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The Luftwaffe Fighter Aces at Feltwell

by Dan Engle

It was a sign of the changing post-war, Cold War climate, which brought about the need for a new German Air Force.  Fighter pilots were required to fly modern jets against a possible Soviet enemy.

Wartime Luftwaffe skill and ingenuity could not be ignored and the new air force, named the Bundesluftwaffe, included amongst its new recruits some of the top wartime German fighter aces.

In the autumn of 1956 former Luftwaffe Generals Herbert Wehnelt, Walter Krupinski and Gerhard Barkhorn joined the other cadets at No. 3FTS, Feltwell, for a flying refresher course.

 

L-R Major Gerhard Barkhorn, Col. Ray Toliver, Major Herbert Wehnelt, Major Walter Krupinski

 

KILLS - Wehnelt 36, Barkhorn 301, Krupinski 197

 

 

Although Pathe News made a short film about their visit it is doubtful that anyone in the village knew that the former enemy pilots were the men flying the Piston Provostís around Feltwell.  In wartime these three men had shot down 534 Allied Aircraft between them.  The top scorer in the group was Gerhard Barkhorn who alone had accounted for 301 Allied planes.  Many of their combats had been against Soviet aircraft on the Russian front and this must have been the main reason for their selection for the new Air Force.

 After leaving Feltwell the three Pilots were shipped out to the USA and completed their training on the new F-86 Sabre jets, an aircraft design based upon captured Luftwaffe technology.

Photo taken at Hitlerís house in Bavaria

L-R General Krupinski, General Barkhorn, Wiese, Hartmann

Most of the men had long service careers with the Bundesluftwaffe.  Major Gerhard Barkhorn who had been at Feltwell in 1956 retired 20 years later as a Generalleutnant. 

 

Film of the German pilots being trained at Feltwell can be viewed over the Internet on the Pathe News website ( www.britishpathe.com ) and by keying Feltwell into their search engine.

A short film taken at the time Sgt James Ward received his VC can be found on the same web site by keying in Wellington Bomber.

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