Wilhelm Ludwig Kriessmann
Luftwaffe Bomber pilot
Artwork and research is by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
The dashing young and handsome Luftwaffe Pilot.
Prints of Wilhelm’s aircraft.
Print Number One in a Series of Famous Luftwaffe Aircraft.
German Jet Bomber, Arado Ar-234B.
There are 400 limited edition prints in this series. 12×18″
Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and signed by Wilhelm. $65.00
All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.
Poster Print $14.95
Poster prints are not autographed or numbered.
German Bomber, Heinkel He-111
There are 400 limited edition prints in this series. Print size 12×18″
Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and signed by Wilhelm. $65.00
Poster Print $14.95 Poster prints are autographed by the artist only.
Print Number Two in a Series of Famous Luftwaffe Aircraft.
German Transport, Junkers Ju-52
There are only 150 limited edition prints in this series. Print size 12×18″
Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and signed by Wilhelm. $65.00
Poster Print $14.95 Poster prints are not autographed or numbered.
Famous Luftwaffe Bombers
Wilhelm flew all three of these bombers as a Luftwaffe pilot.
Heinkel He-177, Junkers Ju-188 and the Donier Do-217.
There are 425 limited edition prints in this series. Print Size, 18×24″
Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and signed by Wilhelm. $65.00
Shipping fees; $6.00.
There were only 300 poster prints published. $18.00 Poster prints are autographed by the artist only.
Wilhelm Ludwig Kriessmann was born on October 11, 1919. At this time in Austria, when a young man like Wilhelm finished school, each served one year in the military before entering college. While Wilhelm was in this process in March 1938 his nation was annexed by Germany. Wilhelm was officially drafted on October 1, 1938 and entered FLARg.( Flieger Ausbildungs Regiment) 53 Straubing Donau /boot camp. After basic training Wilhelm had the opportunity to apply for flight school. He was accepted and reported for further tests and training. He was selected for flying school Schülerkompanie AB Schule Straubing Donau, on April 4th 1939.
Wilhelm received his wings on October 14, 1939 which is called Flugzeugführerabzeichen in German. Wilhelm was selected for multiple engine aircraft (C 4 Schule Kolberg/Ostsee) and started his training on December 1, 1939. On July 1, 1940 he entered bomber school, KampfliegerschuleThorn/Weichsel. His Instrument training began on September 1, 1940 at Blindflugschule Koenigsberg-Devau Ostpreußen.
The war started on September 1st of 1939. The Luftwaffe was making history across all fronts with the now infamous “Blitzkrieg.” Wilhelm and his fellow pilots were excited and confident as they trained diligently toward becoming part of this historical event.
This is Wilhelm in the cockpit of a Junkers Ju-87A. This was the first Stuka.
This is my painting of the Stuka in the above photo. This painting has been autographed by Wilhelm.
2×4 feet, $3,000.00
Wilhelm told me that the Stuka was so heavy that in a dive it “fell out of the air.”
Wilhelm also trained in the Henschel Hs-123. To review this aircraft and Wilhelm’s comments go and read the page dedicated to the Hs-123.
Wilhelm is on the left. This was taken at the Bomber school.
With the Battle of Britain wearing on the Luftwaffe, Wilhelm was assigned to KG 4 Quedlinburg/Harz on October 1, 1940 for combat training. The target was to be the King George docks in London. The training took place in a aircraft hangar. On the floor of the hangar was a map to scale of the city of London with all docks clearly marked. The scale of the map reflected what the geographical area would look like from the altitude Wilhelm would be flying on his approach to the target. Wilhelm sat in a mock-up of a bombers cockpit in his seat just as he would with his navigator. With the assistance of a long mechanical arm, the cockpit would move over the map reflecting the speed and altitude the pilot would experience. This was an excellent training program. Clearly a prelude to the computer training programs for pilots today.
It was at this point in time that the air war over England had turned against the Luftwaffe. Fortunately for Wilhelm, the missions he would have flown were called off because of lack of aircraft. The Luftwaffe had lost so many aircraft that it ended the ability for Hitler to do anything except call a halt to the daily sorties. Even the nightly raids against England were wearing the ranks of available aircraft. Shortly hereafter the Luftwaffe bombing raids began waning. Daylight raids were switched to night missions.
