Günther Specht
Günther Specht was a German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 fighter ace
Fighter Ace
Fighter Ace was a massively multiplayer online computer game in which one flies World War II fighter and bomber planes in combat against other players and virtual pilots...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Specht joined the heavy fighter
Heavy fighter
A heavy fighter is a fighter aircraft designed to carry heavier weapons or operate at longer ranges. To achieve acceptable performance, most heavy fighters were twin-engined, and many had multi-place crews....

 wing  (ZG 26) "Horst Wessel" in early 1939. The unit was initially equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109
The Messerschmitt Bf 109, often called Me 109, was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 1930s...

s and later with the Bf 110. In 1939 he was wounded by an RAF tail gunner and blinded in one eye. He returned to active duty and was shot down six times during the war. After his recovery in 1939, he chose to return to active service but was shot down again in France and was seriously injured. These injuries kept him grounded for the next two years. In 1942 he returned to active duty with 1st Fighter Wing (Jagdgeschwader 1 Oesau; JG 1)). He was then made Group Commander (Gruppenkommandeur
Gruppenkommandeur is a Luftwaffe position , that is the equivalent of a commander of a group or wing in other air forces. Gruppenkommandeur usually has the rank of Hauptmann or Major, and commands a Gruppe, which is a sub-division of a Geschwader. A Gruppe usually consists of three or four...

) of II Group of JG 11 (II./JG 11) and promoted to Major
Major (Germany)
Major is a rank of the German military which dates back to the Middle Ages.It equates to Major in the British and US Armies, and is rated OF-3 in NATO.During World War II, the SS equivalent was Sturmbannführer....

. He was appointed as Wing Commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

Geschwaderkommodore is a Luftwaffe position , originating during World War II, that is the equivalent of a RAF Group Commander or USAF Wing Commander. A Geschwaderkommodore is usually of Oberstleutnant or Oberst rank...

) of JG 11 and was listed as missing in action
Missing in action
Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...

 during the attack on the Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 bases at Asch and Ophoven
Ophoven Airfield
Ophoven Airfield is an abandoned World War II military airfield which is located west of Ophoven ; approximately 54 miles northeast of Brussels.-History:...

 as part of Operation Bodenplatte
Operation Bodenplatte
Operation Bodenplatte launched on 1 January 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The goal of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge, to allow the German Army and...

. He was posthumously promoted to lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

  and was recommended for the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross, which was refused for unknown reasons.

Specht was considered as one of the best fighter leaders during the war and was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

 . During his combat career he was credited with 34 enemy aircraft destroyed, all downed on the Western Front
Western Front (World War II)
The Western Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and West Germany. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale ground combat operations...



Specht was born on 13 November 1914 in Frankenstein (modern Ząbkowice Śląskie
Zabkowice Slaskie
Ząbkowice Śląskie is a town in Lower Silesian Voivodeship in south-western Poland. It is the seat of Ząbkowice Śląskie County, and of the smaller administrative district called Gmina Ząbkowice Śląskie....

) of Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 (modern Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

). Specht was small in stature but full of energy. He had a distinguishing patch of gray in his hair just above his forehead. He was a perfectionist with a high sense of duty, and expected his men to follow his high standards. Although he lost his left eye in late 1939, according to Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these...

  Heinz Knoke
Heinz Knoke
Heinz Knoke was a World War II Luftwaffe flying ace. He is credited with 33 confirmed aerial victories, all claimed over the Western theatre of operations, and claimed a further five unconfirmed kills in over 2000 flights...

 of 5./JG 11, he could see like a vulture and was an excellent marksman. Specht also had an eye for detail, and he wrote detailed mission log reports for future use.

Specht's personal emblems adorning his aircraft included a design by Specht of a pencil superimposed on a chevron (termed a winged pencil) as a wry comment on being deskbound following his injuries. It may also have symbolized his possible desire to pilot the Dornier Do 17
Dornier Do 17
The Dornier Do 17, sometimes referred to as the Fliegender Bleistift , was a World War II German light bomber produced by Claudius Dornier's company, Dornier Flugzeugwerke...

, nicknamed the "Flying Pencil". His single-engine aircraft with JG 11 sported a green spinner and a Knight's Cross painted on the cowling after he was awarded the honour in April 1944.

