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Featured Artifact – Chance Donation Leads to a Connection to Nazi Ace

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The National WWII Museum receives many artifact donation offers every day, but a recent acquisition from a small museum in central Illinois described simply as “A Nazi Officer’s Jacket” turned out to be a diamond in the rough.

All museums typically review their collections periodically and often pass unneeded items on to other museums where they can be used more appropriately. The McLean County Museum of History contacted Museum staff recently with a list of World War II artifacts that no longer served the needs of their collection. One of the items was a German Luftwaffe officer’s jacket which was originally donated by McLean County native, Roy Nickrent. Nickrent jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and coincidentally, was interviewed by The National WWII Museum founder Dr. Stephen Ambrose in the 1980s.

When the jacket arrived, closer inspection revealed a laundry tag sewn into one of the pockets. The tag was dated August 26, 1939, and named to a Herr Huppertz. Research confirmed that this artifact once belonged to German Luftwaffe 78-victory ace and Knights’ Cross with Oak Leaves recipient, Maj. Herbert Huppertz.

Major Huppertz’s career is very well-documented. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 at the age of 18. He first saw action in 1940 during the Battles of France and Britain, where he scored six victories against Royal Air Force fighters. Huppertz was then posted to the Eastern front, where he was credited with an additional thirty-three victories. The German ace returned to France in November, 1942, to take command of the 3rd Squadron of JG 2, Jagdgeschwader Richthofen, and opposed the Allied bombing campaign of German-occupied Europe.

Forty additional Allied aircraft fell to Huppertz before he was shot down and killed on June 8, 1944, over Caen, France, five days after his 25th birthday. He was posthumously awarded Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross and promoted to the rank of Major. Among Huppertz’s kills were seventeen four-engine bombers, several of which are identified by serial numbers in U.S. Army Air Forces missing aircraft reports.

The Museum’s Research Department has since located six survivors from aircraft that fell victim to Huppertz in the hopes of recording their oral histories and further interpreting this exciting new artifact.

Read Ardell Bollinger’s story of how he survived his encounter with the decorated Nazi ace over Germany.

This post by Curator Larry Decuers

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2 Responses to “Featured Artifact – Chance Donation Leads to a Connection to Nazi Ace”

Ted Welch says:

Thanks for posting this article! I love doing research like this myself, have been a relic dealer for years, and a military relic collector for 40 years now. Love doing oral histories, and reading them. Far better then reading a book, it gives ya a feeling of “this person was really there, and saw and did, exactly what happened”. Sadly we’re losing them all right now. Glad i was born at a time when I was able to have the oppertunity to talk to them. Also hard to imagine someone like this, doing what all he did, at age 25!

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