Sunday 12 February 2023

Strange (postwar) deaths of the aces - Zwesken, Engfer, Tanzer, Quast


As everyone knows Marseille died on 30 September 1942  'undefeated' after bailing out of a new Gustav and failing to open his chute after (presumably) striking the tailplane.  And we also recently highlighted the death of Gustav Francsi who drowned trying to rescue his wife from the sea. 

Another (German) web site recently posted a report on another strange death of a Luftwaffe ace -   former Ofw. ace of II./JG 300 Rudolf Zwesken, Zwesken committed suicide on 26 February 1946. In a copy of Zwesken's farewell note posted on - apparently written by him but typed up by the Halle Kripo - Zwesken states that his lover Isolde had died during the abortion of what would have presumably been 'his' child. In his 'distress' he had therefore killed himself by sticking his head in her gas oven. However his mistress did not die so there is obviously more to this story. After all, under what circumstances does a man commit suicide because his wife is pregnant? We can 'guess' but prefer not to spell it out here - I'm sure you can work it out. 

Surely an even more 'bizarre' death though is that of  former 9./JG 3 ace Siegfried Engfer. Engfer had passed 50 victories on 18 September 1942 during the 'drive' for Stalingrad to earn the Ritterkreuz, the same day as his close friend in 8. Staffel Fw.Heinz Kemethmüller. After being seriously injured (Lungenschuß) Engfer (seen left as an Oberleutnant) never returned to the front and survived the war. In April 1946 he boarded a train in Vienna heading for Prague - but never arrived. He presumably left -or jumped from- the train during the journey, probably hoping to cross the 'border' undetected to locate his family in the Eastern territories occupied by the Russians. He was never heard of again. Report from the November 1965 issue of Jägerblatt.

As you know a number of aces flew post-war and rejoined the Bundesluftwaffe during the 1950s -  Steinhoff, Hartmann, Obleser, Körner, Krupinski, Dahmer to cite just a few. But Waldemar Radener (JG 26, 37 victories) was killed in a training plane in southern Germany in January 1957, Kurt Tanzer (JG 51) crashed in a T-33 fighter over the Balearic Islands in '60. 84-victory ace and former 4./JG 52 RK-holder Werner Quast perished in July 1962 in a helicopter accident - at the time he was a Fluglehrer (instructor) with the Heeresfliegerwaffenschule (army combat aviation - German equivalent of the Army Air Corps training school). Heinz Bär died testing a light aircraft of course. Rudolf Rademacher (JG 54, 97 victories) survived the war only to be killed in a glider crash at Lüneburg on 13 June 1953. 

Numerous former aces died in road traffic accidents. Gerhard Michalski was killed in 1946 in a car crash as was his fellow 'Pik As' Herbert Kaminski who died on 16 July 1971 in a car accident in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Gerhard Barkhorn died tragically from his injuries following a pile-up on the Cologne motorway in 1983. His wife died at the scene. Theo Weissenberger, a 'speed freak', killed himself in 1950 during a car race at the Nürburgring. And finally, George Seckel -an ace in JG 77 who flew with Müncheberg in North Africa and was later Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 77 with around 34 victory claims - bred and exhibited poodles at dog shows postwar. As he was driving to display his poodles at a show on 23 September 1972 he was hit by another vehicle on the motorway and died at the scene. His wife survived her crash injuries, but several of Seckel's dogs escaped the wreckage unhurt - only to be mown down by passing vehicles.