Specht would not allow women on the group base, considering them an unnecessary diversion. According to Knoke, one time Specht's wife came to visit him on the II./JG 11 base but was held at the guard room on Specht's orders and refused to receive calls from the guard. Instead he asked Knoke to pass a message to her to 'put herself on ice', saying that he would only have time for her after the war. Specht however did not survive, dying five months before the war in Europe came to an end
Victory in Europe Day
Victory in Europe Day commemorates 8 May 1945 , the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The formal surrender of the occupying German forces in the Channel Islands was not...


Formation leadership

After taking command of II./JG 11, Specht led the group on every mission in which it participated. Following each mission, he wrote detailed and analytical mission reports. He soon gained a reputation as one of the most reliable formation leaders, with II./JG 11 reputed to be one of the best units among the fighter force on Reich air defense .

On 17 August 1943 Specht led the group from Gilze en Rijen
Gilze en Rijen
Gilze en Rijen is a municipality in the southern Netherlands. The municipality contains four villages Rijen, Gilze, Hulten and Molenschot.Rijen grew in the 19th century due to its leather factories.- Population centres :*Rijen...

 on an intercept and sighted the B-17 Flying Fortresses of 381 Bombing Group
381st Training Group
The United States Air Force 381st Training Group at Vandenberg AFB, California provides training for the nation's space and intercontinental ballistic missile operations and ICBM and Air Launched Missile maintenance forces...

 near Antwerp. He waited for 30 minutes until the escorts
Escort fighter
The escort fighter was a World War II concept for a fighter aircraft designed to escort bombers to and from their targets.The perfect escort fighter had long range, a lengthy combat loiter time to protect the bombers, and enough internal fuel to return home...

 turned back at Eupen
Eupen is a municipality in the Belgian province of Liège, from the German border , from the Dutch border and from the "High Fens" nature reserve...

 before attacking. Within the next half hour, sixty percent of the bombers went down. Specht himself was credited with downing two as his 16th and 17th victories.

On 11 September 1944 Specht and the JG 11 staff flight led a combined formation of II./JG 4 (Sturm) and III./JG 4. Due to Specht's skills, they positioned themselves against thirty-four B-17s of the "Bloody 100th"
100th Air Refueling Wing
The 100th Air Refueling Wing is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe Third Air Force. It is stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England. It is also the host wing at RAF Mildenhall....

 and fifteen B-17s were downed before the escorting P-51s arrived. Specht was credited with one P-51.

Military career

Heavy fighters

At the beginning of the Phoney War in late August 1939, Specht was an Oberleutnant
Oberleutnant is a junior officer rank in the militaries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In the German Army, it dates from the early 19th century. Translated as "Senior Lieutenant", the rank is typically bestowed upon commissioned officers after five to six years of active duty...

 serving with 3rd Staffel, Zerstörergeschwader 26
Zerstörergeschwader 26
Zerstörergeschwader 26 "Horst Wessel" was a Luftwaffe heavy/destroyer Fighter Aircraft-wing of World War II.-History:Zerstörergeschwader 26 was formed in early 1936 from the Jagdgeschwader 134 "Horst Wessel". The Geschwaderstab and I. Gruppe was located in Dortmund, II. Gruppe in Werl and III....

. On 29 September 1939 11 Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF) Handley Page Hampden
Handley Page Hampden
The Handley Page HP.52 Hampden was a British twin-engine medium bomber of the Royal Air Force serving in the Second World War. With the Whitley and Wellington, the Hampden bore the brunt of the early bombing war over Europe, taking part in the first night raid on Berlin and the first 1,000-plane...

 medium bomber
Medium bomber
A medium bomber is a bomber aircraft designed to operate with medium bombloads over medium distances; the name serves to distinguish them from the larger heavy bombers and smaller light bombers...

s of No. 144 Squadron RAF
No. 144 Squadron RAF
No. 144 Squadron, RAF, was a British aviation and missle squadron during World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.-World War I:No. 144 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Port Said, Egypt, on 20th March 1918...

 conducted an armed reconnaissance operation near Heligoland
Heligoland is a small German archipelago in the North Sea.Formerly Danish and British possessions, the islands are located in the Heligoland Bight in the south-eastern corner of the North Sea...

 in the German Bight
German Bight
German Bight is the southeastern bight of the North Sea bounded by the Netherlands and Germany to the south, and Denmark and Germany to the east . To the north and west it is limited by the Dogger Bank. The Bight contains the Frisian and Danish Islands. The Wadden Sea is approximately ten to...

