He initially joined the Luftwaffe as a mechanic, before transferring to flying training during 1938-39. In July 1940 he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2) as an Unteroffizier pilot.
Bühligen claimed his first aerial victory -- a Hawker Hurricane over Kent -- on 4 September 1940 and was awarded the Ritterkreuz a year later after 20 further claims.
In December 1942 Bühligen served with II./JG 2 in Tunisia and North Africa, claiming some 40 Allied kills before returning to Europe in March 1943. By March 1944 he had scored 96 kills and was now a Major in command of II./JG 2. On 7 June 1944, Bühligen was credited with his 100th aerial victory. He was the 75th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. Bühligen led JG 2 in carrying out operations against the Soviet advance on the Eastern Front. In early 1945, now Geschwaderkommodore of JG 2, an engine failure caused Bühligen to be taken prisoner by the Soviets, being finally released in 1950.
He shot down some 112 enemy aircraft in over 700 operations, becoming the fourth highest Luftwaffe scorer against the Western Allies. All his victories were claimed over the Western Front and North Africa and included 47 Spitfires and 46 United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) victims; 13 P-38, 9 P-47, 7 US operated Spitfires and 24 four-engine bombers. He was never shot down but had to make emergency landings on 3 occasions. His final command was Geschwaderkommodore of the JG 2 fighter wing.
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