Thursday, 2 January 2020

The 'Luchy' trial - III./ZG 26 pilot murder - May/June 1940

Roadside grave in northern France of Uffz. Wilhelm Ross shot in cold blood after jumping clear of his stricken III./ZG 26 Bf 110 on May 20, 1940.

On May 20, 1940, while flying an escort mission for He 111s on a bombing mission to Beauvais, two Bf 110s of III./ZG 26 were shot down by Sgt Edouard Le Nigen of GC III/3. One of the twin-engine aircraft crashed in Luchy along the Amiens-Beauvais road, the two crew successfully bailing out of their stricken machine. The aviators touched down in a field between the road and the hamlet of Rougemaison. The pilot, Uffz Wilhelm Ross, was then attacked by refugees before being shot in the head by a French soldier or officer, whose unit in retreat was apparently on the road in the same refugee column, possibly intentionally. A sergeant in charge of the 106th artillery regiment held off a baying crowd, which enabled the radio operator/gunner, Gefr Alfred Wetzel, to avoid a similar fate to his pilot.

left; Gefr Alfred Wetzel, a witness at the Luchy trial during September 1940

Wetzel went into captivity and was released after the fall of France. Ross was briefly buried by the roadside for a while. With the end of hostilities on the continent, an investigation was conducted by the German authorities.

Ross was not of course the only German airman murdered by military or civilian personnel on the basis of a foolish and criminal order promulgated by the French military authorities according to which any 'paratrooper' had to be shot. The order in question was 'reviewed' on or around May 20 after several French and British airmen were killed by 'friendly' fire. Despite the repeated occurrence of these gratuitous crimes, the German authorities apparently had little desire to make publicity out of them, possibly to avoid memories of those few snipers of August 1914 whose disordered actions had led to bloody uncontrolled and disproportionate reprisals in Belgium as well as in northern France.

Somewhat unusually the 'Luchy case' resulted in a 'show trial' that would attract media attention.

As the responsible French soldier had not been identified, a local farmer Alfred Mullot who lived in Rougemaison was charged with the crime. Mullot had seen the German aircraft coming down and had been quickly on the scene with his shotgun. He had been denounced by another local as the murderer. The 'witness', an agricultural worker, apparently wanted to 'settle a score' following a humdrum village dispute. Mullot was arrested on August 2, 1940 and imprisoned for a time in Ghent.

Brought back to Beauvais, he was put on trial in a very theatrical manner on September 12 in the village square of Luchy itself. Photos taken at this "trial" were widely published in the press. Although Bordfunker Wetzel, a witness at the 'hearing', stated that he did not recognise Mullot, the farmer was nonetheless sentenced to death. However, his sentence was soon commuted to five years in prison. After a year and a half in the Reich, he was sent back to Luchy (where he died in 1980). Mullot's release demonstrated that, in the end, no one had seriously considered him to be the killer and that the 'Luchy trial' was something of a farce.

(Farmer Mullot accused of murdering III./ ZG 26 pilot Uffz. Wilhelm Ross on May 20, 1940 at his 'trial' - the newspaper caption read " I was only following the orders of the Prefecture"...)

However, his release raised a number of questions. Why did the German authorities expend so much unnecessary energy on this 'show' trial when a simple examination of Ross' remains would have revealed that he was killed by a bullet fired by a soldier and not by Alfred Mullot's shotgun? Why even use such publicity to condemn an innocent man (even if, according to how events could have played out, Mullot might well have acted in the manner of a 'franc-tireur'). After all, far less coverage was given to the four civilians sentenced to death and executed after the murder of a KG 54 crew at Vimy on 18 May 1940. Was the Luchy trial the 'unfortunate' initiative of a local German official... the answer to this and other questions will probably never be known.

Extracted with permission from Jean-Louis Roba's new history of III./ZG 26 published by Lela Presse. Free shipping on this title up to 10 January 2020. Go to the Lela Presse website for pdf extracts and ordering info.

Best wishes and Happy New Year/ Meilleurs Voeux to all friends and contributors at Lela Presse!

Herbert Kutscha IV./JG 3 - Bundesarchiv photo finds #5

Oblt. Herbert Kutscha (left) earned his Knights Cross with II./ZG 1 in the East (see link below). He briefly led IV./JG 3 in the air during early 1944, 83-victory ace and IV. Gruppe Kommandeur Franz Beyer having been shot down and killed on 11 February 1944 (a successor not immediately appointed). IV./JG 3 operated in concert with the Sturmstaffel from Salzwedel during February-April 1944. Kutscha would be shot down by P-47s near Venlo on 23 February 1944 and was out of action for several months.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Wurmheller Jagdgeschwader 2 - ebay photo find #326

Jagdflieger Lederkombi Pilot Josef Sepp Wurmheller, Frankreich, Feldflugplatz, vermutlich 13. November 1942

Sunday, 22 December 2019

new Luftwaffe book series from UK publisher Mortons

new and forthcoming series from this ambitious UK publisher..."Secret Projects of the Luftwaffe " and "Eagles of the Luftwaffe"

First volume in the "Secret Projects.." series is a new history of the Blohm and Voss BV 155, which according to author Dan Sharp, "..sheds new light on the development of the type based entirely on primary source research. The book has photos of the last surviving example of the type in the world. And it's in remarkably good condition!.."