. One six-strong aircraft formation attacked two destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

s unsuccessfully, while five bombers led by Wing Commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

 J. C. Cunningham were intercepted by Specht's unit. All five were shot down and Specht claimed his first two victories.

On 3 December 1939, 24 RAF Vickers Wellington
Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a...

 bombers from Marham
RAF Marham
Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

 and Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall is a Royal Air Force station located at Mildenhall in Suffolk, England. Despite its status as an RAF station, it primarily supports United States Air Force operations and is currently the home of the 100th Air Refueling Wing...

 bases attacked Heligoland. These were intercepted by I./ZG 26 along with other Messerschmitt Bf 109 units. Specht attacked one bomber over the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, and his aircraft was hit by return fire from the Wellington's tail gunner
Tail gunner
A tail gunner or rear gunner is a crewman on a military aircraft who functions as a gunner defending against enemy fighter attacks from the rear, or "tail", of the plane. The tail gunner operates a flexible machine gun emplacement on either the top or tail end of the aircraft with a generally...

, seriously wounding him in the face and forcing him to ditch the aircraft. He subsequently lost the sight in his left eye. Specht resumed combat flying despite the handicap. He would eventually be shot down six times during the war. He was shot down by Corporal
Corporal is a rank in use in some form by most militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. It is usually equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-4....

 Copley of No. 38 Squadron RAF
No. 38 Squadron RAF
No. 38 Squadron of the Royal Air Force was a bomber squadron formed in 1916 and was disbanded for the last time in 1967.-World War I :...


On 23 May 1940 Spitfires were encountered by Bf 110s and Bf 109s for the first time. The engagement resulted in the loss of two Bf 110s and two Bf 109s. However, Specht would claim three RAF Supermarine Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

 fighters shot down. The British No. 92 Squadron RAF
No. 92 Squadron RAF
No. 92 Squadron, also known as No 92 Squadron, of the Royal Air Force was formed as part of the Royal Flying Corps at London Colney as a fighter squadron on 1 September 1917. It deployed to France in July 1918 and saw action for just four months, until the end of the war. During the conflict it...

 involved lost three Spitfires in the entire engagement. Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these...

 Roger J Bushell
Roger Bushell
Squadron Leader Roger Joyce Bushell RAF was a South African-born British Auxiliary Air Force pilot who organised and led the famous escape from the Nazi prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft III. He was a victim of the Stalag Luft III murders. The escape was used as the basis for the film The Great...

 became a prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 while Paul H. Klipsch and Patrick Alexander George Learmond were killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

. During the course of this battle, Specht and his rear gunner/radio operator were wounded, force land
Forced landing
A forced landing is a landing by an aircraft made under factors outside the pilot's control, such as the failure of engines, systems, components or weather which makes continued flight impossible. For a full description of these, see article on Emergency landing...

 near Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

 and Boulogne-sur-Mer
-Road:* Metropolitan bus services are operated by the TCRB* Coach services to Calais and Dunkerque* A16 motorway-Rail:* The main railway station is Gare de Boulogne-Ville and located in the south of the city....

 with a damaged aircraft. Specht's wounds were serious enough to keep him from combat duty for almost two years.

Upon recovery Specht served as Group staff officer of I./ZG 26. His aircraft at the time had group identifier U8+BB. It carried the group staff flight emblem of a winged pencil which had been designed by Specht.

Specht was appointed as Gruppenkommandeur of the night fighter
Night fighter
A night fighter is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility...

 training group of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1
Nachtjagdgeschwader 1
Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 was a German Luftwaffe night fighter-wing of World War II. NJG 1 was formed on 22 June 1940 in Mönchengladbach.By the end of the war it was the most successful night fighter unit and had claimed some 2,311 victories by day and night, for some 676 aircrew killed in...

 on 31 October 1941. Located at Ingolstadt-Manching
Ingolstadt Manching Airport
Ingolstadt Manching Airport is an airport in Ingolstadt/Manching, Germany .Cassidian, the defence and security subsidiary of EADS, has its headquarters here.The first flight of the Eurofighter prototype took place in Manching...

