The church tower in Thum around which Karl Kleemann banked immediately prior to the crash.

(Air Battle Over the Ore Mountains September 11th, 1944 Archives)


The last aircraft that is within the realm of this article, and is

an integral part of the boxart in question, is Yellow ‘1’, flown by

Ogefr. Karl Kleemann. This Fw 190 had the W.Nr. 681343 assigned

to it, and along with the other Sturmbocks flown by II.(Sturm)/

JG 4 at this time, it was manufactured by Fiesler at Kassel.

The use of the tactical number ‘1’ by a regular pilot within a unit

was unorthodox. It was usually reserved for the Staffel CO, but it

was not a rule.

Just after the Sturmbock aircraft attacked the 100th BG formation, 339th Fighter Group P-51s appeared, and immediately took

on their German opponents. The R2 modification to the Fw 190A-8

made it a lethal weapon against the formations of four-engined

heavy bombers. Notably, the 30mm Mk 108 cannon with explosive

ammunition, was capable of cutting apart the ‘dump trucks’ or

‘fat cars’, as the German fighter pilots nicknamed the American

bombers. The other side of the coin was that the heavy weaponry

and, as the case may have been, extra armor, made the Fw 190s

somewhat less capable dogfighters, in cases where these situations arose with the escorting fighters. This was the main reason

for most of the Fw 190s diving out of the picture after completing

their first attack, head for the cover of clouds, and make their

way back to their base. Fights typically took place from 26,000

feet down to near ground level and from the Czech-German border northward in line with the town of Chemnitz. It was in this

area that II.(Sturm)/JG 4 lost at least six of its Sturmbock fighters

to the Mustangs. One of these was the plane flown by Karl Kleemann. The burning aircraft appeared low over the centre of Thum,

chased by a pair of P-51s. With a sharp turn, he bypassed a church

steeple, and crashed in a field immediately behind the fence of

the city’s hospital garden. Annemarie Kraus was a witness, and

recalled later: ‘I was standing in the garden with my grandmother, when a low-flying aircraft overflew Thum from the direction of Annaberg. Then, another one flew over, lower than the

first, and it was trailing smoke. It avoided the church bell tower,

and headed in our direction. We lived to the left of the hospital.

And then we heard a massive explosion. We ran to the location of

the impact, as did our neighbors. They didn’t allow us kids near

the actual crashsite. The dead pilot was still in the seat…’

The final moments of Karl Kleemann’s flight was observed from

another angle by a student named Dieter Hertzsch: ‘…suddenly,

a burning German fighter appeared only several meters above

the houses on the west side of Neumarkt headed in our direction.

He was able to coax it back up one more time, and got directly

over the brewery. That was followed by a horrible noise coming

from the direction of the hospital. We ran to the impact point beside the hospital in a field, but there was no help we could offer.

There was a large crater clearly visible, a piece of the airplane

some distance away, and a little beyond that, the pilot. Immediately before us was the wreckage of the plane, completely

deformed. The twenty-three-year-old pilot from Bad Cannstadt,

Obgefr. Karl Kleemann, could not

be helped…’



report that was

released by the

police gives a somewhat more precise accounting of

the details. The



expressionism is

worthy of note,

same as the almost


distortion of the

fact that Kleemann was shot

down by American


According to the report,

and to the contrary, it was Kleemann who was the



his death was an

aerial mishap:

Karl-Martin Kleemann, born November 10th, 1923

(via the Kleemann family)

INFO Eduard - July 2021