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Knight's Cross And Oak-Leaves Recipient Helmut Wick

Discussion in 'German WWII Medals and Awards' started by Jim, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Major Helmut Wick

    Helmut Wick was born in Mannheim in the State of Baden on 5 August 1915. Living near an airfield, he developed a fascination for flying at an early age. His intended career in forestry work came to an end when he joined the Luftwaffe in 1936 at the age of 21. He successfully completed all of his training, and was commissioned as a Leutnant in 1938. It is interesting to note that his flying instructor at one stage was none other than future ace Werner Molders.
    Wick was posted to Jagdgeschwader Richthofen in 1939, but saw no part in the Polish campaign as his squadron was tasked with the defence of Berlin. In May 1940, the Geschwader was moved to the Western Front, and Wick soon began to make a name for himself as a first-rate pilot. Within a month of arriving at the front, he became the leading ace of the Richthofen Geschwader with a tally of 12 air victories, and was awarded the Iron Cross First Class. Success also brought him promotion to Staffelkapitan of 3. Staffel/Jagdgeschwader Richthofen. Many of Wick's early victories were obsolete French aircraft but with the start of the Battle of Britain, Wick found himself in constant action against RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes. His score continued to rise though, and on 27 August 1940, after scoring his 20th victory, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. By 5 October, he had more than doubled his tally, bringing him the Oak-Leaves addition and promotion to the rank of Major at the age of just 25 - the youngest in the Luftwaffe to hold this rank. On 28 November, Wick scored his 55th victory, giving him the lead over even the legendary greats like Galland (52) and Molders (54).

    This fine study of Helmut Wick shows him as a major after having received the Oak-Leaves for his Knight's Cross. The Oak-Leaves were awarded (and Wick was promoted from Hauptmann) a mere 39 days after the award of the Knight's Cross. Wick was the youngest major in the Luftwaffe at this time.

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    That same day, he scored yet another victory in a high-altitude dogfight over the Isle of Wight, but during the course of the action, became separated from the other German pilots. He headed south for home in a long shallow dive. An RAF Spitfire had spotted him though, and attacked from the west with the sun behind. A hail of fire hit Wick's Messerschmitt as the Spitfire made an oblique pass, bullets ripping through his fuel tanks. Wick's controls were still responding but it was clear to him that the aircraft could not be saved. Another pass by the Spitfire saw the tail reduced to a shattered wreck. The joystick was jammed against his left leg as the aircraft, now out of control, began a series of spiralling stalls. The engine, starved of fuel, had stopped, producing an apprehensive silence as Wick struggled to reach the canopy release lever, leaving him helpless if the enemy decided to finish him off. Suddenly, the canopy released. Wick undid his harness and launched himself from the cockpit, seconds before the fumes from the ruptured fuel tanks ignited and blew the Messerschmitt apart. As he tumbled towards the cold waters of the English Channel, his wingman roared past, watching anxiously. His comrade was relieved to see Wick's parachute eventually open and lower him gently into the sea. It was, however, becoming darker and colder. There was little his wingman could do but return to base and report Wick's safe exit from his aircraft.
    Wick was never found and is presumed to have drowned at sea. His rise to 'expert' status had been meteoric. In just over seven months he had gone from a novice pilot to being one of the top aces of his time, shooting down a total of 56 enemy aircraft.
     
  2. History-buff1944

    History-buff1944 New Member

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    Nice thread in Wick. I have a great photo of him standing with Hitler at the Berghof just after Der Fuhrer awarded him his Oaks. Wick disappeared not long after that photo was taken.
     

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