According to Dan's Twitter feed ..".. NASM's BV 155 V2 at Silver Hill is in deep storage and inaccessible to the public - so the team at NASM sent someone in for me to get pictures. The Me 155 started out being essentially a 109 with new wings/undercarriage but what ended up as the BV 155 shared few components with the 109 series..."

 There has been nothing on the Blohm and Voss BV 155 since the Monogram Close-Up of 1990 by Thomas H Hitchcock (that I'm aware of).

Mortons' Luftwaffe series are here

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Fritz Galland, reluctant fighter pilot - eldest and least well-known of the four Galland brothers

Above; Fritz Galland, elder brother of Adolf Galland, seen strapping into the cockpit of his G-6 'white 1' as StaKa 2./NAG 11 in Italy during late 1943. See profile artwork of 'white 1' below, published in the long defunct 'Histoire de guerre' magazine (via J-L Roba).

Interview extract with Adolf Galland via Colin Heaton on

Interestingly both interviewer and interviewee got that one wrong - all three of Galland's brothers were combat pilots! However they did at least both note that there were four Galland brothers including Adolf - most authors only seem to account for three ! Fritz Galland - the 'attorney' according to brother Adolf Galland - alongside AG (left) and in the cockpit of his "white 1" (top) was the eldest brother and had - like Wilhelm-  joined the flak arm. It was possibly as a result of his brothers' achievements in fighters that he had then 'chosen' or taken the opportunity very late on to train as a fighter pilot. Fritz Galland's first posting was to JG 3. During the summer of 1942 he flew Bf 109s with 7./JG 5. According to writer Brian Cull it was possibly Fritz Galland who was held responsible for the shooting down of a He 111 of 8./KG 26 near Petsamo, a loss that occurred on 8 September 1942. However sources are few and far between. Exactly what did happen to Fritz Galland? What we do know - from first person accounts - is that he must have been demoted from his rank of Hauptmann. He was subsequently posted to NAG 11 (2 Staffel) in Italy -where presumably he could do less damage- and arrived there as a lowly Feldwebel. He was appointed Staka 2./NAG 11 in October 1943. (note the error in the Stankey/De Zeng data base entry below)

Even here apparently he wasn't particularly highly rated as a pilot -at least one of his pilots says he always tried to avoid flying with him..(personal account via Jean-Louis Roba published in the now-defunct 'Histoire de Guerre' magazine)

Below; an entry from the superb Stankey/De Zeng Luftwaffe officers database resource which can be found here; I wonder if the single victory mentioned is in fact the 'victory' that cost him his fighter pilot career. Note that after the NAG he went to various training Geschwader.

GALLAND, Dr. Fritz. (DOB:21.05.10 in Recklingshausen). 26.05.42 Oblt., 2./JG 3. 13.06.42 Oblt., in 2./JG 3. 01.07.42 promo to Hptm.(d.R./Fl.). 10.08.42 in 7./JG 5. 10.43 appt Staka 2.(H)/Aufkl.Gr. 14 (to 11.43)? c.15.11.43 appt Staka 1./NAGr. 11 (and 01.44). 07.44 Hptm., appt Staka 3./JG 104 (to 02.08.44). 03.08.44 trf to JGr. 10 and then appt Staka in JG 111. 23.09.44 Hptm., appt Staka 1./JG 104(to 28.04.45). Older brother of Adolf Galland. Credited with one victory.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

The Jet Night Fighters: Kurt Welter & the Story of the Messerschmitt Me 262 Night Fighters by Andreas Zapf. A look at the Me 262 B twin-seater "nightfighters", Herbert Altner 10./ NJG 11, Jägerblatt 1/1998

One year on from his huge 500+ page German-language history of the German jet night fighters, Andreas Zapf has produced an English adaptation from this volume. While this 113-page monograph, printed via Amazon's 'Print-on-Demand' service, includes a mission-by-mission diary of Mosquito raids to Berlin and the deployment of the Me 262 in these interceptions and combats as per the original German-language tome, this new title focuses more especially on the man and the 'myth' leading the Me 262 jet night fighters of 10./NJG 11 - Kurt Welter.

