This is the last interview of arguably the greatest fighter from the Luftwaffe, which was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht (Defence Forces) during World War II. A unique piece.
Erich Alfred Hartmann (19 April 1922 – 20 September 1993), nicknamed "Bubi" ("The Kid") by his German comrades and the "Black Devil" by his Soviet adversaries, was a German fighter pilot during World War II and the most successful fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. He flew 1,404 combat missions and participated in aerial combat on 825 separate occasions. He was credited with shooting down 352 Allied aircraft—345 Soviet and 7 American—while serving with the Luftwaffe. During the course of his career, Hartmann was forced to crash-land his fighter 14 times due to damage received from parts of enemy aircraft he had just shot down or mechanical failure. He was never shot down or forced to land due to enemy fire.
Hartmann, a pre-war glider pilot, joined the Luftwaffe in 1940 and completed his fighter pilot training in 1942. He was posted to Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) on the Eastern Front and was fortunate to be placed under the supervision of some of the Luftwaffe's most experienced fighter pilots. Under their guidance, Hartmann steadily developed his tactics, which earned him the coveted Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds on 25 August 1944 for claiming 301 aerial victories. At the time of its presentation to Hartmann, this was Germany's highest military decoration.[Note 1]