Fritz Hildebrandt - Grouping
I recently came into possession of a small grouping of items related to Feldwebel Fritz Hildebrandt, who served with
Jagdgruppe I/137 Bernburg. As shown below, the grouping consists of Hildebrandt's promotion document from
Unteroffizier to Feldwebel, one portrait of an unknown Luftwaffe soldier, one candid photograph of Hildebrandt in his flight
gear, a Feldpost letter written by a friend, Hildebrandt's wrist compass, his flying gauntlets, a wartime photo of an Si 202
Hummel (Bumble Bee) and an original, wartime painting of Hildebrandt. Of interest in the painting is that it shows
Hildebrandt displaying the NSFK C certificate for glider flight on his tunic and the collar rank of an Unteroffizier.
Above: The wartime oil painting showing Unteroffizier Fritz
Hildebrandt. His tunic displays the "C" certificate for gliders
from the NSFK, along with a ribbon bar for what appears to be
the Hindenburg Cross, and the Entry into the Sudentenland
Medal. The painting is housed in a period frame and is in very
Above: The profile of a Heinkel He51, aircraft 6, assigned to II./JG 232
while stationed at Bernburg Aerodrome. This is the art of R.N. Pearson, a well
published aviation artist. To view more work by R.N. Pearson, visit
Johannes Gentzen was born in 1906 and obtained flight training in the pre-war Germany. Once Adolf Hitler and the
Third Reich seized power, gentlemen like Gentzen were utilized to organize and train new Luftwaffe units. On May 1st,
1939, Hauptmann Gentzen was given command of JG102 stationed at Bernburg airfield. At the time, JG102 was
operating early Messerschmitt Me-109's, C and D models. In late August of 1939, JG102 was moved to Gross Stein
airfield Opeln. It was from this airfield that JG102 would make its first attacks on Poland at the start of the war.
For the first three days of the war the JG102 pilots had no luck and they failed to meet any Polish aircraft despite
having performed many sorties of close air support of both German medium bombers and Stukas dive-bombers. On
September 4th, 1939, Hauptmann Gentzen achieved both his unit's first, and his first air victory, downing a Polish PZL
P37B bomber at 9:30am. As time passed, Gentzen's continued to add to his list of air victories.
In February of 1940, JG102 was moved to Bonn, where it was equipped with the new two-engine Messerschmitt Bf-110C,
as well as a new squadron designator of I/ZG 2 (Zerstörergeschwader 2). At about the same time, Gentzen was
promoted to the rank of Major. In order to keep pace with the advancing ground forces, I./ZG 2 took up temporary
residence at Neufchateau airfield, in Belgium. On May 26, 1940, the Gruppe suffered a nuisance raid by a pair of RAF
Blenheims. Major Gentzen and his gunner, Obersleutenant Domeier raced for the squadrons one serviceable Bf-110 to
give chase to the fleeing RAF bombers. In their haste to make a quick take-off, neither man had strapped themselves in
properly. On take-off, the tail of the straining Bf-110 clipped the tops of the trees bordering the end of the airfield
and the aircraft cart-wheeled into the ground, killing the two occupants instantly. The Luftwaffe's first ace of WWII
had met his end. At the time of his death, Maj. Gentzen was credited with 18 air victories and was one of the leading
aces of the Luftwaffe at that time.
Maj. Gentzen was described as the most successful pilot of the Polish campaign, with his closest competition at the time
being Werner Molders, who went on to win the Knights Cross, and be the first Wehrmacht soldier awarded the oak
leaves, swords, and diamonds to his Knights Cross. Molders was later killed flying as the co-pilot in an He-111 that
crashed due to engine failure, while traveling to Berlin to attend the funeral of General Ernst Udet, on November 22,
Major Johannes Gentzen, from
a newspaper article published
|Feldwebel Fritz Hildebrandt & Major
Johannes Gentzen: A Luftwaffe airman and
Germany's First Ace of WWII
A simple Luftwaffe grouping of eight items, reveals an amazing find, an autograph from Germany's first ace of WWII.
Above: A candid photograph showing Fritz
Hildebrandt in his flight gear, holding his gauntlets
in his left hand. Most likely, the photograph was
taken prior to the start of the war.
Above: The letter from the Hildebrandt grouping. A detailed translation reads:
"Helwig, Bernberg, July 16, 1936
Sgt. in Fighter Group I/232
The following incident occurred with craft number 1440 on the grass strip in front of hangar 5 on July 16, 1936 at
Lt. Strümpell was seated in the aircraft. Corporal Gerst and airman Bauer handled the starting crank. Sgt.
Hildebrandt and I were also present. Sgt. Hildebrandt gave the "contact" signal, which was repeated by Lt. Strümpell.
Corporal Gerst and airman Bauer engaged the starter. At the same time, I turned the propeller to a horizontal
position. Sgt. Hildebrandt tried to grab the other propeller blade. At the same moment, I heard an "ouch" and Sgt.
Hildebrandt was on the ground; the propeller was an eighth of a turn lower.
The letter is a memo of an incident where Hildebrandt was involved in an accident while attempting to assist in the
starting of the engine of an HE-51. Nothing more is known about this incident, but it can be assumed that Hildebrandt
was not seriously injured in this accident.
Above: A pre-war photograph of an Si-202 Hummel (Bumble Bee), an
all wood, multi-purpose aircraft. The German national markings can
be seen on the tail of the aircraft, just over the top of the port wing.
An artists profile of an Si 202 below.
Above: A portrait photograph of an unknown
Luftwaffe Obergefreiter that was one of the
items in the Hildebrandt grouping. Could this
be Helwig who wrote the letter shown above?
Above: Hildebrandt's Luftwaffe promotion document,
advising him of his promotion from Unteroffizier to
Feldwebel. As shown on the document, at the time of
his promotion on July 4, 1938, Hildebrandt was
stationed at Bernburg, and was assigned to the 4th
Staffel of I/JG137. The Gruppenkommandeur for
JG137 at the time was Hauptmann Johannes "Hannes"
Gentzen. Haupt. Gentzen's signature as
Gruppenkommandeur can be seen clearly on the
document near the faint, Luftwaffe stamp.
|Major Johannes "Hannes" Gentzen:
Germany's First Ace of WWII
An Me-110C assigned to ZG2.
Squadron insignia of I/ZG2
Bernburg is a town in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, capital of the district of Salzlandkreis. It is situated on the
river Saale, approx. 30 km downstream from Halle. The town is dominated by its huge Renaissance castle
featuring a museum as well as a popular, recently updated bear pit in its moat.
A modern view of scenic and historic Bernburg.
Me-109c and d ("Cezars" and "Doras") models assigned to JG102, sit at Gross-Stein
airfield in August 1939, preparing for the invasion of Poland.
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Service. If you have a German wartime document you need translated, contact Jungco and tell them
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