Hans-Joachim Marseille

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hans-Joachim Marseille
Hans-Joachim Marseille.jpg
Portrait of Marseille mid-1942
Nickname Stern von Afrika (Star of Africa)
Birth date 13 December 1919(1919-12-13)
Place of birth Charlottenburg, Free State of Prussia, Weimar Republic
Death date 30 September 1942 (aged 22)
Place of death near Sidi Abdel Rahman, Kingdom of Egypt
Resting place Heroes Cemetery in Derna, Libya
Memorial Gardens at Tobruk (reinterred)
Allegiance  National Socialist Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe eagle.jpg Luftwaffe
Years of service 1938–1942
Rank Hauptmann (Captain)
Unit I.(Jagd)/LG 2, II./JG 52 and I./JG 27
Commands held
3. Staffel/I. Gruppe/JG 27
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds

Hans-Joachim "Jochen" Walter Rudolf Siegfried Marseille (b. 13 December 1919[1] in Charlottenburg near Berlin, Free State of Prussia; 30 September 1942 near Sidi Abdel Rahman, Kingdom of Egypt) was a German officer of the Wehrmacht, finally Hauptmann (captain) of the Luftwaffe and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds in WWII. The flying ace (Flieger-As) is noted for his aerial battles during the North African Campaign (Afrikafeldzug) and his Bohemian lifestyle.

Marseille claimed all but seven of his 158 victories (Luftsiege)[2] during his 382 combat missions (Feindflüge) against enemy fighters of the British Commonwealth's Desert Air Force over North Africa, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter for his entire combat career. No other pilot claimed as many Western Allied aircraft as Marseille. The "Star of Africa" is therefore considered by many as the greatest fighter pilot of all times – all before the age of twenty-three. Exceptional deflection shooting was his outstanding characteristic, using an average of only 15 rounds to down an enemy aircraft, never more than 60. He achieved 17 kills in a day on 1 September 1942, only Leutnant Emil Lang would surpass this record with 18 kills on 3 November 1943, although against the inferior Red Air Force of the Soviets. Marseille advocated chivalry and never attacked a pilot suspended beneath his parachute. He once delivered a message to an Allied airfield (at great risk) to let them know, one or their own had been shot down but was safe. Marseille remained undefeated until his accidental death in 1942 with his new Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2/trop "Yellow 14".


Ingeborg "Inge" and Hans-Joachim "Jochen" Marseille (to the right as young sailors)
The "Yellow 14" in a dogfight over North Africa
Hans-Joachim Marseille appeared four times in the Deutsche Wochenschau. The first time on Wednesday, 17 February 1942, when Oberst Adolf Galland, the acting General der Jagdflieger, visited an airport in the desert. The second time on Wednesday, 1 July 1942, when Marseille travelled to Rastenburg to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords from Adolf Hitler. The third time on Wednesday, 9 September 1942, announcing Marseille's 17 aerial victories from 1 September 1942 and that he had been awarded the Diamonds to his Knight's Cross. His last appearance dates from Wednesday, 30 September 1942, showing Hauptmann Marseille visiting Erwin Rommel.
Hans-Joachim Marseille, who was classically trained in piano, on leave at home by his mother.
Der Adler, Spanish edition
One of the last official pictures of the "Star of Africa"
On his last leave in Germany, Hanne-Lies had given Marseille a scarf (left), which he kept wrapped around his neck as a good luck talisman.
Marseille (left) with batman (orderly) and friend Offizierbursche Mathew "Mathias" P. Letulu (d. c 1994); Letuku (right), alias Mathias to everyone in JG 27, was a black South African soldier taken prisoner of war by German troops on the morning of 21 June 1941 at fortress Tobruk.[3] Mathias initially worked as a volunteer driver with 3. Staffel then befriended Marseille who made him his domestic helper in Africa rather than allow him to be sent to a prisoner of war camp in Europe. Over time, Marseille and Reichsneger Mathias became inseparable. Marseille was concerned how Mathias would be treated by other units of the Wehrmacht and once remarked "Where I go, Mathias goes." After Marseille's death, Mathias had placed a chain of 158 shells (one shell for each aerial victory) on the coffin of the "Star of Africa".

“Through few odd twists of fate Hans had Mathew assigned to his personal assistant but he treated him in every way like a friend, having long talks with him and possibly even sharing alcohol and listening to music together, just hanging out like a couple of friends who happened to be in a war and on different sides. Besides Mathew, Hans would often see other captured Allied pilots and talk to them in English and socialise."[4]

After the departure of JG 27 from Africa, Mathias came with it to Germany and was posted to Greece with the Luftwaffe squadron in mid-September 1943. In 1944, Major Ludwig "Zirkus" Franzisket, recipient of the Knight's Cross, had him smuggled into a prisoner of war camp so that he would survive and not be executed by the British as a "traitor" after the war, which was not uncommon for Africans who were previously in British service and then as volunteers served with the Germans. At his request, Franzisket had promised his friend Marseille while he was still alive that he would take care of Mathias in the event of his death, which he did with honor despite the great risk to himself.

At the 16th federal meeting of the Association of German Africa Corps (VDAK) in Stuttgart on 1 and 2 September 1984, Mathias (Mathew P. Letuku), the faithful comrade-in-arms of Hans-Joachim Marseille, was invited by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany as a guest of honor, where he could meet comrades of Jagdgeschwader 27 again. On 22 October 1989, Eduard "Edu" Neumann and other former JG 27 personnel, in co-operation with the Egyptian government, erected a new pyramid for Marseille in Sidi Abd el-Rahman, Egypt with a commemoration plaque. The ceremony was of course also attended by Mathew "Mathias" Letulu, among many others.
Der Stern von Afrika, German motion picture, 1957
On 24 October 1975, the Bundeswehr-Luftwaffe's Uetersen-Appen Barracks was renamed the "Marseille Barracks" (Marseille-Kaserne)

As a child, Hans-Joachim was physically weak, and he nearly died from a serious case of Spanish flu (influenza). When Marseille was still a young child his parents divorced and his mother subsequently married a police official named Reuter. Marseille initially assumed the name of his stepfather at school (a matter he had a difficult time accepting) but reverted to using his father's name of Marseille in adulthood. Marseille attended the 12th Volksschule in Berlin (1926–1930), and from the age of 10, the Prinz-Heinrich-Gymnasium in Berlin-Schöneberg (1930–1938). As his brother Hans-Rudolf Marseille stated, Marseille first applied as a officer candidate of the Kriegsmarine, but was rejected because of his physical constitution. After he successfully completed his Abitur in easter 1938, he completed his mandatory Reich Labour Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst; RAD) between April and September 1938. Before this, he had already applied for the Luftwaffe, and, with the help of his father, was accepted. Normally, RAD duty was for one year, future military members were only obliged to serve six months. In October 1938, he spent his time in Berlin with his beloved sister Ingeborg "Inge" and various female companions visiting concerts, cinemas and shows. He also ran and exercised daily, knowing, basic training would be hard. His superiors wrote him a good report in his documents.

Marseille joined the Luftwaffe on 7 November 1938. His first station was Quedlinburg in the Harz region where he received his military basic training as a Luftwaffe recruit. On 1 March 1939, Marseille was transferred to the LKS 4 air war school (Luftkriegsschule) in Fürstenfeldbruck. Among his classmates was Werner Schröer.[5] He learned to fly at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 (JFS 5). At age 20 he graduated the Luftwaffe's fighter pilot school just in time to participate in the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. He initially served in fighter wing 52 (Jagdgeschwader 52) under Johannes Steinhoff (176 victories). In his third combat sortie he shot down a Spitfire and by the end of the Battle of Britain he had seven victories, but he was also shot down four times, and his behavior on the ground got him into trouble. A charming person, he had such busy night life that sometimes he was too tired to be allowed to fly the next morning. As a result, he was transferred to another unit as a punishment for "insubordination". His new unit, fighter wing 27 (Jagdgeschwader 27), was relocated in April 1941 to the hot desert of North Africa, where he quickly achieved two more victories, but was also shot down again and still had disciplinary problems.

