Otto Kittel

Otto Kittel


Focke-Wulf 190 A-7

Flown by Oberleutnant Otto Kittel, 3./JG 54, Riga-Skulte, Latvia, Jun 23, 1944.

Otto Kittel was born on February 21, 1917 in Kronsdorf, in the Sudetenland. Fascinated with flight at an early age, he joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 at age 22. After completing his training, he joined the 2nd Staffel of JG 54 with the rank of Unteroffizier.

Kittel scored quickly and shot down a SB-2 and Yak-1 on his very first mission, which also happened to be the opening day of Operation Barbarossa, June 22, 1941.

It was on June 30, 1941, near Dunaburg, that Kittel would encounter the Russian aircraft known as the 'cementer' or 'butcher' to the German ground troops--the Il-2. The Il-2, or Stormavik, was a heavily armored aircraft, used by the Russians on close-support missions. Standard tactics of the Il-2 was to come in at low level and race across the German positions, bombing and strafing (with 20mm cannon) as they went. The Il-2 was immune to the traditional method of attack used by fighters (rear-quarter attack) because of its armor. The only vulnerable spot was the oil cooler located on the underside. This is what Kittel did and he managed to down two of the beasts on this day. As time progressed, Kittel became so proficient at downing Il-2's, he became known to the German ground troops of Army Group North as the 'butcher-killer'.

On February 19, 1943, Feldwebel Kittel scored his 39th victory, which also happened to be JG 54's 4,000th of the war. Kommodore Truatloft personally congratulated Kittel and said the following:

"I have instructed that you're no longer to be assigned as wingman. Instead you're to be sent on 'frei Jagd" on your own whenever there's an opportunity."

In the next several months, there would be several 'opportunities for Kittel to raise his score. On October 29, 1943 he received the Knights Cross for the 123 victories had achieved. This award was quickly followed by the Oakleaves to the Knights Cross on April 11, 1944, at which time Kittel's score stood at 152. Finally, on November 25, 1944, the swords decoration was added to his Knights Cross for bravery in the face of the enemy and 230 victories. He was also promoted to Oberleutnant at this time.

On February 14, 1945, Otto Kittel took off to intercept a flight of Il-2's. Witnesses say that Kittel dove into a formation of 8 of the close-support aircraft. He damaged one but it did not go down, instead disappearing back over the Russian lines, on fire and in serious trouble. Kittel's Fw 190 A-8 "Black 1" (Wk. no. 960282) was hit by return fire from the other Il-2's and burst into flames. The aircraft plummeted to earth, trailing a long sheet of flame and smoke, where it crashed. Otto Kittel had no chance to take to his parachute. In the end, the long time adversary of Kittel finally got him.

Otto Kittel flew 583 combat missions and scored 267 kills, many of them Il-2's, making him the fourth highest scoring ace of all time. He started the war as an Unteroffizier and died as Staffelkapitan of 2./JG 54.

Above Plate © Claes Sundin 2002