Who Were the Famous Pilots of WW2?

World War 2 was a global war that lasted 7 years; from 1939 to 1945. This war involved the major world powers of that era as well as majority of the world’s countries. The counties which got involved in this global conflict formed two major alliances. On one side, there were the Allies and on the other side were the Axis.  Almost 30 counties were involved in this war and these counties blurred the lines between civilian and military resources. WW2 is considered as the deadliest military conflict in the history of the world involving almost a 100 million personals resulting in 70 to 80 million causalities. Aircrafts played a very crucial role in this war because they were included in the strategic bombing of population center as well as the use of the nuclear bomb.

Few of the popular aircrafts and their pilots who took part in this war were, Messerschmitt Bf 109 flown by the most famous and the most deadly pilot of WW2 Erich Hartmann of Germany. Hawker Hurricane an efficient machine designed by the Great Britain is attributed as the finest of all the aircrafts used in WW2 and used by famous pilots like Marmaduke Thomas St John Pattle and  Frank Reginald Carey.

Here are few of the famous pilots which are also known as flaying aces,  who took part in the WW2 and did such heroic deeds that their name is now permanently included in the history of the world.

Erich Hartmann

Erich Hartmann was a German Fighter pilot born on 19 April 1992. He was called Bubi which means “the Kid” because of his boyish appearance. During his time in the military he was known as “The Black Devil” because of his remarkable skills in the cockpit. He took part in World War 2 and is considered the most successful ace in the history of aerial combat. Being a German, Erich was part of the Axis Alliance and pledged his allegiance to the Nazi Germany and later on to the West Germany.  Service branch of Erich was Luftwaffe which was the aerial warfare branch of the Wehrmacht which was the unified armed forces of the Nazi Germany. Erich flew in almost 1,404 combat missions and shot down 352 Allied aircrafts, 345 Soviet fighter planes and 7 of the American aircrafts. He is attributed to have participated in aerial combat on 825 separate occasions. Being a skilled fighter pilot, Erich survived 16 crash-landings.

Before the war Erich Hartmann was a glider pilot but when the conflict broke out he joined the armed forces to serve the country. Erich joined the Luftwaffe in 1940 and completed his training in 1942. He was fortunate to be under the command of few of the best supervision. It was because of their guidance that Erich was able to develop himself tactically.

In 1943 destroyed 148 enemy aircrafts and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. In 1944 Erich was also awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross for destroying 202 enemy aircrafts. After 4 months of achieving this, Erich also received the Award of Swords to the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves for destroying 268 aircrafts. As he progressed towards the end of his service for the military he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds in 1944, which was at that time the highest military decoration.

Erich served a total of 19 years for the military and eventually retired in 1970. He died at the age of 71 on 20 September 1993 and was buried in the New Cemetery in Weil Im Schönbuch.

Gerhard Barkhorn

Nicknamed Gerd, Gerhard Barkhorn was also one of the best when it came to aerial combat during the World War 2. Gerhard was born on 20 March 1919 in the Free State of Prussia.  He was a wing commander and an aviator in the Luftwaffe during the war. Competing head to head with Erich Hartmann, Gerhard is considered as the second most successful fighter pilot of all times.  Other than Hartmann, Barkhorn is the only fighter ace ever to exceed 300 claimed victories.

Gerhard joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 and completed his training in 1939. He flew his 1st plane during the “Phoney War” but couldn’t shot down any of the aircraft. He claimed his 1st victory in July 1941 and from there on he shot down many Soviet aircrafts. Gerhard became the squadron leader and was later on awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross in 1942. He was also awarded the second highest decoration in the German air-force when he received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords for completing 250 victories.

Barkhorn became a part of 1,140 combats and became victories in 301. He flew a Messerschmitt Bf 109 which was the signature craft of his unit. In 1945 he was appointed as wing commander and started defending Germany against the Western Allied forces. Gerhard was captured in 1945 by the Allied forces when he was serving as the fighter detachment and was released later that year. He served on the ranks of Major and later on as a General Major. His total service time was 29 years.

