Profile no 48. Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4

Yellow 3, flown by Feldwebel Leopold "Poldi" Steinbatz, 9./JG 52, Barwenkowo/USSR, 20 May 1942

In 1937 Leopold Steinbatz joined the Austrian Air Force's Fliegerausbildungs-Regiment (flight-training regiment) at Wiener Neustadt in 1937, and after the Anschluss to Germany in 1938 transferred to the Luftwaffe. Here he trained as a fighter pilot at the Jagdfliegerschule in Wien-Aspern.

When the war started Steinbatz was transferred to the 2. Staffel of JG 52's Ergänzungsgruppe. In October 1940 Fw. Steinbatz was moved to the 9. Staffel and became a wingman to Lt. Hermann Graf. A week later III./JG 52 was transferred to Romania in support of the new regime of General Antonescu and to train its fighter force. Since the Gruppe was kept back in reserve to guard the Ploesti oil installations they did not participate in the Yugoslavian Campaign. However, in late May the III. Gruppe flew its first combat missions in support of the German's successful but costly invasion of the island of Crete.

Here Steinbatz distinguished himself particularly through successful low-level attacks against Greek and Allied forces. In mid-June III. Gruppe returned to Bucharest and Rumania to be equipped with the new Bf 109 F just in time for Operation Barbarossa. Taking part in the invasion of the Soviet Union on 4 August 1941 he claimed his first victory, an I-16 downed southeast of Kiev.

When III./JG 52 departed the Ostfront in early December for rest and refit the Gruppe had filed a total of 460 Abschüsse thereby being one of the most successful fighter Gruppen in the East. During their six months in the East they moved from one critical area to another, acting as "Feuerwehr" (fire department). Always being in the thick of fighting the Gruppe incurred losses with a total of 26 Messerschmitts and 15 pilots lost. Feldwebel Leopold "Poldi" Steinbatz had personally amassed 25 confirmed victories during this time. And in December 1941 he was awarded the Ehrenpokal (Honor Goblet). And on 27 January 1942 the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold followed for 31 victories after promotion to Oberfeldwebel.

The Ritterkreuz was presented to him on 14 February for 39 confirmed victories. And on this day, 20 May 1942, Obfw. Steinbatz downed a LaGG-3 at 09:02 hours for his 77th Abschuss. In total "Batzi or Poldi", as he was nicknamed, achieved 39 kills during May fighting over the Crimea, Kerch Peninsula, Sevastopol and Kharkov. In further recognition of his accomplishments on 2 June he received the Eichenlaub to the Ritterkreuz. At this period he was flying to the point of complete exhaustion, allowing himself only short breaks because he wanted to score his 100th kill before his well-deserved summer leave.

Obfw. Steinbatz would fly his last combat mission on 15 June 1942 downing no less than four VVS aircraft thereby reaching the total of 99 victories. However on the return flight he was shot down by Russian anti-aircraft fire over a wooded area and was seen to crash northwest of Schebekino; his body was never to be found.

The Schwerter to the Ritterkreuz were posthumously awarded on 23 June becoming the only NCO to achieve such a high award. In all Leopold Steinbatz is credited with a total of 99 confirmed victories on the Eastern Front while flying more than 300 combat missions.

"Yellow 3" exhibits camouflage and markings common to many Bf 109s operating over the Ostfront during the summer and autumn months of 1941. The yellow theatre markings were prominently displayed on the fuselage, engine cowling and wings though over time as the Russian climate and increasing need for ground concealment required the field application of various patterns and shades of greens and brown on the factory-applied grey camouflage. The machine's number and Gruppe marking are large in size typical for JG 52 at this time.

This is one of the 130 profiles that would be included in the Profile Book No 13 as profile no 48.

Note that the caption is provisional and should be tweaked later, before publication.

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