
Hans-Ekkehard Bob flew approximately 700 combat missions and claimed 60 victories. Living again in his hometown of Freiburg, H.-E. Bob has spent more than 10,000 hours in the air.
The Hans-Ekkehard Bob profile was written by Gunther Rosipal.