by Robert Taylor
April 1945: and the end of the war was growing closer. By now the weather was improving and, as the days began to lengthen, the American Eighth Air Force was able to dispatch well over a thousand bombers, with a fighter escort to match, on some of the largest raids of the war. The Allies’ overwhelming strength meant the contest was all but one-sided; yet the expert pilots of the Luftwaffe were still a force to be reckoned with - especially when armed with their revolutionary Me262 jets.
"Stormbirds Rising captures a scene during the final weeks of the war as Leutnant Hermann Buchner, by now one of the most famous jet Aces and recipient of the coveted Knight’s Cross, joins his fellow pilots of III./JG7 as they climb to intercept a large formation of American bombers having just left their base at Parchim. Below them the tranquillity of the meandering River Havel, flowing gracefully through the countryside west of Berlin, is in stark contrast to the deadly encounters that will soon take place overhead.
|The Museum Presentation|
This seven signature 'Aces' edition print is triple-matted using conservation grade materials, and includes the very rare wartime signatures of JG-7 commander Theodor Weissenberger and fellow JG-7 Ace Rudi Rademacher. Also featured is an artifact from the war period, an original WWII Luftwaffe officer's breast eagle. (These differed from those worn by enlisted men and NCOs in that each one was hand embroidered with silver thread.) The mount includes a further two very significant signatures associated with the Me262,
|Oberst Hermann Buchner - Knight’s Cross / 58 victories||Oblt. Wolfgang Wollenweber - Iron Cross First Class|
|Maj. Erich Rudorffer - KC with Oak Leaves & Swords / 222 victories||Leutnant Jorg Czypionka - Iron Cross / 2 victories|
|Oberleutnant Walter Schuck - KC with Oak Leaves / 206 victories||Leutnant Alfred Ambs - 7 victories|
|Leutnant Norbert Hannig - Iron Cross First Class / 42 victories|
|Major Theodor Weissenberger - Knights Cross with Oak Leaves / 208 victories - (matted)|
|Leutnant Rudi Rademacher / between 97 and 126 victories - (matted)|
|General Johannes ‘Macky’ Steinhoff - Knights Cross with Oak Leaves & Swords / 178 victories - (matted)|
|Generalleutnant Walter Krupinski - Knights Cross with Oak Leaves & Swords / 197 victories - (matted)|
Born in Mühlheim am Main in the German Empire, Weissenberger, who had been a glider pilot in his youth, volunteered for service in the Luftwaffe in 1936. Following flight training he was posted to the heavy fighter squadron of JG-77 in 1941. He claimed his first aerial victory over Norway on 24 October 1941. After 23 aerial victories as a heavy fighter pilot he received the German Cross in Gold and was then posted to JG-5 in September 1942. There he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 13 November 1942 after 38 aerial victories.
In June 1943, Weissenberger was appointed Staffelkapitän of 7. Staffel JG-5. Following his 112th. aerial victory he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 2 August 1943. He was appointed Staffelkapitän of 6. Staffel in September 1943 and in March 1944 he was given command of II. Gruppe of JG-5 which was operating in Defense of the Reich. In June 1944 he took command of I. Gruppe JG-5 which defended against the Invasion of Normandy. Weissenberger claimed 25 aerial victories in this theater, which included his 200th. victory on 25 July 1944.
|After conversion training to the Me 262 he was appointed commander of I. Gruppe JG-7 "Nowotny", the first operational jet fighter wing in the world, in November 1944. Promoted to Major, he took command of JG 7 "Nowotny" as a Geschwaderkommodore in January 1945, a position he held until the end of hostilities. He was killed in a car racing accident on 11 June 1950 at the Nürburgring.|
|Original wartime signature of Theodor Weissenberger
Rudolf “Rudi” Rademacher was born on 19 July 1913 at Lüneburg. Unteroffizier Rademacher served with 3./JG 54 on the Eastern front from 1 December 1941. He achieved his first victory on 9 January 1942 on his fifth combat mission. He was awarded the Ehrenpokal on 19 October 1942. By the end of 1942 he had claimed 22 victories. In March 1943, he was transferred to 1./JG 54, the famous “Nowotny Schwarm” led by Walter Nowotny. He claimed seven enemy aircraft shot down in one day on 5 July 1943 to record his victories 39 through 45. Rademacher was promoted Oberfeldwebel whilst serving with 1./JG 54. On 30 April 1943 he was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz. On 30 August 1944 he was transferred to 1./Jagdgruppe Nord, redesignated Ergänzungs-Jagdgeschwader 1 on 4 November 1944, based at Sagan, to undertake instructing duties. Despite his training duties Rademacher was able to engage in aerial combat and claimed five enemy aircraft shot down, including four four-engined bombers and P-47, during his stay with the unit. On 18 September 1944, during an attack on a formation of USAAF bombers, he was badly wounded when he was shot down. On 30 September 1944, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz for 81 victories.
|In January 1945, Leutnant Rademacher transferred to 11./JG 7 where he undertook conversion
training on to the Me 262 jet fighter. The training consisted of six flights totalling 150 minutes
before he was declared operational. On 1 February 1945, he gained his first victory flying the jet,
an RAF Spitfire over Braunschweig.
