Erwin Leykauf was born as the son of the railroad switchbox master, Georg Leykauf, on January 22, 1918 in Germersheim; his real hometown was the Franconian village of Ansbach.
Erwin Leykauf was always fascinated with flying. During his early youth, he was very successful at regional and also national competitions with his own home-built models.
After he learned to fly at the gliderschool in Hesselberg, Leykauf joined the Luftkriegsschule (airwar academy) in Dresden in 1936-37. Afterwards he went for additional flight training at the Luftkriegsschule at Berlin-Gatow.
In 1938, on his own accord, Leykauf quit the Luftkriegsschule (tantamount to refusing war service in the Werhmacht) to begin studies in aerodynamics and aircraft engeniering at the Technische Hochschule (Technical University) in Munich.
At the outbreak of hostilies, Erwin Leykauf first was mobilized and reported to Illesheim/Franconia as an officer candidate. During this time he flew several types of aircraft, including the AVIA one-seater.
In May 1940, he was transfered to JG 26 and then later to JG 27. At the beginning of the Battle over Britain, he joined JG 54 where he was to spend the majority of his fighting career.
During his first time in France, Erwin Leykauf made his first victory claims with 8. Staffel: a Belgian Gloster Gladiator, a French Morane and also five British Spitfires and Hurricanes. Also, 8. Staffel was involved and used in low-level attacks, which Leykauf completed successfully.
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4
After JG 54 was rotated out of the Channel area for rest and refit, there were several missions during the Balkan Crisis in the spring of 1941.
During the first part of Operation Barbarossa, the war against Russia, Erwin Leykauf shot down a SB-2 on 6th of July 1941. The rear gunner of the brightly burning bomber continued shooting at Erwin Leykauf’s Bf 109 (Bf 109 F-2 WNr. 6788, Black 3 + ~) and hit the radiator. So Erwin Leykauf performed an emergency landing behind enemy lines near Ostrow. He had many adventures by crossing swamps by day and making trecherous nightwalks. Finally, he managed to rejoin his troops. Later the aircraft was recovered by advancing German ground forces.
In October 1941, Erwin Leykauf became the Adjutant to the Kommandeur of the III.Gruppe, Hptm. Reinhard "Seppel" Seiler. During this time Erwin Leykauf flew many low-level-attacks over the Wolchow area.
On March 30, 1942 Erwin Leykauf made another emergency landing in due of bad weather near Krasnogwardeisk (Bf 109 F-4, WNr.7492, Black 1 + ~).
When the Russians started resupplying their troops, using transport aircraft of various types, during the night in the early summer of 1942, JG 54 began intercepting these night flights. The Bf 109 F was in no way equipped for these missions. Runway lights had to be improvised by using the headlights of trucks. For leading the aircraft to the enemy and also for their own safety, III. Gruppe insisted on having radio contact with their own anti-aircraft units.
On the night of June 22-23, 1942, Erwin Leykauf flew one of these missions. Leykauf became the 'top scorer' on a single night mission of the whole Geschwader over the Wolchow area. In 50 minutes, he claimed 6 victories, bringing his total score to 23. Leykauf reported that the attacks were very difficult because the enemy aircraft (mostly R-5's) flewvery slowly. To adjust your speed to that of the enemy, you had to pull out the flaps and/or the landing gear and set the engine to the lowest possible performance. Orientation was given by the moonlight reflecting off rivers. Enemy planes were spotted by flying at very low level. The enemy could then be spotted as weak shadows or sillhouettes on the horizon. Estimating the exact lead was necessary to discern the flight path of the enemy.
On June 26, 1942 Leykauf was mentioned in the Deutscher Wehrmachtsbericht (German Wehrmacht report) by name. In addition, he received an award for the mission. He personally received from Generaloberst Kellers hands the "Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistungen im Luftkrieg" (Goblet of honour). On June 23, 1942, Erwin Leykauf was awarded the "Deutsches Kreuz in Gold" (German Cross in Gold ) .
On September the 29, 1942, Leykauf's aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he had to bail out behind the lines. He managed to return to JG 54, but was wounded.
In February 1943, the exchange of the III. Gruppe and parts of JG 26 by order of the General der Jagdflieger (Adolf Galland) was partially executed. The III./JG 54, under the command of Kommandeur Major Reinhard Seiler and his Adjutant Oblt. Erwin Leykauf, transferred on February 12, 1943 to Vendeville near Lille, and placed themselves under the tactical command of JG 26.
On April 15, 1943, the paths of Reinhard Seiler and Erwin Leykauf separated. Major Seiler joined I./JG 54 as Kommandeur for the departing Hptm. Hans Philipp. On April 6, 1943 Oblt. Erwin Leykauf was ordered to form the new 12. Staffel of JG 54.
On May 14, 1943 Erwin Leykauf again escaped death. During an alarmstart from Wevelghem airfield, a bomb beneath the starting Messerschmitts detonated. The blast tossed Oblt. Leykauf’s aircraft (Bf 109 G-6, WNr.19632, Blue 11 + ~) onto a railroad track. Leykauf only suffered shock, but the plane was destroyed to a grade of 75%.
With the July 10, 1943 Erwin Leykauf leaves 12./JG 54. The 11. and 12. Staffel of JG 54 change finally to 11./ and 12./JG26.
On July 27, 1943, Oblt. Leykauf arrives in Jesau, the first home of the III. Gruppe to built up the new 11. Staffel of the IV. Gruppe. On August 23, he begins retraining on the new Fw 190.
On August 25, 1943, 11./JG 54, under the leadership of Oblt. Leykauf, moves to Siwerskaja. Erwin Leykauf scores a success on the 30th with the claim of a Russian P-40.
Until the arrival of Hptm. Sinner as Kommandeur of IV. Gruppe (October 10, 1943), Oblt. Leykauf is ordered to lead the IV. Gruppe as acting officer on September 10, 1943.
On the September 19, 1943 Erwin Leykauf claims an IL-2.
June 9, 1944 sees the IV. Gruppe change to the Fw 190 at Illesheim.
After further intermediate stations on the Eastern front, IV. Gruppe JG 54 moves to Trakehnen on September 21, 1944, to serve in the Reichsverteidigung (Reichs Defense). Under the Kommandeur Major Rudolf Klemmm Oblt. Leykauf becomes the Adjutant of IV. Gruppe on October 31, 1944 before leaving to join II./JG 3 at Alperstedt.
His stay at the II./JG 3 ends on March 26, 1945 with a transfer to JG 7 in Brandenburg/Briest, where he gets the training on the Me 262. However, Leykauf did not fly any missions before the war ended.
After the war, Erwin Leykauf studied pharmacy and settled down in a small town in Westfalia. He continued his passion as a glider pilot and was also an enthusiastic horserider. Leykauf continued his hobby of filming, which he started during the war. He made many films of the cultural regions of the world after the war.
Some years ago Leykauf returned to a very old passion: the building of scale models. In his time, Erwin Leykauf built several highly detailed U-boat models in 1/40 scale, beginning with the Type VII C to the largest U-boats of the second worldwar - the Japanese U-Cruisers. His models are to the highest mechanical and electrical standards that are a reflection of his organizational skills which were well known during the war.
Erwin Leykauf in 1995 in front of the entrance of the former "Luftkriegsschule Berlin-Gatow" – fifty-seven years after his officer training.
Special thanks to Gunther Rosipal for compiling this narrative.