This photo was taken in spring 1939. Wilhelm is the one standing on the left.
On December 1st 1940, Wilhelm was assigned to LDK1 Berlin- Rangsdorf (Luft dienst Kommando). Wilhelm was flying all types of aircraft with different duties. He even pulled targets for the Anti Aircraft batteries around Berlin. His next assignment was July 1941 with Flugbereitschaft Befehlshaber Mitte in Berlin Döberitz as pilot for Col/General Weise and his staff. Weise was the commander of air defense for Germany, Holland, and Denmark. Although he never actually flew the General, Wilhelm flew the General’s staff form location to location in their summary of duties. Wilhelm flew the Ju-52, Bf-108 and the Fieseler Fi-156 “Storch’ on many flights all over Germany, Holland and the other occupied countries.
Wilhelm enjoyed the opera, classical music, and a dazzling array of the fine arts when he was stationed in Berlin. The city thrived until the nightly raids by the RAF started becoming bolder actually hitting the German capital. Opera houses and museums were hard hit. Air raid sirens at night soon became common.
Wilhelm flew this Fieseler Storch. These are my paintings.
Wilhelm flew 172 flights in the Junkers Ju-52. All of these flights were while in flight school first. Then the many ferrying flights in and out of Berlin and when he was assigned to LDK 1 Flugbereitschaft General Oberst Weise. These flights were not in combat situations. Wilhelm was able to sample the many other different types of Luftwaffe aircraft. As time passed Wilhelm flew even more varieties including the first and only Luftwaffe jet bomber. Wilhelm’s personal comment on the Ju-52 was, “She was called Tante (auntie). The Ju-52 was the most reliable aircraft.”
Below is one of the many Junkers transports that Wilhelm flew.
Wilhelm flew this Junkers.
All of Wilhelm’s assignments had kept him from combat. At first he wanted desperately to get into combat but once the Luftwaffe was being hurt his enthusiasm waned. He knew how lucky he was being able to fly all he wanted to and not have to worry about being killed at any moment. His next transfer however to KG 53, IV Gruppe, at Ansbach airfield would change his comfortable lifestyle. The war in Russia was draining the Luftwaffe of valuable pilots. Mostly multi-engine pilots and their crews. Due to a shortage of pilots Wilhelm was transferred to Russia to fly the Heinkel He-111.
On April 1st 1942 he reported to (Kampfgeschwader 53 Legion Condor Ersatz gruppe). Here he and others were formed into crews for combat missions. On July 8, 1942 during a training mission Wilhelm was flying with a Kette formation He 111 A1+GV. As the group turned to approach their airfield, Wilhelm’s left engine went out of control running wild. At only 300 feet off the ground Wilhelm tried to compensate and maintain control. The sudden increase of power was so swift and continuously strong that it threw the bomber into a steep right angle downward. Wilhelm was maintaining full pressure on the rudder to straighten the aircraft. It was too late for in the few moments as the bomber lunged they lost altitude. The right wingtip struck the ground first. Brute force threw the aircraft forward onto the ground and the bomber broke in half. Together the crew and the bomber slid a hundred yards before they came to a halt.
Excellent airmanship by Wilhelm kept the Heinkel from nosing into the ground and exploding into a fireball consuming everyone. Wilhelm suffered a slight concussion from the accident receiving a bandaged head and a tetanus shot. Wilhelm was held from duty for two months to recover. Everyone of his crew survived with only bruises and stitches. Wilhelm would prove his flying capabilities again in the future on the Russian Front. Wilhelm knew he would eventually be send to the Russian front so he enjoyed the rest before he entered combat for the first time. Many of the pilots he had trained with were now dieing in combat. His thoughts were sobering.
Here is one of Wilhelm’s photos. Junkers Ju-52’s on the flight line. In the snow.
Wilhelm is on the left. Looks cold. Ju-52 in the background.
After arriving in Russia his first mission was from an airfield at Korovje Selo, which was 20 km south of the provincial capital, Pleskau/Pskow. Wilhelm wrote me that the airfield was in good shape with hard ground. The airfields were prepared from meadows and pastures. Farmlands were converted and used as the armies and air forces moved forward. Primitive sheds, shacks and tents were accommodations for thousands of aviators worldwide of all nations. In Russia the German squadrons that were stationed at former enemy airfields were equipped with better quarters. Barracks and cafeteria facilities were also available.
