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He claimed, and was credited with, shooting down 352 Allied aircraft—345 Soviet and 7 American—while serving with the Luftwaffe.

Erich Hartmann was born on 19 April 1922 in Weissach, Württemberg, to Doctor Alfred Erich Hartmann and his wife, Elisabeth Wilhelmine Machtholf.

The economic depression that followed World War I in Germany prompted Doctor Hartmann to find work in Changsha, China, and Erich spent his early childhood there.

He completed his basic flying training in October 1941 and began advanced flight training at pre-fighter school 2 in Lachen-Speyerdorf on 1 November 1941.

There, Hartmann learned combat techniques and gunnery skills.

Hartmann later recalled that the incident saved his life: That week confined to my room actually saved my life.