One of the most amazing things I have come across in quite some time, this Officer served successfully in two different services: as a Ground Support Squadron commander in the Luftwaffe and in his Navy career as a brief, yet quite successful, U-Boat Commander. Hechler started off with a Navy career in 1929 and served on a surface ship (the Königsberg) and as an instructor for future Navy Officers at a training school, attaining the rank of Oberleutnant zur See in 1934 before transferring over to the new Luftwaffe in 1935. He became a pilot, and served in the Luftwaffe for 8 years, reaching the rank of Major. During this time he qualified for the combined Pilot Observer badge, and as Commander of a Kampfflieger (Close Air / Ground Support) squadron he racked up both the Iron Cross First and Second Classes, as well as an Operational Flying Clasp for Kampfflieger in Gold for over 60 combat missions. One of the photographs (these are reprints) shows him as a Luftwaffe Major, wearing his gold flying clasp with the downward pointing winged bomb. In 1943, at the age of 35, he transferred back to the Navy and underwent U-Boat training, eventually commissioning and taking command of the U-870. Even the Germans apparently found this dual service something of a novelty, since the other photo, perhaps purposely in nearly the same pose as the Luftwaffe shot, shows Hechler in his dress blue Navy uniform with Korvettenkapitän stripes - and his flying clasp, Iron Cross, and Pilot / Observer badge! The U-870 was based out of Norway, and on its maiden voyage - despite the late-war time frame when U-Boats were having very little success (and indeed were suffering dramatic losses) - Hechler managed to sink three ships during the time that the Ardennes offensive was underway. He received news by radio in January of 1945 that he had been awarded the Knight’s Cross. The boat returned home to Germany, where it was sunk in port (Bremen) by US bombs in an air raid. Hechler survived the war, with his amazing career! The two reprint photographs are in very good condition. The Combined Pilot / Observer award document is lightly worn, but overall in very good condition - and quite unique in its own right since the certificate is noted as a duplicate copy (“Zweitschrift”), printed with the “194__” year block - but referring to the original award issue date of 1935. This very document and pictures are on page 106-107 of "Forman's Guide to Third Reich German Documents… and their values", Vol. 2, 1st ed. from 1996. A truly unique offering!
- Item #: D-235