According to the back-cover blurb, " ..most of the Luftwaffe’s aces are well known and their lives – pre-war, war, and post-war – are usually well documented. Equally well documented are their wartime careers and their claims and confirmed victories. Kurt Welter, recipient of the RK mit Eichenlaub is one of the 'exceptions'  to the rule". Welter's position as commanding officer of “Kommando Welter” and 10./NJG 11 (along with the passage of time and the Internet) have transformed Welter into both 'legend' and myth. The units he commanded were the only ones to take the Messerschmitt Me 262 into nocturnal combat. But that is also where the “urban legend” of Kurt Welter starts - most 'successful jet fighter pilot in history' or 'bare-faced overclaimer'?

As Andreas puts it, 'the truth lies somewhere in between'. This new book provides the first 'fully documented' account of Welter's career, along with the story of the units he commanded. Not that there is much material to document. Welter's unit struggled to maintain operational effectiveness - aircraft were lost in accidents or unserviceable all too frequently and piecemeal deliveries could hardly keep up. But since so little is really known about the man and these jet night fighter units, Andreas does a fine job of bringing all the threads of the story together in one place for an English-language readership.

Welter's career via the wilde Sau, JG 300 to NJG 11 and the Me 262 night fighters is fully discussed. His key witness is 'Jorg' Cypionka, 'Moskito-hunter' of 10./JG 300 and NJG 11. Welter's claims list is dissected over some twelve pages - the first 'claim' for the Me 262 at night (November 27, 1944) as proposed by Jurleit in his 'Strahljäger im Einsatz' is dismissed for lack of evidence- while just about every known photo of Welter and aircraft associated with him is reproduced along with log-book extracts from those who flew with him. Andreas also documents as fully as he can the lives of the handful of pilots assigned to fly the Me 262 in 10./ NJG 11 and provides a solid background of missions and claims based on the the little hard evidence that can be found in the archives.  Also featured is some interesting information on the handful of twin-seaters that were delivered, again based on log-book extracts. Aside from some slightly strange formatting and editing decisions, probably due to the limitations of  'print-on-demand'  (too many italics, including German city names and a mission diary written in the present tense) this is a recommended addition to my Luftwaffe library and can be ordered in softback for the price of a few pints via amazon print-on-demand. Go do it!

 Chat with Andreas Zapf on this blog here

The night of 27-28 March 1945 saw the first sorties of the Me 262 B-1a/U1, the world's first twin-seater jet 'night fighter'. The Me 262 B-1a/U1 was adapted and built in the last months of the war from the Messerschmitt Me 262 two-seater training aircraft by DLH in Berlin-Staaken. The history of the development of the aircraft and its employment by the so-called Kommando Welter against the fast  Mosquitos of Bomber Command - a machine which was all but "invincible" - is briefly described here.

Early in the Me 262 programme the need for a twin-seat derivative had been identified for training and familiarisation purposes - the new tricycle-undercarriage jet fighter configuration led directly to the trainer Schulflugzeug development, the Me 262 B offshoot. Blohm and Voss was the company brought in to work on the conversion. All Me 262 Bs were 'rebuilds' of single-seat or intended single-seat airframes. Contrary to what can still be read in articles on the type, there was no new-build Me 262 B production. However it was not a question of simply fitting a radar and operator into a two-seater. All 'night-fighter' two-seater Me 262s featured a number of 'structural' enhancements, most notably in an attempt to improve the comparatively poor endurance of the type. In the end twin drop tanks were the 'ad-hoc' solution to the endurance issue - these were presumably jettisoned before contact with the enemy.

In comparison to its daylight operational role as bomber destroyer, the concept of the Me 262 as a 'night fighter' was developed rather late on - at the end of summer 1944. However the type of mission to be flown by the Me 262 at night was from the outset clearly identified  - the interception of the fast De Havilland Mosquito bomber, pathfinder and reconnaissance aircraft. Ranging across the Reich at will and with relative impunity by late 1944 in large numbers, Pathfinder and Light Night Striking Force Mosquitos were a far more 'important' target than four-engine bombers. LNSF Mosquitos raided Berlin some 170 times, at one period on 36 consecutive nights. Oblt. Fritz Krause, Staffelkapitän in the experimental 1./NJGr10 at Berlin-Werneuchen commanded by Hauptmann Friedrich Karl Müller whose main task was Moskito 'hunting' recalled;

"... We had to meet the two quite different uses of the Mosquito. Firstly, there was the nightly raid to bomb Berlin and secondly their use as pathfinders at high altitude in the Ruhr. Night after night, thirty to forty Mosquitoes flew to Berlin and dropped bombs and the psychological stress on the Berliners was considerable. Flak and searchlights were moved to Berlin without having any considerable or lasting effect. The Mosquitoes flew at altitudes above 30,000 ft and after crossing the Elbe lost height to fly over Berlin at the highest possible speed to avoid the concentrated flak. The direction of the flights across Berlin was different with each operation."

