Joseph Haibock - Biography
At age 21 I joined the Austrian Air Force, which became part of the German Luftwaffe in 1938. On 1 December, 1939, I was posted to 9./JG 26 where, on 29 May, 1940, I scored my first victory. During the summer and autumn of 1940 I flew 97 missions over England during the Battle of Britain and, by the end of the year, had seven aerial victories. Twelve months later, with a further three victories to my name, I was given command of 1./JG 26 on 6 December.
In February 1942, as a leader of 1 Squadron, I took part in operation ‘Thunderbolt’, the protection of the German capital ships in their dash through the English Channel and, on 18 August, 1942, close to Dieppe, I was credited with the destruction of two British torpedo boats. On 30 December, 1942, with 16 victories from 358 combat missions, I was transferred to the East to command 1./JG 52 in Russia.
Flying in this Wing until the end of January 1944, I was able to score a further 60 aerial victories, being awarded the German Cross in Gold on 17 October, 1943. On 8 February, 1944, I took over command as Gruppenkommandeur of LOG 3 “Udet” in the Defence of the Reich’. On 24 February, 1944, I scored my final victory over an American P-47 Thunderbolt. The following day, after combat with American fighters, I had to make an emergency landing due to a badly damaged engine. However, in so doing, I was attacked by more Thunderbolts on a deep penetrating mission and was severely wounded. A long period of hospitalisation followed and I was not released until September 1945. During my confinement, I was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 9 June, 1944. I finished the war with the rank of Hauptmann, having flown 604 combat missions, of which 244 were on the Eastern Front and 23 deep penetration missions. My final victory total stood at 77, of which 17 were in the West. After the war I rejoined the Austrian Air Force, eventually reaching the rank of Generalmajor before retiring.
I flew combat with JG 26 ‘Schiageter’ from the end of 1939, where, arriving as a fledgling, I was forged into a competent fighter pilot. I was raised from wingman, through number 1 of a pair, to Swarm Leader, then in Autumn 1940, as Adjutant of III. Gruppe, I flew as wingman to the Gruppenkommandeur.
By the end of 1941, I had become the Squadron Leader of 1./JG 26. where I remained until December 1942. By the time I was transferred to JG 52 in the East, in 1943, I had spent three years with JG 26 in the defence of the Western airspace and therefore regard this as the Wing that made me a true fighter pilot. Naturally, each of the Wings I flew with left an impression on me and I formed many strong friendships there. However, my time with JG 26 was absolutely unforgettable.
At the beginning of World War II, the dominant fighter aircraft was the Messerschmitt BF 109 E. I flew this aircraft throughout 1940, which included the hard-fought Battle of Britain. At that time, we had to acknowledge the outstandingly agile flying characteristics of the British fighters, but we still felt superior on account of our weapons and our fuel injected engines.
In 1941, we received the improved “F” series. Instead of the previous angular shape, this machine had smoothly flowing lines and, as a result, had a greatly improved turning ability. Then, in summer of 1941, it started to become clear that not only were our enemies becoming numerically superior, but their machines were also improving greatly. In the tough fighting with the British during their non-stop offensive, our two Wings remaining in the West soon became outnumbered.
The result was fierce aerial combat, for which we had to push our machines to the limit. As a result the airframes became over-stressed. Without any damage from enemy fire, the wings were prone to snapping off in flight and as a result we lost some very successful pilots. To land after a day’s combat with the wings distorted and out of shape was commonplace. The faults were later corrected by strengthening the airframe, but our unquestioning faith in the Me 109 F was shattered.
When the FW 190 was introduced, it gave us a much better chance against the numerically superior enemy. The one piece wings could withstand a much greater wing loading, which gave us a smaller turning radius. This advantage, and other improvements over the Me 109, such as a wider undercarriage, meant that we readily accepted the teething problems associated with a new aircraft. Later in the war I also flew the Me 109 G and K models. The Messerschmitt 109, at its inception in peacetime, was a technical breakthrough, but the FW 190 was a child of the war, and was proven on the battle Front.