, Specht instructed pilots in conversion to night fighting. Paul Zorner
Paul Zorner
Paul Zorner, born Paul Zloch , was a highly decorated German night fighter pilot in World War II. He was born in Roben district of Leobschütz, Upper Silesia...

, a future night fighter expert, was one of his students. This was the last time Specht flew a twin engine aircraft.

Single-engine fighters

A year later, with the training group converted into a night fighter school (III./Nachtjagdschule 1), Specht returned to active combat with a transfer to 10 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 1 (10./JG 1), operating from Mönchengladbach
Mönchengladbach , formerly known as Münchengladbach, is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located west of the Rhine half way between Düsseldorf and the Dutch border....

 (moved to Deelen
Deelen Air Base
Deelen Air Base is a military air base in the Netherlands in the province of Gelderland...

 in February 1943) and equipped with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger was a German Second World War single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. Powered by a radial engine, the 190 had ample power and was able to lift larger loads than its well-known counterpart, the Messerschmitt Bf 109...

. On 26 February 1943, he shot down his first USAAF
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 B-17 Flying Fortress.

On 14 May, Captain Specht moved to Jagdgeschwader 11
Jagdgeschwader 11
Jagdgeschwader 11 was a German fighter wing of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Its primary role was the defense of Northern Germany against Allied day bomber raids...

 and became Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 11, equipped with the Bf 109G Gustav. JG 11 was a newly formed day fighter
Day fighter
A day fighter is a fighter aircraft equipped only to fight during the day. More specifically, it refers to a multi-purpose aircraft that does not include equipment for fighting at night , although it is sometimes used to refer to some interceptors as well.Examples of planes that were classified as...

 unit operating across the north German plains
North German plain
The North German Plain or Northern Lowland is one of the major geographical regions of Germany. It is the German part of the North European Plain...


After joining JG 11, Specht continued to claim Viermot (German slang for heavy bombers). His fifth victory with JG 11 was on 25 June 1943 giving him a total of 12. He claimed one a month later during Blitz Week
Blitz Week
Blitz Week was a period of United States Army Air Forces aerial bombardment during the Combined Bomber Offensive of World War II. Air raids were conducted on six of seven days as part of Operation Gomorrah, against targets such as the chemical plant at Herøya, Norway, which produced nitrates for...

, when bombers targeted the Blohm & Voss
Blohm + Voss
Blohm + Voss , is a German shipbuilding and engineering works. It is a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems; there were plans to sell 80% of Blohm + Voss to Abu Dhabi Mar Group, but talks collapsed in July 2011.-History:It was founded on April 5, 1877, by Hermann Blohm and Ernst Voss as a...

 U Boat yards
Submarine pen
A submarine pen is a bunker which is designed to protect submarines from air attack.The term is generally applied to submarine bases constructed during World War II, particularly in Germany and the occupied countries which were also known as U-boat pens .-Background:Amongst the first...

 in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 and the synthetic rubber
Synthetic rubber
Synthetic rubber is is any type of artificial elastomer, invariably a polymer. An elastomer is a material with the mechanical property that it can undergo much more elastic deformation under stress than most materials and still return to its previous size without permanent deformation...

 factories of Continental AG
Continental AG
Continental AG, internally often called Conti for short, is a worldwide leading German manufacturer of tires, brake systems, vehicle stability control systems, engine injection systems, tachographs and other parts for the automotive and transport industries. The company is based in Hanover, Germany...

 and Nordhafen in Hanover
Hanover or Hannover, on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony , Germany and was once by personal union the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain, under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg...


On 4 October 1943, Specht led II./JG 11 with III./JG 11 and Jasta Heligoland to down four B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator was an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and a small number of early models were sold under the name LB-30, for Land Bomber...

 bombers out of twenty three, one being credited to Specht. Specht became increasingly critical of the relatively weak armament of the Bf 109 during this time. By the end of 1943 Specht had a total of 24 victories, including 14 heavy bombers, one of the leading Viermot (heavy bombers) experts. He was also II./JG 11's leading scorer, having claimed 17 victories in 1943.

