Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2
Flown by Leutnant Max-Hellmut Ostermann, 7./JG 54, Krasnogvardeisk, Russia, October 1941.
Max-Hellmuth Ostermann started his flying career as a Zerstorer pilot (heavy fighter) in I./ZG 1. In the spring of 1940, he was transferred to the fighter arm and was assigned to 7./JG 54. On May 20, 1940, he achieved his first aerial victory. One year later, the rudder of his Messerschmitt 109 carried nine victory bars, one of them for a Yugoslavian Bf 109E he shot down over Belgrade.
It was in the aerial combats with the Red Air Force on the Leningrad front that Ostermann developed into one of the most outstanding aces of the Luftwaffe. Flown by an experienced pilot, the extremely maneuverable Soviet I-15 and I-16 fighters could be very dangerous in dogfights. The main German fighter tactic against such aircraft was a swift attack from above, using the superior speed of the Messerschmitt 109. But Ostermann succeeded by doing what very few German pilots dared to, by staying in flight with the Russian pilots - and out-turn them. Until spring 1942 he had shot down 40 Soviet aircraft, and on May 12, 1942 became the seventh pilot in World War II to exceed 100 kills.
On August 9, 1942, Ostermann - meanwhile promoted to Oberleutnant and in command of 7./JG 54 - finally met his match in a dogfight with Soviet fighter pilots in the vicinity of Amosovo. According to Black Cross / Red Star Volume III, Starshiy Leytenant Arkadiy Sukov of 41 IAP, flying a LaGG-3 on lone patrol, bounced Ostermann and his wingman out of the clouds. Ostermann died in the cockpit of his burning Messerschmitt 109 G-2, at the age of 24. He became the first 100-kill ace to die in combat. Kommodore Hannes Trautloft said about Ostermann: "Of course we carried on the fight even after the death of Ostremann. But no other pilot o fmy Geschwader embodied the nature of a fighter pilot so purely as Ostermann." It should also be pointed out that Ostermann was killed after returning from a long home leave. Many a top ace would fall in combat after returning from leave where the finely tuned senses and awareness are dulled when away from the constant stress of combat.
© Claes Sundin & Christer Bergström 1997
What follows is a partial listing of Ostermann's victory claims with 7./JG 54:
- 23.06.41 Lt. Ostermann 2 bombers.
- 26.06.41 Lt. Ostermann 1 DB-3 near Daugavpils.
- 30.06.41 Lt. Ostermann 3 victories.
- 05.07.41 Lt. Ostermann 3 SB-3.
- 06.07.41 During the third mission of the day, Lt. Ostermann acihieved his 19th and 20th victories.
- 28.07.41 Lt. Ostermann one I-18.
- 01.08.41 Near Luga during the evening, Lt. Ostermann, one DB-3. Ostermann’s victory was the 1,000th victory for JG 54.
- 14.08.41 Over the Bay of Kolga, Lt. Ostermann claimed 2 I-153s.
- 18.08.41 Lt. Ostermann 2 I-16s over Leningrad.
- 21.08.41 Lt. Ostermann 1 I-16.
- 23.08.41 Lt. Ostermann 1 I-26 near Tallinn.
- 05.09.41 Lt. Ostermann one victory.
- 06.09.41 Lt. Ostermann two victories.
- 10.09.41 Before noon, Lt. Ostermann claimed 1 I-26.
- 11.09.41 Near Jamjedrowo before noon, Lt. Ostermann claims 2 victories.
- 17.09.41 Lt. Ostermann shoots down a fighter.
- 25.10.41 Lt. Ostermann one victory.
- 29.10.41 Olt. Ostermann one victory near Tikhvin.
- 30.10.41 Olt. Ostermann claimed one Russian ground-attack aircrat shot down.