Grislawski and "Bubi" Hartmann:

Tutoring a 352-victory Ace

The dual biography on Hermann Graf and Alfred Grislawski - "Graf & Grislawski: A Pair of Aces" - also can be read as the history of the Luftwaffe's Fighter Arm between 1939 and 1945 - as seen through the eyes of two of the most successful protagonists. The book covers Graf's and/or Grislawski's service with JG 51 in 1939, JG 52 between 1940 and 1943, JG 50 in 1943, JG 1 and JG 11 in 1943 - 1944, JG 53 in 1944, and finally JG 52 in 1944 - 1945. Several of the other famous protagonists of the Jagdwaffe are portrayed in the book - like Werner Mölders, Adolf Galland, Erich Hartmann, Herbert Ihlefeld, and Edmund "Paule" Rossmann.

Four III./JG 52 pilots on the Eastern Front in late 1942. From left to right: Oberfeldwebel Hans Dammers (113 victories), Oberfeldwebel Edmund "Paule" Rossmann (93 victories), Oberfeldwebel Alfred Grislawski (132 victories), and Leutnant Erich "Bubi" ("Little Boy") Hartmann. It is obvious who is in command - and who is not. . .

The most successful fighter pilot ever is Erich Hartmann, who was credited with 352 aerial victories between 1942 and 1945. Hartmann confirmed that the foundation to his successes was created through the harsh lessons that he received by Alfred Grislawski in late 1942 and early 1943.

When Erich Hartmann arrived at JG 52 on the Eastern Front in October 1942, the 20-year-old son of a military doctor, who had gone through the officer's school, anticipated that his Leutnant's rank would provide him with the respect among NCO's that an officer deserved. Very soon he would learn that Caucasus was not Germany.

III./JG 52's commander, Major Hubertus von Bonin, placed Hartmann under Oberfeldwebel Grislawski's wings. The miner's son Alfred Grislawski found a particular pleasure in teaching this newcomer the name of the game. He made a few mock combats with Hartmann. This relieved Hartmann of some of his ambitious ideas, but Grislawski had to admit that although Hartmann had much to learn regarding combat tactics, he actually was a quite talented pilot.

The trouble started when they started flying combat missions together. Grislawski immediately noted that the newcomer was one of those who thought they were going to "shoot together a Knight's Cross" in no time. Hartmann barely had started to leave his place behind Grislawski's aircraft to direct his Bf 109 against an I-16, when his earphones seemed to explode:

"You bloody idiot! What the hell are you think you're doing? I'm your leader! Get back in place or I'll shoot you down!"

Grislawski kept cursing over the R/T all the way back to base, and when they had landed, the Oberfeldwebel gave the Leutnant a dressing down that he would never forget. Then - in front of the sweating Hartmann - Grislawski turned to his friend "Paule" Rossmann and said:

"Oh man, this is too much! What a baby they have sent us! Just look at his face - like a cute little boy!"

From then on, Grislawski never addressed Hartmann otherwise than as Bubi, "Little boy."

Hartmann proved to be extremely individualistic, and von Bonin definitely knew what he was doing when he assigned a vigorous and harsh worker's son as Alfred Grislawski as his teacher. The men at Soldatskaya used to gather around the radio equipment and listen to the R/T communication with amusement when Grislawski and Hartmann were out on combat missions.

"Are you so anxious to die, Bubi?"

"I'm sorry, sir!"

"Don't you 'sir' me, look after your tail instead!"

"I'll nail you for this, Bubi!"

"I'm sorry!"

"Your mother will be sorry!"

But finally, Hartmann learned the name of the game. On November 5, 1942 he achieved his first victory - against an Il-2 from 7 GShAP.

Last Note: This was the beginning of a long a deep friendship, which would last until Erich "Bubi" Hartmann passed away on 19 September 1993.

On 19 September 2003, incidentally to the day 10 years later, his friend and teacher Alfred Grislawski passed away.

The book "Graf & Grislawski: A Pair of Aces"

can be ordered from Eagle Editions

More by Christer Bergström -

the detailed history of the air war on the Eastern Front 1941 - 1945:

Black Cross/Red Star: Air War Over the Eastern Front

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© Christer Bergström, Vlad Antipov 2001 - 2003