Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings


Born in the free city of Danzig, in what was then East Prussia, Siegfried Freytag (Nov 1919-June 2003), served in Jagdgeschwader 77 for much of the war. He saw combat over Great Britain in 1940 and then over Crete that following year. By June 1942, was the commander of the wing’s 1st Squadron — his aerial tally at 57 confirmed victories. He scored briskly over Malta but was bested on July 27 (an important day), when he was shot down into the sea off Valletta. Rescued by a Dornier Do24 flying boat, he was soon back in action. On the morning of October 11, he claimed the destruction of a single Spitfire to raise his total score to 69. By late 1944, Freytag was back in Germany, for home defense. Remarkably, he may have been responsible for shooting down and killing famous the “Malta “ace, Flight Lieutenant Henry ‘Wally’ McLeod during combat over the French-German border on 27 September 1944 — for his 101st victory of the war. Captured by US Army troops near Regensburg in 1945, he initially worked as an interpreter but then became near destitute upon learning that his entire family had been wiped out following the Soviet conquest of East Prussia. He found work as a taxi driver before joining the French Foreign Legion in 1952. As an ordinary foot soldier, he saw combat in Indochina and Algeria before retiring in 1970. He lived in the Legion’s retirement commune for the rest of his life.

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