Theo Osterkamp

Theo Osterkamp
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R22853, Theodor Osterkamp.png
Theo Osterkamp
Nickname(s) Onkel (Uncle)[1]
Born (1892-04-15)15 April 1892
Düren, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 2 January 1975(1975-01-02) (aged 82)
Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg, West Germany
Service/branch  Imperial German Navy
Years of service 1914–44
Rank Generalleutnant
Commands held JG 51
World War I

World War II


Theodor "Theo" Osterkamp (15 April 1892 – 2 January 1975)[2] was a German fighter pilot during World War I and World War II. A flying ace, he achieved 32 victories in World War I.[3] In World War II, he led Jagdgeschwader 51 through the Battle of Britain and claimed a further 6 victories, in the process becoming one of only a few men to score victories in both world wars.

Early life and World War I

Osterkamp was born in Aschersleben,[4] modern day Saxony-Anhalt. When the First World War started he was studying forestry but decided to enlist in the German Army.[4] He was rejected for service due to his "slight build"[4] and he instead enlisted in the Marinefliegerkorps in August 1914.[4] He then flew with the 2. Marine-Fliegerabteilung in Flanders. During 1915–1916, he served as an air observer, and became the first German pilot to fly a land-based aircraft to England on a reconnaissance-mission. Osterkamp claimed his first (but unconfirmed) kill on 6 September 1916 as an observer to pilot Leutnant zur See Wilhelm Mattheus in a LVG C.II two-seater aircraft.[4] In March 1917, he joined the Kampffliegerschule (Combat pilot school) in Putzig and then joined Marine Feld Jagdstaffel 1 on the 14th of April 1917[4] On 21 March 1917, Leutnant Osterkamp took command of Marine Feld Jagdstaffel 2 [5] He scored a total of 32 victories during the war,[3] and was awarded the Prussian military order Pour le Mérite[3] on 2 September 1918,[6] and was one of the last individuals to receive it.

Interwar years

Wedding of Theodor Osterkamp with Fel Gudrun Pagge in Eppendorf, Hamburg

Osterkamp joined the new Luftwaffe on August 1, 1933 with the rank of Hauptmann. [7] He also participated in the second, third and fourth FAI International Tourist Plane Contest Challenge 1930 (11th place), Challenge 1932 (12th place) and Challenge 1934 (5th place). By the time the war broke out in September 1939 he was a Oberstleutnant in command of the Jagdfliegerschule 1 (JF1).[7]

World War II

On 19 September 1939, Oberst Osterkamp was appointed Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing).[Note 1][7] During the Battle of France, he claimed four victories.[2] During the Kanalkampf period of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, he claimed a further two victories, (a Bristol Blenheim on 1 June and a Spitfire on 13 July 1940) bringing his total to six. He was replaced as commander of JG 51 by Werner Mölders on 23 July with the latter formally taking command on the 27th of July. [8][9] Promoted to Generalmajor, Osterkamp was awarded his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 22 August 1940.[10] Following his replacement in JG 51, Osterkamp was appointed Jagdfliegerführer 2, the commander of fighter aircraft in Luftflotte 2.[11]

On 1 August 1942, he was transferred to Luftgaustab z.b.V. Afrika. On 5 April 1943, he was appointed Jagdfliegerführer Sizilien and served until replaced on 15 June by Adolf Galland. He then served in a number of staff positions until being appointed Inspekteur der Luftwaffen-Bodenorganisation (Inspector of Luftwaffe ground organisation) in 1944. After criticism from High Command, he was dismissed from the service on 21 December 1944.[citation needed]

Post-war career

In 1960, he was appointed honorary chairman of the Gemeinschaft der Jagdflieger, the Association of Fighter Pilots.[12]

Awards and decorations

See also

Pilots who flew in combat in both world wars