Saturday, February 16, 2013
The Wayne Gretzky of Fighter Pilots
Erich Hartmann (19 April 1922 – 20 September 1993), nicknamed "Bubi" (the hypocoristic form of "young boy") by his comrades and "The Black Devil" by his Soviet adversaries, was a German fighter pilot during World War II and is the highest-scoring fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. He claimed 352 aerial victories—that is, 352 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—in 1,404 combat missions. He engaged in aerial combat 825 times while serving with the Luftwaffe. During the course of his career, Hartmann was forced to crash-land his damaged fighter 14 times. This was due to damage received from parts of enemy aircraft he had just shot down or mechanical failure. Hartmann was never shot down or forced to land due to fire from enemy aircraft.