Erich Woitke
Hauptmann

Erich Woitke

    Erich Woitke was born on 29 January 1912 at Mülheim near Duisberg. A gifted athlete, he participated in the decathlon event at the 1936 Olympic Games at Berlin. Woitke received his combat initiation during the Spanish Civil War serving with 1./J 88 of the Condor Legion. Leutnant Woitke recorded his first victory in Spain on 27 September 1939 when he claimed a Republican I-16 “Rata” shot down. He claimed a further three victories, all I-16 “Ratas”, before returning to Germany. On 1 February 1940, Oberleutnant Woitke was appointed Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 3. He led the unit during the French campaign. On 31 May 1940, Woitke participated in the escort of Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers attacking French troop concentrations near Huppy on the west bank of the Somme River. The formation encountered two British twin-engine bombers, a Wellington and a Blenheim, and quickly shot down both. Woitke was credited with the destruction of the Blenheim for his first victory of World War 2. He claimed one further victory during the aerial fighting over France, when he shot down a French Morane fighter near Compigne on 3 June. During the Battle of Britain, Woitke claimed seven victories with 6./JG 3, including two RAF Spitfire fighters shot down over Staplehurst on 9 September to record his ninth and 10th victories. On 1 October 1940, Woitke was appointed acting Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 3, replacing Hauptmann Erich von Selle (9 victories), who was taking up a staff position with Nachtjagddivison. He relinquished command of the Gruppe to Hauptmann Lothar Keller (23 victories, RK, killed in action 26 June 1941) on 23 November. On 3 November 1940, Hauptmann Woitke was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 52, although he did not take up the role until 24 November. He replaced Hauptmann Wilhelm Ensslen (18 victories), who had been reported missing in action on 2 November (he is buried in Hawkinge Cemetery, his grave was identified in September 2004). Woitke recorded his first victory with his new unit on 14 February 1941, when he shot down a Spitfire over Maidstone for his 14th victory. Woitke led II./JG 52 during the invasion of Russia. He claimed two victories on the opening day of Operation Barbarossa, 22 June 1941, when he shot down two Russian aircraft for his 16th and 17th victories. He recorded his 20th victory on 25 August, when he shot down a Russian I-18 fighter. During January 1942, serviceability of II./JG 52’s Bf 109s was in such a parlous state due to the severity of the Russian winter that the pilots and groundstaff were ordered to the trenches to assist the German army coming under pressure in the Rzhev sector. On the night of 20 January, Woitke was warned of a Russian breakthrough and advised to man the defensive positions. He chose to ignore the advice and several pilots and groundcrew were killed and wounded. Wounded in the incident was Oberleutnant Carl Hartmann (18 victories) who had to be abandoned during the retreat and was later found dead. Woitke was court-martialled which resulted in a demotion and a conditional sentence. By October 1942, Woitke was serving in North Africa with 5./JG 27. He had 22 victories to his credit at this time. Woitke recorded a USAAF P-39 fighter shot down on 9 October near El Daba as his 23rd victory. Woitke was serving with the Stabsstaffel of JG 77 in January 1943, based in Tunisia. He claimed an Allied P-40 fighter shot down on 14 January as his 24th victory. By October 1943, Woitke was serving with 2./JG 11 on Reichsverteidigung duties. He claimed a USAAF B-17 four-engine bomber shot down on 9 October as his 25th victory. Woitke was serving with II./JG 300 by February 1944. He claimed a USAAF B-24 four-engine bomber on 21 February. In May 1944, Woitke was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 1, replacing Hauptmann Hartmann Grasser (103 victories, RK-EL). On 6 June, Woitke led III./JG 1 to Beauvais in France, from where they participated in the aerial battles over the Allied landings in Normandy. On 18 June, Woitke was shot down in aerial combat with P-38 near Pont Laverne. He baled out of his stricken Bf 109 G-6 (W.Nr. 440 564), but dislocated both shoulders putting him out of action. On 10 October 1944, Woitke returned to combat duty as Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 1 based at Anklam. He replaced Hauptmann Heinz Knoke (33 victories, RK), who had been badly injured in a motor vehicle accident on 9 October. On 24 December 1944, Woitke led III./JG 1 off from Anklam. Shortly afterwards, he was shot down and killed in aerial combat near Aachen with RAF Spitfires in Bf 109 G-10/AS (W.Nr. 490 723) “Grey 20”. Woitke was considered a “character”. Besides his prowess as an athlete and a fighter pilot, the 1.85 metre tall Woitke had been demoted several times for his disregard for authority. He is reputed to have received the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold from Göring personally only to throw the award on the ground while making disparaging remarks! Only his courage and experience in combat ensured his advancement after each incident.
    Erich Woitke was credited with 30 victories. His victory total includes four victories claimed in the Spanish Civil War.
 
No
Date
Time
A/c Type
Unit
Location / Comments
1
27.9.1937
-
I-16 1./J 88 Spain
2
30.9.1937
-
I-16 1./J 88 Spain
3
18.1.1938
-
I-16 1./J 88 Spain
4
21.2.1938
-
I-16 1./J 88 Spain
5
31.5.1940
20:00
Blenheim 6./JG 3 Aumale
6
3.6.1940
14:40
Morane 6./JG 3 SW Compiegne
7
26.8.1940
13:20
Spitfire 6./JG 3 -
8
5.9.1940
16:30
Spitfire 6./JG 3 -
9
9.9.1940
18:34
Spitfire 6./JG 3 Staplehurst
10
9.9.1940
18:35
Spitfire 6./JG 3 Staplehurst
11
15.9.1940
13:05
Spitfire 6./JG 3 S London
12
18.9.1940
14:35
Spitfire 6./JG 3 -
13
27.9.1940
13:30
Curtiss 6./JG 3 -
14
14.2.1941
13:11
Spitfire Stab II./JG 52 Maidstone
15
23.2.1941
16:01
Spitfire Stab II./JG 52 5km S Calais
16
22.6.1941
9:53
I-15 Stab II./JG 52 S Varena
17
22.6.1941
16:48
DB-3 Stab II./JG 52 S Marknie
18
9.7.1941
15:53
DB-3 Stab II./JG 52 -
19
21.7.1941
15:00
DB-3 Stab II./JG 52 -
20
25.8.1941
16:37
I-18 Stab II./JG 52 -
21
6.9.1941
16:40
I-18 Stab II./JG 52 Kjarbusstje
22
6.9.1941
16:43
I-18 Stab II./JG 52 -
23
5.10.1941
13:00
I-18 Stab II./JG 52 -
24
9.10.1942
9:25
P-39 Stab II./JG 27 SE El-Daba
25
14.1.1943
-
P-40 Stab JG 77 -
26
9.10.1943
12:25
B-17 2./JG 11 TB-5.5
27
21.2.1944
14:55
B-24 Stab II./JG 300 NNE Achmer airfield
28
14.7.1944
14:45
P-47 Stab III./JG 1 N Caen
29
18.7.1944
9:50
P-38 Stab III./JG 1 Louviers
30
23.12.1944
-
B-17 HSS Stab III./JG 1 -

Victories : 30
Awards :
Units : J 88, JG 3, JG 52, JG 77, JG 27, JG 11, JG 300, JG 1

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