Wilhelm and his crew had their own shed but took their meals outside with members of the other crews on birch tables. The food was good and the weather was comfortable. They flew two and three missions every day with very few causalities. Their moral and camaraderie were high. Russia was a different type of war in that there were no strategic bombing missions to collectively speak of. There were no high altitude formation bombing except on a few targets of transportation, infrastructure and industry.
Most of their missions were in support of German ground troops and their advancement. The Heinkel 111 was a formable platform to bomb and strafe enemy troop positions from. They flew in low and fast with a gunner in the nose of the glass green house and bombs.
The top defensive gun of the Heinkel pointed backward and upward only. Unfortunately for the crew all of the defensive guns on the Heinkel were single guns. The German bombers had fighter escort from JG53. The fighters escorts were by both the Messerschmitt and Focke Wulf’s of JG53. The Heinkel bombers were afforded good shepherding by top Luftwaffe Aces. Wilhelm flew about thirty five of these low level missions.
Wilhelm told an audience at my art show in which he was the guest speaker, that they were not worried by the Russian fighter. What few Russian fighters that got through the Messerschmitt escorts were at risk of being shot down by the bombers. Yes, they did lose bombers to a Yak, P-39 or a P-40 once in a while however they lost about the same percentage to anti-aircraft gunfire.
As the temperatures turned cold in November and the rains began the conditions of the airfields turned into mud. Winter set in quickly and overwhelmed the front units. Crews were moved into more solid structures crowding the men but the warmth of the shelter was welcomed. Weather conditions for the Luftwaffe repair and ground crews were unmentionable. Maintenance crews worked outdoors in snow and sleet in below zero conditions. The determination of these brave crews overcame any and all weather conditions and kept the aircraft flying.
Wilhelm expressed his admiration aircraft crews who were known as the “black men.” (The aircraft maintenance crews wore black uniforms.) Wilhelm had high praise for their efforts as “marvelous!”The sub-zero temperatures affected the oils, fuels and coolants of every machine. Especially the aircraft. Burn barrels were located all around the airfields to warm machine parts and cold hands.
This is Wilhelm in front of the barracks they lived in in Russia. You can see that it was impossible to stand up inside.
Flying conditions turned hazardous. With navigation skewed and darkness lingering longer in the morning and arriving earlier in the afternoon their squadron losses increased and moral waned. Seventeen missions were flown by Wilhelm at Welikije Luki in the battle called “Little Stalingrad.” Wilhelm described these missions as hair-raising in a desperate attempt to help save the besieged German Infantry. The Germans were surrounded and the Russians were pressing home their attack. To re-supply the troops there was no way to land and unload. Wilhelm and the squadron had to drop supplies by parachute only. This was unfortunate for the gravely wounded troops that usually depended on being transported out by the Junkers Ju-52’s. Now they would have to wait for whatever fate afforded them which was grim.
Wilhelm flew night missions in order to drop provisions directly onto the German units and hopefully not to the Russians. Gasoline and diesel fuel was the most precious commodity needed by the troops on the ground. During the day Wilhelm would fly the death-defying low level strafing runs at fifty feet off the ground onto Russian anti-tank guns as well as against anti-aircraft batteries. Wilhelm said that they would even fly as low as thirty feet off the ground to help instill fear into the defenders on the ground. I am sure the low flying Heinkel did scare the Russians but the “pucker factor” experienced by the Heinkel crew was unbearable for sure. Wilhelm said that he wasn’t scared but the gut wrenching tension was unnerving.
Wilhelm said that they would be flying at thirty to fifty feet above the ground to avoid anti-aircraft fire. Wilhelm said that at such a low level only one or two guns in an area would be able to hit your aircraft. And that was if the anti-aircraft crews were able to track and fire effectively. Weather conditions did not help the pilots. He carefully explained to me that it was blinding to fly low over pure white glittering snow. He said the horizon could become vague. Everything would blend together. On one mission Wilhelm’s crew witnessed the Heinkel flown by their leader accidentally hit the ground becoming a fireball right next to their ship. Everyone on that bomber died in an instant. They never knew if their leader was hit by enemy fire or lost the horizon.
