Wednesday 3 November 2021

Oblt. Winfried Schmidt - ace of III./JG 3 -article extract


On 23 June 1941, Schmidt was appointed Staffelkapitän of 8. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 3, replacing Oblt. Willy Stange, KIA the previous day, the first day of Operation Barbarossa. On 11 July, Schmidt was severely wounded in combat near Fastiv, hit in the chest by the defensive fire of a Tupolev SB tail gunner. His wingman Lt. Wilhelm Lemke managed to guide him back to the airfield at Polonne for a crash-landing (Bf 109 F-2 WNr. 8236). The next day, Schmidt was replaced by Oblt Franz Beyer as commander of 8. Staffel...

On 18 September 1941, while still in his hospital bed, Oblt Schmidt learned that he had been awarded the Ritterkreuz. Given his rather modest victory scoreboard the award of the RK may appear a little surprising. While, at the beginning of the war, the Knight's Cross was often awarded for about twenty victories (17 for Galland, 20 for Mölders), the criteria for the award became increasingly more difficult to fulfill -especially after the "carnage" both real or ‘over-claimed’ on the new front in the East, where some aces with fifty+ victories never received the award. It may have been the case that the Luftwaffe high command wanted to honour the courage and obstinacy of its recipient through this distinction. Although 'only' a reservist, Schmidt had been officially credited with thirteen victories, had been shot down three times, had baled out once but had always returned to combat (except after July 11). A short but full career that certainly deserved recognition.

After convalescence, the pilot from Cologne was assigned to a staff position with 7. Jagddivision. This enabled him not only to survive the war (out of the ten pilots of 8./JG 3 identified at the beginning of 1941, only three survived) but also to find happiness. As his wife recalled during the 1990s;

In 1942, together with my parents, I travelled to Cologne from München-Gladbach to visit relatives. Our train was late and we had to wait at the station buffet. It had been partially destroyed and the buffet was now in a narrow and crowded hut. A young Luftwaffe officer entered in an impeccable uniform. He was also wearing the Ritterkreuz. Admiringly, I said to myself; 'This one is not for me'. But there was an empty seat at our table and he asked to sit down. We got chatting and exchanged addresses. Two weeks later, he contacted us and, six months after that, we were married. And we have been for over fifty years…”

But misfortune struck the couple when their only son was killed on 8 February 1988 in the crash of Nürnberger Flugdienst Flight 108 at Düsseldorf airport. All twenty-one occupants perished in the crash after the aircraft, a Swearingen Fairchild Metroliner, was apparently hit by lightning on the approach. "Fortunately, we have excellent contacts with our daughter-in-law and often see our grandchildren”.

Winfried Schmidt passed away in his home town of Cologne on 3 August 2009 as far from the spotlight as he had fought in the skies of Europe...


Flying with 5./JG 77 Lt. Winfried Schmidt shot down an RAF Wellington on December 18, 1939 in Bf 109 E-1 ‘red 1’ during the so-called ‘Luftschlacht über den Deutschen Bucht’ (Heligoland Bight). The machine is still finished in the dark green splinter scheme. The ‘seagull’ Staffel badge forward of the cockpit would soon be replaced with a more war-like eagle..

A full biography of Oblt. Winfried Schmidt appeared in Avions magazine No. 235  authored by Jean-Louis Roba.