Biplane fighter aces


Unteroffizier Willi Gödecke

– 12 May 1940

Willi Gödecke took part in the Spanish Civil War as a member of the Legion Condor.

By the beginning of October 1936 six of the new batch of He 51s had arrived in Spain, together with ten volunteer pilots and more mechanics - ”a necessary and welcome strengthening”, as Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel described it. ”Just like we had done two months previously, they had put together their He 51 single-seaters in Seville, for which we soon almost fell around their necks with joy.”
This latest batch of pilots comprised Oberleutnante Dietrich von Bothmer, Oskar Henrici and Günther Radusch, Leutnante Kurt von Gilsa, Paul Rehahn and Henning Strümpell and Unteroffiziere Gödecke, Kowalski, Ernst Mratzek and Erwin Sawallisch. It was now possible to split the Jagdstaffel into two elements – five aircraft under Oberleutnant Hannes Trautloft headed north on 5 October to León to escort supply and bombing missions around the Nationalist enclave at Oviedo in Asturias, while the others, under Oberleutnant Kraft Eberhardt, went to Barahona and eventually on to Zaragoza. Communications between the two Ketten would be maintained by a solitary Fokker F VII that had been assigned to the Staffel.

On 12 December 1936, the 4.J/88 (He 51B-1) had a great day when they claimed four SBs and one unconfirmed. They were claimed by Leutnant Kurt von Gilsa, Leutnant Paul Rehahn, Unteroffizier Erwin Sawallisch, Unteroffizier Gödecke and Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel (unconfirmed).
None of these claims can’t be verified by Republican records.

The first three Bf 109B-1s were taken on by J/88 on 14 March 1937 and, as per von Richthofen’s plans in February, assigned to Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel, Unteroffizier Gödecke and Oberleutnant Urban Schlaffer. Soon after, the Jagdgruppe moved to Vitoria, and as early as the 17 March, von Richthofen noted that ”Seidemann is delighted with the assaults by the Jagdgruppe on ground targets.”

Gödecke ended the Spanish Civil War with 1 biplane victory.

On 1 September 1939, Gödecke was promoted to Leutnant, servicing in 2./JG 54.

On 12 May 1940, he took off from Eutingen in a Bf 109 E-1 and during an ground attack on Herbeville airfield he was hit by flak. He crash-landed at Barbas, south of Blamont. He was mortally wounded and died later on the day.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 12/12/36   1 SB (a) Destroyed Heinkel He 51B-1   Spain 4.J/88

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
(a) This claim can’t be verified with Republican records.

Aces of the Legion Condor – Robert Forsyth, 2011 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-347-8
Aces of the Luftwaffe
Aircrew Remembered
The Legion Condor - Karl Ries and Hans Ring, 1992 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-88740-339-5
Luftwaffe Officer Career Summaries - Henry L. deZeng IV and Douglas G. Stankey

Last modified 26 May 2022