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Friedrich Körner
Friedrich Körner
Photo 1: Friedrich Körner Sporting his newly obtained Knight's Cross.
(author's private collection)
Last Wartime Rank: -
Luftwaffe Service: 1939-1945
– II/JG 27
Theatre(s): North Africa
Combat Debut: 1941
  Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross
Kills: 36
Total Sorties: -

Born: 24 January, 1921 in Schwerte/Westfalen
Passed: 3 September 1998
Friedrich Körner enlisted in the Luftwaffe on 15 November 1939 and upon completion of fighter pilot training, was assigned to 2 JG 27 and sent to North Africa where he arrived in the theater on 4 July, 1941. During his time in the desert Körner, flying the Messerschmitt Bf-109 "Red 11", shot down a total of 36 enemy aircraft, with 33 of his victories coming against other fighter aircraft. His first victory was slow in coming and was not until 12 October 1941 when he shot down a 112 Sq. RAF Tomahawk over Sheferzen. On 19 March, 1942, an RAF Curtiss P-40, possibly of 80 Squadron, 7 SAAF Wing, was downed by Körner over the sea east of Tobruk. This victory was significant in that it was both his tenth victim and JG 27's 1000th aerial victory.* Körner enjoyed his best day of aerial combat over Mersa Martruh where on 26 June, 1942 he downed three SAAF Curtis fighters and two 145 Squadron RAF Spitfires. Having undoubtedly acquired his "shooting eye", Körner shot down 20 of his 36 aircraft during his last full month in combat. Körner's 36 victories makes him the 7th highest scoring ace in North Africa where only Marseille, Schrör, Stahlschmidt, Rödel, Homuth, Schulz, and Steinhausen would outscore him in the theater. Körner was able to achieve multiple kills no less than 7 times while deployed in the North African desert.

Körner was an aggressive and competent fighter pilot yet prided himself in his ability and desire to train younger pilots in the skills they would need to be both successful in aerial combat and equally important, those skills necessary to increase their chances of survival. Körner continually tried to help the younger pilots get their first kill which he readily identified as often the hardest victory to achieve. Once the initial shock and tension of a younger pilot's first aerial victory wore off, the fledgling fighter pilots were then better able to effectively put their air combat skills to the test. Körner was a firm believer that it was far better to have 10 pilots in a squadron with 10 kills each, than to have just one greedy pilot with 30-40 kills.

On 4 July, 1942 exactly one year to the day of his arrival in the desert, Körner scrambled on a mission to intercept a formation of enemy bombers. In a moment of lapsed discretion and youthful exuberance, an over anxious Körner took-off and flew into combat leaving his wingman on the ground while being refueled and rearmed from an earlier sortie. Climbing to meet the enemy bombers, Körner quickly and instinctively checked over his shoulder to see what he thought was his wingman and other squadron personnel approaching from behind. Unfortunately for Körner, the aircraft were a flight of South African Hurricane IICs. Immediately, Körner's cockpit erupted in flame and broken glass as Lt. Waugh of the 1 SAAF Squadron pummeled the 109 with one shell grazing Körner above his left eye giving him a permanent reminder of the days events. At 1330, Körner was forced to take to his parachute and was promptly captured by enemy ground forces. With his body intact and only the minor injuries to report, Körner was to remain a prisoner of war in Canada until 1947. While interned in Canada, Körner was awarded the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross on 6 September, 1942 for his achievements in the desert.

Following his release from captivity, Körner fulfilled an exciting life as both a civilian and senior military officer in the New German Air Force. He held positions as the Assistant Chief of Staff, Air Ops at Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT), worked in Ops/Plans in SHAPE, Paris, the Air Staff MOD Bonn, the Nuclear Planning Committee, and as a member of the NATO Delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany in Brussels. Friedrich Körner retired from military service on 30 June, 1979. At the time of his retirement, Friedrich Körner was a Brigadier General.

Dates of Interest:                       

Pilot Wings                                         19 Sep 40
Frontflug-Spange för Jaeger in Bronze               02 Nov 41
Iron Cross 2nd Class                                07 Nov 41
Frontflug-Spange för Jaeger in Silver               10 Jan 42
Iron Cross 1st Class                                26 Jan 42
Frontflug-Spange för Jaeger in Gold	            10 Mar 42
German Cross in Gold                                21 Aug 42
Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross                    07 Sep 42

Summary of Victories:

Curtiss P-40            24
Hurricane               4
Spitfire                2
Bristol Beaufighter	2
Douglas Boston		2
Bristol Blenheim        1
Fairy Albacore		1

Photo 2: 19 Mar 42, following
victory number 10, a Curtiss P-40,
Körner celebrates JG 27's
1000th aerial victory.
(author's private collection)

Photo 3: Friedrich Körner, 2nd from the left, at his Knight's Cross
presentation ceremony on 6 Sep 42 in a Canadian Prisoner of War camp
(author's private collection)

Article by Rob Tate

*Author's note: A minor discrepancy exists regarding this kill. Hans Ring's Fighters Over the Desert lists this kill as taking place on 21 March, 1942 and as a Boston bomber of the 24 SAAF Squadron.. That would make this victory Körner's 13th victory. Herr Körner's personal log however, reflects this victory as is written in this article.


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