Hunters at Dawn
by Robert Taylor
- Including the wartime signature of Gerhard Barkhorn -
It became known as the most exclusive club in the history of air combat – the Three Hundred Club!
Those Aces with over 100 victories were exceptional; to reach 200 victories was a spectacular achievement. Yet two men went even further shooting down more than 300 enemy aircraft which placed them in a league of their own. They were the elite of the elite, and their names are legendary – Erich Hartmann and Gerhard Barkhorn.
It is no surprise that these iconic Aces scored their victories whilst flying with the legendary fighter wing JG52 and the Geschwader boasted some of greatest Luftwaffe pilots of WWII among its ranks – including the top three Aces of all time. Such renowned pilots as Gunther Rall (275 victories), Wilhelm Batz (237 victories), Hermann Graf (212 victories) and Helmut Lipfert (203 victories) helped this formidable unit notch up more than 10,000 victories making it the most successful fighter wing in history.
Robert Taylor, the world’s premier aviation artist, has created a stunning portfolio dedicated to the two highest scoring fighter pilots of all time. Hunters at Dawn is the first release in this pair and features Hptm. Gerhard Barkhorn, Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG52. The great Ace, flying his Bf109 G- 6, leads the Stab as they climb out from their base near the Black Sea, early November 1943. The crisp air of day break is temporarily punctuated by the roar of Daimler-Benz engines as the deadly Messerschmitt fighters set off on their daily hunt for Soviet aircraft over the front line.
The legendary Gruppenkommandeur was by now close to his 200th victory, a feat he achieved on 30 November 1943. Even then little did he or his comrades know that this was only a temporary milestone in his exceptional combat career – although the enemy might have feared it.
This two signature limited edition is triple matted with a shadow box layer to include the original wartime signature of Gerhard Barkhorn, one of only two fighter pilots to achieve three hundred confirmed victories. Barkhorn didn't sign any art prints prints, the only examples of his autograph are those he signed during the war, one of which is included in this Special Presentation.
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|Overall size: 26¼" x 34⅝"|
|Special presentation||Signed by Bf109 pilots, Willi Reschke & Hugo Broch - matted with Gerhard Barkhorn signature|
|Gerhard Barkhorn was born on 20 May 1919 at Königsberg in East Prussia. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 as a Fahnenjunker. On completion of his training he was posted to 3./JG 2.|
| On 1 August 1940 Leutnant Barkhorn was transferred to 6./JG 52 based on the Channel Front. He flew his initial missions with his new unit during the Battle of Britain but did not confirm any victories during this time. He was, however, shot down into the Channel on one occasion but was rescued unhurt. Barkhorn achieved his first success during his 120th mission on 2 July 1941 over the Eastern Front.
Thereafter he was to score steadily. Oberleutnant Barkhorn was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 23 August 1942 for 64 victories.
After a two-month break away from the front he returned in early October. He recorded 14 victories in October, seven in November and 17 in December, including his 100th victory on 19 December. On 11 January 1943, he was awarded the Eichenlaub when he achieved his 105th victory.
Hauptmann Barkhorn became Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 52 on 1 September 1943, and led it until 15 January 1945. He claimed 24 victories in August, including his 150th on 8 August. He claimed 15 victories in September, 23 in November, including his 200th victory on 30 November 1943, and 28 in December, including seven on 28 December. On 23 January 1944, Barkhorn became the first fighter pilot to complete 1,000 combat missions. He achieved his 250th victory on 12 February, the second to do so. He was awarded the Schwertern on 2 March 1944 for 251 victories. Barkhorn’s success had not come without some cost. He was shot down nine times in his combat career. He baled out once and was wounded twice. On 31 May 1944, Barkhorn was flying his sixth mission of the day and, being fatigued, was not concentrating on keeping a good look-out when he was bounced by a Russian Airacobra fighter and shot down in Bf 109 Black 5”. He received severe wounds to his right arm and leg which put him out of action for four months. He returned to combat duty at the end of October. He claimed his 275th victim on 14 November. He recorded his 301st, and last, victory on 5 January 1945.
On 16 January 1945, Major Barkhorn was transferred to take command of JG 6 serving on Reichsverteidigung duties based at Posen. He led the unit until 10 April 1945 but was still suffering the effects of his wounds and eventually relinquished command for another spell in
hospital. On recovery, Barkhorn joined JV 44 commanded by Generalleutnant Adolf Galland and operating the Me 262 jet fighter. On 21 April 1945, on the last of only two operational missions flying the Me 262, Barkhorn’s starboard engine failed. He was obliged to break off an attack on an American bomber formation and return to his base at Riem. He was chased by the USAAF P-51 fighter escort, so set about landing his crippled machine in a clearing in some woods. In the resulting crash-landing the cockpit canopy, which he had opened to enable a quick escape, slammed shut on his neck. The incident put him back in hospital and out of the war. Post-war Barkhorn was one of the few noted Luftwaffe Experten who escaped being imprisoned by the Russians. However, he did become a prisoner of war of the Allies, finally being released by them in September 1945. He joined the Bundesluftwaffe in 1956, commanded JaboG 31 “Boelcke” and rose to the rank of Generalleutnant. He retired in 1976. On 6 January 1983, during a winter storm on an autobahn near Köln, Barkhorn and his wife, Christl, were involved in a serious automobile accident. Christl died at the scene but Gerhard lingered in a hospital for two days before passing away on 8 January.
After pilot training, Willi Reschke was transfered to I./JG 302 based at Götzendorf near Wien.
On 2 July he achieved his first success when he shot down two B-24s over Budapest. He rammed
the next B-24 he downed on 7 July when his guns malfunctioned, he successfully baled out of his
stricken aircraft. On 24 August, he claimed a further B-24 Liberator, but shortly after, during an attack
on a second, his aircraft was hit by return fire, he baled out when P-51 Mustangs began pouring fire into his Bf 109.
After re-equipping with the Focke-Wulf 190 A-8, I./JG 302 was redesignated III./JG 301 on 30 September.
In October the unit transfered to Stendal airport near Berlin. On 1 January 1945, Reschke downed a B-17 for his 22nd victory but was again hit by return fire and baled out of his Fw 190 A-8 "White 6".
Willi Reschke flew about 48 combat missions, achieving 27 confirmed victories, 20 of them four-engined bombers. He was shot down 8 times, baling out 4 times, and was wounded once.