Rademacher was to be credited with at least 16 victories while flying the Me 262, although sources do differ over his final tally crediting him with scores as low as eight and as high as 24. “Rudi” Rademacher survived the war only to be killed in a glider crash at Lüneburg on 13 June 1953. Rudolf Rademacher’s final score is a matter of some conjecture. Sources claim his total to be 97, 102 and 126 in more than 500 missions. Some claim he had an additional 23 unconfirmed victories. It is thought he gained 76 victories over the Eastern front with JG 54, including 21 Il-2 Stormoviks and 7 Pe-2, and a further five whilst with JGr. Nord. To this can be added his jet victories, at least 16, including 11 four-engined bombers.
|Original wartime signature of Rudolph Rademacher
Steinhoff originally enlisted in the Kriegsmarine, where he served for one year alongside his friend Dietrich Hrabak as a naval flying cadet before transferring to the newly reformed Luftwaffe in 1936.[There, after completing his training as a fighter pilot, Steinhoff was posted to Jagdgeschwader 26.
Steinhoff's first combat experience was in 1939 when he fought RAF Vickers Wellington bombers that were attacking coastal industry in the Wilhelmshaven region. In February 1940, he was transferred to 4./JG 52 where he served during the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain.
Steinhoff remained with JG 52 until March 1943, when he took over Jagdgeschwader 77 as Geschwaderkommodore operating over the Mediterranean. On 28 July 1944, Steinhoff received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. He ended the war as a jet pilot, first being posted to Kommando Nowotny in October 1944 and then, with the rank of Oberst, as Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 7 in December. After the heavy losses suffered during Operation Bodenplatte, Steinhoff and other fighter leaders fell into disfavour following the so-called 'Fighter Pilots Revolt' against what was perceived as the incompetence of Luftwaffe high command and Hermann Göring in particular. Along with several others, Steinhoff was relieved of his command for challenging Göring's leadership. After a brief period spent in internal exile, Steinhoff transferred to the Jet Experten unit JV 44 being formed by his close friend and confidant Adolf Galland in early 1945. Steinhoff survived nearly 1,000 combat missions, only to see his flying career come to an end on the ground. On 18 April 1945, Steinhoff's Me 262 suffered a tyre blow-out and crashed on take-off from München-Riem airfield. Steinhoff suffered severe
Krupinski was employed by the Reichsarbeitdienst before being discharged a few days after the outbreak of war in 1939 to take up a place at the Luftkreigsakademie at Berlin-Gatow where he underwent basic military and flying training. Following the completion of his fighter pilot training in Vienna in October 1940, Krupinski was transferred to 6./JG 52. In September 1941, Krupinski was operating over the Eastern front and by the end of the year he had seven victories to his credit. On 25 October 1942, he was shot down in aerial combat and baled out wounded. Leutnant Krupinski was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 29 October 1942 after 56 victories. In May 1943, he was appointed Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 52 based at Taman on the Kuban bridgehead. He scored two victories on 5 July to raise his victory total to 90, however, on landing he collided with another Bf 109 and was badly injured in the resulting crash. In August, he recorded 27 enemy aircraft shot down, including his 100th victory on 18 August. Krupinski left JG 52 and Russia on 18 April 1944, with his victory total at 177, to return to Germany and take up command of 1./JG 5.
| Krupinski was transferred again, this time as Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG11. With the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, the Gruppe was rushed to Normandy to operate from makeshift strips on low-level ground support missions. Krupinski claimed a further 10 Allied aircraft shot down before he was wounded on 12 August when exploded motor of his Bf 109 G-5. He suffered burns to his hands and face requiring hospitalisation. Following recovery in hospital, Hauptmann Krupinski was posted to take command of III./JG 26 on 27 September 1944, and led the Gruppe until its disbandment on 26 March 1945. Krupinski joined Adolf Galland’s “squadron of experts” in JV44. He began training on the Me 262 on 2 April 1945. He was to record at least two victories flying the Me 262. In post-war years, Krupinski was to have successful career in the Bundeswehr rising to the rank of Generalleutnant. He passed away on 7 October 2000.
“Graf Punski” Krupinski ended the war with 197 confirmed victories recorded in 1,100 missions. He had gained 177 victories flying over the Eastern front and 20 over the Western front, including at least two four-engine bomber, eight P-51 Mustang fighters and seven P-47
Thunderbolt fighters. He had been wounded seven times, baled out on four occasions as well as surviving numerous crash landings.
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