Kurt Kuhlmey was born on the 19th of November 1913 at Insterburg, East Prussia. He served with distinction in the Luftwaffe (Wehrmacht) from 1934 to 1945 and went on to serve in the post-war German Air Force from 1956 to 1971.
Kuhlmey was a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka pilot, accumulating over 500 combat missions on the type. In July 1942 he was rewarded for his leadership and bravery with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) military decoration, a fitting reward for a long and distinguished career.
Like many pilot cadets in the fledgling Luftwaffe of the 1930s, Kuhlmey learnt to fly gliders at the age of 15. A cadre of future Luftwaffe pilots would learn to fly at one of the many gliding schools situated around Germany, providing the nation with trained aircrew in anticipation of the coming war.
Kuhlmey joined the Luftwaffe in 1934, he was commissioned in 1936 after the completion of his flying training and was assigned to the 162nd dive bomber division in Schwerin, where he began flying the Ju 87 Stuka.
Kurt Kuhlmey’s wartime career began on the 1st of September 1939 with the joint German-Soviet invasion of Poland. Kuhlmey also took part in Operation Weserübung (Unternehmen Weserübung) – The German invasion of Denmark and Norway on the 9th April 1940 and the campaign in France and the Battle of Britain.
He also took part in operations against Malta, including the 10 January 1941 Stuka attack on HMS Illustrious. Illustrious narrowly escaped this engagement, suffering extensive damage from six bomb strikes which destroyed the sick bay and ward room. On the 16th and 19th of January, she was attacked again whilst under repair in Malta, which resulted in some flooding in her outer hull compartments and a minor list. On 23 January she sailed to Alexandria, Egypt for temporary repairs, arriving at noon on 25 January.
As part of I./StG 2 Kuhlmey participated in Operation Barbarossa (German: Fall Barbarossa, literally “Case Barbarossa”), beginning on the 22nd of June 1941. In April 1942, he was promoted to Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of II./StG 3 whilst stationed in North Africa. He was further promoted to Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander, Schlachtgeschwader 3 (SG 3) on the 18th of October 1943.
SG 3 was re-assigned to Finland when on the 09th of June 1944 the Soviet Union launched a major offensive on the Karelian Isthmus. The Soviet Army forced the Finns to abandon their defensive lines and on 20 June took Viipuri, the second largest city of Finland. SG 3 was sent to reinforce the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force). SG 3 was re-formed into Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey (Detachment Kuhlmey) with Oberst Kuhlmey commanding a composite unit comprising elements of I./SG 3, I./SG 5, II./JG 54 and NAGr.1.
Detachment Kuhlmey‘s actions in Finland during 16 June and 21 July 1944 were hugely influential in the final outcome of the offensive and of the Continuation War. Together Finnish Air Force units and Detachment Kuhlmey made 1,020 bombing sorties against the Soviet troops and armour. The Soviets lost some 300 tanks, 120-280 aircraft and over 20,000 troops. As a result the Soviet advance stalled, and ensuing peace talks led to a cease-fire between the Soviet Union and Finland on 4 September.
After being released from American captivity in July 1945, he rejoined the military in November 1955, as a Colonel. Attending courses at Williams and Luke Air Force Base in the USA, he received flying training on the F-104 “Starfighter”. On 11 September 1959 he was promoted to Brigadier General and retired a Major General. He died on 30 April 1993.
- Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st Class
- German Cross in Gold (5 November 1941)
- Order of the Cross of Liberty
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for combat and ground attack pilots in Gold
- Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 15 July 1942 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of the II./Sturzkampfgeschwader 3.
- Brütting, Georg (1995). Das waren die deutschen Stuka-Asse 1939 – 1945 [These were the German Stuka Aces 1939 – 1945] (in German). Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch. ISBN 978-3-87943-433-6.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- 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 [The Knight’s Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.