Friday, 18 September 2020

Fw. Hans Schuster 4.(F)/123 (Eins)


On June 8, 1944, B-24J 42-109830 'Daisy Mae Scraggs' was shot down by 109s just off the coast of the Cherbourg Peninsula near Granville. The aircraft exploded in mid-air and the debris came down on and around the Isle de Chausey. Five of the crew survived to become POWs and 5 were KIA. During the combat (as recorded in the MACR) the engineer/top-turret gunner, T/Sgt. Leedy claimed to have destroyed one of the attacking Bf 109s. The destruction of the B-24 was claimed by Fw. Hans Schuster of 4.(F)/123 (Eins) 05 Ost S/00/5 600m 8.00. 4.(F)/123 (Eins) reported no losses that day and their next loss was that of Willy Kammann described in the previous post.

Schuster claimed a Spitfire two days later on 10 June and in the photo below is seen describing a combat. Just visible on his flight jacket (bottom left) Ofw Schuster had been awarded the DKiG (German Cross in Gold). He received the award ( the usual precursor to the RK) for more than 100 "erfolgreiche Bild-Flüge" ('successful photo flights') and at least five confirmed kills. 

Schuster's Staffelkapitän Hptm. Heinz Feilmayer was lost on 17 August 1944 in the vicinity of Dreux and was replaced by Oblt. Werner Kohla. Heinz Feilmayer seen in the cockpit of his G-5 below.

In September F 123 returned to Gemany (Flugplätze Trier-Euren, Niedermendig). Ofw. Schuster was shot down on 24 December 1944 over Trier (close to the border with Luxembourg). He bailed out and become PoW as a pilot of NAGr. 1 (former F. 123 Eins.). Details of Schuster's loss via Hans Hauprich;

".. Ofw. Schuster's Bf 109 was either an G-6 or G-14 and fully armed. At two of the unit's crash sites (Uffz. Klems Dec. 44 and Uffz. Windsberger Febr. 45) I found 13 and 20mm rounds. Windsberger's 109 G-6 has two Typenschilder, one with G-6 and the other one an small "Baureihenänderung" for G-8 inside the left "Motorhaubenverkleidung". This small metal card could be removed for "Wartungsarbeiten".

Ofw. Schuster's wingman returned to Niedermendig and reported that "Schuster attacked the Thunderbolts and was shot down". The 109 crashed in an large wooden area and the pilot came down over US-held Luxembourg. I found no Interrogation Report for him. The "Namentliche Verlustmeldung" from NAGr. 1 gives no details of the aircraft.."

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

MIA - Gefreiter Wilhelm Kammann 4.(F)/123, June 1944 - Vom Feindflug nicht zurückgekehrt

Gefreiter Willy Kammann was a Bf 109 pilot with 4.(F)/123 in northern France (Nonancourt). Kammann failed to return from a sortie on June 20, 1944 over the Seine Bay area and was believed shot down by Allied fighters while on a reconnaissance flight at the controls of Bf 109 G-5 W.Nr. 110381 "blue 5".

 According to the letter of  condolence dated June 26, 1944, sent to the family from his Staffelkapitän Hptm. Heinz Feilmayer and reproduced below, Kammann was assigned to fly a sortie with Ofhr. Schäfer, " of the oldest and most experienced pilots in the Staffel.. ". The sortie was a recce mission over the 'Invasionsraum'. Schäfer's machine however developed a technical problem so that Kammann found himself in the air on his own and elected to fly the sortie alone. He confirmed he was proceeding with the sortie " via a radio transmission some twenty minutes after getting airborne". Feilmayer writes that this was the last communication received from the pilot and that " there has been no subsequent news from him. .." Feilmayer states that Kammann was always keen to fly missions assigned to him, he was 'Einsatz begeistert' and 'pflichttreu' (dutiful) and on the day he went missing would have been determined to carry out his orders under all circumstances. He had no doubt fallen victim to the enemy's defences...." ..Over the past few days I have been hoping and expecting to receive some word of your son although I now see that I am forced to inform you of this very sad news.... I know that words will not alleviate your sorrow but the certainty that your son's sacrifice was for the (..) Homeland may be of some consolation... .. "

Staffelkapitän Hptm. Heinz Feilmayer was himself posted missing on 17 August 1944 after a recce sortie over the Dreux-Chartres-Versailles sector.

NB: spelling of names corrected, thanks to regular blog readers for pointing this out!

