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Ace of the Month – Oberst Werner “Vati” Mölders
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From July 30th 6 pm GMT to July 31st 6 pm GMT (July 30th 11 am PDT - July 31st 11am PDT) War Thunder presents Ace of the Month Special:

30% experience bonus for the following aircraft: Bf.109E-3, Bf.109F-4, Bf.109F-4/trop. 


On 22nd November 1941, a lone Heinkel 111 of KG 27 struggled through a violent thunderstorm whilst en route from the Russian Front to Berlin. The pilot, Oberleutnant Kolbe, made the decision to attempt to land at Breslau to then await better weather before continuing the journey. Wracked by the terrible conditions of the thunderstorm, the He 111 crashed into the ground – three of the five men onboard were killed. One of these was Oberst Werner Mölders; top scoring German fighter ace of the Spanish Civil War, veteran of the Battle of France and Battle of Britain and the first pilot in history to claim one hundred air-to-air victories.

 
 
Born in Gelsenkirchin on March 18th 1913, Mölders was the second youngest of four children. His father, a teacher by occupation, was called up as an infantry officer during the First World War and was killed in action some two weeks before Mölders’ second birthday. The family then moved to Brandenburg City where Mölders was educated. An academic youth, Mölders discovered two passions during his school days – he was a successful rower, and under the guidance of Catholic Chaplain Erich Klawitter, he became a devoted member of the German Catholic Youth organisation; a grounding which would have a huge impact on his conduct and beliefs in his adult life.

 
 
After graduating from school, Mölders joined the infantry of the German Imperial Defense force in April 1931. Although Mölders already had a keen interest in aviation, the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from operating an air force, leaving the army as his preferred vocation. After serving out his training as an officer cadet he was promoted to ensign in June 1933 and was transferred to the 1stPrussian Pioneer Battalion. Two months previously the Reich Air Ministry had been established and on May 15th the Luftwaffe was created. Mölders immediately volunteered for pilot training but was found to be medically unfit. Undeterred he repeated his application and after a review was permitted to commence training with constrictions placed on his flying category.

 
 
Fighting through nausea and vomiting during his flying training at the transport flying school throughout much of 1934, the newly promoted Leutnant Mölders was successful nonetheless and graduated top of his class. After being streamed onto fighters, he received his pilot’s flying badge in May 1935. In April 1936 he was promoted to Oberleutnant and, even though relatively inexperienced, was selected as a training squadron CO in the fledgling Luftwaffe. In March 1937 he took command of 1./JG 334. In 1938 Mölders volunteered to join the Condor Legion – a unit whose purpose was to provide aid to the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. Initially flying Heinkel He51s but later converting to the ground breaking Messerschmitt Me109B, Mölders was the top scoring German fighter ace of the entire war, with different sources quoting 14 or 15 kills claimed. An innovative and dynamic leader, Mölders was credited with being one of the tacticians responsible for replacing the three aircraft ‘Kette’ with the superior four aircraft ‘schwarm’ formation, and reinvigorating the use of the ‘cross over turn.’

 
 
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, the action bypassed Mölders for the opening rounds - he was injured after his 109 flipped onto its back following a forced landing on soft ground after an unsuccessful encounter with French Armee de l’Air Curtiss Hawks. However, after recovering from his injuries he claimed a French fighter destroyed on September 20th and was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class. After handing over command of his squadron at the end of the month, Hauptmann Mölders took command of the newly formed III/JG 53 and, in December, became one of the first German pilots to shoot down a Hawker Hurricane in an encounter with ‘A’ Flight of No.73 Squadron, RAF. By the end of the ‘Phoney War’ in Western Europe, Mölders had added nine air to air victories to the tally he began in Spain. III/JG 53 was actively involved in operations in support of the invasion of France in May 1940 but on the 14th of the month Mölders was forced to parachute out of his stricken 109 after receiving return fire from an enemy bomber. After shooting down two French Curtiss Hawks on May 27th, Mölders became the first fighter pilot to be awarded the Knights Cross for his twentieth victory, less than two months after receiving his Iron Cross, First Class. However, just nine days later Mölders was shot down by a French D520 and captured. After the surrender of France, Mölders returned to his unit. He personally intervened when a French soldier was sentenced to death for assaulting him in captivity and stealing his Knights Cross; Mölders acquired a less severe sentence for his captor from Hermann Goring himself.

 
 
In July 1940 Mölders was promoted to Major and took command of JG 51 at Pas-de-Calais. He was again grounded due to injuries received in combat, after making an emergency landing following a dogfight where his 109 was severely damaged by an RAF Spitfire; most likely from No.41 Squadron although some sources claim Mölders was shot down by the legendary South African ace Adolf ‘Sailor’ Malan. By the end of September, Mölders tally stood at 40 kills and he was awarded Oak Leaves to his Knights Cross by Adolf Hitler himself. He was promoted to Oberstleutnant in October 1940 and given a pre-production Me109F for service evaluation. After another period on the ground due to illness and a brief spell away from the front lines with his unit, Mölders returned to front line duties in early 1941. Continuing operations in the West, Mölders had scored 68 victories by the time his unit was transferred to the Eastern Front in June 1941.

 
 
On the first day of the invasion of Russia, Mölders led JG 51 into battle and shot down four aircraft, resulting in the award of Swords to go with his Knights Cross with Oak Leaves. On June 30th he became the highest scoring fighter pilot in history when he overtook the record of 80 kills set by Manfred von Richthofen in 1918. By mid July, Mölders became the first pilot in history to score 100 aerial victories; Hitler personally awarded Diamonds to his Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, and he was promoted to Oberst. This promotion came at a cost; Germany could ill afford to risk its premium propaganda hero, and Mölders was given a non flying appointment – Inspector General of Fighters. Although now employed in a High Command appointment, Mölders continued to fly combat missions unofficially with JG 51, shooting down another estimated 30 Russian aircraft unofficially.

 
 
After the suicide of Luftwaffe General and First World War flying ace Ernest Udet, Mölders was killed when the aircraft he was flying in crash landed in poor weather en route to Udet’s funeral. Udet, the second highest scoring German ace of the First World War, was buried in Berlin next to Manfred von Richthofen. Mölders took pride of place next to the two veteran aces in a state funeral. News of Mölders’ death shocked the entire German fighter community; nicknamed ‘Vati’ (Daddy) due to his paternal nature and care of his subordinates, Mölders was universally loved and respected by his men. A devoutly religious man, Mölders defied Nazi authorities by insisting on a Catholic ceremony when he was married only two months before his death. After the war, unconfirmed reports also circulated that Mölders close friendship with the anti-Nazi Catholic Bishop Graf von Galen led to the pilot’s disillusion with Hitler’s regime and that he threatened to relinquish his medals if von Galen’s reports of Nazi atrocities turned out to be true. A brilliant pilot, cunning tactician, inspirational leader and moral and upstanding officer, Werner Mölders was the first of the great German fighter aces of World War II.


 

 


About the author:
Mark Barber, War Thunder Historical Consultant
Mark Barber is a pilot in the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. His first book was published by Osprey Publishing in 2008; subsequently, he has written several more titles for Osprey and has also published articles for several magazines, including the UK's top selling aviation magazine 'FlyPast'. His main areas of interest are British Naval Aviation in the First and Second World Wars and RAF Fighter Command in the Second World War. He currently works with Gaijin as a Historical Consultant, helping to run the Historical Section of the War Thunder forums and heading up the Ace of the Month series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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