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Karl-Gottfried Nordmann

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Karl-Gottfried Nordmann
The head and shoulders of a young man, shown in semi-profile. He wears a peaked cap and a military uniform with an Eagle above his right and a military decorations above left breast pocket, and an Iron Cross displayed at the front of his shirt collar. His facial expression is determined; his eyes are looking into the distance to the left of the camera.
Nordmann as a Luftwaffe officer
Born (1915-11-22)22 November 1915
Gießen, Germany
Died 22 July 1982(1982-07-22) (aged 66)
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Occupation President of Mercedes-Benz of North America and Canada
Employer 18px Mercedes-Benz
Military career
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1936–45
Rank Oberst (Colonel)
Unit JG 51
Commands held JG 51
1st Fighter Division
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Karl-Gottfried "Karlfried" Nordmann (22 November 1915 – 22 July 1982) was a German Luftwaffe pilot during World War II and, after the war, a president of Mercedes-Benz in North America. As a fighter ace he was credited with 78 enemy aircraft shot down in over 800 combat missions. He claimed the majority of his victories over the Eastern Front, with one during the Invasion of Poland and eight during the Battle of France and Britain.

Born in Giessen, Nordmann volunteered for military service in the Luftwaffe of the Third Reich in 1936. Following flight training, he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 132 (JG 132—132nd Fighter Wing) in October 1938. After a series of redesignations his unit was subordinated to Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing). He fought in the aerial battles over Poland, France and Britain, claiming nine victories. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, he was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of the IV. Gruppe (4th Group) of JG 51. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 1 August 1941 following his 31st aerial victory and received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) on 16 September 1941 after 59 victories. The Oak Leaves grades to the Knight's Cross was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Nordmann.[Note 1]

Nordmann was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) of JG 51, which he led for two years, on 10 April 1942. Injuries sustained in a midair collision on 17 January 1943 grounded him from further combat flying. He surrendered command of JG 51 on 1 April 1944 and was appointed Jagdfliegerführer Ostpreussen (fighter leader Eastern Prussia). Nordmann then served further fighter command positions with Jagdabschnittsführer 6 (leader of the 6th fighter sector) and the 1st Fighter Division, a position he held until the end of World War II. Following World War II, Nordmann joined Mercedes-Benz in sales. He worked as the president of Mercedes-Benz in North America and Canada from 1971 until shortly before his death in 1982.

Early life and career

Nordmann was born on 22 November 1915 in Giessen, at the time in the Grand Duchy of Hesse of the German Empire. He was the son of a doctor and joined the military service of the Luftwaffe on 6 April 1936 as a Fahnenjunker (officer cadet). Nordmann was promoted to Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) on 1 January 1938 and served with 1. Staffel of Kampfgeschwader 253 from 1 March to 30 April 1938.[2] He was then posted to the Jagdfliegerschule (Fighter Pilot School) at Werneuchen, under the command of Oberst (Colonel) Theodor Osterkamp.[Note 2] Since July 1938, he served as a Staffeloffizier (squadron officer) with the Stab of I. Gruppe (1st group) of Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—77th Fighter Wing), which later became IV./Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing).[3]

This unit underwent as a series of redesgnations which started with VI./Jagdgeschwader 132 (JG 132—132nd Fighter Wing), was renamed on 2 November 1938 to I./Jagdgeschwader 331 (JG 331—331st Fighter Wing).[Note 3] While based at Breslau-Schöngarten (currently called Copernicus Airport Wrocław), it was redesignated again, this time to I./JG 77 on 1 May 1939, which was later re-designated to IV./JG 51.[4]

World War II

World War II in Europe began on Friday 1 September 1939 when German forces invaded Poland. Nordmann claimed his first aerial victory when he shot down a Polish PZL.43 on 3 September 1939.[5] Nordmann achieved his next victory during the Battle of France and seven more in the Battle of Britain. He was appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of the 12. Staffel (12th squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—51st Fighter Wing) on 1 March 1940, replacing Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Erwin Neuerburg who became Staffelkapitän of 7. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3—3rd Fighter Wing).[6] In this function, he was promoted to Oberleutnant on 1 April 1940.[2] Nordmann was victorious over two Royal Air Force (RAF) Supermarine Spitfires on 17 October 1940 and achieved his ninth aerial victory on 6 May 1941.[7]

four Messerschmidt Me 109 E of Fighter Wing 51 "Mölders" on a grass airfield
Bf 109 of IV./JG 51 in France, August 1940

