Hauptmann Friedrich Geisshardt, an impressive pilot who appears to have tangled with both Bader and Beurling in combat.
“Fritz” Geisshardt was credited with 102 victories in 642 missions, including 37 close air support missions.
39 of his victories were over Western opponents.
He achieved 63 of his victories over the Eastern front.
In his total are at least Seventeen Spitfires.
That comes out to an excellent 83.8% claiming accuracy.
Friedrich “Fritz” Geisshardt was born on 22 January 1919 at Sonnefeld, near Coburg, in Oberfranken. Geißhardt was the son of a teacher who had died early from wounds sustained during World War I.
At aged fifteen, he joined the Flying Hitler Youth (Flieger-HJ) and became a glider pilot.
He joined the military service of the Luftwaffe in 1937 and was transferred to the 2./Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2—2nd Squadron of the 2nd Demonstration Wing) on 1 July 1939.
Unteroffizier Geisshardt gained his first victory on 9 September 1939, during the invasion of Poland, when he shot down a Polish PWS-26 bi-plane trainer while serving with 2.(J)/LG 2.
PZL P.11c (“PZL P.24”)
Near Lubica/Bromberg area
132 EM. 2/Lt. Witold Jaroszka KIA. (Baled out too low)
The following day, flying his Bf 109 E “Red 13”, Geisshardt himself fell victim to Polish PZL-11 fighters near Wloclawek. After several hours in Polish captivity, he was able to escape during the confusion of a subsequent Stuka raid.
By the end of 1940, he had added six RAF aircraft to his tally.
over St. Margaret’s bay?
N2619 of 79 sqn. Sgt. Henry Cartwright DFM KIA
Manston/Hawkinge? / Dungeness
32 sqn? P/O Douglas H “Grubby” Grice or P/O Keith R Gillman, both forced down unhurt
Bomber Command or Coastal Command (cannot find a matching loss, so this one was rightly unconfirmed)
Was this from 610 sqn? X4102 (one source says X4067)/DW-K of P/O D McI Gray WIA and R6641/DW-X of P/O E S Aldous damaged, unhurt by Bf109s over Dover at ca. 1130-1200 BT
Possibly 242 sqn, 3 losses: P3061/LE-D of S/L Douglas Robert Steuert Bader, damaged, P3207/LE-L of Sub-Lieutenant R J Cork WIA and P2962 of P/O J Benzie MIA (versus 5 claims)
Off French coast W of Boulogne
Likely two claims for W6669 of 229 sqn. F/O Geoffrey Mervyn Simpson KIA (also claimed by Egon Troha)
By spring 1941, he had added a further six victories.
40km W of Cap Gris Nez
P7741 of 74 sqn. S/L E J C Michelmore KIA (originally reported as POW). One source says this one came from 611 sqn, but can’t find a loss for that unit.
English Channel, off Boulogne/Cap Blanc Nez
66 sqn. 2 losses: P7568 of P/O Stanley Baker and P7520 of P/O Peter Raymond Mildren. Both pilots KIA (Hermann Staege shot down the other, 40 minutes later)
On 14 February 1941, Geisshardt claims 2 x Spitfires of 66 Squadron.
2 x Spitfire IIs
66 sqn. 4 losses: P7751? Of P/O J Lawson-Brown, crashlanded safely. P7541 of P/O David Alexander Maxwell KIA. P7522 of Sgt. Claude A Parsons WIA plus P7504 of F/L H R Allen WIA. P7602 was damaged (versus 11 claims)
54 or 303 sqn. Each suffered one Spitfire category 2 damaged
Appears to be overclaiming, no listing of any Fighter Command combat at this time. No PR machine lost either
Dungeness @ 2000m, crashed near Hawkinge
P7785 of 609 sqn. Sgt. Phillipe Maurice Aubril MacSherry KIA
Over Yugoslavia, Geisshardt was to claim four JKRV Fury biplane fighters shot down on 6 April 1941.
4 x Yugoslav aircraft claimed as Furies
36th Fighter Group. Further details pending
On 6.4.41, at dawn, LG 2 attacked Rezanovacka Kosa A/f, with 17 Bf.109Es and one Bf.110. Although 2 Furies were patrolling, 111 Eskadrila was caught during take-off, but 112 Esk. managed to take-off.
