Hans-Joachim Marseille

Last Wartime rank: Hauptmann
Units: JG 27, JG 52

Theatres: Africa, Western

Kills: 158

151 (A)

7 (W)

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

Some Notes:

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 and appreciated.

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.