Friday 5 October 2012

“Sepp” Wurmheller over Dieppe 19 August 1942 -the 'broken leg' myth


"   Assigned to 1./JG 2, Wurmheller gained 10 victories during May 1942. In June he claimed another 11 victories. His most successful day came during the Allied landings at Dieppe on 19 August 1942. Despite a crash-landing, during which he broke a leg and suffered concussion, Wurmheller claimed seven victories during the day. The feat earned Wurmheller a promotion to the rank of Leutnant and the award of the Eichenlaub (Nr 146), presented on 20 August 1942. His score stood at 60 victories..."  

The above quote was copied from the now defunct  aces web site. But who on earth thought that a Fw 190 pilot could 'splash' seven opponents while flying with a broken leg ?! Not possible surely? Of course it didn't happen like that. But this 'story' is widely repeated on just about any web page you care to look at dealing with Wurmheller, including wikipedia, asisbiz (no surprise there!) and At you can even buy a $32 1/30th scale figure of him complete with crutches! While Wurmheller's performance on 19 August 1942 was widely feted for his seven victories, it was achieved with no more serious injury than a foot in plaster (from a previous 'domestic incident') and a bump on the head. More details and a more accurate picture of events were reported in a period newspaper, which also reproduced the image below. The newspaper caption reads,

".... the day of the Dieppe landings. A broken foot in plaster and his first sortie curtailed by an emergency landing during which he sustained slight concussion, then climbing into another aircraft and dispatching seven opponents; that's Oberleutnant Wurmheller..."

No sign of those 'crutches' as Wurmheller apparently climbs down from the cockpit of his Fw 190 with no indication of any assistance being required from ground crews! The 'emergency landing' was sustained as a result of defensive fire from a No. 88 Sq Boston (credited to Wurmheller as a Blenheim) which ditched off the coast, Fw 190 A-3 (WNr. 0130 479) suffered 65% damages. Prior to this combat Oberfeldwebel Wurmheller had downed two Spitfires for his 54th and 55th victories..