ERICH HARTMANN, The leading ace of all time, achieved all of his 352 aerial victories while flying the Messerschmitt Me109 on the Eastern Front. His first victory came on 5 November 1942 when he shot down an Ilyushin IL-2 Stormovik. Hartmann was still 20 years of age! On 29 October 1943, he scored his 150th victory and earned the Knight’s Cross. Since 27 February, he had achieved 148 victories, an incredible feat in eight months! His fame climbed rapidly. His photograph appeared in German newspapers with other aces of JG (Jagdgeschwader) 52. The Russian’s knew him by his radio call sign “Karaya One.” Later they called him the “Black Devil of the South” who was to be avoided since he “never missed.” In January and February of 1944, he added 50 victories. By March, with over 200 victories, Hartmann was sent to Berlin where the Führer personally awarded him the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross. On 1 July 1944, Hartmann became the fifth and last ace to reach 250 victories. He was awarded the Swords in East Prussia by Hitler. On 23 August 1944, Hartmann became the first ace to reach 301 victories and earned the Diamonds. As the Germans retreated west, Hartmann first fought American P-51’s over Rumania and met them again over Prague in the last days of WWII. On 8 May he flew his last mission. He had downed 261 single-engined fighters and 91 twin-engined aircraft. Ordered to surrender to the British, Hartmann stayed with his men and ultimately spent over 10 years in Soviet prison camps. The “Blond Knight” of Germany survived and flew again in the new German Air Force. EDITION: 1000 signed/numbered by Harley Copic and Erich Hartmann
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