In June 1941, JG 51 and the majority of the Luftwaffe were transferred to the Eastern Front in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. On 20 July 1941 Nordmann was appointed to command IV./JG 51, succeeding Major Friedrich Beckh who was selected to command JG 51 as Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander). Command of the 12. Staffel was passed on to Oberleutnant Heinrich Bär.[8] Less than two weeks later, on 1 August 1941 Nordmann was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross after a total of 31 victories which was presented to him by General der Flieger Bruno Loerzer.[7] Unteroffizier (Sergeant) Franz-Josef Beerenbrock flew as Nordmann's Rottenflieger (wing man) around this time. Nordmann achieved his 40th victory in total on 16 August and his 50th on 28 August. Only three weeks later he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 16 September 1941 after 59 victories which was presented by Adolf Hitler. Three days later, on 19 September, he was promoted to Hauptmann (captain).[7] On 10 April 1942, Nordmann took over command of JG 51 as Geschwaderkommodore from Beckh who was transferred to the Reich Air Ministry.[9]

File:Mölders funeral.jpg
Nordmann (front row left) during Werner Mölders funeral on the Invalids' Cemetery, 28 November 1941.[Note 4]

Nordmann was promoted to Major (major) on 18 June 1942.[7] On 26 June 1942 Nordmann crashed his Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2 (Werknummer 12825—factory number). The aircraft flipped during the landing and Nordmann suffered a basilar fractured skull, an injury typical of high-speed crashes. Although he flew again shortly after the crash his injury required hospitalization in August.[3] Nordmann, who had been assisted by Hauptmann Joachim Müncheberg as a Geschwaderkommodore in training, temporarily replaced him during his absence. On 17 January 1943 Nordmann's Focke-Wulf Fw 190 was involved in a midair collision with Hauptmann Rudolf Busch, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 51. Busch was killed and Nordmann, severely injured, did not fly operationally again.[10][11] In total, Nordmann claimed 78 aerial victories, 69 of which on the Eastern Front, flying over 800 combat missions.[3] Under his leadership JG 51 reported the 4,000th aerial victory on 16 December 1942, the 5,000th victory on 2 June 1943, the 6,000th victory on 27 July 1943 and the 7,000th victory on 15 September 1943.[7]

Nordmann, who had been promoted to Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) on 1 August 1943, was appointed Jagdfliegerführer Ostpreussen on 1 April 1944. This command was also later referred to as Jagdabschnittsführer 6 (leader of the 6th fighter sector), while subordinated to the Luftflotte 6 (6th Air Fleet). For his leadership service and the 8,000th aerial of JG 51 he was honorably mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht, an information bulletin issued by the headquarters of the Wehrmacht, on 4 May 1944. He was appointed Inspekteur der Tagjäger Ost (Inspector of Fighter Operations East) on 4 January 1945 and on 30 January 1945 promoted to Oberst (Colonel).[7] Just prior to the end of the war, on 4 April 1945, he took over command of the 1st Fighter Division until the end of the war.[3]

Later life and business career

After World War II, Nordmann joined Mercedes-Benz in 1950, initially working in sales. He later became head of the sales department and, in 1968, head of worldwide services. In January 1971 he was appointed president of Mercedes-Benz in North America and Canada, retiring in January 1981. Despite his retirement, he continued to hold a position as company director.[12] During his tenure with Mercedes, Nordmann was an early mentor of Jürgen Schrempp, who later became the chief executive officer of Daimler AG.[13] Under Nordmann's leadership, Mercedes sales in the United States increased from 30,000 cars in 1970 to 43,600 cars in 1972, a 0.4% U.S. market share. To further expand the market presence in North America, Mercedes in 1976 opened a facility in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1977 Daimler bought the Euclid Company of Ohio and Freightliner Trucks in 1981.[14]

In 1981 Nordmann attended an aviation symposium of the International Order of Characters (IOC) held in Stamford, Connecticut. The symposium panel was made up of four former World War II fighter pilots. In addition to Nordmann, the panel included the former RAF pilots, Sir Douglas Bader and Robert Stanford Tuck, and the former United States Army Air Forces pilot Robert S. Johnson.[15]

He died at his home on 22 July 1982 in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. Nordmann's wife was named Tina. They had a son, Peter, and a daughter, Corinne.[12]


Wehrmachtbericht reference

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording English translation
4 May 1944 Das unter Führung von Oberstleutnant Nordmann stehende Jagdgeschwader "Mölders" meldete seinen 8000. Luftsieg.[23] Fighter wing "Mölders", under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Nordmann, reported its 8 000th aerial victory.

