Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Barkhorn, Gerhard (1919–1983)

German air force officer and fighter pilot, the second-highest-scoring ace of World War II, with 301 victories. Born in Königsberg, East Prussia, on 20 March 1919, Gerhard Barkhorn joined the Luftwaffe in March 1938. On completion of his pilot training, he was posted to Staffel 3 (squadron), Jagdgeschwader (fighter wing) 2 (3.JG-2) in October 1939. In August 1940, he was transferred to JG-52 for the Battle of Britain. Barkhorn did not score his first victory until his one hundred and twentieth mission, on 1 July 1941. Within a year, his total stood at 60, and he was awarded the Knight's Cross and, six months later, in January 1943, the Oakleaves. On 23 January 1944, Barkhorn became the first Luftwaffe fighter pilot to have flown 1,000 combat missions and the second to reach 250 victories. For the latter feat, he was awarded the Swords to his Knight's Cross.

During his career, Barkhorn entered combat over 1,100 times. He was shot down nine times, bailed out once, and was wounded twice. On 31 May 1944, with 273 victories, he was well on his way to becoming the leading ace in the Luftwaffe when he was severely wounded in a dogfight. The four months he spent in the hospital allowed another JG-52 ace, Erich Hartmann, to surpass his record. Barkhorn scored his three hundred and first—and final—victory on 5 January 1945.

Barkhorn ended his wartime career as a major flying the Me-262 jet in JV-44, Major General Adolf Galland's "Squadron of Experts." Injuries from a crash landing took Barkhorn out of combat permanently on 21 April 1945. At the end of the war, he surrendered to the Americans and was held prisoner until September 1945.

Barkhorn's postwar career included service in the Federal Republic of Germany's air force from 1956 until his retirement as a major general in 1976. On 6 January 1983, he and his wife, Christl, were involved in a serious automobile accident near Köln (Cologne). Christl died at the scene, and Barkhorn died in the hospital in Köln on 8 January 1983.

M. R. Pierce


Further Reading
Spick, Mike. Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: The Jagdflieger and Their Combat Tactics and Techniques. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996.; Toliver, Raymond F., and Trevor J. Constable. Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe. Fallbrook, CA: Aero, 1977.
 

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