Opalkovo Crash site

Top row: 1) The 21-gun salute at the burial of Eugene Merz, 2) Willi's girlfriend Gerlinde in a 1942 photo when she was still in high school. They were "engaged" but at the end of the war in all the confusion and detention, they lost track of each other and both met and married someone else. He last saw her when he managed to find her at an anti-aircraft artillery unit in Berlin during the BofB.

Second row: 1) The crash site of Willi's lucky belly-landing at Opalkovo on July 5, 1943 not far from the headquarters of Gen. Feldmarshal Von Kluge. He began the mission at 6:41 and was hit at 8:09. 2) Tail gunner Rainer Korsch inspects the damage to the destroyed He 111, AI+BR.

From Life of WLK: 

On the first day of the big battle “Citadel,” July 5, 1943, around Kursk/Orel, four Russian Yak fighters caught me after my second mission and the release of my bombs, and shot my left engine afire. We did not dare to jump, the battlefront was too close. A steep dive kept the flames back and brought us over friendly territory and a huge field with six-foot high wheat. Never in my life did I manage a better landing. The tall wheat cushioned the belly-sliding aircraft and we were able to jump out and run away from the ammunition explosions and flames. A short while later, a German Panzer Spaehwagen (tank reconnaissance vehicle) picked us up and took us to the headquarters of Fieldmarshal von Kluge close by, where we were served with a hearty breakfast and congratulations.

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Interviews and discussions with Wilhelm Kriessmann conducted by Carolyn Yeager for "The Heretics' Hour" between March 2010 and November 2011.


Pages from Willi's and Trude's scrapbooks, presented as PDF's so you can enlarge the pages for more detailed viewing of the photographs.

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