His family name was due to the fact that his paternal ancestors were among the Huguenot refugees who fled religious persecution in France many generations prior. To those closest to him, he was known by his nickname "Jochen". His parents divorced when he was still young, and he remained with his mother, using his step-father's name, Reuter briefly on his school records before reverting to his original family name. He took interest to music as a child, and he was classically trained in piano; this interest would continue even after the start of his military career, as shown by his large records collection, most of which were of the American Jazz genre. [...] He was a rebellious teen, driven in whatever interested him at the time but lazy with the mundane. Between Mar and Aug 1938, he fulfilled his mandatory service with the Reich Labor Service, and in Oct 1938 he began basic infantry training. Although he and his father were never close, Siegfried Marseille, a military officer, was the one who helped him secure flight training after the younger Marseille expressed interest. He received flight training at Jagdfliegerschule 5 flight school in Schwechat, Austria. Although he excelled both academically and in the cockpit, his rebelliousness nature caused his record to be tainted with a great many reprimands. On a few occasions he was found drunk just before flight, which was a dismissal offense, and once he landed on the autobahn without authorization just because he needed to urinate, knowing well that it could lead to a court martial. Nevertheless, he graduated from flight training in Jul 1940, just in time to participate in the air battle over Britain. Marseille's first kill was achieved on 24 Aug 1940, merely two weeks after being assigned to a front line squadron; the victim was a British Hurricane Mk I fighter which he shot down over Kent, England, United Kingdom after having abandoned his wingman to pursue this target. After he returned from the mission, his commanding officer Oberleutnant Herbert Ihlefeld congratulated him on the first kill as well as reprimanded him for having abandoned his wingman. This would be the first of many exhibits of Marseille being a great fighter pilot yet a very poor team player. His rebelliousness continued while stationed in France. More than once, he stole his commanding officer's vehicle to drive into town to pick up girls. Even more daringly, he became romantically involved with the daughter of a local Nazi Party official; after the official had learned of it, Marseille only got away with it because his superior chose to play dumb with confronted with the party official. It was said that Marseille's bedroom conquests included a German general's wife, a Hungarian Countess, singer Nilla Pizzi, actress Zarah Leander, and many others. In 1941, Oberleutnant Johannes Steinhoff finally grew intolerant of the undisciplined Marseille and successfully transferred him to another unit in North Africa. In retrospect, this transfer allowed Marseille to change from a good fighter pilot to a larger-than-life figure. "If there had been girls in Africa, I do not think he would have had such success", Steinhoff would later say, concluding that the lack of girls, bars, and distractions of that type allowed him to concentrate on the war. [...] Marseille's performance as a fighter pilot shined brighter by the day, not only regularly scoring multiple kills during each sortie, but he also amazingly spent very little ammunition with each kill. Perhaps reflecting chivalrous values of a prior era, he always aimed at the engines of his victims and avoided shooting at the cockpits, so that his victims would have a greater chance of survival. On more than one occasion, as he noticed that his victims became wounded or could not see out of their cockpit windows, he would fly alongside the enemy aircraft in an attempt to guide his victims to a potential safe crash landing. He had also made several flights over enemy airfields, risking being shot down by anti-aircraft defenses in order to deliver messages about the fate of Allied pilots who were shot down in battle. Two such flights were made for Australian pilot Lieutenant Pat Byers, with the first flight made to inform his squadron mates that Byers was shot down but was under the care of German doctors, and the second flight delivering a message of condolence that Byers had passed away from his wounds several days later. Marseille's status as a successful pilot brought him some exposure to top level German leaders. While most others at comparable lowly ranks would be on their best behaviors when meeting such political celebrities, that just would not be Marseille. Having known that Marseille had extensive classical piano training, he was asked to play for Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Arthur Axmann, Erhard Milch, and others dignitaries in Germany in Jun 1942. [...] While serving in Libya, Marseille had several sorties during which he performed superbly, but his achievements on 1 Sep 1942 would go down as his greatest in his short career. On that day, he flew three sorties and had 17 confirmed kills. While his squadron mates celebrated with Marseille, who was extremely exhausted from the over-excitement, German leaders from the highest ranks called in to congratulate him. For his achievements on this day, he was nominated to receive the coveted Diamonds to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross medal. While he knew it was a great honor, he knew that once he had his hands on this decoration, there was a good chance that he would be recalled to Germany to serve in morale-raising roles. Such a transfer would remove him from his fellow pilots and his good friend Mathias. Mathias was the nickname given to South African prisoner of war Corporal Mathew Letulu, who Marseille had taken on initially as his servant, but very quickly became a close friend. Marseille knew that as his kill score grew, the chance of him being pulled from the front lines increased every day, and if he was to be taken away, Mathias, who was black, might be in danger given the Nazi racial philosophy. With utmost seriousness, he had his fellow pilot Ludwig Franzisket promise to become Mathias' protector should Marseille lose the capability to be in that role. On 30 Sep 1942, Marseille's brilliant 158-kill career came to an end. After the engine of his Bf 109 G fighter developed serious trouble, he bailed from the aircraft close to friendly territory under the watchful eyes of his squadron mates. To their horror, Marseille's fighter unexpected fell at a steep angle, the vertical stabilizer striking him across the chest and hip. He either was killed at that moment or was knocked unconscious; in either case, his parachute did not deploy, and he struck the ground at about 1142 hours at about 7 kilometers south of Sidi Abdel Rahman, Egypt. Franzisket, along with the squadron surgeon Dr. Winkelmann, were the first two to arrive on the scene, bringing Marseille's remains back to the base. Mathias was the first to greet them, having already heard the bad news. While the entire squadron was devastated, Mathias, despite having known Marseille only for a short time, was deeply depressed at the loss of a dear friend; Mathias would survive the war under the protection of Franzisket. Marseille was initially buried in a German military cemetery in Derna, Libya during a ceremony which was attended by leaders such as Albert Kesselring and Eduard Neumann.[6]


On 9 December 1940, Oberleutnant Rudolf Resch confined Marseille to his room for five days for calling a fellow pilot a "goofy sow" (dußlige Sau). As punishment for "insubordination"—rumoured to be his penchant for American jazz music, womanising and an overt "playboy" lifestyle—and inability to fly as a wingman. Johannes Steinhoff transferred Marseille to Jagdgeschwader 27 on 24 December 1940. Steinhoff later recalled:

"Marseille was extremely handsome. He was a very gifted pilot, but he was unreliable. He had girl friends everywhere, and they kept him so busy that he was sometimes so worn out that he had to be grounded. His sometime irresponsible way of conducting his duties was the main reason I fired him. But he had irresistible charm."

His new Gruppenkommandeur, Eduard "Edu" Neumann, later recalled:

"His hair was too long and he brought with him a list of disciplinary punishments as long as your arm. He was tempestuous, temperamental and unruly. Thirty years later, he would have been called a playboy."

Nevertheless, Neumann quickly recognised Marseille's potential as a pilot. He stated in an interview:

"Marseille could only be one of two, either a disciplinary problem or a great fighter pilot."

One of his "friendships", it is rumored, was with Zarah Leander, who was a singer and actress born in 1907. There was also Leni Riefenstahl, an actress who was born in 1902. Adolf Galland, General der Jagdflieger, wrote after the war:

"Marseille was the unrivalled virtuoso among the fighter pilots of World War 2. His achievements had previously been regarded as impossible and they were never excelled by anyone after his death."

Though military standards of behavior were much higher than they had been for Marseille in lower school, his basic training classmates described the same laziness and disregard for the rules that he had displayed as a child – though this time they reported being in awe of him as well. Major Werner Schröer, a fellow fighter pilot and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, recalled being amazed while watching him fly:

“He was the most amazing and ingenious combat pilot I ever saw. He was also very lucky on many occasions. He thought nothing of jumping into a fight outnumbered ten to one, often alone, with us trying to catch up to him. He violated every cardinal rule of fighter combat. He abandoned all the rules.”