The 28 December 1944 issue of "Flight" reported;

"  ..Maintaining the offensive against Berlin is one of the main tasks of the LNSF of Mosquitos and it is now common for fifty to sixty Mosquitos to attack Berlin by night. They are so serious a menace that Berlin is now defended by special anti-Mosquito guns which fire predicted flak to twice the height four-engine bombers fly. The Germans have also deployed jet-propelled aircraft but with indifferent success.."

 And there were a number of practical reasons for the concentration on the Mosquitos. Probably one of the most significant was the fact that the cruising speed of a Lancaster bomber was only marginally above the stalling speed of an Me 262. The Me 262 Jumo jet engines were of course still just as difficult to manage as they were in the day 'fighter' Me 262 A. And at this stage of the war Ju 88G-6 night fighters and the He 219 were entering service in numbers and enjoyed a higher speed advantage over the bombers than earlier 'conventional' night-fighters..

The notion that the 262 was a  night-time four-engine bomber killer is still widely shared.  Brand new and evocative Airfix box-top artwork (below) depicts a Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a and a burning Halifax over a heavily bombed city. The Halifax is clearly portrayed as the latest victim of a prowling ‘Red 12’ from the Luftwaffe’s 10./Nachtjagdgeschwader 11.  The November 2018 issue of  AMW magazine includes the following;

" in the closing stages of WWII the Me 262 was pressed into service as a stop-gap night fighter, a small number of twin seat airframes joining the single-seaters in the battle against Allied bombers.

This is simply not the case

While Welter himself may have attempted one or two night-time four-engine bomber interceptions by his own account, not one Kdo Welter or 10./NJG 11 Me 262 pilot recorded so much as a single encounter with an RAF heavy bomber that is verifiable (see Zapf, page 41 for discussion of the 'events' of the night of January 13/14, 1945). Ultimately, this was not their mission!  (Note that the Airfix box-top artwork for their new-tool Me 262 twin seater is very similar to the artwork produced by Hobbyboss et al...)

The experimental Me 262 'night hunting' unit 'Kommando Welter' was formed at Rechlin-Larz on 2nd November 1944. Initially only single seat Me 262 As were available and so equipped. It can thus be assumed that a majority of the 'night fighter' Me 262 sorties and resulting 'kills' were conducted with single seat aircraft flying without radar.

Indeed Welter himself, and various other pilots who joined the unit through November and December, flew 'Wilde Sau' type missions. Welter claimed his first victory - somewhat doubtfully- on November 27, according to Jurleit. 'Kommando Welter' was redesignated 10./NJG 11 on 25th January 1945 with a typical Staffel-strength establishment of 12 Me 262s. As discussed above and highlighted in the new book by author Andreas Zapf, evidence of sorties flown and 'victories' claimed is both fragmentary and highly contradictory. Suffice to say most books and websites dealing uncritically with Luftwaffe aces attribute quite arbitrarily a large number of Mosquito downings to Welter..

While the Me 262 As were strictly focused on Mosquito targets this is not to say that Welter had not attempted to down bombers in his single-seater Me 262 - he apparently had on at least two occasions - and only narrowly avoided crashing into them. He quickly came to the conclusion - and the OKL agreed - that Me 262s were marginal as "night-fighters" and were to be deployed as so-called 'golden bullets', turned over exclusively to anti-Mosquito duties, additionally deployed to combat high-flying US PR types by day.

To be clear, orders from above limited the 'night fighter' Me 262 to specifically engage Mosquitos at night, and PR aircraft during the day under VFR conditions (as in the case of K-H Becker's F-5 Lightning Aufklärerjagd Abschuss). The majority of the 'night fighter' Me 262 kills were conducted with single seat aircraft flying without radar. Two seat aircraft with radar surely presented quite different interception opportunities to exploit. The Me 262 night fighter pilots were briefed explicitly not to engage heavy bombers.

Given equipment limitations and the difficulties that the GCI controllers were having with the speed disparity, even between Mosquitos and the Me 262, the chances of running a successful interception between a heavy bomber and a jet were next to zero. Even against Mosquitos Kommando Welter pilots had to plan their attack very carefully since the jets were considerably quicker. K-H Becker described the problem;

"..I had caught a Mosquito illuminated in the search lights at about 8,500m, in a good position for an attack. However, because I had not managed to manoeuvre my Me 262 into the proper position, the rapid closing speed forced me to break off before I could finish my attack..."