The battle was starting to move the Germans back. Airfields changed and valuable equipment was left behind. On June 21,1943, Wilhelm took off for his 90th mission. It was his third continuous attack for the day at Wolhowstroj, a Russian railway junction. Before he reached the target Russian anti-aircraft fire found his bomber at 6,700 meters. An 8.8cm anti-aircraft shell arched or swerved along the top of the bombers left wing. The shell actually creased a dent in the skin of the wing tracing its path into the side of the bombers fuselage. Radio operator, Uffz. Eugen Merz was sitting in his seat in the top of the bomber under the plastic cupola with his machine gun. The Russian shell struck the fuselage right where Merz was sitting tearing open a large whole in the side of the aircraft, as well as tearing the radio operators upper body apart.
Wilhelm called back to his base on the radio reporting his damage and condition and asked permission to return to base. Once he received permission Wilhelm dropped his bombs and turned away from the mission and headed back. He was escorted by two Messerschmitts with Hptm. Phillips leading to his base at Pleskau. The loss of Uffz. Eugen Merz was a bad shock for Wilhelm because they were indeed, good friends. Wilhelm did not smoke but he said that he lit his first cigarette in grief for his friend that day.
This is my painting of the He-111 that Wilhelm was shot down by Yak’s in. 2×4 Feet, $3,000.00
On July 5, 1943 Hitler ordered an assault against Kursk and Orel. The “Zitadelle” campaign began with KG53 flying low-level missions against Russian artillery positions. Wilhelm could not recall the time he took off for his first mission that morning but he returned to his airfield at Olsufjewo at 4:50A.M. His second mission started at 6:41A.M. His Heinkel was refueled and the machine guns were re-armed. Another cargo of four 250 Kg. bombs were carefully loaded. Wilhelm’s Heinkel rose into the morning sun. Wilhelm and his crew had recharged themselves as best they could for the next mission. It was to be another day of one mission after another.
Wilhelm was flying He-111, A1+BR on the left of a three bomber formation known as a Kette. At an altitude of only 2,300 meters the Russian soil quickly passed under the glass greenhouse Wilhelm and his crew occupied. The artillery positions were located near Malo Archangelsk. As the enemy target came into view so did the enemy’s welcoming anti-aircraft gunfire. Wilhelm’s navigator and bombardier, Heinz, did not release his bombs over the target with the other two bombers. The reason was that their exact location in the formation put their Heinkel to the side of the target and not over it enough to cause an effect. The bombs would have been wasted. Wilhelm turned his bomber around for another run on the target, which was now well marked with several fires burning in the target area. Their path to the target would take the Heinkel’ s crew almost straight back to their airfield.
With Wilhelm flying the bomber at full throttle the bombardier released his four bombs as the bombers nose approached the target. Confirmation from the rear crewman notified everyone that they hit the target! Wilhelm corrected his course with a slight turn to the west towards the airfield. Shouting from the rear alerted everyone that Russian Yak’s were in pursuit. The Russians fighters attacked from the sun. The Heinkel rocked with violent machine-gun bullets banging holes through the aircraft. “We got one.” Came from the rear of the bomber by one of the crew members. Another Russian fighter was trying to line up on the Heinkel after his wing-man had been shot down. A few seconds of quiet passed only to be punctuated by the violence of hammering from enemy machine gun fire. The Russian was able to walk his machine gun fire across Wilhelm’s left wing ending in the engine.
White coolant poured from the wound forming a perfect tail. This was followed by spewing fluids that burst into flames. “We are burning and we still have Yak’s on our backs!” was called into the cabin from the rear. Wilhelm dove hard. The navigator hollered “Jump?” Wilhelm told him, “No!” Wilhelm was going to try to get them back to their battle lines and safety. At all cost they must avoid capture by the Russians. Apparently the defensive diving action fooled the Russian fighters into thinking that the Heinkel was doomed so they turned back. They were in fact correct, the Heinkel was doomed but Wilhelm chose to continue flying toward his lines as long as he thought he could.
With miles of farmland before him, Wilhelm described the wheat in the fields was as high as a man. Wilhelm used the term, “Man-high” to describe the height of the wheat. The Heinkel was starting to fail and was slowly loosing altitude though they did not have a lot to start with. Wilhelm said the tall wheat was perfect for breaking a damaged bomber coming in with no gear. A fire had started back in the engine so this was it, time to land.