His three trusty wingmen (Rottenflieger) were: Oberfeldwebel Pöttgen (d. c 1995), Karl Mentnich and Josef Schlang. Benito Mussolini conferred the Italian Gold Medal for Valor to Marseille for his 1941 Mediterranean service.

Marseille's self-training program

The Hans-Joachim Marseille that emerged from this self-training program was a fighter pilot with superior abilities. He saw enemy aircraft before others did and from greater distances, he could sustain higher G-Force and for longer durations, he made unbelievably sharp turns and generally achieved better performance with the Bf 109 than others. He greatly outmaneuvered his enemies, nullifying the significant numerical advantage they had, often becoming "invisible" to the enemy pilots by maneuvering so fast, and using his high-deflection short range firing method he achieved an amazing record of lethality, shooting down enemy aircraft with just 15 gun rounds on average.[7]

  • Vision: Marseille decided to adapt his eyes to the powerful desert sun and the dry desert atmosphere and to adapt his body to the desert's conditions. He stopped wearing sun glasses, deliberately exposed his eyes to the desert sun, and shifted from alcohol to milk. He also noticed that in the intensely lit dry desert atmosphere, aircraft can be detected from greater distances than over Europe and deduced that hiding and surprise are less practical over the desert than in the cloudy sky over Europe.
  • G-Force: Marseille worked endlessly to strengthen his abdominal and leg muscles in order to enhance his ability to sustain higher G-Force and for longer durations during dogfights better than the average fighter pilot. G-Force is the enormous centrifugal force experienced when a fighter aircraft makes sharp turns during dogfight. The modern G-suit that helps pilots sustain it was not yet invented in World War 2, although the Fliegerkombination was flame retardant and windproof.
  • Aerobatics: Marseille used every opportunity to perform breathtaking aerobatics (Kunstflug). In addition to free entertainment to his friends on the ground, this also gave him an outstanding control and confidence in extremely maneuvering his Messerschmitt Bf 109 aircraft.
  • Marksmanship: Marseille spent his unused ammunition practicing firing at ground objects and trained a lot not just in plain strafing but also in high deflection shooting while in a sharp turn, which is much harder.
  • Intelligence: He began to read every possible intelligence information he could find in order to maximize his knowledge and understanding of the enemy.
  • Tactics: That's where Marseille marked himself as a great innovator of air warfare, and he kept improving. He claimed that in the perfect visual conditions over the desert, large formations are in a visual disadvantage against highly maneuvering single aircraft. He preferred to fight alone, with a single wingman providing warnings from a safe distance. He steted that when fighting alone in a short range dogfight, he could quickly fire at anything he saw, while the attacked formation's pilots were confused, hesitated, and switched to a defensive position that further increased the lone attacker's chances. He also claimed that fighting alone eliminates the high risk of firing at or colliding with a wingman in such extreme maneuvering. Marseille said that in such conditions, there's a lower chance and too little time for the usual chase attack method, and preferred to use high angle deflection firing from short range while making a sharp turn. In doing so, he never used his gun sight and instead fired a very short burst at the passing target in the split second when its leading edge, its propeller, disappeared from his eyes behind his aircraft's nose. He calculated that when firing a short burst at this position, his gun rounds will hit the target's engine and cockpit, and he trained in this unorthodox aiming method on his friends (without firing) many times and perfected his ability to use it. He deduced that over the desert, a fighter pilot can become "invisible" only by extreme maneuvers at close range, and that the intensity of the maneuvering was more important than the speed of flying.
His combat skills were beyond extraordinary and defy words yet the authors have found ways to write about them and quite well. They use time marks which show how Marseille would fling himself into a dogfight or dissect a Lufbery circle (a defensive two-dimensional fighter tactic) aircraft-by-aircraft in a matter of only a few minutes (less than five). Incredible as it seems, Marseille developed a unique tactic to shoot down aircraft which had entered into a Lufbery formation by fighting in three dimensions. He also flew the aircraft in an “uncoordinated” fashion when needed as the true masters can do in aerial combat. Often executing maneuvers on the verge of stalling (nearly simultaneously rolling, stomping on the rudder, chopping throttle, pulling flaps and gear, changing throttle) he could bring his guns to bear for the moment needed. Luftwaffe records tell how most of their pilots expended 80–120 rounds per kill as rounds were walked into the target – but Marseille’s average was amazingly few, just fifteen per victory! He often returned from heavy combat with half his ammunition load yet having shot several aircraft down. Simply extraordinary.[8]


