Heinz "Pritzl" Bär.

Photo: C.Sundin, Ch. Bergstöm 'Luftwaffe Fighter Aircraft i Profile',Schiffer 1997.

Heinz "Pritzl" Bär in competition with Gollob.

Written by Christer Bergström and Dariusz Tyminski .

Above Heinz "Pritzl" Bär - with his Knight Cross awards clearly visible . In the text is a photo of Bär's 'adversary'- Gordon Gollob. And another snap from 1944 of "Pritzl" appraising the construction of one of his victims, a USAAF B-17 bomber.
Heinz Bär was born on 21 March 1913 in Sommerfeld near Lipsk. By 1935, he had been trained to fly Luftwaffe bombers and then was posted to transport duty, flying Ju 52/3m. In the beginning of 1939 Heinz completed fighter training and was posted to JG 51. On 25 September of that year, Bär opened his killboard, shooting down a French Curtiss H-75 A-2 of GC I/4. During the French campaign of 1940, he scored seven more kills: 3 French and 4 British planes. In the Battle of Britain, while ten enemy fighters fell prey to his guns, Bär's Bf 109 returned to base heavily damaged a few times. On 2 September 1940 he experienced 'swimming' in the Channel's cold water, having been shot down himself...

1941 brought the relocation of JG 51 to the Eastern Front. Here Bär's score rose quickly. On 2 July 1941 he was promoted to Leutnant and awarded the Knight's Cross, having totalled 27 kills. When he reached 60 victories, on 14 August 1941, Bär was decorated with the Oak Leaves. On one day, 30 August 1941, Bär scored 6 Soviet planes. From the beginning of 1942 Bär took command of IV/JG 51, and in mid-February he was awarded by Swords, having achieved 90 kills. In the spring of 1942, Bär was to face significant new challenges - - the heavy air battles in the southern part of the Russo-German Front, the Kerch Peninsula area.
"In these days, two of the Luftwaffe 's top aces arrived to command positions in JG 77 in the Crimea: Hauptmann Gordon Gollob, whose score stood at 86, was sent from the Test Centre at Rechlinto take over as Geschwaderkommodore , and Hauptmann Heinz Bär with 91 victories to his credit was sent from IV./JG 51 on the Moscow front to take charge of I./JG 77. Both were highly awarded - Bär with the Swords to the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves while Gollob carried the Oak Leaves. These two men were however had diametrically opposed personalities. "Pritzl" Bär, the notoriously undisciplined Lepiziger who simply refused to fly on combat missions whenever he didn't feel 'inspired' and the harsh Nazi follower MacGollob of old Prussian military style definitely would have clashed, had not Bär's I./JG 77 hastily been transferred to the Mediterranean area a few weeks later. However, during the last two weeks of May 1942, Bär and Gollob practically 'took over' the air over the Kerch - Taman area.

On 16 May, Heinz Bär proved his skills by shooting down two LaGG-3s - his 92nd and 93rd victories. Next day, Gollob followed by destroying three R-5 light bombers. He there after attacked a Yak-1 piloted by Sergeant N. K. Chayka. He hit the Yakovlev, saw it go down and returned home, reporting it as his 93rd victory (claiming it as a LaGG-3). Not caring much about the war in general, Gollob started competing with his subordinate in the cynical manner that characterized many of the Luftwaffe fighter aces during World War II. The fate of his last victim didn't bother the ambitious Gollob the slightest. Having suffered severe wounds from the machine guns and automatic cannon in Gollob's Messerschmitt Bf 109 F, the young Sergeant Chayka struggled at the controls of his damaged Yakovlev fighter. He managed to bring it back to the Khersones airfield, but lost control of it during landing and crashed into another Yak-1. Both planes were destroyed and Chayka was killed.

Gordon Gollob. Having returned to base, Gollob learned that Bär meanwhile had bagged three MiG-3s. Hauptmann Gollob continued to strive for successes, picking easy targets during the following days. In contrast to the common fighter tactic of attacking from above, Gollob preferred to sneak up from ground-level, to be surethat no-one tried to attack him from the blind spot beneath. An anonymous pilot of JG 77 wrote the following account of Gollob's way of fighting:

'Gollob flew from Kerch together with his wingman. They positioned themselves at a low altitude beneath a Russian formation. Then they started climbing in spirals, carefully maintaining their position beneath the enemy formation. Before the peacefully flying Russians had even suspected any mischief, the two planes at the bottom of their formation had been shot down and the two Germans were gone.' (Prien: JG 77, p. 1018.)

