Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Count and fighter ace: Gunther Freiherr von Maltzahn

This article has been written thanks to the precious information provided by Christine Harper, assistant archivist at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
She has been so kind to provide details about Maltzahn's life and made it possible to correct my initial mistakes. Many thanks to her.

Gunther von Maltzhan was born on 20 October 1910 in Wodarg, Pomerania. The von Maltzhans were members of the German aristocracy, and Gunther could boast the title of Freiherr (Count). The young Gunther was raised and educated in an atmosphere of patriotism, sense of honour and loyalty to the Kaiser.
Matzahn entered the cavalry in 1931 directly from Gymnasium, having already gotten his flight training at the commercial flying school in Schleissheim. He later received further training at the Braunschweig flying school.
In mid 1930s, with expansion programmes now openly set and carried out, von Maltzahn was integrated in the Luftwaffe as flying instructor. In 1937 von Maltzahn was posted to 6./JG 334 as Staffelkapitan, the unit was later renominated 6./ JG 53. The Geschwader, known as the "Pik As" was an elite unit led by Werner Molders, Luftwaffe's leading tactician.

Bf-109F of Gunther Freiherr von Maltzahn, 46 kills depicted on the rudder.
In 1939, von Maltzahn was nominated Gruppenkommandeur of II./ JG 53. He led his Gruppe through the Polish campaign, Blitzkrieg in France and the Low Countries and the Battle of Britain.  On 9 October  1940 he was promoted Geschwaderkommodore of JG 53, and on 30 December, was awarded the Knight's Cross, not just for his 12 victories, but also for his tireless work in organizing and running the unit.
In 1941 JG 53 participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union, achieving astonishing successes against the unprepared Red Air Force. Von Maltzahn, now Major, reached 43 kills and on 24 July 1941 received the Oak Leaves, the 29th member of German Armed Forces awarded with such honour.
In September 1941, JG 53 was pulled out from frontline duties and relocated to Holland for rest and refit. The Geschwader was sent to Sicily in December and participated in the battles over Malta and the Mediterranean. Von Maltzahn reached 68 victories,  leaving JG 53 in October 1943, assuming a staff position at the Luftwaffenbefehlshabers Mitte (Luftwaffe Command of the Mediterranean), and later Jagdfliegerf├╝hrer Italien, (Chief of Operations in Italy). In February 1945 he was detached to 9 Fliegerdivision, where he remained until the end of the war.

After the war Maltzahn worked first in agriculture and then in the new West German Luftwaffe during the planning phase of the arm, before the Bundesluftwaffe was officially reated in 1956. He died in 1953, at the age of 43, suffering from an illness. It is not clear whether it was cancer or malaria.
Oberst Gunther Freiherr von Maltzahn flew 497 missions and claimed 68 victories. He fought on the Western Front, Eastern Front and the Mediterranean.
  • 7 October 1939 - Iron Cross 2nd Class
  • 10 May 1940 - Iron Cross 1st Class
  • 30 December 1940 - Knight's Cross
  • 24 July 1941 - Oak Leaves
  • 23 March 1942 - Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe
  • 23 December 1942 - German Cross in Gold


  1. To quote Katherine Hepburn in Desk Set, "That's wrong information. . ."

  2. Should be "Katharine." AARRGGHH!! But the Maltzahn info really isn't right, even though it's in the Italian Wikipedia. Pretty page, though, Luca, and a visually well-designed site! :)

  3. hi thanks for leaving a comment.
    when you say wrong information you refer to the fact that i mentioned maltzahn died either from malaria or in car crash?
    i stated both sources because i didn't have the chance to see actual documentation; i remember not just the italian wikipedia, but also a website in the early 2000s (probably not active anymore) who said that.

    anyway thanks for your comment. chhers!

  4. Hi again, Luca! Thanks for your friendly response. There are many strange claims in the article. Just to take a few: Maltzahn's father died in 1945, shot by the Russians. Maltzahn never went to a university and wasn't a cartographer. He was trained at the commercial pilot schools in Schleissheim and Braunschweig, not in Russia. He didn't take part in the invasion of Poland, being stationed in western Germany, where his first victory was over a French recon plane on September 30, 1939. (I have copies of his army records.) Well, you get the picture. Good luck with your site! I envy your energy and technical expertise.

  5. Hi, I don't know details about Maltzahn's father and I didn't talk about it.
    I wrote he was a commercial pilots, the sources I've found stated about training in russia. If you have army records you're probably wright.

    since you're probably more expert than me I think I wrote a few mistakes, unfortunately I can just rely on my personal books and some websites.

    could we communicate through emails? my address is, I'd really like to communicate with you and correct my errors.


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