  • 7 Nov 1938 Marseille was accepted into flight training and was given the rank of Flieger.
  • 1 Nov 1939 Marseille reported to Jagdfliegerschule 5 in Schwechat, Austria for training and was given the rank of Fähnrich.
  • 18 Jul 1940 Marseille completed flight training at Jagdfliegerschule 5 in Schwechat, Austria.
  • 10 Aug 1940 Marseille was assigned to I. (Jagd-) Gruppe/Lehrgeschwader 2 based in Marck on the northern coast of France.
  • 24 Aug 1940 Marseille scored his first kill, a British Hurricane Mk I fighter, over Kent, England, United Kingdom. While he was congratulated by his commanding officer, he was also reprimanded because he achieved the kill after abandoning his wingman to pursue the target. Later that evening, in his diary, he noted great sadness when he thought about the enemy pilot's mother not being able to see her son again.
  • 2 Sep 1940 Marseille shot down a British Spitfire fighter, his second kill, over Kent, England, United Kingdom. He received minor damage in the engagement and ran out of fuel, but successfully crash landed on a beach near Calais, France.
  • 11 Sep 1940 Marseille scored his third kill when he shot down a British Hurricane fighter over the French coast at 1705 hours. His fighter received heavy damage and he was forced to crash land at Wissant, France.
  • 15 Sep 1940 Marseille scored his fourth kill, a British Hurricane fighter, over southeastern London, England, United Kingdom.
  • 18 Sep 1940 Marseille scored his fifth kill, a British Spitfire fighter, over Dover, England, United Kingdom.
  • 27 Sep 1940 Marseille shot down his 6th kill, a British Hurricane fighter, over London, England, United Kingdom. In doing so, he abandoned his duty as wingman to flight leader Staffelkapitän Adolf Buhl, and Buhl would happen to be shot down in combat in this engagement.
  • 28 Sep 1940 Marseille shot down his 7th kill, a British Spitfire fighter, over the English Channel. His fighter received damage in the engagement, but he was able to crash land in France.
  • 16 Jan 1941 Marseille began a period of rest at home in Berlin, Germany.
  • 20 Feb 1941 Marseille returned to his unit at Berck-sur-Mer, France.
  • 2 Apr 1941 Marseille shot down a Hurricane fighter near Tobruk, Libya at 1250 hours.
  • 23 Apr 1941 Marseille scored his 8th kill, a British Hurricane II fighter, over Tobruk, Libya during the morning sortie. In the afternoon sortie, he was shot down and safely landed in German territory.
  • 28 Apr 1941 Marseille shot down his 8th kill, a British Blenheim light bomber, over the water off Tobruk, Libya.
  • 1 May 1941 Marseille shot down his 10th and 11th kills, two British Hurricane fighters, while escorting German Stuka dive bombers to Tobruk, Libya.
  • 14 Jun 1941 Marseille suffered damage in the engine of his fighter and was forced to crash land in friendly territory in Libya. He returned to based, took off in another fighter, and later was shot down once again, and again was able to crash land and escape unharmed.
  • 16 Jun 1941 Marseille suffered heavy damage with his fighter while in combat in North Africa. Unable to see due to oil-smeared windscreen, he still landed successfully, guided down over the radio by his Rottenflieger Pöttgen.
  • 17 Jun 1941 Marseille shot down two Hurricane fighters over Halfaya Pass in Egypt while escorting Stuka dive bombers; they were his 12th and 13th kills.
  • 18 Jun 1941 Marseille was granted medical leave; he would depart Libya for Berlin, Germany shortly.
  • 25 Aug 1941 Marseille returned to Ain el Gazala, Libya from his home leave in Berlin, Germany.
  • 28 Aug 1941 On his first combat mission after returning from home leave to recover from dysentery, Hans-Joachim Marseille shot down a South African Air Force Hurricane fighter flown by Lieutenant V. F. Williams northwest of Sidi Barrani; it was his 14th kill. Marseille's adversaries were 12 Hurricanes of No. 1 Squadron SAAF. Williams fighter crashed into the sea. Although wounded, he was rescued.
  • 9 Sep 1941 Marseille shot down a Hurricane fighter over the Bay of Sollum in the morning, his 15th kill. In the afternoon, on another mission, he shot down another Hurricane fighter, the 16th kill, while escorting Stuka dive bombers toward Bardia, Libya.
  • 11 Sep 1941 Marseille claimed shooting down a South African Maryland bomber over Libya, but the kill was not confirmed by a witness. Under strict German rules, it therefore didn't count.
  • 13 Sep 1941 Marseille shot down a British Hurricane fighter over Sofafi, Libya, his 17th kill. The Hurricane fighter was flown by Sergeant Nourse.
  • 14 Sep 1941 Marseille shot down the Australian Hurricane fighter flown by Lieutenant Pat Byers over Bardia, Libya, his 18th kill.
  • 16 Sep 1941 Without authorization, Marseille flew over an Australian airfield in Libya, amidst anti-aircraft fire, to deliver a message that pilot Lieutenant Pat Byers, whom he shot down two days prior, was being treated at a German hospital in Libya.B yers had survived, but was badly burned. A couple of weeks later, two Bf 109s flew through AA fire and dropped another note, stating that Byers had died of his wounds.
  • 24 Sep 1941 Marseille shot down a Maryland bomber and five Hurricane fighters near Buq Buq, Egypt, his 19th through 24th kills. Among his victims were South African Captain C. A. van Vliet, South African Second Lieutenant J. Mac Robert, South African Lieutenant B. E. Dodd, and New Zealand Pilot Officer D. F. Westenra.
  • 12 Oct 1941 Marseille scored his 24th and 25th kills as he shot down P-40 fighters piloted by Flying Officer H. G. Roberts and Sergeant Derek Scott over Bir Sheferzan, Libya. He also damaged another P-40 fighter on this day.
  • 15 Oct 1941 Marseille arrived at Munich-Riem Airfield in Germany to be introduced to the new Bf 109 E-7 and Bf 109 F-4 variant designs.
  • 3 Dec 1941 Marseille returned to his unit at Ain el Gazala, Libya after duties in Germany.
  • 5 Dec 1941 Marseille shot down a British Hurricane fighter while escorting Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers south of Bir el Gubi Libya at 1525 hours. It was his 26th kill.
  • 6 Dec 1941 Marseille shot down two Hurricane fighters, his 27th and 28th kills, over El Adem, Libya at 1210 and 1225 hours.
  • 7 Dec 1941 Marseille shot down a British Hurricane fighter, his 29th kill, at 0930 hours near Sidi Omar, Libya.
  • 8 Dec 1941 Marseille shot down a P-40 fighter, his 30th kill, over El Adem, Libya at 0845 hours.
  • 10 Dec 1941 Marseille shot down the South African P-40 fighter piloted by Lieutenant B. G. S. Enslin near El Adem, Libya at 0850 hours. It was his 31st kill.
  • 11 Dec 1941 Marseille shot down the British P-40 fighter piloted by Canadian Flight Sergeant M. A. Canty southeast of El Adem, Libya. It was his 32nd kill.
  • 13 Dec 1941 Marseille, who celebrated his 22nd brithday on this day, scored his 33rd and 34th kills, both South African P-40 fighters, when he shot down Flying Officer Thomas Trimble and either Lieutenant Connel or Lieutenant Meek northeast of Tmimi, Libya at 1600 and 1610 hours.
  • 17 Dec 1941 Marseille scored his 35th and 36th kills as he shot down two South African Hurricane fighters southeast of Derna, Libya at 1100 and 1128 hours; he also damaged another enemy fighter in combat. Later in the day, Albert Kesselring personally presented him the German Cross in Gold.
  • 25 Dec 1941 Eduard Neumann ordered Marseille to depart Libya for Athens, Greece (changing the destination from Rome, Italy as originally planned) for rest due to the symptoms of sickness Marseille exhibited.
  • 27 Dec 1941 Marseille arrived in Athens, Greece for treatment for malaria, jaundice, amoebic dysentery, and gastroenteritis.
  • 28 Dec 1941 While in Athens, Greece, Hans-Joachim Marseille received a short telegram from his mother stating that his sister, Ingeborg, was dead, asking him to return to Berlin, Germany.
  • 22 Jan 1942 Marseille was medically discharged from a hospital near Berlin, Germany.
  • 24 Jan 1942 Marseille departed Berlin, Germany.
  • 27 Jan 1942 Marseille arrived in Athens, Greece.
  • 28 Jan 1942 Marseille arrived in Sicily, Italy.
  • 30 Jan 1942 Marseille arrived in Benghazi, Libya.
  • 6 Feb 1942 Marseille returned to his unit at Martuba, Libya.
  • 8 Feb 1942 While in landing pattern at Martuba airfield in Libya, Marseille in his Bf 109 fighter encountered five Hurricane fighters that tried to jump him; he was able to break off from his landing approach, out-maneuver his attackers, and shot down two of them in return (his 37th and 38th kills). Later in the day, several British Blenheim bombers, escorted by P-40 and Hurricane fighters, attacked Martuba; Marseille shot down two of the fighters, bringing his score to 40 kills. At the end of the day, against orders, he flew over an enemy airfield to drop a note that stated Flight Sergeant Hargreaves (his 37th kill) was captured and uninjured; this personal mission led to Marseille being grounded by his commanding officer Gerhard Homuth.
  • 12 Feb 1942 Eduard Neumann lifted the grounding order against Hans-Joachim Marseille, and Marseille was able to participate in a mission that led to the scoring of four kills northwest of Tobruk, Libya, consisted of 1 Hurricane and 3 P-40 fighters, bringing his score to 44 kills.
  • 13 Feb 1942 Marseille shot down a Hurricane fighter at 0920 hours and another at 0925 hours east of Tobruk, Libya, which were his 45th and 46th kills. He later met his 46th victim, South African pilot Lieutenant Le Roux, after the engagement.
  • 15 Feb 1942 While escorting German bombers over Gambut, Libya, Marseille spotted enemy fighters taking off from a nearby airfield to challenge them. He would shoot down two P-40 fighters, Flight Sergeant Frank Reid at 1300 hours as his 47th kill and Flight Officer P. J. Briggs at 1303 hours as his 48th kill.
  • 21 Feb 1942 Marseille shot down two P-40 fighters in the Gambut and Fort Acroma area in Libya at 1210 hours and 1218 hours; they were his 49th and 50th kills.
  • 22 Feb 1942 Marseille was officially awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his score of 50 kills, but the medal would not be presented to him until two days later.
  • 23 Feb 1942 Marseille was informed taht he was to be awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor of Italy.
  • 24 Feb 1942 Marseille was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross medal by Albert Kesselring at Martuba airfield, Libya. The citation of the award was dated 22 Feb 1942, two days prior.
  • 27 Feb 1942 Marseille shot down two P-40 fighters, his 51st and 52nd kill, near Ain el Gazala, Libya. His victims were Sergeant Roger Jennings and Pilot Officer Richard Hart.
  • 28 Feb 1942 Marseille arrived in Berlin, Germany for a period of home leave.
  • 24 Apr 1942 Marseille returned to his unit at Martuba, Libya after a period of home leave.
  • 25 Apr 1942 Marseille shot down two fighters north of Ain el Gazala, Libya, first piloted by Squadron Leader Osgood Hanbury (his 53rd kill) and the second piloted by Sergeant Wareham (his 54th kill).
  • 6 May 1942 Marseille received temporary command of the squadron 3. Staffel/I. Gruppe/JG 27.
  • 10 May 1942 Marseille shot down two South African Hurricane fighters, Captain Cobbledick at 0913 hours and Lieutenant Flesker at 0915 hours, southeast of Martuba, Libya, raising his kill score to 56.