But in the end, 11 Furies were lost or made C/L with severe damage. 7 pilots KIA and 1 wounded. Among the dead, both Esk. COs, Capt. Vojislav Popovik (111 Esk.) and Capt. Konstantin Jermakov (112 Esk), the being seen ramming the wing of a Bf.110. The Germans made 11 claims.
During the invasion of Crete, he was to claim two RAF Hurricane fighters shot down.
33 or 80 sqn. Details pending
On 16.5.41, I(J)/LG 2 and III/JG 77, attacked Maleme A/f in Crete. No.33 Sqn. scramble the 3 remaining Hurricanes, piloted by No.805 Sqn. pilots.
In the end, Lt. A.H.M. Ash was shotdown almost immediately, crashing into the sea (KIA), Lt. H.J.C. Richardson, was hit, bailed out near the a/f, but apparently his parachute did not open (his body was found by locals the next day), Lt. A.R. Ramsay (V7461), after a valiant fight (claimed 2 Bf.109s), made E/L at Retimo A/f with badly damaged aircraft.
Billy Vale (No.80 Sqn.) was also aloft, mixed it up with the German fighters, but was able to land safely back at Maleme without any damage.
Forgot to add that on 16.5.41, the Germans made a total of 4 claims, 2 by each unit.
274 sqn, F/L Jacquier, Sgt. Colin Raymond Glover (KIA) and Sgt. Kerr all lost
(Walter Hoeckner also claimed)
By the end of April, Geisshardt had been appointed Adjutant and was operating as part of the Stabschwarm of I.(J)/LG 2.
Following the successful conclusion of the Balkan campaign the unit was withdrawn to Eastern Europe.
Geisshardt was to achieve much success over Russia claiming 63 victories during his time there.
VVS KOVO or VVS Odessa Special Military District
VVS KOVO or VVS Odessa Special Military District. Date in error? No matching losses
This achievement earned him a named reference in the Wehrmachtbericht radio report, the first of three such mentions.
Geisshardt continues scoring through the end of June and all of July 1941.
Day’s I-16 losses to fighters include Mladshiy Leytenant Tolstoukhov of 4 AE, 168 IAP MIA-returned
E of Jassy
Believed to be Mladshiy Leytenant Rachmil Zuritskiy of 4 IAP, MIA from recce flight around 1215 ST
Was this the I-16 of 4 IAP’s Major Orlov, lost around this time?
Day’s attributable MiG-3 losses include Lt. Timofey Rotanov of 55 IAP, failed to return from a recce sortie in the Ungheni, Sculeni area 0900-0935 and St. Lt. Khristofor Yunglin shot down over Voronkovo airfield baled out too low KIA
Day’s attributable I-16 losses to Bf109s include 131 IAP’s Lt. Zhurov and Kapt. Senin both baled out safely and Mladshiy Leytenant Karetin of the Tiraspol Airfield Group (mostly 67 IAP) was WIA in combat
VVS ChF. Overclaiming, two DB-3s actually lost (versus 5 claims)
He scores his last victory of 1941 on 28 December when he claims another I-16 “Rata” destroyed.
6 GIAP definitely in action this day with I-16s in the Sevastopol area
Further details pending
I.(J)/LG 2 became I./JG 77 on 6 January 1942 and Geisshardt flew with its Stabschwarm.
Was this claimed against the DB-3 of 21 DBAP, crew of Ml.Lt. Vasily Abramovich Kontsov all KIA
On 3 and 4 February 1942, Geißhardt and Oberleutnant Erwin Clausen shot down three Polikarpov R-5s or Polikarpov R-Zs of 622 LBAP (Legkii Bombardirovochnyy Aviatsionyy Polk—Light Bomber Aviation Regiment) and 672 LBAP.
622 LBAP or 672 LBAP (the two units suffered 9 losses between 1.2.42 and 9.2.42)
On 18 February 1942, Geisshardt shoots down 2 x DB-3 bombers of the 21 DBAP.