He illustrates here the preferred Me 262 target - an aircraft already illuminated by searchlights. The 'Wilde Sau' also enjoyed a running commentary from fighter controllers on the ground, similar to their daytime colleagues.

The twin-seater Me 262 B-1a/U1 with FuG 218, as first delivered to 10./ NJG 11 on 22 March 1945 was ultimately the final development of the Me 262 night fighter to see action for a handful of examples (see the account of Altner in Smith and Creek 2003; p. 464 and Williams 2006; p. 187). However the specialised twin-seaters deployed on operator-guided and radar-assisted interception of Mosquitoes required experienced pilots and radar operators of which hardly any were assigned to 10./ NJG 11. The first two seat, radar equipped, night fighters were conversions undertaken by the Deutsche Lufthansa workshops at Berlin-Staaken. Herbert Altner collected the first on 22nd March (".. our first red 8" ) but it was destroyed by bombing at a stop over at Lübeck and never made it to the unit. According to his own recollections Altner repeated this operation on two more occasions, ferrying three two-seaters in total  (Jurleit, page 89) which saw service with 10./NJG 11 flying a handful of sorties;

  " ... I could manage the over-loaded machine quite well - but with two crew, heavy weapons, radar and Hirschgeweihantenne (antler radar aerials) there was a huge difference in handling compared to the single-seater....das war doch ein gewaltiger Unterschied zum Einsitzer.."

However according to 10./NJG 11 pilot Jorg Czypionka only two of the 12 ME 262s seen in the 'flight-line' photos of 10./NJG 11 published hitherto were in fact fitted out with radar - the rest were used in a role similar to Wilde Sau, flown VFR. Cypionka returned just a single victory in the 262 in a single seat machine.

Whether it was the unwieldy and 'interim' Me 262 B1a/U1 with its handling difficulties and lack of Schräge Musik  oblique guns  or the Me 262 A,  the 'night fighters' still had the same simple throttle management issues encountered on the 'day fighter' Me 262 to contend with. Piston-engine fighter pilots could cut the throttle and advance it at will and were well used to jamming the throttle back and forth to tighten turns and adjust closure speed. Two Me 262 night-time losses are testament to the missing ingredient of simple throttle management! Welter destroyed the first "red 4" by slamming the throttles forward and on the night of 27-28 March 1945 at the controls of  'red 11' Lt. Herbert Altner -directed by radio operator Reinhard Lommatzsch onto a single Mosquito- throttled back the engines causing both to flame-out. Altner recalled, " Beide Öfen nahmen übel..both 'ovens' took this badly and unable to restart them our speed dropped off and the nose began to fall away...there was nothing for it but to get out as fast as possible.." (Jurleit, page 90)

The machine went into a nose dive. Unable to restart at least one engine again, Altner gave the order to jump. After jettisoning the canopy, Altner stood on his seat and jumped clear and landed safely with his parachute. Radio operator Reinhard Lommatzsch had less luck, colliding with the tail unit and fell to the ground without deploying his parachute.

Attempting to 'manoeuvre' into a firing position Altner had reacted as he had been trained in piston- engined fighters, i.e., he chopped the throttles, causing an immediate flame-out. Both of these night-fighting Me 262s were lost for no other reason than the pilots disobeyed the basic instruction ; 'set the throttles and then do not touch them". The Jumos were simply too 'touchy' for anything else.

The night of 27-28 March 1945 is an important one in the story of the Me 262 B on a number of counts. Some 80 Mosquitos headed for Berlin and six Messerschmitt Me 262s were scrambled to intercept them. These were the first sorties of the Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1.

Four of the Mosquitos were lost - two over the Netherlands, two more west of Berlin where they fell victim to two of the Me 262s. Lt. Jorg Cypionka and Fw. Karl-Heinz Becker were the successful pilots.

 Altner with radar operator Fw. Hans Fryba went on to shoot down a Mosquito of 305 Squadron (flown by Sqn.Ldr. Hanbury) on the night of 3-4 April 1945. The two claimed on 19/20 April cannot be matched with any British losses. Post-war Altner claimed to have been the first Luftwaffe pilot to have flown the two seat version on night fighting operations ..

"..On 6 May I flew with my mechanic Karl Braun in good old 'Red 12' from the motorway near Reinfeld to Schleswig-Jagel where the Luftwaffe's last two Me 262 B-1a/U1s were surrendered to the RAF. That was the end of the war for me and I had done my duty. I remember with pride that I had flown the world's first operational jet aircraft, and to have been the first Luftwaffe pilot to have flown the two seater version on night-fighting operations...."