  • 13 May 1942 Marseille shot down two Australian P-40 fighters, Sergeant Colin McDiarmid at 1010 hours and Flying Officer H. G. Pace at 1015 hours, near Ain el Gazala, Libya, raising his kill score to 58. Marseille's aircraft was damaged during this engagement, but he was able to fly his fighter back to base, overheated (from loss of engine oil) and with unbalanced propeller. His fighter would be out of action for two days for repairs.
  • 16 May 1942 Marseille shot down two Australian P-40 fighters, Sergeant T. V. Teede at 1805 hours and Pilot Officer Dudley Parker at 1815 hours, near Ain el Gazala, Libya, raising his kill score to 60. When Parker's fighter went down, it crashed into another fighter piloted by W. J. Metherall, causing Metherall to crash and become killed; this was not witnessed by the Germans and thus did not count toward Marseille's score.
  • 19 May 1942 Marseille shot down two P-40s. These were Kittyhawks from No. 450 Squadron RAAF. The Kittyhawk I AK842, piloted by Flight Sergeant Ivan Young, was hit in the engine. Young crash-landed without injury to himself; his fighter was destroyed by a resultant fire. Young managed to make it back to Allied lines.
  • 23 May 1942 Marseille shot down two Baltimore bombers over Tobruk, Libya at 0720 and 0730 hours. The Mk I Martin Baltimores were from No. 223 Squadron RAF. Four Baltimores attacked the airport at Derna, without a fighter escort and three (AG703, AG708 and AG717) were shot down. The fourth bomber crash-landed on its return flight. I./JG 27 claimed four aerial victories that day.
  • 30 May 1942 Hans-Joachim Marseille shot down the RAF P-40 fighter piloted by Australian Flight Sergeant George Buckland at 0605 hours over El Adem, Libya, which was his 65th kill. After the mission, he drove to the site of the crash after hearing from his comrades that his victim bailed but the parachute did not open; he found the remains, retrieved identification papers, and made a flight over a British airfield to let the British know what happened to Buckland.
  • 31 May 1942 Marseille shot down the P-40 fighter piloted by Major Andre Duncan at 0726 hours near Fort Acroma, Libya. Two minutes later, he shot down his first victim's wingman. At 0734 hours, he scored his third kill of the day. His score stood at 68 by the end of this date.
  • 1 Jun 1942 Marseille shot down the P-40 fighter piloted by British Pilot Officer Collet over Gadd el Ahmar, Libya; it was his 69th kill.
  • 3 Jun 1942 Marseille engaged in the longest single aerial battle of his career over Bir Hacheim, Libya, shooting down six P-40 fighters (at 1222 hours, 1225 hours, 1227 hours, 1228 hours, 1229 hours, and 1233 hours), pushing his score up to 75. He used up only 12 cannon rounds and about 360 machine gun rounds in this fight.
  • 6 Jun 1942 Marseille originally received orders that he was to be sent back to Germany to be awarded Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, but on this date Albert Kesselring would personally arrive in Libya to deliver the citation (without the physical award). On the same day, he was ordered to prepare to become commanding officer of the 3rd squadron (3. Staffel/I. Gruppe/JG 27). The Oak Leaves were never presented to Marseille because a few days later he had already received the Swords and Oak Leaves.
    • His attack method to break up formations, which he perfected, resulted in a high proportion of victories, and in rapid, multiple victories per attack. On 3 June 1942, Marseille attacked a formation of 16 Curtiss P-40 fighters and shot down six aircraft of No. 5 Squadron SAAF, five of them in six minutes, including three aces: Robin Pare (six victories), Cecil Golding (6.5 victories) and Andre Botha (five victories); the latter crash-landed his damaged fighter. This success inflated his score further, recording his 70th through 75th victories. His wingman Rainer Pöttgen, nicknamed Fliegendes Zählwerk (the "Flying Counting Machine" because he had to quickly note Marseille's victories, sometimes so fast one behind the other that he could hardly keep up), said of this fight:
All the enemy were shot down by Marseille in a turning dogfight. As soon as he shot, he needed only to glance at the enemy plane. His pattern [of gunfire] began at the front, the engine's nose, and consistently ended in the cockpit. How he was able to do this not even he could explain. With every dogfight he would throttle back as far as possible; this enabled him to fly tighter turns. His expenditure of ammunition in this air battle was 360 rounds.
  • 7 Jun 1942 Hans-Joachim Marseille shot down the P-40 fighter piloted by South African Lieutenant Frewen over El Adem, Libya at 1610 hours. Three minutes later, he shot down the P-40 fighter piloted by South African Lieutenant Leonard James Peter Berragé. These were his 76th and 77th kills.
  • 8 Jun 1942 Marseille became the permanent commanding officer of the 3rd squadron.
  • 10 Jun 1942 Over Mteifel Chebir, Libya, Marseille shot down three P-40 fighters at 0735 hours, 0741 hours, and 0745 hours. At 0750 hours, at the far range of 500 feet, he shot down the Hurricane II fighter piloted by Pilot Officer A. J. Hancock. His score now stood at 81.
  • 11 Jun 1942 In the El Adem, Libya area, Marseille shot down two British Hurricane fighters, Flight Sergeant Graves at 1625 hours and Australian Pilot Officer Charles William Parry Persse at 1635 hours.
  • 12 Jun 1942 Marseille flew a mission in Libya, providing support for ground troops.
  • 13 Jun 1942 Marseille shot down four P-40 fighters in the El Adem-Gazala area in Libya between 1810 and 1815 hours. Three of his victims were Flight Sergeant Bill Halliday, Flight Sergeant Roy Stone, and Pilot Officer Osborne.
  • 15 Jun 1942 Marseille shot down four P-40 fighters over El Adem, Libya between 1801 and 1806 hours, increasing his score to 91 kills.
  • 16 Jun 1942 Marseille shot down four P-40 fighters over El Adem, Libya between 1802 and 1813 hours, increasing his score to 95 kills.
  • 17 Jun 1942 In Libya, Marseille shot down 3 Hurricane fighters and three P-40 fighters between 1202 and 1212 hours over Gambut, Libya, increasing his score to 101 kills.
  • 18 Jun 1942 Marseille boarded a Ju 52 aircraft at Benghazi, Libya for Naples, Italy, where he was to transfer to Rome, Italy for his final destination of Berlin, Germany.
  • 28 Jun 1942 Marseille received Swords for his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross from Adolf Hitler at Führerhauptquartier "Wolfsschanze" near Rastenburg, East Prussia, Germany.
  • 6 Aug 1942 Marseille received a telegram informing him that he was to travel to Rome, Italy to receive the Gold Medal of Military Valor (Medaglia d'oro al Valore Militare).
  • 21 Aug 1942 Marseille departed Rome, Italy for Libya.
  • 23 Aug 1942 Marseille returned to his unit at Sanyet El Qutaifiya, Egypt.
  • 24 Aug 1942 Marseille met South African prisoner of war Corporal Mathew Letulu, whom the Germans called Mathias. Letulu would soon grow close to Marseille as his servant and friend.
  • 31 Aug 1942 Marseille shot down two Hurricane fighters during the morning sortie over El Alamein, Egypt at 1003 and 1004 hours. In the afternoon sortie, he shot down a Spitfire fighter over Alam Halfa, Libya at 1825 hours. His score by the end of the day stood at 104.
  • 1 Sep 1942 Marseille flew three sorties and shot down a total of 17 enemy aircraft (two Hurricane and two Spitfire fighters between 0826 and 0839 hours while escorting Stuka dive bombers to El Taqua in Libya, seven P-40 fighters between 1055 and 1103 hours near Alam Halfa, and five Hurricane fighters between 1747 and 1753 hours while escorting bombers toward El Imayid). His score at the end of the day stood at 121.
  • 2 Sep 1942 Hans-Joachim Marseille shot down a Hurricane fighter (Pilot Officer G. R. Dibbs) and two P-40 fighters (US 1st Lieutenant M. McMarrel serving in South African Air Force and British Lieutenant Stuart) in his morning sortie between 0916 and 0924 hours over El Alamein, Egypt. In the afternoon sortie, he shot down two more P-40 fighters (Lieutenant E. H. D. Carman and Lieutenant J. Lindbergh) over El Imayid, Egypt. At the end of the day his score stood at 126. Also on this date, his superiors nominated him for Diamonds to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
  • 3 Sep 1942 Marseille shot down three fighters (British Sergeant M. Powers, Flight Lieutenant Canham, and Pilot Officer Bicksler) in his morning sortie between 0720 and 0728 hours over Egypt. In the afternoon sortie, he shot down two P-40 fighters (British Warrant Officer Stan Bernier and South African Lieutenant Ryneke) and a Spitfire fighter between 1508 and 1542 hours. At the end of the day, his score stood at 132. In Germany, Adolf Hitler reviewed and approved the nomination for Marseille to receive Diamonds to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross; Hitler decided to personally award Marseille with this decoration before the end of the year.
  • 5 Sep 1942 Marseille shot down two Hurricane fighters and two Spitfire fighters between Ruweisat and El Taqua in Libya. His score stood at 136 kills.
  • 6 Sep 1942 Marseille shot down five P-40 fighters and one Spitfire fighter over El Alamein, Egypt, bringing his score up to 142 kills. In the evening, he received personal congratulations on being awarded Diamonds to his Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords from Albert Kesselring, Erwin Rommel, Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Joseph Goebbels, and Erhard Milch, but his spirits remained low because he had lost fellow pilot Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt, whom he considered a close friend, in combat in the afternoon.
  • 7 Sep 1942 Marseille shot down two P-40 fighters over El Alamein, Egypt.
  • 11 Sep 1942 Marseille shot down two Hurricane fighters while escorting bombers to El Imayid, Libya between 0740 and 0742 hours, bringing his score up to 144 kills.
  • 15 Sep 1942 Marseille shot down four P-40 fighters and three Hurricane fighters between 1651 and 1702 hours southwest of El Alamein, Egypt, bringing his score up to 151 kills.
  • 16 Sep 1942 Eduard Neumann informed Hans-Joachim Marseille that he had submitted the paperwork to promote him to the rank of Hauptmann. Later in the day, Erwin Rommel personally congratulated Marseille over the phone for having become the youngest Luftwaffe Hauptmann; Rommel also invited him to join him for dinner.
  • 26 Sep 1942 Marseille shot down one Hurricane fighter and three Spitfire fighters near El Daba, Egypt between 0910 and 0916 hours. In his second sortie of the day, escorting Stuka dive bombers to El Hammam, Egypt, he shot down four enemy fighters between 1656 and 1710 hours. His score stood at 158 kills by the end of the day. When he returned to base, he was observed to be extremely exhausted, and his hands trembled uncontrollably. His superior Eduard Neumann grounded him for some days to give him a chance to rest.
  • 28 Sep 1942 Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille was telephoned by Erwin Rommel, who wanted him to accompany him to Berlin, Germany for a speech at the Berliner Sportpalast. Marseille rejected the offer, citing his wish to save his leave time to marry Hanne-Lies Küpper at Christmas.


