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Aces of Aviation

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-7/R3 of Heinz Bär

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-7/R3 of Heinz Bär

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-7/R3 from the II Gruppe of the Jagdgeschwader I, piloted by Major Heinz Bär, in Germany, the 22nd April 1944.

Wingspan: 10.50 meters.

Length: 8.95 meters.

Height: 3.93 meters.

Engine[s]: BMW 801 of 1700 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 671 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 10300 meters.

Range: 800 kilometers.

Armament: Four MG 151 20-millimeter cannons; two MG 131 13-millimeter machine guns.

Heinz "Pritzl" Bär was member of a small group of fighter pilots which flew and fought through the whole Second World War. He was awarded the Knight's Cross with distinctions for achieving a total of 220 victories throughout numerous campaigns in different battle fronts. Born in 1913 in Sommerfeld, near Leipzig, in Saxony, Bär enlisted in the Luftwaffe shortly before the outbreak of the war. He was assigned as Non-Commissioned Officer to the Staffel I of the Jagdgeschwader 51, which was equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-1. His first victory allegedly took place in the Maginot Line, the 25th September 1939, during a period of intense aerial activity against the French Air Army.

During the first moments of the Battle of France Bär piloted a Bf 109 nicknamed "White 13", and the 20th September 1940, on the middle of the Battle of Britain, his vertical tail already displayed eight victory symbols. At the end of this campaign Bär was already regarded as a very determined pilot. His dangerous skimming flight turned to be pure recklesness, albeit his record slowly increased. The 21st April 1944, piloting a Bf 109 E-4 from Coquee, in France, Bär shot down his 15th enemy aircraft, a Hawker Hurricane from the RAF Fighter Command, over the English Channel.

Until then Bär had flown on the Bf 109 E, but the JG 51 had already received the Bf 109 F, in a time when this unit was being transferred to the Eastern Front, under command from the great ace Werner Mölders. Bär received the Knight's Cross the 2nd July, barely two weeks after the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa, and that same day he downed his 27th enemy aircraft. The 14th August, after a six-week period during which he had downed 33 Soviet aircraft, it was announced the awarding of the Oak Leaves category for his Knight's Cross.

Bär was subsequently awarded the command of the IV/JG 51 and, the 16th February 1942, when his record reached 90 victories, he became the seventh member of the German Armed Forces who received the Swords category for the Knight's Cross. The 19th May, when Bär was fighting over the Kerch Peninsula, his Bf 109 F displayed a badge with 103 victory symbols, and the 27th June the total amounted to 113.

In July 1942, Bär left the JG 51 and the Eastern Front to take the command of the I/JG 77 in Sicily, unit which was being re-equipped with the Bf 109 G "Gustav". His Bf 109 G-1 had a yellow lion painted before the canopy. While serving in the Mediterranean Front, Bär destroyed another twenty aircraft, both British and American. In 1944 he had reached the rank of Major and was given the command of the II/JG 1 "Oesau". He piloted a Focke Wulf Fw 190 A-7/R3, with serial number 172689 and code "Red 23", when he destroyed his aircraft number 200, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator. Thus, Bär became the seventh German pilot who achieved 200 victories.

As a natural consequence of his skill, in April 1945 Bär was awarded a position in the Jagdverband 44, an elite unit commanded by another great ace, Adolf Galland, and equipped with the Messerschmitt Me 262 turbojet fighter. When Galland was wounded, Bär took the command of the unit. Bär had achieved his first victory with the Me 262 in March, and at the end of April his total of 16 victories with this aircraft turned him into one of the turbojet pilots with a highest record of victories. This exceptional pilot survived the war but died the 28th April 1957, when the light aircraft which he was testing crashed in Braunschweig after losing control during a spin.

In the following photograph, a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A is refuelled in an airbase in the battle front. From 1943, the Fw 190 became the backbone of the Reich's aerial defense. The JG 1, whose emblem is depicted in the illustration along with a Fw 190 A that Bär piloted when he was one of its members, was one of the first units assigned to the defense of the German territory.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A