On 18 May, another three obsolete R-5 bombers fell prey to Gollob's private ambitions, raising his kill score to 96. Yet again he was surpassed by Bär, who got involved in a combat with twelve Soviet fighters over the Tamanskaya Sound and shot down two LaGG-3s. The same day, Heinz Bär's I./JG 77 was visitedby his personal friend, Jagfliegergeneral Adolf Galland . A detail in this context is that a deep animosity eventually would develop between Galland and Gollob. Having sacked Gollob from his post as fighter plane expert due to lacking competence in 1944, Galland as Jagdfliegergeneral soon found himself targeted by Gollob's plotting (in house arrest early in 1945, Galland was informed that Gollob collected material against him regarding his private use of Luftwaffe cars, his gambling and his notorious womanizing).

On 19 May, Gollob and Bär both were in action. The former managed to bring down three R-5s again, but the magical '100th victory' slipped away. Meanwhile, Heinz Bär shot five Ishak fighters from the sky, for which he was mentioned in the OKW bulletin on the following day:

' Hauptmann Bär, the Gruppenkommandeur in a Jagdgeschwader, achieved his 99th to 103rd aerial victories yesterday. The total victory tally of Jagdgeschwader 77 has increased to 2,011.'

Next day, Gollob lurked along the Caucasus coast and managed to bring down a DB-3 bomber - being the tenth German fighter pilot to surpass the 100th victory score - followed by an unhappy LaGG-3."

This text is an excerpt from the manuscript of a book "Black Cross/Red Star; German and Russian Fighter Pilots in Combat 1941-1945" dealing with the air war on the Eastern Front 1941-1945, which Christer Bergström is working on at the present. This book will give the most thorough-going account so far presented of aerial combat between the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force during World War II. By carefully comparing German and Russian sources, Christer Bergström has arrived at many astonishing and hitherto unknown facts.
Soon after this exciting point in the irrivalry, in June of 1942, Bär's JG 77 was moved to MTO area. While leading I./JG 77, 'Pritzl' downed several British fighters over Malta . On 13 October 1942 his victims were three "Spitfires" (two of 185 Sgn and one of 1435 Sqn RAF). Another "Spitfire" was shot down four days later (17 October 1942) near La Valetta. Then Heinz Bär took part in combat missions in the hot African sky. In Tunisia, he scored his next 61 Allied aircraft victories (Nos 118-179). But the density of air activity from the start of the war combined with the hard battle conditions in Africa to seriously undermine Bär's fighting spirit, and exhaust him both physically and mentally. In effect, this famous ace was removed from command and sent back to Germany for 'rehabilitation'.

Major Heinz Bär. The spring of 1944 saw Major Heinz Bär back in active duty as commander of the II./JG 1 in defense of the Reich. His first victory after so long a break, Bär's 200th, was scored flying FW 190A-7 'red 23' on 22 April 1944. A week later, on 29 April 1944, he took off with another personal FW 190 A-7, WNr 431007 'red 13' (see profile bottom). On this morning 28 fighters from his II./JG 1 were vectored against a USAAF bombers. "Pritzl" shot down a P-47 "Thunderbolt", for victory No. 201, and a few minutes later flamed a B-24 "Liberator" for No. 202. In 1944, he downed three Allied planes more, achieving 205 kills.

In the beginning of 1945 Heinz Bär was moved to command the jet fighter school III./EJG 2 ( Lechfeld Schule ). In March of 1945 this school was reformed to an operational unit equipped with Me 262s. On 19 March 1945 'Pritzl' scored his first 'jet' victory - a P-51 "Mustang". In the hands of an expert the Me 262 proved it self a most deadly weapon: on 21 March "Pritzl" claimed a B-24, and three days later his victims were another B-24 and a P-51 (Nos 208-209). Until 23 April 1944, when Bär arrived at Galland's JV 44 he was credited with 13 'jet' victories. With the "jet experten" of JV 44, Bär downed two P-47s on 27 April. The final victory of "Pritzl" Bär in WW II was a P-47, downed over Bad Aibiling on 29 April 1945.

With total of 221 victories Heinz Bär is ranked 8th among the Luftwaffe's top guns and with 16 Me 262 kills, he's the 3rd ranking 'jet' fighter ace of WW II.

It's interesting to note that Bär was very fortunate - while achieving those victories, he was shot down 18 times himself! Bär's good fortune in the air left him on 28 April 1957, when he was killed in light plane accident in Braunschweig, Germany.

Special thanks to John Crump for English language support !

Personal FW 190 A-7 WNr 431007 'red 13' of Heinz "Pritzl" Bär, commander of II./JG 1. The view is dated on 29 April 1944, when he scored 2 victories.

FW 190 A-7 of Major Heinz Bär.

Source: C.Sundin, Ch. Bergstöm 'Luftwaffe Fighter Aircraft i Profile',Schiffer 1997.


1998.08.22, © WW II Ace Stories.