Knight of the Reich
by Robert Taylor
|- Including the wartime signatures of Erich Hartmann and Gerhard Barkhorn -|
The morning of 15 October 1943 dawned like many others over the Ukraine, the chill in the air hinted at the prospect of another winter of savage fighting on the Eastern Front. But it wasn't the forthcoming winter that was on the minds of the fighter pilots of III./JG52, it was their Russian adversaries.
Ever since the battle for Kursk the Wehrmacht had been on the defensive as the Russians counter attacked, beginning a military offensive that would eventually lead to the gates of Berlin. As the German Army fell back, JG52 was forced back too, moving from one makeshift base to another, but they were still feared by the growing numbers of an ever- improving Soviet Air Force. And for good reason, for within its ranks JG52 held some of the highest scoring and most formidable fighter Aces in the history of aerial warfare. One of those was Günther Rall one of the Luftwaffe's most successful Aces.
Already highly decorated with the Knight’s Cross, Oak Leaves and Swords, the Kommandeur of III./JG52 now led his unit’s Bf109G fighters on their first sweep of the day. After their early morning scramble they were looking for action and, like most days, it wasn't long before they found it, spotting a group of Soviet fighters over the city of Zaporozhye.
|Special presentation||Signed by Günther Rall - matted with wartime signatures of Hartmann and Barkhorn|
|Overall size: 27½" x 34⅝"|
This piece is triple matted with a shadow box layer to include the original wartime signatures of Erich Hartmann and Gerhard Barkhorn, the only two fighter pilots ever to achieve more than 300 victories. Together with the signature of Günther Rall on the print itself, this piece includes the signatures of the three highest scoring fighter pilots in history. The combined score of all signatories amounts to a stunning 928 victories.
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|Hartmann and Barkhorn wartime signatures matted with the print
The Hartmann signature is grease pencil, the Barkhorn is ink
In October 1942 Hartmann joined 7./JG52 on the Eastern Front and in August 1943, a month
when he scored 48 victories, was shot down and taken prisoner, later escaping. In August 1944 he reached 300 victories after downing 11 aircraft in one day, taking command of 9./JG52. Promoted to Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG52 he trained on the Me262 before returning to JG52. Flying over 1400 combat missionshe was forced to crash land 14 times and achieved 352 victories to become the highest scoring Ace in history
Günther Rall was a young pilot with III./JG52 at the outbreak of war, and quickly demonstrated his natural ability and leadership qualities. He scored his first victory early in the Battle of France, and by July 1940 was leading 8./JG52. After transferring to the Eastern Front his victories soon mounted but he was hospitalized following a crash. Returning to combat as Kommandeur of III./JG52, he gained the Wing's 500th victory, before being posted Kommandeur of II./JG11 on the Western Front, flying high altitude intercepts in Me109Gs. He was later Kommandeur of JG300, and finished the war as the 3rd highest Ace in history with 275 victories.
He was awarded the Knight ’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.