On 11 February 1944 II./JG 11 engaged escort fighters returning from a raid on Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

 with Specht downing 2nd Lieutenant Richard McDonald of the 354th Fighter Group, who crashed his P-51 Mustang
P-51 Mustang
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II, the Korean War and in several other conflicts...

 "Plane Jane" near Oberalben
Oberalben is a municipality in the district of Kusel, in Rhineland-Palatinate, western Germany....

. Nine days later, Specht had to crash land
Emergency landing
An emergency landing is a landing made by an aircraft in response to a crisis which either interferes with the operation of the aircraft or involves sudden medical emergencies necessitating diversion to the nearest airport.-Types of emergency landings:...

 on the Ærø
Ærø is one of the Danish Baltic Sea islands, and part of Region of Southern Denmark. The western portion of the island was the municipality of Ærøskøbing; the eastern portion of the island was the municipality of Marstal...

 Island as a result of technical problems with his Bf 109G. On 15 March II./JG 11 lost six killed in action, two wounded, and eight aircraft lost, resulting in Specht declaring the unit non-operational for six weeks to rest and replace losses.

On 8 April 1944 Specht was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes for 31 victories on the Western Front
Western Front (World War II)
The Western Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and West Germany. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale ground combat operations...

. While II./JG 11 was still rebuilding at Eschborn
Eschborn is a town near Frankfurt am Main in the Main-Taunus district, Hesse, Germany. As of 2009, it had a population of 20,789, but boasts fulltime employment of over 30,000 people...

, Specht was moved to wing command flight as kommodore-in-training, and was replaced by Major Günther Rall
Günther Rall
Lieutenant-General Günther Rall was the third most successful fighter ace in history. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He achieved a total of 275 victories during World War II: 272 on the Eastern Front,...

 from JG 52. On 15 May 1944 Specht was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

) of JG 11 after Hermann Graf
Hermann Graf
Colonel Hermann Graf was a German Luftwaffe World War II fighter ace. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. He served on both the Eastern and Western Fronts...

 was wounded. In July, Specht had to crash land again and suffered head injuries. Despite severe pain from his injuries Specht remained on combat duty.

During Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

, the Allied parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

 landings in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, JG 11 was credited with 22 aircraft downed on 22 September, with two credited to Specht. Four days later, Specht claimed two RAF Hawker Typhoon
Hawker Typhoon
The Hawker Typhoon was a British single-seat fighter-bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft. While the Typhoon was designed to be a medium-high altitude interceptor, and a direct replacement for the Hawker Hurricane, several design problems were encountered, and the Typhoon never completely satisfied...

s near Deventer
Deventer is a municipality and city in the Salland region of the Dutch province of Overijssel. Deventer is largely situated on the east bank of the river IJssel, but also has a small part of its territory on the west bank. In 2005 the municipality of Bathmen Deventer is a municipality and city in...

. According to RAF records only three Typhoons were shot down on 26 September; two to flak and one in aerial combat against Jagdgeschwader 53
Jagdgeschwader 53
Jagdgeschwader 53 Pik-As was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. It operated in Western Europe and in the Mediterranean.Jagdgeschwader 53 - or as it was better known, the "Pik As" Geschwader - was one of the oldest German fighter units of World War II with its origins going back to 1937...

Bf 109s near Apeldoorn
Apeldoorn is a municipality and city in the province of Gelderland, about 60 miles south east of Amsterdam, in the centre of the Netherlands. It is a regional centre and has 155,000 . The municipality of Apeldoorn, including villages like Beekbergen, Loenen and Hoenderloo, has over 155,000...

. No fighters were recorded lost near Deventer. However, it may be the case that loss records were lost or not well kept, meaning Specht's claims cannot be traced and may well be accurate.

Operation Bodenplatte

On New Year’s Day 1945 the Luftwaffe launched Operation Baseplate, a low-level fighter attack targeted at Allied airfields throughout France, Belgium and the Netherlands in support of the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 in Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

. JG 11 was assigned the USAAF airfield at Asch (Code Name Y–29) and the RAF airfield at Ophoven
Ophoven Airfield
Ophoven Airfield is an abandoned World War II military airfield which is located west of Ophoven ; approximately 54 miles northeast of Brussels.-History:...

 north of Asch. The 366th Fighter Group (366th FG, Ninth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
The Ninth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force's Air Combat Command . It is headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina....

