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Josef Priller

Josef Priller
Josef Priller in World War II
Nickname(s) Pips
Born (1915-07-27)27 July 1915
Died 20 May 1961(1961-05-20) (aged 45)
Buried at Westfriedhof Augsburg
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Heer (1934–35)
Luftwaffe (1935–45)
Years of service 1935–45
Rank Oberstleutnant
Unit JG 71, JG 51 and JG 26
Commands held JG 26
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Other work Manager of a Brewery

Josef "Pips" Priller (German pronunciation: ) (27 July 1915 – 20 May 1961) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator during World War II, a fighter ace credited with 101 enemy aircraft shot down in 307 combat missions. All of his victories were claimed over the Western Front, which included 11 four-engined bombers and at least 68 were against Supermarine Spitfire fighters.

Born in Staffel (6th Squadron) of JG 51. He flew in the Battle of France and claimed his first aerial victory on 28 May 1940. He received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) in October 1940 following his 20th aerial victory which he claimed during the Battle of Britain.

In November 1940, Priller was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 26 "Schlageter" (JG 26—26th Fighter Wing) and was given command of 1. Staffel (1st Squadron). In June and July 1941 he accounted for a further 20 victories, the 40th victory claimed on 14 July. He was honored with the presentation of Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 19 October 1941, his score at 41 victories. Priller was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) of the III. Gruppe (3rd Group) of JG 26 "Schlageter" on 6 December 1941. He claimed his 60th victory on 27 March 1942 and his 70th victory on 5 May. Priller became Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) of JG 26 "Schlageter" on 11 January 1943. During the Western Allies Invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 he flew one of the few Luftwaffe missions against the Allied beachhead that day. Priller claimed his 100th victory on 15 June 1944 when he shot down a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber. For this achievement he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). During Operation Bodenplatte on 1 January 1945, Priller led an attack on the Allied airfields at Brussels-Evere and Brussels-Grimbergen. On 31 January 1945 Priller was appointed Inspekteur der Jagdflieger West (Inspector of Fighter Pilots West) and ceased operational flying. He held this position until the end of the war in May 1945.

Following the war, Priller studied brewing and managed the family brewery business. He died of a heart attack on 20 May 1961 in Böbing.


  • Early life and career 1
  • World War II 2
    • Wing commander of JG 26 "Schlageter" 2.1
  • Post war era 3
  • Decorations 4
    • Wehrmachtbericht references 4.1
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
    • Citations 6.1
    • Bibliography 6.2
  • External links 7

Early life and career

Priller, who was nicknamed Pips since his early youth, was born on 27 June 1915 in Ingolstadt in Kingdom of Bavaria, a state of the German Empire. After he graduated with his Abitur (diploma) he joined the military service of the Wehrmacht as a Fahnenjunker (officer candidate) with Infantry-Regiment 20 in Amberg of the 10th Infantry Division on 1 April 1935. Against the will of his battalion commander he transferred to the Luftwaffe as a Oberfähnrich (officer cadet) on 1 October 1936. He then received flight training at the pilot school in Salzwedel.[Note 1] On 1 April 1937 he was promoted to Leutnant (second lieutenant).[1]

World War II

World War II in Europe began on Friday 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland. Priller was serving with the pre-war fighter unit designated I./Jagdgeschwader 71 (JG 71—71st Fighter Wing), later redesignated II./Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing).[Note 2] He was soon Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 6./JG 51. He made his first victory claims in May 1940 over Dunkirk versus Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters. He claimed six victories during the French campaign, and by the end of August his victory total had risen to 15. In October Priller claimed his 20th kill, resulting in the award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). In November 1940 Priller was transferred as Staffelkapitän to 1./Jagdgeschwader 26 "Schlageter" (JG 26—26th Fighter Wing).

"Lady Liberty", a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, was shot down over the Netherlands by Priller on 19 August 1943.

Between 16 June and 11 July 1941 he claimed 19 RAF aircraft. He was awarded the Oak leaves to his Knights Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) in October 1941 for 41 victories. Now a Hauptmann, Priller became Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III./JG 26 in December 1941, with his score at 58. Five feet four inches tall, of stocky build and jovial character, Priller was a popular commander with his men; in spite of a reputation for talking back to his superiors. He skilfully utilised the limited resources of JG 26 in North West Europe in order to inflict the maximum damage on RAF Fighter Command sweeps throughout the summer campaigns of 1941 to 1943. He recorded his 70th victory in May 1942. By the end of that year Priller had added 11 more confirmed victories to his tally.

Wing commander of JG 26 "Schlageter"

In January 1943 Priller became Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 26. By now the increasing US bomber offensive was putting pressure on the Jagdwaffe (Fighter Force) in the west, and JG 26's losses rose alarmingly in 1943. The night prior to the Normandy invasion, Priller and his wing-man Heinz Wodarczyk got drunk and subsequently attacked the beachhead while hung-over.

