Josef “Pips” Priller

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Last Wartime Rank: Oberstleutnant
Luftwaffe Service: 193?-1945
Unit(s): JG 51, JG 26
Theatre(s): France, Battle Of Britain, Western Front
Combat Debut: 39/40 Western Front
Decoration: The Knight’s Cross
Kills: 101
All Western front including 20+ France and Battle Of Britain
Total Sorties: 307

Born: July 27, 1915, Ingolstadt
Passed: 1961, Böbing, Upper Bavaria

The outbreak of war saw Josef Priller serving with I./JG 71 (redesignated II./JG 51) becoming Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 51 soon after. He made his first victory claims in May 1940 over Dunkirk versus RAF fighters. He claimed six victories during the French campaign, and by the end of August his victory total was 15. In October Priller claimed his 20th kill, resulting in the award of the Ritterkreuz. In November 1940 Priller was transferred as Staffelkapitän to 1./JG 26.Between 16 June and the 11 July 1941 he claimed 19 RAF aircraft. He was awarded the Eichenlaub in October 1941 for 41 victories. Now a Hauptmann, Priller became Gruppenkommandeur 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, skillfully utilising the limited resources of JG26 in North West Europe in order to inflict the maximum damage on the RAF Fighter Command fighter sweeps through the summer campaigns of 1941-43. He recorded his 70th victory in May 1942. By the end of 1942 Priller had added 11 more confirmed victories to his tally.

January 1943 Priller became Geschwaderkommodore of JG 26. By now the increasing US bomber offensive was putting pressure on the Jagdwaffe in the west, and JG 26’s losses rose alarmingly through 1943. He has become famous because of the publicity regarding his Fw 190A-8’s single strafing pass attack on the Normandy Beaches on June 6, 1944 (D-Day), accompanied by his wingman Heinz Wodarczyk. This act was first brought to world attention by the book, and then the film, The Longest Day, which show this, the only known and documented daylight attack by the Luftwaffe against the Normandy landing.

Oberstleutnant Priller brought down his 100th claim in July 1944 (a USAAF B-24). On New Year’s day 1945, he led JG 26 in the ill-fated mass attack on Allied airfields, Operation Bodenplatte (an operation that saw his long-serving wingman Heinz 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 these aircraft),11 Hurricanes, 5 medium bombers, and 5 USAAF fighters.

Post-war “Pips” Priller managed a brewery business, and he died suddenly in 1961 from a heart attack in Böbing, Upper Bavaria.

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