Everything happened so fast Wilhelm said. He ordered his men to brace for the impact and to get out quickly in case of fire. They were in fact bringing their own fire with them to the crash site with a flaming engine. Wilhelm slowly lowered the bomber to just over the wheat and killed the power to his good engine and lifted the nose of the bomber slightly. The Heinkel floated down and the smooth flat bottom of the bomber slid perfectly over the top of the wheat slowly settling the bomber down to earth. Within moments of coming to a stop, Wilhelm and his navigator with pistols drawn disappeared into the high wheat on their side of the bomber as the other crew members slipped out the door on the other side. Wilhelm worried about his men who were hidden by the wheat. Slowly Wilhelm and the navigator moved away from the aircraft.
The bomber now behind them continued burning causing explosions from ammunition and gasoline. A column of black smoke marked its location. As Wilhelm was evaluating his situation an unwanted sound in the distance came to them. A tank! Surely the Russians would be sending in scouts with infantry to find the Luftwaffe crew. Heinz saw the tank first as it came near them as it crunched its way through the wheat stalks. “A German tank!” What a relief. As Wilhelm and Heinz jumped up and started running for the tank they saw the other crewmen running from the other side. Wilhelm was relieved that all crewmembers were safe and accounted for. Kurt, Rainer and Werner all received minor burns about their necks and shoulders but were treated immediately by the tank crew. The tank commander gave Wilhelm and his crew a cigarette each and took several photos of the burning bomber and crew. Wilhelm supplied me with these photos.
They were taken by the tank crew to Feldmarschall von Kluges battle headquarters. They had been spotted by another Heinkel which had witnessed their bomber going down. The other Heinkel radioed in their plight. The tank took the bomber crew back to the German lines and then returned to the battle.
Wilhelm inhaled on his cigarette and looked at his watch as he tried to relax. He was safe back behind German lines. The time was 8:09A.M. This had been his 92nd mission.
This photo was taken by the tank captain that helped Wilhelm and his crew get safely back to the German lines.
This is the He-111 machine gunner looking around the wreckage before they left the bomber.
I received from Wilhelm the exact details of his shoot down that day and the stories of the other aircraft lost by the Germans and the Russians. This information was given to Wilhelm by a British Officer, RAF Wing Commander Chris Goss who is researching the details of the Russian activity records during this time. The Russian fighter group in the area of battle was the 16th Air Army squadron led by General-Leytenant Sergey Rudenko. On July 5, 1943 16th squadron shot down six Heinkel He-111’s and damaged two Bf-109’s. The first He-111 was at eight o’clock in the morning which was Wilhelm’s. The victorious Russian fighter pilot was Major Plotnikov who led his squadron of ten Yak’s against a large formation of He-111’s and Stuka’s. The German bombers were well protected by Bf-109’s despite Wilhelm’s fate. It was in this melee that the two Bf-109’s were damaged. Three Russian fighters were also lost. Two were claimed by Messerschmitts and one to Wilhelm’s rear gunner. During the afternoon air battles of July 5th, Major Plotnikov was shot down and killed but five more He-111’s were shot down dwindling the number of German bombers now available in this battle area.
The three Yak fighters that were lost in the morning was Ser.No. 02-21 flown by Leytenant ( lieutenant ) Kulinyak, Ser.No. 02-38 flown by Mladshiy Leytenant (junior lieutenant) Rakhimov and Ser.No. 02-74 piloted by Mladshiy Leytenant (junior lieutenant) Skobelev, all missing in action. We do not know which Yak was shot down by Wilhelm’s crewman. One of the Yak’s was claimed by German fighter pilot, Fw. Horst Kirchner of 12/JG 51 and the other was claimed by fighter pilot, Fw. Rudolf Roebbers of Stabsstaffel/JG 51.