Marseille at least flew the following Bf 109 E-7 aircraft:[9][10]

  • Werk Nummer (W.Nr) 3579, sustained 50 % damage on 2 September 1940 in aerial combat and crash landed near Calais-Marck.[11]
  • W.Nr 5597, sustained 75 % damage on 11 September 1940 in aerial combat and made an emergency landing near Wissant.
  • W.Nr 5094, sustained 100 % damage on 23 September 1940 Marseille bailed out after aerial combat near Dover.
  • W.Nr 4091, sustained 35 % damage on 28 September 1940 Marseille made an emergency landing after engine failure near Théville.
  • W.Nr 1259, sustained 80 % damage on 20 April 1941 Marseille made an emergency landing after engine failure near Cahela.
  • W.Nr 5160, sustained 100 % damage on 23 April 1941 Marseille made an emergency landing after combat and belly landing near Tobruk.
  • W.Nr 1567, sustained 40 % damage on 21 May 1941 in aerial combat and made an emergency landing near Tobruk.

Marseille flew four different Bf 109F-4/Z aircraft:[12]

  • Werk Nummer (W.Nr) 12593, in which his score rose to 50 on 23 February 1942[12]
  • W.Nr. 10059, with 68 victory bars on the rudder.[12] On 15 September 1942 this aircraft lost a wing in a midair collision when its pilot Leutnant Friedrich Hoffmann of 3./JG 27 collided with a Bf 109 piloted by Unteroffizier Heinrich Pein of 5./JG 27. Unteroffizier Pein was killed in the resulting crash. Leutnant Hoffmann bailed out only to succumb to his injuries five weeks later.[13]
  • W.Nr. 10137, with the number "70" within an open-topped wreath and 31 victory bars on the rudder[12]
  • His final F-4/trop, W.Nr. 8673 with the early-F Variant rear-fuselage horizontal support bars welded along the lower rear fuselage seam joining the fin/rudder and the stabiliser/elevators to the next forward fuselage section, a black-outlined yellow 14, and, on the rudder, "100" enclosed within a wreath, atop 51 victory bars.[14]

References in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Thursday, 4 June 1942 Hauptmann Müncheberg errang am 2. Juni seinen 80., Oberleutnant Marseille am 3. Juni in Nordafrika seinen 70. bis 75. Luftsieg.[15] Hauptmann Müncheberg recorded on 2 June, his 80th, Oberleutnant Marseille on 3 June in North Africa his 70th to 75th aerial victory.
Friday, 12 June 1942 Oberfeldwebel Steinbatz errang an der Ostfront seinen 95. Oberleutnant Marseille in Nordafrika seinen 78. bis 81. Luftsieg.[16] Oberfeldwebel Steinbatz recorded his 95th on the Eastern Front, Oberleutnant Marseille in North Africa his 78th to 81st aerial victory.
Thursday, 18 June 1942 Oberleutnant Marseille schoß in Nordafrika innerhalb vierundzwanzig Stunden zehn feindliche Flugzeuge ab und erhöhte damit die Zahl seiner Luftsiege auf 101.[17] Oberleutnant Marseille in North Africa within 24 hours shot down 10 enemy aircraft and increased his count of aerial victories to 101.
Friday, 4 September 1942 Oberleutnant Marseille, Staffelkapitän in einem Jagdgeschwader, errang am 2. September an der ägyptischen Front seinen 125. Luftsieg, nachdem er in Luftkämpfen des vorangegangenen Tages 16(17) britische Gegner bezwungen hatte.[18] Oberleutnant Marseille, Staffelkapitän in a fighter wing, recorded on 2 September on the Egyptian front his 125th aerial victory, after he defeated 16 (17; the Wehrmachtbericht originally stated 16 victories; the 17th had not been confirmed by the time the communiqué went out) British adversaries the preceding day.
Wednesday, 16 September 1942 An der ägyptischen Front errang Oberleutnant Marseille seinen 145. bis 151. Luftsieg.[19] Oberleutnant Marseille recorded his 145th to 151st aerial victory on the Egyptian front.
Thursday, 1 October 1942 Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille, Träger der höchsten deutschen Tapferkeitsauszeichnung, fand, unbesiegt vom Feind, auf dem nordafrikanischen Kriegsschauplatz den Fliegertod. Erfüllt von unbändigem Angriffsgeist, hat dieser junge Offizier in Luftkämpfen 158 britische Gegner bezwungen. Die Wehrmacht betrauert den Verlust eines wahrhaft heldenhaften Kämpfers.[20] Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille, recipient of the highest German medal of bravery, found, undefeated by the enemy, at the North African theatre of war his flier's death. Full of fighting spirit, this young officer had defeated 158 British adversaries. The Wehrmacht mourns the loss of a truly heroic warrior.