) and the 352nd Fighter Group
352d Fighter Group
The 352d Fighter Group was one of the most highly decorated USAAF Fighter Groups in World War II, producing many leading aces of the war. The 352d was composed of three squadrons: . Once deployed to the European Theater of Operations , the group was eventually headquartered in Bodney, England...

 (352 FG, Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

) were based at Asch. No. 41
No. 41 Squadron RAF
No. 41 Squadron of the Royal Air Force is currently the RAF's Test and Evaluation Squadron , based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. Its official title is "41 TES". The Squadron celebrates its 95th anniversary in 2011, and is one of the oldest RAF squadrons in existence.-First World War, 1916–1919:No...

, No. 130, 350
350th Squadron (Belgium)
The 350th Squadron is a fighter squadron in the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces. It is part of the 2nd Tactical Wing and operates F-16 Fighting Falcons....

 and No. 610
No. 610 Squadron RAF
No. 610 Squadron of the Royal Air Force was as a Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force, its pilots were initially part timers who would spend their weekends and spare time flying and practicing combat maneuvers. The squadron was named the "County of Chester" and adopted the motto "Alifero tollitur...

Squadron (aviation)
A squadron in air force, army aviation or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force...

s of the 2nd Tactical Wing
2nd Tactical Wing
The 2nd Tactical Wing is a wing in the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces. It comprises the 1st Squadron and the 350th Squadron of the Air Component.-External links:*...

 were based at Ophoven.

For this mission Specht wore his full dress uniform with medals instead of his flight suit. JG 11 was based at Darmstadt-Griesheim
Griesheim is a town in the Darmstadt-Dieburg district, in Hessen, Germany. It is situated approx. 7 km west of Darmstadt.-History:...

, Zellhausen
Mainhausen is a community of over 9,000 in the Offenbach district in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany.-Location:Mainhausen is one of 13 towns and communities in the Offenbach district, lying in the southernmost part of Hesse right on the boundary with Bavaria...

, and Gross-Ostheim. I./JG 11, III./JG 11 (Fw 190 A–9), and II./JG 11 (Bf 109G) mustered sixty-five aircraft for this mission. Specht flew Fw 190 A-9 (Wk. Nr. 205033) "Black 4". At 8:08 am the aircraft took off and assembled over Aschaffenburg
Aschaffenburg is a city in northwest Bavaria, Germany. The town of Aschaffenburg is not considered part of the district of Aschaffenburg, but is the administrative seat.Aschaffenburg is known as the Tor zum Spessart or "gate to the Spessart"...

 with two Junkers Ju 188
Junkers Ju 188
The Junkers Ju 188 was a German Luftwaffe high-performance medium bomber built during World War II, the planned follow-on to the famed Ju 88 with better performance and payload...

 'Pathfinders' to navigate. After assembling, Specht ordered all aircraft to fly at 400 feet (121.9 m) to the target area, climbing to 1500 feet (457.2 m) prior to commencing the attack. Some P-47 Thunderbolt
P-47 Thunderbolt
Republic Aviation's P-47 Thunderbolt, also known as the "Jug", was the largest, heaviest, and most expensive fighter aircraft in history to be powered by a single reciprocating engine. It was heavily armed with eight .50-caliber machine guns, four per wing. When fully loaded, the P-47 weighed up to...

s of the 390th Fighter Squadron
390th Fighter Squadron
The 390th Fighter Squadron is part of the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. It operates F-15C Eagle aircraft conducting an air superiority mission.-History:...

, 366th FG, were already airborne and Mustangs of the 487th Fighter Squadron
487th Fighter Squadron
The 487th Fighter Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with 352d Fighter Group stationed at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.-History:...

, 352nd FG, were on the runway. The formation was disrupted by flak
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

, and several German aircraft were shot down.

The P-47 and P-51s took a heavy toll of JG 11; some 25 pilots were lost, including Specht, who was posted missing, along with other senior officers of JG 11.