Below; biography of Herbert Altner on the occasion of his 80th birthday as published in Jägerblatt 1/1998. Surprisingly enough there isn't/wasn't a single decent bio or image of Altner ( "Mister 262") on the internet. Altner was born 2 March 1918 in Nauenhof near Leipzig, entered the Luftwaffe as radio operator in April 1937 but dreamt of becoming a pilot. He was accepted for flying training in June 1939. He trained as a night-fighter pilot and joined 5./NJG 3 in November 1941, returning his first victory during the night of 18/19 August 1942 on his 36th combat sortie. (Halifax W1226 of No. 35 Sqn). On the night of 19 July 1944 he and his 8./NJG 5 crew accounted for five Lancasters in 33 minutes.

Neat view of a twin-seater, probably 'red 8', being inspected by RAF personnel - note the single colour wing upper surface scheme, probably Grün 82. The fuselage features a heavy mottle of 81/82 according to Ron Belling who re-sprayed 'red 8' in South Africa for the Saxonwold museum and then wrote about it for William Green's 'Air International' back in 1975. In his 1989 book Belling had in fact 'changed his mind' about these colours opting for 81/83. These machines were painted for ground concealment...

More from David E. Brown;

" There are enough images of these 10./ NJG 11 machines to ascertain that their camouflage schemes were probably a field/unit modification of the original scheme. Indeed, no two of the unit's Me 262 Bs wore the same camouflage scheme/colours, and one must think that perhaps the RLM was also involved possibly evaluating the effectiveness of the various patterns and colours.

'Red 10' was initially built as a standard single-seat A-1a at Leipheim, and probably completed in mid-January 1945. It was then forwarded to the Deutsche Lufthansa workshops at Staaken for conversion to a twin-seater. The first acceptance flight following conversion was made by Fw. Poppe of the DLH on 17 February 1945. He may have also flown it to Schleswig-Jagel on the same date. It is also recorded as being flown by Poller of the DLH at Staaken on 17 March 1945 for 27 minutes. It was then accepted by 10./NJG 11 on 30 March 1945.

I have a Blohm & Voss document from September 1944 that records the minutes of a meeting about the Me 262 B conversion and it is stated that the aircraft were to be finished in upper surface colours of 81 and 82. If memory serves, undersides were to be finished in 65, not 76. The extant photos of it following capture in May 1945 reveal very light-coloured upper surfaces (fuselage and wings), that most probably was a lightened version of 76. A scattered wavy pattern of a darker colour is noticeable on the wings and fuselage upper surfaces (excepting the tailplane) that is thought to be 83 (Dunkelgrün). This colour would offer some modest concealment when on the ground. Colours 81 (Braunviolet) and 82 (Hellgrün) cannot be ruled out though perhaps less likely for the latter. The tail has a different pattern that I think could be a lighter application of 76 allowing patches of the original 81/82 scheme to poke through. Undersides were painted overall black. The aircraft’s werknummer was applied to both sides of the fin, above the horizontal stabilizers...."

For a build of the Trumpeter 32nd scale Me 262 B and an in-depth discussion on colours see the SAAF forum

Se also Michael Ullman's article on hyperscale; a discussion on exactly what were the colours 81/82/83?

More on the establishment of  Kommando Welter on this blog

'Red 8' W.Nr. 110305 as she looked on arrival in South Africa and went into storage in what may have been Hangar II at CFS Dunnottar (note the FW 190 and the Fieseler Storch in the background). has a comprehensive walkaround of the SAAF Saxonwold Museum Me 262 B-1a/U1

Thursday, 5 December 2019

The Luftwaffe in the East - units engaged over Küstrin February/March 1945

from a thread on a forum;

 " ..Recently I read a highly interesting article in a magazine ('Historia') which made a point about the Luftwaffe actually gaining air superiority over the Eastern front during the spring of 1945. The reasons given in the article were primarily the fact the Red air force had to operate from makeshift fields because of their rapid advance through Poland and Eastern Germany (which became fields of mud during the spring thaw), the fact the Luftwaffe could operate from highly developed airfields in the Heimat, and the fact the Luftwaffe had the advantage of much shorter lines of communication once the front moved close to or even into Germany proper...

"...My questions is a little broader. Is it true the German Luftwaffe actually managed to stage a fine comeback in the east even after the disastrous losses caused by Bodenplatte? I read somewhere the Luftwaffe had at this point (spring 1945) about 2,500 planes in the east. How did they manage to gather such a force? How were they able to supply the planes with fuel considering the fact the Luftwaffe did not even have enough fuel to properly train it's new pilots and flying schools had to close down for lack of petrol?..."