Marseille Pyramid (cenotaph) seen from south west, Sidi Abd el-Rahman, Egypt, with Hier starb ...(Here died ...) instead of the original Hier ruht ... (Here lies or rests ...), because he was reburied in Tobruk in 1957, where he lies since.
Another commemorative cenotaph can be found at his family's grave (Reuter-Marseille) in Berlin, Alt-Schöneberg (Dorfkirche)

On 30 September 1942, after a dive bomber (Stuka) escorting mission, the engine of Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille's Bf 109 G-6 fighter caught fire southeast of El Imayid, Egypt. Unable to make it back to his airfield due to black smoke entering the cockpit, the 22-year-old "Star of Africa" attempted to bail out, but while doing so he struck the vertical stabilizer across his chest and hip, presumably killing him intstantly (the blow either killed him instantly or incapacitated him so that he was unable to open his parachute). He fell to earth seven kilometers south of Sidi Abdel Rahman, Egypt between 1138 and 1142 hours, the minute his damaged wristwatch stopped working, as the regimental doctor wrote in the file. The autopsy report stated:

"The pilot lay on his stomach as if asleep. His arms were hidden beneath his body. As I came closer, I saw a pool of blood that had issued from the side of his crushed skull; brain matter was exposed. I then noticed the awful wound above the hip. With certainty this could not have come from the fall. The pilot must have been slammed into the airplane when bailing out. I carefully turned the dead pilot over onto his back. opened the zipper of his flight jacket, saw the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Marseille never actually received the Diamonds personally) and I knew immediately who this was. The paybook also told me. I glanced at the dead man's watch. It had stopped at 11:42."

On Friday, 2 October 1942,[21] Marseille was buried at the Heroes Cemetery (Heldenfriedhof) in Derna, Libya. Albert Kesselring (de) and Eduard Neumann ("A restless heart is now resting, but we fly on. May the fighting spirit of Marseille inspire all men of JG 27.") each delivered an eulogy.

In the weeks following Marseille's death 3./JG 27 was renamed as the "Marseille Staffel" (seen in photographs as "Staffel Marseille"). His original grave beared perhaps the most fitting epitaph of all: “Hier ruht unbesiegt Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille” ("Here lies undefeated Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille").


Hans-Rudolf Marseille, younger half-brother of Hans-Joachim Marseille, from the father's second marriage. They had a close brotherly bond. Hans-Rudolf became a renowned architect in Berlin-Wilmersdorf and lived at last with his family in the Bessemerstraße 25 in Nürnberg. Many historians and authors contacted him after the war, hoping for more information about the "Star of Africa", and the proud brother was always happy to oblige.

In 1957, according to brother Hans-Rudolf Marseille, Hans-Joachim Marseille's remains were brought from Derna and reinterred at Memorial Gardens of the Tobruk War Cemetery (Deutsche Kriegsgräberstätte Tobruk). They are now in a small clay coffin (sarcophagus) bearing the number 4133. On 30 November 1962, Italian Minister of Defense Giulio Andreotti awarded Hans-Joachim Marseille's mother 1,500 Deutsche Marks. A wartime pyramid-shaped grave marker was constructed by Italian engineers at the site of Marseille's fall but over time it decayed.

On 22 October 1989, Eduard Neumann and other former JG 27 personnel, in co-operation with the Egyptian government, erected a new pyramid in Sidi Abd el-Rahman, Egypt with a commemoration plaque. On the same day, a special plaque was placed at Hans-Joachim Marseille's grave in Tobruk, Libya. The ceremony was attended by his former batman (orderly) and friend Mathew "Mathias" Letulu, among many others.


Ingeborg "Inge" Gertrud Hedwig Charlotte Freifrau von Ledebur, née Marseille (1917–1941)

"Jochen" was the son of Siegfried Georg Martin Marseille (b. 11 October 1887 in Pyritz/Pommern), a family with partial Huguenot ancestry, and his Prussian wife Charlotte Marie Johanna Pauline Gertrud, née Riemer. His father was an Army infantry, since 1916 Fliegertruppe officer during World War I (Oberleutnant 28.11.1914, Hauptmann 18.4.1916), and later left the armed forces to join the Berlin police force (Major 1923, Oberst 1935). In 1935, he rejoined the army as Oberst, was promoted to Generalmajor of the Wehrmacht (somtetimes falsely classified as Generalleutnant der Luftwaffe) in 1941 and fell () on 29 January 1944 at the Eastern Front fighting against partisans.

Ingeborg (sister)

Hans-Joachim Marseille and fiancée Hanne-Lies, née Küpper, with another couple and their child, presumably taken during Marseille's vacation to Bad Saarow during his leave in 1942.

Hans-Joachim's beloved older sister was Ingeborg "Inge" Gertrud Hedwig Charlotte Marseille, who was born on 18 April 1917 in Schöneberg near Berlin (as of 1920 a part of Berlin). They were very close, even after she married. This took place on 31 August 1939, her fiancée was the 18 year older Major Leopold "Leo" Heinrich Otto Karl Albrecht Freiherr von Ledebur (b. 29 January 1899 in Charlottenburg near Berlin; d. 5 January 1976 in Hannover), who would later become Oberstleutnant (1.9.1940) and Oberst (8.4.1942 with rank seniority from 1.4.1942) of the Heer. Freiherr von Ledebur had divorced his first wife in 1938.

Inge Freifrau von Ledebur died on 30 December 1941 (isolated sources claim 2 January 1942) in Berlin. The place of death was listed in the official certificate as “found dead in her apartment.” The cause of death was “unknown”. However, according to Colin Heaton and Franz Kurowski, Inge had been living in Vienna and was murdered by a jealous lover, an ex-boyfriend with whom her relationship had gone sour, and he proceeded to stalk her and murder her violently. This fanciful statement is completely unsubstantiated.

In his book “Behind Enemy Lines,” James Dean Sanderson paints an entirely different picture of Inge’s death, but also without any durable sources. Sanderson claims that Inge had been killed in a car accident while she was out for an excursion with a high-ranking NSDAP official named Krefft. Apparently Krefft had had too much to drink and had rolled the Mercedes over on the autobahn, and Inge bled to death while he fled the scene. When Krefft was brought to trial about it, he said that it was Inge's fault that they had gotten into the accident, but official records stated she didn't know how to drive at that time. Krefft was sent to a penal unit in Russia to fight, but when he tried to flee the country, he was captured at the Swiss border and beheaded. According to the book, Marseille was crushed and he felt betrayed, because he had always put Inge up on a pedestal of virtue and to see her with another man while her husband was away fighting at the Eastern Front (actually northern Finland at the Eismeerfront) as commandeur of the Infanterie-Regiment 388 (214. Infanterie-Division), made him very upset. Research on this remains fruitless, nowhere can one find anything about a "NSDAP official named Krefft" or a prominent car accident on 30 December 1941.