2 x DB-3s
Were these from 21 DBAP? At least one loss: crew of Ml.Lt. Sergei Ilyich Kostyushin and crew all failed to return
He claims another double victory 6 days later, on the 24th of February, 1942.
2 x I-16s
Day’s I-16 losses to fighters on Southern Front include Viktor Ivanovich Surayev of 40 IAP KIA (there were about 5 claims)
He recorded his 40th victory on 1 March 1942
296 IAP. Leytenant Vasiliy Skotnoy, hit in radiator but made it back to base
282 IAP lost Ml.Lt. Stepan Alexandrovich Stepin KIA this date. Was this him?
Possibly 762 IAP. Serzhant Pavel Timofeevich Lomonosov KIA (flying an I-16). 296 IAP lost St. Serzhant Georgy Ivanovich Fedulov KIA near Lozoven’ka
3 x MiGs (“I-61s”)
Day’s losses in the south include 25 IAP, Lt. Georgiy Deomidovich Kharitonov KIA. Strafed after bellylanding a MiG
4 x MiG-1s (“I-61s”)
Day’s fighter losses in air combat on the Southern Front include Sergey Mikhaylovich Avdievic, Lt. Aleksandr Stepanovich Fedorenko and Leonid Pavlovich Samolukov of 149 IAP KIA in LaGG-3s. Lost in combat with 3 Bf109s was Lt. Boris Vasilievich Chegnov of 271 IAP KIA over Slavyano-Serbsk airfield. Another definite loss to fighters was Serzhant Georgiy Dmitrievich Shigarcev of 2 AE 789 IAP KIA @ 400m over Polovinkino
(….sorry, but I cannot yet tie these losses down to specific claims, but that may come in good time…)
On 25 April 1942, he recorded seven victories (61-67).
Geißhardt became an “ace-in-a-day” for the second time which earned him his third and final named reference in the Wehrmachtbericht radio report.
3 x I-16 “Ratas”
298 IAP. St. Lt. Guriy Aleksandrovich Murav’ev KIA, Ml. Lt. Aleksey Ivanovich Lukantsev and St. Lt. Vasiliy Mikhayovich Drygin WIA
On three separate combat missions in the area of Sloviansk, he was credited with seven aerial victories, three I-61s, three Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Gudkov LaGG-1 and one biplane of unknown type.
Geißhardt, who had been promoted to Oberleutnant (first lieutenant) on 1 April 1942, was appointed Staffelkapitän of the 3./JG 77 (3rd Squadron of the 77th Fighter Wing) on 26 April 1942.
Was this Ml.Lt. Mikhail Ivanovich Talanov of 133 IAP KIA when bounced while trying to land at own base?
791 IAP? Details pending
Shortly after the Oak Leaves presentation, I. Gruppe under the command of Hauptmann Heinrich Bär was ordered from the Eastern Front to the Mediterranean theatre of operations.
I./JG 77 was transferred to the Mediterranean theatre, arriving at Comiso, Sicily on 3 July 1942.
Between July and October 1942, Geisshardt claimed nine RAF fighters shot down operating over the island of Malta, all of them Spitfire fighter aircraft.
On 11 July 1942, he claimed two Spitfires shot down, one of which was not confirmed.
Spitfire V (or two?)
Losses include BR111/M of 249 sqn. P/O Charles Benn “Chuck” Ramsay RCAF, KIA and also BR347 of F/S L G C de l’Ara, slightly injured in crashlanding at Takali
He was credited with another Spitfire shot down in combat over Lucqa on 20 July.
185 & 249 sqns, 3 losses: BR117 of Sgt. Hugh Russel (Canadian) & BR460 of F/L Jimmy Lambert (also Canadian) both 185 and KIA. 249 lost BP867/E of Sgt Wynn WIA
A week later, on 26 July 1942, Geisshardt claims another Spitfire shot down between Malta and Sicily.
126 sqn. S/L John Winfield WIA
On a combat air patrol flown from 09:30 to 10:35 on 29 July 1942, Geißhardt again claimed yet again a Spitfire shot down over Malta, most likely shooting up Sgt. George F “Buzz/Screwball” Beurling’s Spitfire.
