Captain Hans-Joachim Marseille achieved a total of 158 victories in just two years

The 'Star of Africa': the German ace who shot down three Allied aces in a single dogfight

One of the greatest aces of world aviation during World War II was a pilot in the German Luftwaffe.

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Hans-Joachim Marseille was born in Berlin in 1919 into a family of French origin. He enlisted in the Luftwaffe in 1938 and became a pilot in 1940, at only 20 years of age. He participated in the Battle of Britain that same year, scoring his first victories and suffering an accident when his Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter fell into the sea near Théville, France, on September 23, 1940. < strong>Later he was assigned to Yugoslavia.

Captain Hans-Joachim Marseille wearing on his neck the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords that was awarded to him a month before his death (Photo:

Marseille was a cheerful guy but somewhat a reveler, undisciplined and fond of jazz (which was banned in nazi Germany as it was considered music for blacks), which ended up hurting his military career. He was sent to North Africa in 1941. It was there that fame came to him, achieving 158 victories, which made him the German pilot who achieved the most kills against the Western Allies (the greatest German ace of that war was Erich Hartmann with 352 victories, mostly against Soviets).

Marseille at the moment they were scoring their 50th victory in the drift of their Messerschmitt Bf-109F-4 fighter, known as "Yellow 14" (Photo: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz).

Although he was an excellent pilot, Marseille had a reputation for going it alone in dogfights, often disrespecting the orders of his superiors in his quest to shoot down enemy aircraft. His techniques were unorthodox and in Africa he ended up flying only with a single accompanying aircraft , as he considered it the most effective for developing his tactics.

Marseille in his Messerschmitt Bf-109F-4 in February 1942 (Photo: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz).

On June 3, 1942, he was able to put his particular technique to the test, when Marseille and his companion Rainer Pöttgen faced nine Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk fighters of the 5th Squadron of the South African Air Force near Bir Hakeim , in Libya. Marseille managed to shoot down six of the Allied aircraft, including aces Robin Pare (who died when his plane exploded), Cecil Golding and Louis Botha (who survived crash landings in the desert). Pöttgen calculated that Marseille only expended an average of 60 bullets per kill.

An artist's recreation of Marseille and Pöttgen's combat against nine South African P-40B fighters near Bir Hakeim in Libya (Source:

For his skill as a pilot, Marseille was nicknamed "Stern von Afrika", the Star of Africa. However, his time ran out on September 30, 1942 over Egypt. Returning from a mission, the cockpit of his plane began to fill with smoke due to engine failure. The fighter plummeted and when Marseille jumped, he hit the drift. Due to the strong hit, he was not able to open the parachute.

A Messerschmitt Bf-109G-2 preserved at the Asas de Um Sonho Museum in São Carlos, Brazil, painted as the "Yellow 14" aircraft from Marseille (Photo: Renato Spilimbergo Carvalho).

He was buried in Derna, Libya. His death sank the morale of his squadmates. After the war, his remains were moved to Tobruk, where they remain today. Already during the war, a small pyramid was installed in Egypt in his honor in the place where he fell, in which it says "Undefeated", since Marseille died without having been shot down even once by enemy planes, achieving a prominent place among the best aviators in history. In 1957 a German film titled "Der Stern von Afrika" (The Star of Africa) was released, directed by Alfred Weidenmann, about the story of that pilot (is available on Youtube)

Yesterday, the channel Yarnhub published one of its excellent videos dedicated to Marseille , recreating that battle against the South African fighters:


Main image: Wurger.

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