Oberst Walter Oesau
Born on 28 June 1913 in Farnewinkel, Walter 'Guile' Oesau started his military career with the Army, enlisting in the artillery in 1933. The promising young soldier transferred to the Luftwaffe where he was accepted by a transport unit before attending the military academy in Hannover. In 1934, as an officer candidate (Fahnenjunker), he completed basic flying training before being posted to Jagdgeschwader Richthofen as a freshly commissioned Leutnant. On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Oesau was one of the first pilots to join Jagdstaffel 88 in Spain. Here he gained ace status, shooting down eight Republican aircraft, along with contemporaries such as Werner Molders and Adolf Galland. He was also wounded in action for the first time. At the end of the conflict, Oesau became one of only 27 German servicemen to be awarded the rare Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds. In July 1939, Oesau, now with the rank of Oberleutnant, became Staffelkapitan of 1/Jagdgeschwader 20. His first 'kill' of World War II came on 13 May 1940 during the campaign in the West, when he shot down a French 'Curtiss' fighter. By the end of the campaign, he had raised this to five, bringing his overall total to 13. With the air assault on England, his score began to rise steadily and between September 1939 and 18 August 1940 he shot down 20 enemy aircraft, an achievement that brought him the award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Oesau continued to increase his tally over the coming months, and by 5 February 1941 had amassed 40 kills. The following day, he was awarded the Oak-Leaves for his Knight's Cross.
Following the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Oesau and his squadron moved east. He found rich pickings here and by mid-July his score had risen to 80 kills, bringing him the coveted Swords addition, only the third recipient of this award. Shortly thereafter he was transferred to the Western Front to take command of Jagdgeschwader 2. Here his score continued to rise and by 26 October he had amassed 100 kills. At this stage he was ordered to give up combat flying and posted to a number of staff positions. As the war progressed, attrition amongst fighter pilots meant that Oesau was recalled to combat duties. Now, as Kommodore of Jagdgeschwader 1, he was to add to his skills in combating enemy fighters by becoming an 'expert' killer of four-engined bombers, shooting down 14 US heavy bombers, both B17 Flying Fortresses and B24 Liberators. On 11 May 1944, Oesau was leading a flight of Bf 109 G-6 aircraft to attack a formation of US bombers: his planes were attacked by an escorting force of P-38 'Lightning' fighters, and Oesau was shot down and killed, crashing near the town of St Vith. He had flown over 300 combat missions and achieved a total of 127 kills, 38 of which were Spitfires and 14 of which were four-engined bombers (or 'Viermots' as the German fighter pilots called them), which were notoriously difficult to take down.
Fighter ace Walter 'Gulle' Oesau is shown here posing by the nose of his Me 109 fighter. Oesau served with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, earning ace status there and winning the rare Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds, one of only 28 such awards. The latter is visible here on the right breast of his jerkin.