Did the Luftwaffe have any influence on the conduct of ground operations in the East during 1945? A  veteran German soldier supposedly said it felt like 1940 all over again, with the Luftwaffe strafing and bombing the enemy at will. Was the Luftwaffe still able to sustain a prolonged campaign in the east during the first couple of months of 1945? And if so, how were they able to do that at the closing stages of the war? "

one response;

 " - To build that large air force on the Eastern Front, the Luftwaffe transferred a large percentage of its Western Front fighter units to the east in January 1945. Together with the very effective ground-attack arm already present on the Eastern Front, this meant it had a highly effective force, with lack of fuel being the major problem.

- The Luftwaffe did gain a degree of aerial superiority over the Eastern Front, in February 1945 in particular. Christer Bergström deals with this in his very interesting book Bagration to Berlin. I just checked a relevant document, and on 2 February 1945, Luftflotte 6 flew 1,440 sorties and encountered very few Soviet aircraft. In the Luftflotte 6 area on that day, the various German armies reported the appearance of only 600 Soviet aircraft.

- The Luftwaffe remained a real fighting force to the very end. I've written an article about 24 April 1945, when the German air force flew at least 800 sorties on all fronts, and claimed more than 50 aerial victories, plus hundreds of Soviet vehicles destroyed. Of course these figures are well down on its heyday, but it certainly wasn't a spent force in 1945, as most articles and books state..

"..hundreds of vehicles destroyed" ?  a "highly effective force" ? In the view of this blog writer this is exactly the sort of 'revisionism' that occurs when information is taken from documents with no context. Some examples of Luftwaffe operations in the general Küstrin area:

15 February 1945;

42 ground-attack aircraft of II. Fliegerkorps operated in the Lebus area against infantry and tanks. In total on this day, Luftflotte 6 sent 114 ground-attack aircraft to the area of Frankfurt-Küstrin, focusing on Lebus.

17 February 1945;

II. Fliegerkorps sent 56 ground-attack aircraft and 194 fighter aircraft to the area of Vietz-Landsberg-Friedeberg against supply columns.

and from March;

- 9 March 1945: II./JG 11, eight Bf 109s escort in area of Küstrin, no enemy sightings,
III./JG 11, 32 FW 190s attack on enemy targets on road Küstrin-Alt-Drewitz,
III./JG 54, eight FW 190s escort for ground-attack aircraft in area of Küstrin,
I./SG 1, 51 FW 190s attacks on targets near Küstrin and south-west of Vietz.

Were these sorties in any way effective ? The 'documents' don't say of course - the assumption is, that they were. The simple fact of presenting the information with no context may tend to affirm this - hundreds of sorties flown - by a spent force?

Well, yes, it was. Given that the Reich was in its death throes, it is highly unlikely these small numbers of sorties were in any way effective. In his study for Classic 'Ted' Hooten states that thousands of sorties were flown during February and March and that hundreds of vehicles were destroyed. But try finding a first-person account that states anything like this.

The Russians had been at the Oder since January 1945 (ie just 60 miles from Berlin!) Go 50 miles south-west and you've got the Anglo-Americans (Magdeburg, early April). There wasn't an 'Eastern' and 'Western' front for much of the last few months of the war.  Highly developed airfields in the Heimat ?  Perhaps rarely - but most units were deployed to field strips with no facilities. Very easy to fly multiple sorties with the 'fronts' so close I'd suggest. An effective fighting force ? Many Gruppen had long since been disbanded, experienced aviators were in short supply and aerial victories at this stage counted for little or nothing. From the JG 4 history (my translation);

"..Following the disbandment of I./JG 4 - the unit that I had been posted to in January 1945 - I went to III. Gruppe along with several comrades including Uffz. Erich Bojara. I well recall the words of welcome from our new Gruppenkommandeur, Hptm. Strasen; " what, I'm supposed to fight the war with kids now am I…?!". At around midday on the 20th we lifted off on what was our second or third sortie of the day. We had been ordered to attack targets in the Oder bridgehead near Küstrin, showering them with SD 2 fragmentation bombs carried in containers slung under the bellies of our fighters. After jettisoning our cargoes we were to hunt and strafe Soviet armour and their accompanying infantry or supply columns. Given the rapidity with which the front was moving and the absence of any ground-air radio link, it was no straight forward task to locate such targets. We gave it our best shot since we knew that each minute the Soviet advance was held up allowed a precious breathing space for those poor souls on the ground - German Landser or refugees - fleeing, for example, in the direction of the Elbe. We couldn’t stave off defeat but we could still save some lives.."
(Uffz. Valentin Scheuermann)

Simply put, the Luftwaffe's attempts to stem the Russian advance through Silesia and the Baltic regions via Danzig were hopelessly inadequate and very unsuccessful.