Spitfire VC Trop
Possibly BR301/UF-S of 249 sqn. Sgt. George F “Buzz/Screwball” Beurling, canopy shot off but pilot unhurt (either Geisshardt or Rollwage did this…)
Geißhardt claimed one more Spitfire on 8 September 1942.
Sicily – Malta
Malta Wing. Was this AB531 of 126 sqn. Damaged by Bf109, pilot baled out of Benghaisa Point, Malta?
NOTE: Most sources date this claim as the following day….
He scored I. Gruppe’s 700th aerial victory, and his 89th credit on 10 October 1942.
He claimed his last two victories over Malta on 15 October, and was promoted to Hauptmann on 24 October 1942.
2 x Spitfires
BR176 and BR471 of 126 sqn plus BR254 of 249 sqn also lost to fighters this date. EP135 was damaged (all other losses accounted for)
I. Gruppe began transferring to the North African theatre on 26 October 1942. That day, Geißhardt and five other pilots from 3. Staffel flew to Tripoli, Libya.
There, he added nine more victories, including 6 credits in 3 days; and among these nine, his 100th victory on 10 November 1942.
P-40K-1-CU Kittyhawk III
Near El Daba (own a/f: Bir el Abd)
42-5822/FR218/OK-P of 450 sqn, Sgt. Gus Officer, baled out and POW
2 x Hurricanes (claimed as “Curtiss P-40s”)
W of El Daba
33 sqn and 1 sqn SAAF. 33 sqn lost BN501/R of P/O Horace Steward RAAF KIA and BP354/E of P/O H J Turner WIA-DOW, 1 sqn lost HL890/A of Lt. I R R Pryde (baled out over the sea, KIA)
(Versus 3 claims in total)
2 x Curtiss P-40s
N of Fuka and E of Halfaya
Day’s losses include P/O Wilson of 80 sqn. 145 sqn lost F/S Frederick Arthur Stillman. 274 sqn had W/O Neil bale out into sea after being hit by Bf109. 260 sqn had Sgt. Hartting shot down by Bf109.
112 sqn had FR245/GA-B of Sgt. J M McAuley damaged by a Bf109. Another serial lost this day was P-40F 41-14028/FL350. Definite Spitfire losses were BR477 and BR481
E of Halfaya
EP451 of 601 “City of London” sqn. P/O Clyde Russell Scollan RCAF KIA
He was the 30th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the Century Mark.
In December 1942, Geisshardt was posted to III./JG 26 as Gruppenkommandeur.
Geißhardt arrived at Wevelgem on 11 January 1943 to take over command as Gruppenkommandeur of the III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 26 “Schlageter” (JG 26—26th Fighter Wing) from Major Josef Priller.
Geißhardt’s arrogance grated on some of the pilots, who felt that he treated his fellow pilots who had not yet earned the Knight’s Cross with too much disdain.
Geißhardt, who was flying Fw 190 A-4 (Werknummer 7051—factory number) in Priller’s Schwarm, was severely wounded in combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 306th Bomb Group on 5 April 1943.
Bleeding profusely from a wound in the abdomen, he dove away from the battle and made a smooth landing in Fw 190A-4 (W.Nr. 7051) „- P“ on the airfield at Sint-Denijs-Westrem, at Ghent, Belgium.
Removed to hospital, he succumbed to his injuries early the next morning on 6 April 1943.
The sky boomed massively on 5 April 1943. The American 8th Air Force flew their “Mission N ° 50.”
To cut down the German fighter pilots, a large-scale raid was set up on 5 April 1943 against a place where the dreaded Messerschmitts were repaired and overhauled: the Erla factories in Mortsel.
In total, 79 Flying Fortresses and 25 Liberators were deployed.
In front of the intercepting German formation of the III.Gruppe of the Jagdgeschwader 26, a unit stationed at Wevelgem, Hauptmann Friedrich “Fritz” Geisshardt flew.
He had no less than 102 victories at that time – this pilot was a veteran from the campaigns of the beginning of the war.
He was determined to bring down his first ‘Viermot’. He led his formation into the fight and chose a Fortress for himself at 3.10 pm.
