German fighter pilot Hans-Joachim Marseille died on this day in 1942. He achieved fame by shooting down over 150 Allied aircraft, allegedly including an unbelievable eight kills in only 10 minutes. Marseille was very young – when Hitler came to power he was only 13, and only 19 when World War II broke out.
Hans-Joachim Marseille was a German of French birth, which is immediately apparent from his surname. Namely, his ancestors on his father’s side were Huguenots who had emigrated to Germany from France. The term “Huguenot” usually refers to the French Calvinists (Calvinism was a strain of Protestantism present in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and several other European countries).
There was a great exodus of Huguenots from France during the reign of King Louis XIV (the “Sun King”). Many of them took refuge on the area ruled by the Prussian king, because his dynasty was also Calvinist (even though most of his subjects were Lutherans). The Marseille family was only one among many Huguenot families that ended up settling in Berlin.
Young Hans-Joachim Marseille achieved as many as 158 aerial victories over the course of World War II. He was particularly successful in the skies above North Africa, where he earned the nickname “Star of Africa” (Ge. Stern von Afrika).
After achieving all these victories, Marseille died on this day, after his Messerschmidt Bf 109 malfunctioned and crashed during a flight over northern Egypt. Despite the fact that he had not been hit, his cockpit started to fill with smoke. Marseille decided to bail out of his airplane, but was struck by its tail immediately after he jumped. He suffered such a powerful blow to the chest that he either died instantly or was too injured to open his parachute. In any case, he fell a great distance, and his body was found shortly after, disfigured by many great wounds.