Last Wartime rank: Hauptmann
Units: JG 27, JG 52
Theatres: Africa, Western
In 1942 the German Luftwaffe leaders decided to
station the first group of one of its most experienced fighter units, the
"Jagdgeschwader 27" (I./JG 27), in North Africa to support their
beleaguered Italian allies.
Amongst the pilots of the third "Staffel" of this
wing was a twenty year old from Berlin who distinguished himself in two
notable ways: his outstanding talent as an aviator, and his particularly
strong personality and disdain of formal military discipline. His name was
Hans-Joachim "Jochen" Marseille.
"Yellow 14" Bf109F-2 JG27
Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille, called the
"Star of Africa" shot down seven Curtiss Kittyhawk fighters within eleven
minutes in an incredible aerial fight over the northern Sahara desert.
"Star of Africa" captures the moment of Marseille's 150th victory on
September 15th 1942.
Marseille, who fought exclusively against (well
trained) RAF pilots, thus became the third fighter pilot at that time in
the war, whose record exceeded 150 aerial victories (158 total, 154 of
which were fighter aircraft).
With his famous "Yellow 14"Bf 109F-2
At the very beginning of his flying in Africa, Marseille got shot down by
a Hurricane flown by a Free French pilot. It made for him a very
unimpressive start. He settled in quickly, however, getting used to the
very different flying conditions, as compared to those in Europe.
Marseille practice dummy attacks on his cammaraten, seeking ways to shoot
quickly and accurately. He insisted on perfecting a deflection shot from
any given angle, using different speeds. Standard Jagdwaffe procedure was
to apply full throttle all the time. Here Marseille's unorthodox character
showed up again. Often he would throttle down to get to an attacking
position. During combat he also lowed his flaps, in order to decrease
radius of a turn. Eventually, he improved in the game of air combat,
developing an instinctive taste for it. Marseille always had to be on the
top. He was a very ambitious warrior who wanted to shoot down a lot of
aircraft. Flamboyant flyer, he also had a great need for being accepted
With tactics soon perfected, his score rose
dramatically. On February 22, 1942 he reached 50 (43 in forty weeks); 75
on June 5 (25 in fifteen weeks); and 101 on June 18 (26 in thirteen days),
clearly becoming very effective "killing machine" in its highest gear. On
June 15 he shot down 4 aircraft in three minutes. Two days later he score
6 in only ten minutes. It seemed, that he was always able to put himself
in an advantageous position when engaging enemy aircraft. Thanks to his
eyesight and hunter instinct he was able to see his opponents first. The
esteem and admiration of his colleagues began to rise quickly too. Many
tried to copy his routines but was not able to duplicate them.
Friedrich Körner (36 victories) commented: "Yeah, everybody knew nobody
could cope with him. Nobody could do the same. Some of the pilots tried
it, like Stahlschmidt, myself, and Rödel. He was an artist.