Dates of rank

6 April 1936: Fahnenjunker (Officer Cadet)[2]
1 January 1938: Leutnant (Second Lieutenant)[2]
1 April 1940: Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant)[2]
19 September 1941: Hauptmann (Captain)[7]
18 June 1942: Major (Major)[7]
1 August 1943: Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel)[7]
30 January 1945: Oberst (Colonel)[7]


  1. Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign, in the military order of the Third Reich. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was officially surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern), however the first presentation of the Swords to Adolf Galland was made prior to this date on 21 June 1941.[1]
  2. Flight training in the Luftwaffe progressed through the levels A1, A2 and B1, B2, referred to as A/B flight training. A training included theoretical and practical training in aerobatics, navigation, long-distance flights and dead-stick landings. The B courses included high-altitude flights, instrument flights, night landings and training to handle the aircraft in difficult situations.
  3. For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations, see Organisation of the Luftwaffe during World War II.
  4. Front row from left to right, Karl-Gottfried Nordmann, Herbert Kaminski, Wolfgang Falck and Adolf Galland.
  5. The image File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2008-0704-500, Smolensk, Karl Gottfried Nordmann.jpg shows Nordmann wearing the Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for fighter pilots in gold with pennant above his left uniform pocket.



  1. Williamson & Bujeiro 2004, pp. 3, 7.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Stockert 1996, p. 206.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Obermaier 1986, p. 47.
  4. Weal 2012, p. 33.
  5. Weal 2012, p. 34.
  6. Aders 1993, p. 251.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Stockert 1996, p. 207.
  8. Aders 1993, pp. 251–252.
  9. Aders 1993, p. 247.
  10. Weal 1998, p. 14.
  11. Weal 2012, p. 87.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Karlfried Nordmann, Ex-Mercedes Official". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Grässlin 2000, p. 4.
  14. Josef Ernst. "Daimler Marketing and Sales History" (PDF). Daimler. Retrieved 8 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "TWA Skyliner Magazine". The State Historical Society of Missouri. 44 (5): 7. 2 March 1981. Retrieved 10 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 Thomas 1998, p. 124.
  17. "Karl-Gottfried Nordmann". World War 2 Retrieved 9 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 572.
  19. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 326.
  20. Von Seemen 1976, p. 254.
  21. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 55.
  22. Von Seemen 1976, p. 26.
  23. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, p. 95.


  • Aders, Gebhard; Held, Werner (1993). Jagdgeschwader 51 'Mölders' Eine Chronik – Berichte – Erlebnisse – Dokumente (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-01045-1. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Grässlin, Jürgen (2000). Jürgen Schrempp and the Making of an Auto Dynasty. New York: McGraw Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-135132-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hoppe, Heinz C. (1991). Ein Stern für die Welt. Vom einfachen Leben in Ostpreußen zum Vorstand bei Daimler-Benz (PDF) (in German). Munich, Germany: Südwest-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-517-01246-9. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 978-0-8041-1696-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Stockert, Peter (1996). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1 (in German). Bad Friedrichshall, Germany: Friedrichshaller Rundblick. ISBN 978-3-9802222-7-3. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Von Seemen, Gerhard (1976). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 : die Ritterkreuzträger sämtlicher Wehrmachtteile, Brillanten-, Schwerter- und Eichenlaubträger in der Reihenfolge der Verleihung : Anhang mit Verleihungsbestimmungen und weiteren Angaben (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7909-0051-4. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Weal, John (1998). Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Aces of the Russian Front. London, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-518-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Weal, John (2012). Jagdgeschwader 51 'Mölders'. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78200-547-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Williamson, Gordon; Bujeiro, Ramiro (2004). Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves Recipients 1939–40. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-641-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • "Karl-Gottfried Nordmann". Retrieved 12 May 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Karl-Gottfried Nordmann". Lexikon der Wehrmacht (in German). Retrieved 2 October 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Karl-Gottfried Nordmann". World War 2 Retrieved 9 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Military offices
Preceded by
Oberstleutnant Friedrich Beckh
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 51 Mölders
10 April 1942 – 30 March 1944
Succeeded by
Major Fritz Losigkeit
Preceded by
Commander of Jagdfliegerführer Ostpreussen
1 April 1944 – 1 October 1944
Succeeded by
Hauptmann Egbert Belau
Preceded by
Generalmajor Walter Grabmann
Commander of 1st Fighter Division
April 1945 – 8 May 1945
Succeeded by
Business positions
Preceded by
Heinz Hoppe
President of Mercedes-Benz of North America
January 1971 – January 1981
Succeeded by
Walter Bodack