After the war had ended Gerhard joined the German Air Forces of the Bundeswehr. He got involved in a car crash along with his wife who died instantly and five years later Gerhard took his last breath on 11 January 1983. He died at the age of 63.

Günther Rall

Having a career spanned over 40 years Günther Rallwas a very highly decorated and German military officer, aviator and a General. Rall is accounted at the 3rd most successful pilot of World War 2 in the aviation history. He was born on 10 March 1918 in the German Empire and grew up in the Weimar Republic. After the Nazi Party took power in 1933, Rall embarked on his military career and joined the Nazi German Armed Forces in 1936.  He took the training of an inventory soldier initially and transferred to Luftwaffe after qualifying as a fighter pilot. In 1939 when the World War 2 started when Germany invaded Poland, Rall was serving as a fighter wing and few patrols. He took part in the Battle of Britain and well as the Battle of France. Rall was awarded the Knight’s Cross and well as the Order of the Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany after his service had ended.

Rall served in the German Armed Forces from 1936 to 1945, then later on joined the West German Air Force in 1956 and served as an Inspector of the Air Force. He became as the representative of Germany at NATO Military Committee until 1975 and became a consultant after retirement. Rall died at the age of 91 on 4 October 2009.

Otto “Bruno” Kittel:

Otto Kittel was born on 21st February 1917, in Kronsdorf, Sudetenland, Austria-Hungary and died on 16th February 1945 at the age of 27. He was a Luftwaffe flying ace in WW2. Otto Kittel flew 583 combat missions on the eastern front. In which 267 were aerial victories. In Aviation history, he remained the fourth highest ace scorer.  His allegiance remained with Nazi Germany and he serviced in Luftwaffe. He remained in the service all from 1939 till 1945. His rank was Oberleutnant.

Kittle endorsed the victories flying with Messerchmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190. These victories were against the Red Air Force. He joined Luftwaffe at the age of 22. That was the year 1939. In 1941 he flew his first combat mission followed by the spring of the same year where he joined Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54). The same year he claimed his first victory in summers on June 22nd 1941. That was the opening day of Operation Barbarossa. Kittle started collecting his victories in 1943 which reflected only 39 kills that were trivial comparatively with other Aces in German. The number increased when he began to operate FW 190.

Kittle was honored with Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on the 29th of October 1943 due to reaching 120 aerial victories. Most of the aircraft shot down by Kittle were IL-2 Shturmoviks. In remnants of WW2, he was further presented with the award known as Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and that too was due to reaching 144 aerial victories in numbers. In the year 1945, in February, on the day 16th, he was shot down by the air gunner of Shturmovik during his 583rd combat mission. He was killed in this incident. He was one of the most successful pilots killed in the field.

Walter Nowotny

Nowotny was born on 7 December 1920 in Austria. He was a fighter ace of the Luftwaffe in World War 2.  Walter was involved in a total of 442 combat mission in which he got victories in 258 engagements and destroyed enemy air crafts. He was one of the pilots who flew the 1st fighter jet the Messerschmitt Me 262. He is accredited of shooting down 5 planes in a single engagement several times and also shot down 10 enemy aircraft in one day.

Nowotny joined the Luftwaffe in 1939. He was posted to the eastern front after completing his training in 1941. In 1943 he completed 194 victories and earned the award of Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds on 19th October 1943. For some reasons he was ordered to cease operational flying. In 1944 he was again appointed and helped in the testing and development of Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

Nowotny died in a crash while engaged in a combat with the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 8th November 1944. It is speculated that the engine of the aircraft was failed. His was buried at the Zentralfriedhof Vienna cemetery.


These are few of the fighter aces which served their respective counties during the World War 2. They had achieved many decorations for their remarkable performance and outstanding achievements. Their acts had made them epitome in the world of fighter aces. Because of their acts of bravery their names will always be remembered as it has gone down in history forever.