It just so happens that it was the B-17 carrying General Frank A. Armstrong, the Commander of the 1st Bombardment Wing.
He had led the very first B-17 attack on occupied territory exactly one year earlier, on 17 August 1942, and was considered the most experienced tactician of the Eighth Air Force.
The General was in a Fort of the 306 Bomb Group, which was controlled by Lieutenant Colonel James W. Wilson. Armstrong wanted to account for the difficulties in which his men had to fight in the airspace of occupied Europe.
In his battle report, which he wrote after the mission, he wrote:
“With sign language, I made it clear to the pilot that he should be alert to early attackers … Be on the lookout for two Focke Wulfs that emerged from the French sky, high in the sky, right …
This could hardly be anything other than Geisshardt, because according to the German report, he indeed attacked at the top right.
Armstrong later wrote:
“Cursed an FW 190 that came right on us.”
After passing through it, Geisshardt braced himself for the same attack for the second time and went back to the Flying Fort.
“Looked at the first enemy attack, in front of the formation,” said Armstrong. “I showed the pilot the attackers, who became more dangerous. Pushed the control stick forward when a FW 190 attacked our nose.
Once again I had taken over the steering wheel from the back seat, and I was sorry…
I lost myself when a 20mm cannon round tore up the oxygen and hydraulic system. Looked at the pilot and co-pilot to see if they were injured.
Feeling sick … checked the oxygen supply – pressure was now below 100 … “
Meanwhile, the American gunners fired from all their .50 machine guns. The Focke-wulf pilot got the full load and had to break off the attack. A bullet penetrated his abdominal area, but the he retained control over his Focke Wulf.
Armstrongs’ Fort had in the meantime continued the journey:
“Pilot told me that Capt. Robert J. Salitrnik, navigator, was wounded and needed help. Sniffed the oxygen again and went to the nose section. Crawled through hydraulic fluid on hands and knees to navigator.
The navigator had a large shrapnel in his leg and was bleeding violently. I used the oxygen mask bowel to tie off. Helped the navigator to cover his parachute and lay him down. Tightened the bowel again and asked the bombardier to hold it.
Took data from the navigator’s pocket and tried to determine our position on the map. Could not unfold the folder. Crept back to pilot to give him our compass course on a piece of paper … lost information on the floor and crawled back … “
Arstrong’s Fort returned to Britain but the Group Navigator, Captain Robert J. Salitrnik, had to be taken to a hospital in Diddington. In his wounds, caused by the Geisshardts attacks, gangrene developed and on 16 April the navigator died. He is now buried in California.
But the attack of Geishardt and his men on the leading formation had an even more terrible consequence. The “Lead Group” was thus off course and the whole tight schedule was compromised.
The attack did not go as planned. The result is known: the bombs tumbled into the core of Mortsel and in the end this attack cost 939 civilians.
Hauptmann Friedrich Geisshardts’ Death:
6 Apr 1943 (aged 24)
Ghent, Arrondissement Gent, East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen), Belgium
Bourdon German War Cemetery
Bourdon, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France
“Fritz” Geisshardt was credited with 102 victories in 642 missions. He achieved 63 of his victories over the Eastern front. In his total are at least Seventeen Spitfires.
Geisshardt served in the following Campaigns;
Invasion of Poland
Battle of Britain
Battle of Crete
Siege of Malta
North African Campaign
Defense of the Reich †
Iron Cross (1939)
•2nd Class (17 September 1939)
•1st Class (10 July 1940)
Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for fighter pilots
Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe (Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe) on 13 July 1941
Bild des Reichsmarschalls im Silberrahmen
German Cross in Gold on 24 April 1942 as Leutnant in the I./Jagdgeschwader 77 (Deutsches Kreuz in Gold)
Ritterkreuz (30 August 1941)
Do 17Z & Ju 88A in KG-77
Bf 109E ‘Red 13’ (10/39)
Bf 109F-4 WNr 7570 ‘Yellow 5’ (35% dam 5/12/42; force land, combat engine dam, pilot OK)
Fw 190A-4 WNr 7051 (lost 4/5/43) in III/JG-26
LG 2, JG 77, JG 26