Unknown to Wilhelm at the time was that his last mission would be his 93rd on July 17th while attacking Russia troop build ups. The Russian infantry were out side Stariza, north of Orel. Wilhelm attacked the target at 2,500 meters. Even though the flight was hair-razing flying over tens of thousands of enemy troop formations, munitions and all the supplies needed to move an army, their flight experienced light anti-aircraft fire along with minimum enemy aircraft. Wilhelm had a safe return but the group was actually decimated. The other groups were shot out of the skies. The loss of aircraft and crews was so staggering that the few survivors returned to Gablingen, Bavaria to regroup or be reassigned to other units.
After his tour on the Russian Front, Wilhelm and the remains of KG53 III Gr. 7 was stationed at Golta/Perwomaisk, the Southern Front on December 5, 1943. The duties of the group was night missions. They then transferred to a location just north of Kovno on January, 11, 1944. Here the group was to fly more night missions which protected them from enemy fighters.
Wilhelm suffered an eye injury during one of these missions. After Wilhelm got better he was limited in his duties to only flying in daylight. One job he could perform was to fly new aircraft from German factories to the airfields they would be assigned to. He also flew damaged aircraft in and out of airfields for repairs and upgrades.
On April 2, 1944 Wilhelm was stationed at the airfield at Hanover/Langenhagen where he flew brand new Junkers Ju-88 night fighters right off the assembly line out to the squadrons. He also flew the Ju-188. Some of his flights with the new Ju-88G night fighters were to facilities where the radar systems were added or up-graded. He would then fly the J-88 to the airfield where they would be stationed.
On September 1, 1944 Wilhelm flew the above Junkers Ju-88 G-1 which was fitted out as a night fighter with the factory fresh RLM base coat of #76 with mottled patches of RLM # 75. Never have I seen such artwork as the designs that left the Junkers factory. The different shades and combination of colors for the night fighters varied from some aircraft painted all black to others painted in ghost patters that were quite effective to the naked eye in the sky at night. The Junkers that Wilhelm ferried was coded PN+JV which he flew from Langensalza to Oschatz.
On October 15, 1944 he flew a Junkers Ju-88 G-6 coded BUT+EY from the Junkers factory in Bernburg to an airfield at Welzow. The fuselage code BUT was small and the EY was full size. Once the aircraft arrived at the squadron the B of the BUT would have been removed in most cases.
Wilhelm also flew this Donier Do-217 coded G1+ZR at Fassberg airfield on May 3, 1944.
On May 22, 1944 Wilhelm flew a Junkers Ju-188 coded CC+LA from Langensalza to Oschatz. The Junkers was painted in the splinter green pattern with light blue #65 bottom surfaces. The above painting is of the Junkers that Wilhelm flew.
This is my painting of the He-177 Wilhelm checked-out in.
(Yes, I have “Grief” spelled wrong, I will change it when I sell the painting.) And again yes, Grief is not the English word but a German word meaning Griffin.
Wilhelm had sixteen take-off and landings in the massive Heinkel He-177. He knew that the He-177 was notorious for accidents resulting in casualties, even the deaths of the crews. With each take-off and landing everything went well but Wilhelm was well versed on the potential hazards. Wilhelm also flew the Bf-109, Me-110, 210 and the Me-410 as well as ferrying Focke Wulf 190’s.
Wilhelm was also qualified to fly the Arado Ar-234 jet bomber. He ferried these jet bombers from the factories to the airfields where they were assigned. Below is one of the Ar-234’s that Wilhelm flew. This actual aircraft is in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum in Washington D.C.
Wilhelm flew this Arado Ar-234 two different times. The above painting is available for $3,000.00.
This actual Arado Ar-234 is in the Smithsonian. 2×4 Feet The above painting is available for $2,000.00.
Wilhelm flew this very aircraft!
Wilhelm and the artist.
Below are the individual pages of each of the aircraft that Wilhelm flew.
Wilhelm was rated to fly the following aircraft.
BL-200, Bue-131, Go 145, and the KL-35.
Messerschmitt Bf-108, 109, 110, 210, and the Bf-410.
Donier Do-11, 17, 23 and the Do-217E.
Heinkel He-45, 46 and 72.
Heinkel 111, and the He-177
Junkers W33 and W34. Ju-86, 88C and G models, as well the Ju-188.
Focke Wulf Fw-44, 56, 58, and the Fw-190.
Finally the Si-204, and the French Caudron 445.
No one has any right to use any of these photos without the permission of Wilhelm Kriessmann and the artist.