He received publicity regarding his Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-8's single strafing pass attack on Sword Beach on 6 June 1944 (D-Day), accompanied by his wingman Heinz Wodarczyk. This act was first brought to the world's attention by the book, then the film, The Longest Day. Contrary to popular belief, Priller and his wingman were not the only Luftwaffe forces to attack the beachhead that day. Both Luftwaffe Hauptmann (Captain) Helmut Eberspächer, leading a ground-attack four-plane element of Fw 190s of Schnellkampfgeschwader 10, which was responsible for downing a quartet of RAF Avro Lancasters at 05:00 over the invasion area, and the Luftwaffe bomber wing Kampfgeschwader 54 made several attacks on the British beachheads on D-Day. Priller was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves and Swords was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Oberstleutnant Priller brought down his 100th victim on 15 June 1944, a United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Consolidated B-24 Liberator. He was the 77th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark.[2] On New Year's Day 1945, he led JG 26 in the ill-fated mass attack on Allied airfields, in Operation Bodenplatte, (an operation that saw Wodarczyk killed). Later that month Priller was appointed to the staff job of Inspector of Day Fighters (East).

Josef Priller flew 307 combat missions to claim 101 victories. All his victories were recorded over the Western Front, and consisted of 11 USAAF heavy bombers, 68 Spitfires (the highest Luftwaffe ace's tally for this type), 11 Hurricanes, five medium bombers and five USAAF fighters.

Post war era

The Riegele house in Augsburg, built as a beer hall in 1911.

After the war Diplom-Braumeister "Pips" Priller became general manager of the S. Riegele brewery after his marriage to the owner - Johanna Riegele-Priller. He was one of several D-day combatants to advise on the making of the film The Longest Day, in which he was portrayed by Heinz Reincke.[3]

He died suddenly on 20 May 1961 from a heart attack in Böbing, Upper Bavaria. He was buried at the Westfriedhof (western cemetery) in Augsburg.[4] The street "Josef-Priller-Straße" in Augsburg was named after him.[5][6]


Wehrmachtbericht references

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Saturday, 2 May 1942 Hauptmann Priller errang gestern im Westen seinen 70. Luftsieg.[17] Hauptmann Priller achieved his 70th aerial victory in the west yesterday.
8 October 1944 (addendum) Das Jagdgeschwader "Schlageter" unter Führung von Oberstleutnant Priller schoß seit Beginn der Invasion 300 anglo-amerikanische Flugzeuge ab und erzielte damit seinen 2500. Luftsieg im Western.[18] The fighter wing "Schlageter", under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Priller, shot down 300 Anglo-American aircraft since the beginning of the invasion; thereby achieving its 2,500th aerial victory in the west.


  1. ^ Flight training in the Luftwaffe progressed through the levels A1, A2 and B1, B2, referred to as A/B flight training. A training included theoretical and practical training in aerobatics, navigation, long-distance flights and dead-stick landings. The B courses included high-altitude flights, instrument flights, night landings and training to handle the aircraft in difficult situations.
  2. ^ For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see during World War IILuftwaffeOrganisation of the .



  1. ^ Stockert 1996, p. 170.
  2. ^ Obermaier 1989, p. 243.
  3. ^ The Longest Day at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ MacLean 2007, p. 236.
  5. ^  
  6. ^ "Josef-Priller-Straße". (in German). Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Berger 2000, p. 272.
  8. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p. 173.
  9. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 359.
  10. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p. 605.
  11. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 345.
  12. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 270.
  13. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 55.
  14. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 26.
  15. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 43.
  16. ^ Von Seemen 1976, p. 17.
  17. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 102.
  18. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 281.


  • Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges [With Oak Leaves and Swords. The Highest Decorated Soldiers of the Second World War] (in German). Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger.  
  • Hagen, Hans-Peter (1998). Husaren des Himmels Berühmte deutsche Jagdflieger und die Geschichte ihrer Waffe [Hussars of Heaven Famous German Fighter Pilots and the History of their Weapon] (in German). Rastatt, Germany: Moewig.  
  • MacLean, French L. (2007). Luftwaffe Efficiency & Promotion Reports — For the Knight's Cross Winners. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military History.  
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1939 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann.  
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall.  
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag.  
  • Stockert, Peter (1996). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1 [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1] (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick.  
  • Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag.  
  • Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 : The Knight's Cross Bearers of All the Armed Services, Diamonds, Swords and Oak Leaves Bearers in the Order of Presentation: Appendix with Further Information and Presentation Requirements] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag.  
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985.  
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 3, 1 January 1944 to 9 May 1945] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985.  
  • Frey, Gerhard; Herrmann, Hajo: Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.

External links

  • Josef Priller at the Internet Movie Database
  • Josef Priller @ Aces of the Luftwaffe
  • Josef Priller by Kurt Weygantt
  • Brauhaus Riegele Augsburg
Military offices
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Karl Vieck
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 2
11 January 1943 – 6 September 1943
Succeeded by
Oberstleutnant Johann Schalk
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Walter Oesau
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer 4
6 September 1943 – 1 April 1944
Succeeded by
Oberst Hilmer von Bülow-Bothkamp
Preceded by
Major Gerhard Schöpfel
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 26 Schlageter
11 January 1943 – 27 January 1945
Succeeded by
Major Franz Götz

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