Wolfgang “Bombo” Schenck was the first man to command a jet aircraft unit in combat and is considered one of the most diversified pilots to fly for the Luftwaffe during World War II. Born in Windhoek, German Southwest Africa, he was schooled in Germany and later went to Tanganyika to become a coffee planter. In late 1936, he returned to Germany and joined the Luftwaffe. After pilot training, he was assigned to the famous JG (Fighter Wing) 132 Richthofen to fly the Messerschmitt 109 single-engine fighter. The unit was later renamed ZG (Destroyer Wing) 1 and equipped with the twin-engine Me-110 heavy fighter. He then participated in the German blitzkrieg operations against Poland, Norway, and France before suffering combat wounds, which hospitalized him for 3 months.
On 4 September 1940 with his recuperation complete, Schenck joined a combat test unit, EGr (Experimental Wing) 210, which was tasked to develop and perfect fighter-bomber tactics under the direct supervision of General Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring, Commander of Air Fleet 2. In April 1941, his unit was reorganized as StG (Dive Bomber Wing) 210 and took part in the advance into Russia. In August 1941, as Commander of the 1st Squadron, StG 210, he received the coveted Knight’s Cross for the crushing attack on the airfield at Tarnopol, on the South Front. Following a short flight test tour in Germany at Rechlin, Schenck went back into combat in March 1942 as Group Commander of I/ZG 1 (Group I of ZG 1), leading his unit to many successes in Russia. At age 29, he received the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross and was selected to command the newly created SG (Fighter-Bomber Wing) 2, flying Focke Wulf 190s in the Mediterranean theater.
Wounded again in 1943, he recovered and later was made Inspector of Fighter-Bomber Pilots. In May 1944, due to his extensive combat experience in many different aircraft, he was tasked to lead Special Command E-51, Kommando Schenck. This unit, sent to France, tested the Me-262-A jet as a fighter-bomber against advancing Allied ground forces. From December 1944 to January 1945, he commanded KG (Bomber Wing) 51, flying the Me- 262-A2 and as the war ended, he served as Inspector of Jet Aircraft. Schenck flew over 400 combat missions in World War II in a variety of aircraft, achieving 18 aerial victories and sinking 40,000 tons of Allied shipping. After the war, he returned to Africa and began a career as a bush pilot–logging over 17,000 flying hours.