Walter "Gulle" Oesau was a German World War II fighter ace. Oesau was one of the outstanding leaders ever produced by Luftwaffe fighter wings with the likes of Werner Mölders and Adolf Galland. On 11 May 1944, Oesau, leading three aircraft of the Stabsschwarm, took off from Paderborn to intercept Allied bombers raiding north-eastern Belgium and Luxembourg. During his attack on the bombers he was bounced by escorting P-38s. In the ensuing combat he was shot down and killed in his Bf 109 G-6/AS (W.Nr. 20 601) “Green 13” near St Vith.
He served in the Luftwaffe from 1934 until his death in 1944. He had a total of 127 kills gained over 300 missions. 27 were Spitfires, 14 four-engined bombers, 44 were scored on the Eastern Front and 9 in the Spanish Civil War. In recognition of his record, JG 1 received the title Oesau in honor of its fallen Geschwaderkommodore. Only Werner Mölders had a similar honor with JG 51 Mölders.
- Victories : 127.
- Awards : Knight`s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
- Units : J/88, JG 51, JG 3, JG 2, JG 1.
During his career, Oesau was mentioned five times in the Wehrmachtbericht. These were the daily reports by Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and even one mention is considered to be high military honor:
- Friday, 6 September 1940 .- Besides those four officers already mentioned over the past weeks a further three fighter pilots achieved 20 or more aerial victories in aerial combat, these are: Hauptmann Mayer, Hauptmann Oesau and Hauptmann Tietzen. At the top of the victors stands Major Mölders with 32 aerial victories.
- Thursday, 6 February 1941.- Hauptmann Oesau, group leader in a fighter wing, achieved his 40th aerial victory in yesterday's aerial combat.
- Friday, 4 July 1941.- Hauptmann Oesau achieved his 54th, Oberleutnant Franziskat his 21st aerial victory in aerial combat of the last days.
- Monday, 27 October 1941.- Major Oesau, commodore of a fighter wing, achieved his 100th aerial victory on 26 October.
- 15 May 1944.- The commodore of a fighter wing Oberst Walter Ösau, who had received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords from the Führer for 117 aerial victories against British-North American enemies, found a heroes death in aerial combat. In him the Luftwaffe loses one of their best fighter pilots and leaders.
The last one on 15 May 1944 was after his death. Johannes Steinhoff, the high-ranking Luftwaffe ace (176 Kills) who went on to become the Chief of Staff for Allied Air Forces in Central Europe, once said that: "Walter Gulle Oesau was the toughest fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe".
There is little information available on the personal side of Walter Oesau. He had good sense of humor and liked to spend time with his friends. He was a simple man, who did not display any flamboyant personal emblems on his aircraft. His aircraft while commanding JG 2 did not have any special markings except for the unit's normal yellow under–cowling. While Oesau commanded, JG 2, like many others, dropped the special symbols for Stab (headquarters flight) units in favor of numerals. This helped make the leader's aircraft anonymous. Unlike other aces, Oesau reportedly never had markings on his rudder representing his personal tally.
Oesau was was born in Meldorf on 28 June 1913 and he was aged 30 at the time of his death on 11 May 1944. He served with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, with 3 Staffel of Jagdgruppe 88 (3./J 88), claiming 8 aircraft during the campaign, becoming one of only 28 people to earn the award of the Spanish Cross in Gold and Diamonds.
At the start of World War II, Oesau was given command of 2 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 20. The group was moved to the Eastern Front at the start of the Invasion of Poland, moving back to the Western Front later as the redesignated III Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 51 (III./JG 51). After his first victory of World War II in the Battle of France, Oesau operated on both the Western and Eastern Fronts, where he was wounded and received the Silver Wound Badge. He returned to operations as Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1). He was killed in action on 11 May 1944 aged 30. JG 1 was given the suffix "Oesau" in his honor.
Walter Oesau is buried in Meldorf, close to his birthplace and the town museum (Dithmarscher Landesmuseum) has documented his last journey in pictures.