Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings


Popular and full of youthful exuberance, Franz Schiess was another casualty of a war which was largely unforgiving of mistakes and indifferent to ability. Born in Austria (21 February 1921-Sept 1943), Schiess was in action from the first day of the war, in Poland, while serving in the army. Later transferred to the Luftwaffe, he spent nearly a year along the Channel Front, seeing little combat until his unit was transferred wholesale to the east to participate in the invasions of Russia. Here, victories came fast and without respite. Between 22 June and August 1941, he shot down 14 Soviet aircraft, but then moved to Sicily with his unit, JG53, to operate against Malta. He shot down 11 British planes over the island before the campaign petered out, but spent the next year in the Mediterranean, operating with his unit under increasingly heavy odds. He forged a reputation as a fearless, aggressive pilot, but was killed when his Messerschmitt Me109G-6 fighter was shot down by American P-38 Lightnings over Ischia in the Tyrrhenian Sea on 2 September 1943. His death had a profound effect on his unit. In a letter to Schiess’ parents, his commander, Oberst Günther von Maltzahn, wrote: “One could not have wished for a better officer. Not only did there exist a comradeship and a mutual trust between [us] that was tested in far more than 100 air battles, but in him I lost my best friend, on whom I could depend no matter what the situation.”

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