Thursday 20 January 2011

Hptm. Wilhelm Balthasar and Major Walter Oesau (Kommodore JG 2)

Balthasar climbing down from his 'Green 1' possibly as Kommandeur III./JG 3 (appointed 1 September 1940). He was injured on 04 September over Kent. The image below is previously published in Jochen Prien's history of III./JG 3, taken late September 1940 at Desvres in France and Balthasar is seen in conversation with the Kommodore JG3 Günther Lützow.

In February 1941 a new Kommodore was appointed to succeed Helmut Wick at the head of JG 2. Hptm. Wilhelm Balthasar (above left) was an ace who at the time enjoyed almost as big a reputation as Wick's having been one of the leading Luftwaffe fighter pilots through 1940. Born in 1914, he had been orphaned following the death of his father on the Western Front. Following his enlistment in 1933 and service in an artillery regiment, Wilhelm Balthasar had subsequently transferred into the Luftwaffe and gone on to serve in Spain. Appointed to lead the recce detachment of the bomber arm of the Legion Condor (claiming a single aerial victory), he had  subsequently moved to J/88 (the fighter arm in Spain) and added a further six Luftsiege to his score. Kapitän of 1./JG 1 in Poland and during the offensive in the West, Balthasar had been awarded the Ritterkreuz on 14 June 1940 having achieved twenty three victories. In August 1940, the young officer headed up III./JG 3 during the air battles over England. He had added to his tally during the Battle of Britain but sustained injuries on two occasions. It was not until he returned to flying duties in early 1941 that this experienced veteran was appointed to command the "Richthofen". His tenure would be short-lived. He was killed in action on 2 July 1941 after pulling the tail off his new Friedrich while trying to evade the attentions of Spitfires engaged over northern France .. (cf. Mombeeck "In the skies of France" - a chronicle of JG 2 Vol II). The web site has him claiming no fewer than five Blenheims on 23 June 1941 during the course of an RAF 'Circus'. His actual claims were 2 Blenheims on 22 June and 2 more Blenheims the following day. The Emil in the shots is WN.r 1559 ..which Balthasar kept after moving from I./JG1 - III./JG27 (cf. Gruppenemblem under the cockpit )

Balthasar's successor as Kommodore JG 2 was Major Walter Oesau (below left), a veteran of JG 132 (one of the very first incarnations of JG 2) a unit that he had left when he had travelled to Spain with Jagdgruppe 88, the fighter arm of the Legion Condor. He had been credited with ten victories in Spain. In 1939 on his return he had been posted to the Stab I./JG 2 before being moved to the new I./JG 20 and then to JG 51 and JG 3. At the time of his appointment as Balthasar's successor he was Kommandeur III./JG 3 with some 86 victories. Shortly thereafter he became only the third winner of the Swords behind Galland and Mölders. On 'rejoining' JG 2 Oesau was thus reunited with a number of former comrades that he had known back in Döberitz in 1939.