Death and confusion

There was some confusion over the circumstance of Specht's death. Lt. Melvin Paisley and his wingman
A wingman is a pilot who supports another in a potentially dangerous flying environment. Wingman was originally a term referring to the plane flying beside and slightly behind the lead plane in an aircraft formation....

 Flight Officer Dave Johnson were flying 366th FG P-47s; Johnson shot down two German fighters before his aircraft was heavily damaged from return fire. Bailing out, he landed in a field near Asch. A Bf 109 he had shot down had belly landed
Belly landing
A belly landing or gear-up landing occurs when an aircraft lands without its landing gear fully extended and uses its underside, or belly, as its primary landing device...

 close by and Johnson rode a borrowed bicycle over to inspect it. The aircraft was intact but the pilot was dead. Johnson took the pilot's identification card and gun and rode back to base. The identification card identified the pilot as a Oberstleutnant ; however, the card actually belonged to Oberleutnant August Engel of 8 Staffel.

Further research has revealed more detail. German records confirmed Specht flew a Fw 190, not a Bf 109, and that he was a Major at the time, confirming Johnson's victim was most likely to have been Engel. Johnson's claim form revealed he had claimed a Bf 109, not an Fw 190. The ID card of Johnson's victim was passed on to a member of the ground crew who spoke German. This individual stated that the rank was given as Lieutenant Colonel. The incorrect identification was most likely a language error and misunderstanding of German ranks. This may have caused the belief that Johnson had killed Specht. Johnson passed away in October 1976, and aviation historians were unable to secure his version of events.

Specht was officially listed as missing in action over Maastricht
Maastricht is situated on both sides of the Meuse river in the south-eastern part of the Netherlands, on the Belgian border and near the German border...

, and to date he remains missing. The cause of his demise is unknown. Specht was promoted posthumously to Oberstleutnant and nominated for the Eichenlaub to his Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Oak Leaves were not awarded. Specht shot down 34 aircraft including 17 heavy bombers. All his victories were recorded over the Western Front and included 15 four-engine bombers.


  • Iron Cross
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

     in 1939 2nd and 1st Class.
  • Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe
    Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe
    The Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe was a Luftwaffe award established on February 27, 1940 by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, the Reich Minister of Aviation and Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe. It was officially known as the Ehrenpokal "für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg", or Honor Goblet "For...

     on 23 August 1943 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 11.
  • German Cross
    German Cross
    The German Cross was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 17 November 1941 as an award ranking higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross respectively ranking higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit...

     in Gold on 25 November 1943 while serving in the II./JG 11.
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
    Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
    The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

     on 8 April 1944 as Major and Gruppenkommandeur of the II./JG 11.

Dates of rank

August 1939: Leutnant
23 May 1940: Oberleutnant
Oberleutnant is a junior officer rank in the militaries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In the German Army, it dates from the early 19th century. Translated as "Senior Lieutenant", the rank is typically bestowed upon commissioned officers after five to six years of active duty...

May 1943: Hauptmann
Hauptmann is a German word usually translated as captain when it is used as an officer's rank in the German, Austrian and Swiss armies. While "haupt" in contemporary German means "main", it also has the dated meaning of "head", i.e...

8 April 1944: Major
Major (Germany)
Major is a rank of the German military which dates back to the Middle Ages.It equates to Major in the British and US Armies, and is rated OF-3 in NATO.During World War II, the SS equivalent was Sturmbannführer....

1 January 1945: Oberstleutnant
Oberstleutnant is a German Army and Air Force rank equal to Lieutenant Colonel, above Major, and below Oberst.There are two paygrade associated to the rank of Oberstleutnant...


See also

  • Luftwaffe during WW II
  • Organizational Hierarchy of the Luftwaffe during WW II


Zorner (not being there) did not know the reason for putting on the uniform. But he speculated that Specht may have known about his impending death. The similar but differing meaning of Oberleutnant and Oberstleutnant may have contributed to the misunderstanding. It is not clear whether Johnson himself said Specht's name was on the ID card. Johnson died in 1976 and the authors were unable to confirm this. According to Uffz. Ludwig Bertram of I./JG 1, the Geschwader took off at 08:08 am.

Military Offices held

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