-the Luftwaffe primarily used fighters in small numbers carrying 250 kg bombs against Russian spearheads.
-the Luftwaffe had no radio ground-air links so hard to find Russian columns.
-weather conditions were bad, very bad. Mist, fog, and snow during the period February, March 1945 meant that in some instances and from what were mostly field strips only experienced airmen could get airborne and find their way 'home'. There were few targets in the air and it was just as difficult to locate them on the ground.
-huge numbers of refugees on the roads - many Russian spearheads used these 'Treks' as human shields.
-using fighter aircraft as 'ground-attackers'- caused heavy and serious losses from ground fire.

To take another key date at random; on Wednesday January 31, the entire JG 4 managed only twenty two sorties, mostly over Küstrin. IV./JG 4 never got off the ground.  Fw. Alfred Jacobs  of 8.(Sturm)/JG 4 described conditions;

" Neuhausen near Cottbus was to be the end of the line for me. The weather had closed in - snow, sleet and heavy low-hanging clouds kept those pilots that had not been trained on instruments on the ground. I was fortunate in that I usually flew my recce and strafing sorties on my own. There was no front line as such - the only indication that I was over enemy-held territory were the streams of light flak that rose to meet me. Panje-mounted columns were rolling westwards across a landscape blanketed by a shroud of snow. In the woods small banners of smoke betrayed the presence of numerous camp fires. There was no way of stopping this tidal wave with our on-board weapons - our task was hopeless. I nonetheless flew a firing pass along one column and destroyed supply carts and wagons but took a direct hit from ground fire in the tail plane. The rudder was blocked in such a fashion that I only got back to the airfield by flying wide circles. I made a successful belly landing. Later that day I went to collect a new FW 190 from Cottbus - selecting an unarmored machine from the many standing forlornly in the woods around the plant.."

So when you come across statements about huge numbers of Luftwaffe sorties in the "East"during 1945, ask yourself how effective could they possibly have been ? What was the weather like (fog, mist, snow) did the aircraft deployed manage to find the (very fluid) front, did bombs dropped actually hit anything. There are many accounts available from airmen that were there (ie in the unit histories of JG 300, JG 4, JG 11, JG 3) - all without fail paint a picture of the sheer ineffectiveness of the Luftwaffe's efforts in the East during January/February/March 45..

Lt. Günther Sinnecker of  I./JG 300 remembered;

"  Liegnitz in Silesien- das neue Jahr war winterlich Kalt. Wir bekamen den Auftrag, dort hin zu verlegen und das Vordringen der Rüssen zu bekä we flew into Liegnitz (Silesia) it started to snow heavily and remained bitterly cold. Over the following days there were frequent snow showers and only individual experienced pilots could get airborne. Apart from strafing Russian troop columns there were very few targets to be found. Because of the weather there were very few encounters with Russian aircraft..."

I was fortunate enough to correspond with 'Timo' Schenk (2./JG 300) a few years ago via Jean-Yves Lorant.

vom Timo, October 2002
" Liegnitz - February 1945. The Russians had crossed the Oder near Steinau. Our exhausted and over-extended ground troops were in desperate need of close air support.. When the weather allowed, we flew uninterrupted sorties, up to eight a day for some of us. The fields and roads between the villages were teeming with thousands of people, women, children, the elderly, all attempting to flee the Soviet invasion in the bitter cold. Most of the columns of refugees were heading for Dresden. Viewed from the sky these caravans of civilians clogging the roads painted a picture of unspeakable suffering. The Russians were everywhere. We flew strafing attacks with variable results. Going into action at low level against ground targets, tanks, vehicles and infantrymen, was far from easy..". 

Uffz. Karl-Heinz Kabus of 3./JG 11 based in Strausberg near Berlin;

"....During February 1945 we were in the air on most days. February 8 was no exception. This was the first occasion on which I had flown a Jabo sortie in my Fw 190 although this was to become our principal mission over the coming weeks. We chiefly carried 250-kg bombs or occasionally 500-kg cannisters which were jettisoned over enemy troop and vehicle concentrations around Zellin, Mohrin, Soldin as well as Pyritz (to the east of the Oder) and eventually over the Russian bridgehead and pontoon bridges around Göritz south of Küstrin. We fighter pilots would henceforth be employed primarily as Jagdbombenflieger - fighter bombers..."

" ...The Russian bridgehead in the vicinity of Göritz was a real headache. Soviet combat engineers had thrown a pontoon bridge across the river. This structure was the only crossing in the area capable of bearing the weight of the Soviet 'Stalin' heavy tank. We were tasked with attacking the bridge with bombs and cannon fire and putting it out of commission. During the first weeks of March we flew time and again against this target - and registered very little in the way of success. We had been trained as fighter pilots after all. We weren't bomber pilots - we must have hit everything in proximity to the bridge except for the bridge itself...In military terms our sorties were of less and less value by the day.."

Uffz. Karl-Heinz Kabus at readiness, spring 1945, Strausberg near Berlin