An outstanding pilot, he was appointed Squadron Commander of Fighter Group 53 in 1944. Flying a ME 109 it is claimed he made 352 kills during the Second World War. In 30 months of fighting, he flew 1,425 combat missions and was shot down sixteen times but was never wounded.
Hartmann was captured by the Red Army in 1945 and held in a prison camp for ten years. After his release in 1955 he joined the West German Air Force.
His authorized biography, The Blond Knight of Germany, was published in 1970.
Erich Hartmann died in Stuttgart in 1995.