Hanne-Lies (fiancée)

Walter Wübbe, Hauptmann Hans Joachim Marseille. Ein Jagdfliegerschicksal in Bildern und Dokumenten.jpg

Johanna Anneliese "Hanneliese" / "Hanne-Lies" Küpper was born on 25 May 1914 in Cologne, Germany, the daughter and only child of architect Carl Friedrich Maria Küpper and his wife Friederike Christina Hubertina, née Holzmann. After the early death of her father, she was educated in various boarding schools, and once her mother remarried, she moved into her stepfather’s home in Bremerhaven and finished secondary school there. After finishing school, she began to train as an actress. On 31 March 1939, she married Argentinean music producer Cesar Renato (de) Bahar (b. 26 November 1901 in Buenos Aires, Argentina; d. 1958),[22] in Holborn, England. The couple lived in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, as de Bahar had made a name for himself as a music producer (Musikverleger) in Germany since 1936. The marriage did not last long: in February 1940, Hanne-Lies had a miscarriage, and her husband filed for divorce. Due to the fact that her husband was from Argentina, by marrying him she had had to relinquish her German citizenship in exchange for an Argentinian one; her German citizenship was returned to her on 9 December 1943. Hanne-Lies continued to use her ex-husband’s last name in her acting career (meaning that she was billed as Hanne-Lies de Bahar), but under her maiden name Hanne-Lies Küpper she was active as a music teacher at a local school.

In 1942, Hanne-Lies became engaged to Hans-Joachim Marseille. After his death, Hanne-Lies moved into a vacation/summer house in Bad Saarow, which belonged to her deceased fiancee’s mother Charlotte. From there, she continued her training as an actress, and also began to take vocal lessons, since she now aspired to be an opera singer. She continued to further her career as an opera singer throughout 1943 and 1944, and in 1944 in Bad Saarow, she met the man who would become her second husband: SS-Obersturmführer and member of the LSSAH Professor Martin Stephani (b. 2 November 1915; d. 9. Juni 1983). He was one year her junior and had studied at a prestigious music academy in Berlin before the outbreak of war. He had played a part in developing the musical system of the Waffen-SS. The two of them were married on 28 December 1944, in a traditional SS ceremony, the music for which Stephani had composed himself.

This marriage did not last long, either, and it was probably the collapse of the Third Reich and the denazification trials that took place thereafter that put the most strain on the relationship between Martin and Hanne-Lies Stephani. By 1947, when Martin Stephani’s denazification trial took place, he had listed that he and Hanne-Lies were in the process of divorcing one another, and were living separately. The last known address of Hanne-Lies was an apartment in Berlin, which was listed during her denazification trial, a trial she had to undergo because she was the wife of a former SS member. In 1967, Hanne-Lies and Hans-Joachim Marseille's mother Charlotte Reuter-Marseille were both guests of honor at the Fighter Pilots’ Reunion held on 10 October at Furstenfeldbruck. Hanne-Lies passed away in Munich on 12 August 1987 at the age of 81.


  • 7 November 1938: Flieger
  • 13 March 1939: Fahnenjunker (officer cadet)
  • 1 May 1939: Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter
  • 1 July 1939: Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier
  • 1 November 1939: Fähnrich (officer candidate)
  • 1 March 1941: Oberfähnrich
  • 16 June 1941: Leutnant (second lieutenant), effective as of 1 April 1941
  • 8 May 1942: Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) effective as of 1 April 1942
  • 16/19 September 1942: Hauptmann (captain) effective as of 1 September 1942

Awards and decorations

Flying Ace Hans-Joachim Marseille.jpg

Further reading

  • Toliver, Raymond F.; Constable, Trevor J.[23] (1970). Horrido! Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe
    • German version: Das waren die deutschen Jagdflieger-Asse 1939–1945, Motorbuch, Stuttgart, ISBN 978-3879431939 (countless editions)
  • Brown, James Ambrose (1974). Eagle Strike: The Campaigns of the South African Air Force in Egypt, Cyrenaica, Libya, Tunisia, Tripolitania and Madagascar, 1941–1943. Johannesburg: Purnell. ISBN 978-0-360-00196-1.
  • Spick, Mike (1983). Fighter pilot tactics. The techniques of daylight air combat. Cambridge: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 978-0-85059-617-5.
  • Jackson, Robert (1989). The Forgotten Aces: The Story of the Unsung Heroes of World War II. London, UK: Sphere Books. ISBN 978-0-7474-0310-4.
  • Franz Kurowski: German Fighter Ace Hans-Joachim Marseille – The Life Story of the "Star of Africa", Schiffer Military History (read online when logged in)
    • German original: Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Marseille – Der erfolgreichste Jagdflieger des Afrikafeldzuges, Vowinckel-Verlag, 1995
  • Scutts, Jerry (1994). Bf 109 Aces of North Africa and the Mediterranean. London, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-448-0.
  • Hagen, Hans-Peter (1998). Husaren des Himmels Berühmte deutsche Jagdflieger und die Geschichte ihrer Waffe (in German). Rastatt, Germany: Moewig. ISBN 978-3-8118-1456-1.
  • Prien, Jochen; Rodeike, Peter; Stemmer, Gerhard (1998). Messerschmidt Bf 109 im Einsatz bei Stab und I./Jagdgeschwader 27 1939–1945 (in German). Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck.
  • Walter Wübbe: Hauptmann Hans Joachim Marseille – Ein Jagdfliegerschicksal in Daten, Bildern und Dokumenten, Verlag Siegfried Bublies, 2001
  • Michulec, Robert (2002). Luftwaffe at War/Luftwaffe Aces of the Western Front. London, UK: Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1-85367-486-0.
  • Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941–45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-644-7.
  • Kitchens, James H. III; Beaman, John R. Jr. (2007). Hans-Joachim Marseille — The Luftwaffe Ritterkreuztäger 1939–1945 — A Resource Guide to the Aces and their Aircraft. East Sussex, UK: AirPower Editions. ISBN 978-0-9555977-0-1.



  1. Birth certificate Nr. 696, Charlottenburg, dated 15 December 1919, d.o.b. 13 December at 11:45 pm (23.45 Uhr). Berliner Straße 164; Charlottenburg was an independent city to the west of Berlin until 1920 when it was incorporated into "Groß-Berlin" (Greater Berlin) and transformed into a borough.
  2. His final score included 101 Curtiss Tomahawks and Kittyhawks, 30 Hurricanes, 16 Spitfires and 4 bombers.
  3. Corporal Mathew ‘Mathias’ Letulu
  4. In: “German Fighter Ace – Hans-Joachim Marseille, The life story of the Star of Africa” by Franz Kurowksi
  5. “Triple Ace” Shot 17 aircraft in a Day – Hans-Joachim Marseille – Most Amazing and Ingenious Combat Pilot
  6. Hans-Joachim Marseille
  7. Hans Joachim Marseille – The most amazing fighter pilot of World War 2
  8. The Star of Africa — likes of whom not to be seen again?
  9. Wübbe 2001, pp. 25, 26.
  10. Prien et al 1998, p. 540.
  11. One Bf 109E, W.Nr. 3579, which it is claimed he crash-landed, has been recovered, restored, and painted in the colours of "White 14", an aircraft with which he was associated.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Scutts 1994, p. 90.
  13. Prien et al 1998, p. 175.
  14. Scutts 1994, p. 41.
  15. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, pp. 150, 151.
  16. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 157.
  17. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 166.
  18. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 275.
  19. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 290.
  20. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 305.
  21. Date according to Front-Nachrichtenblatt der Armee-Zeitung "DER SIEG" - Nr. 213 - 6 October 1942, p. 1; other sources claim 1 October 1942, brother Hans-Rudolf claims 3 October 1942, but this may be the date, the family was informed of the funeral.
  22. His official identity cards, issued by the Brazilian government to Cesar Renato Bahar, show he apparently left Europe in 1946 to return to Argentina via Switzerland (he had lived in Zürich). A newspaper article in Portugese in a Brazilian newspaper stated that Cesar de Bahar died in 1958 of an angina.
  23. Trevor J. Constable and Colonel Raymond F. Toliver were American authors who produced 10 non-fiction books on the fighter aces of World War II. Toliver was a U.S. Air Force pilot and official historian of the American Fighter Aces Association.