The Greatest Fighter Ace in History
Erich Hartmann shot down 352 planes and was himself shot down 16 times in his Mechersmitt Bf-109 fighter. Known as the Black Tulip for the insignia on his fighter, he was feared by the Soviet Air Force and had to abandon his personal insignia or the Soviets would not engage him. In one engagement he shot down 11 Yak-!’s and credited his kills to his poor shooting: his technique was to get within 60 ft of his opponents making targeting skills unnecessary.
Erich spent time in a Soviet Gulag after the war, much of it in solitary confinement for months on end, denying his involvement in war crimes of any kind. He was eventually exonerated of these charges and released after 10 years of imprisonment. Due to his incarceration, he never met his son who died of a childhood illness at three years old.
After he was let out, he returned to fly for the new West German air force and often trained in the United States. Erich retired in 1970 and spent his remaining days as a flight instructor. Erich Hartmann fought with Valor and never caved on his principles although tortured by the Soviets for not joining the cause of communism.