Willy Kammann (two 'm' and two 'n')
Heinz Feilmayer

Saturday, 12 September 2020

A 'nursery of aces' - I./JG 20 in the West, 1939-1940

A line-up of 1./JG 20 machines. I./JG 20 was one of a number of fighter Gruppen hastily formed before the start of WWII - the unit received its Emils only three weeks prior to the invasion of Poland. Based principally in Brandenburg-Briest during late 1939 the Gruppe was tasked with the defence of central German airspace before shifting to the western border during early 1940. Above, 2. Staffel machines displaying the 'cat-with-arched-back' badge on the cowling, while 1.Staffel machines displayed the Staffel ‘bow and arrow’ ('Pfeil und Bogen') emblem. Note the III. Gruppe 'wavy bar' -it was planned to incorporate the Gruppe into JG 2 as III. Gruppe but ultimately I./JG 20 would be re-designated III./JG 51 during 1940. Successful ‘Spanish’ veteran Oblt. Walter Oesau was the first Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 20. Oesau was later appointed Kapitän of 7./JG 51. Kapitän 2./JG 20 was Albrecht Frhr. von Minnigerode. Both Kapitäne were appointed from the staff of I./JG 2. Both were former members of the Legion Condor. Kommandeur was Major Siegfried Lehmann, an "old hare", who had been trained from 1928 in Lipeczk, USSR, then in Italy. Lehmann led 2./J 88 in Spain at the end of 1936 and then several units of the brand new Luftwaffe. He moved to the JFS Stolp on 18 September 1939. Subsequent Kommandeur of I./JG 20 was Hptm. Hannes Trautloft who had claimed his first victory during the invasion of Poland.

 I./JG 20 later became III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 51. 
Below; Pichon Kalau vom Hofe's WNr. 1490 seen at Guyancourt where I./JG 20 was located during the period 17-22 June 1940. The workshops of Caudron-Renault can be seen in the background. On the left of the original print can be seen a CR.714 and a C.684. Pichon Kalau vom Hofe went to JG 54 with Trautloft and was later appointed Kapitän of 7./JG 54. Credited with 22 victories.

 See Avions No. 235 for a very detailed 19-page feature on this unit, issue available at the Lela Presse website 

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Bf 110 ZG 1 Agentur Karl Höffkes film archive

Phil LLoyd has been trawling through the footage made available via the Agentur Karl Höffkes film archive AKH and has come across some more Eastern Front colour footage.

" ...from the Agentur Karl Höffkes film archive - home movie taken by a Luftwaffe officer while a whistle-stop tour in a Storch on the Eastern front during late Summer 1942. Believed to have been filmed around Rostov-On-Don. Will be of interest to any Eastern Front Luftwaffe fans. I have extracted a couple of time codes which are worth a look...."

10:09:47 He 111, Ju 88 and Ju 87D - Knight's Cross winner...Name?

10:21:49 Me 110 SKG 210? or ZG 1 'S9+DK' - Bombing up and taxiing.

view Reel 3308

The following stills are reproduced here with the kind permission of Karl Höffkes.

Sunday, 30 August 2020

New from Éditions Arès- The Luftwaffe in France Vol I and Rogge Verlag, Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe Teil 13 / VI

New from Éditions Arès  " The Luftwaffe in France - From the Phoney War to the invasion of the Unoccupied Zone";

From the publisher's blurb;

"...In 1939 and barely five years old, the German military air force, the Luftwaffe, was launched into what was to become World War II. With motivated and competent personnel, a strong command and good aircraft, the young Luftwaffe performed well during the first two years of the war. Forced to establish itself very largely in France in July 1940 against England, after the refusal of the British government to conclude a separate peace, it fought both day and night against Great Britain before undergoing a serious draw-down shortly before the invasion of the USSR in June 1941. The Luftwaffe was now reduced to a small size in France, but with the help of a few "key" units, the Luftwaffe continued to hold its ground against the RAF, both during the Non Stop Offensive at the end of 1941 and during the attempted Canadian landing at Dieppe in August 1942. In November 1942, the Allied landing in North Africa would force the Wehrmacht to occupy the 'zone libre' (unoccupied zone of southern France) while ensuring the air defense of Southern France. It was at this time that the lack of units and men was clearly going to be felt and, from this date, the Luftwaffe command based in France had to juggle with the meager units at its disposal. The Luftwaffe was not limited only to air detachments. In France were also present a variety of other air units - Flak, parachutists (Fallschirmjäger), airfield personnel (Fliegerhorst), signals (Nachrichten), etc. Their story is also told in this book illustrated with nearly 600 photos, many of them previously unpublished..."

Published during September 2020. Volume 1 available now for pre-order;

Publisher's website for ordering and page views is here

 Format 215 x 305 mm - Bound, hardcover, 196 pages, 600 photos, 7 color artworks. French text

Received here recently is Volume 13/VI of the enormous Jagdfliegerverbände series - indispensable for aficionadoes of the Luftwaffe fighter force, the Bf 109 or Luftwaffe history in general. Teil 13 - the defence of the Reich and operations in the West during 1944 - concludes with this latest volume from Jochen Prien and team. This volume is a 300-page large format hardback and principally covers JG 77, JG 300 and JGs 301 and 302 during 1944 in the defence of the Reich and over the 'Invasionsraum' where JG 301 in particular was active with many night-time sorties flown against the Allied bomber forces. Teil 13/VI also features additional chapters on the day fighter units operating over Norway, principally JG 5 and there is more photo material on a unit that was featured in early parts of this history, II.(J)/186 (T). Other units in this volume include the Erprobungskommando 262 and the rocket fighters of JG 400.

From Jochen Prien;

" ..JFV 13/VI, the final part of the coverage of Luftwaffe fighter operations over the Reich and the West in 1944, has now been released. It comprises 300 pages and covers Stab/JG 76, Stab, I., II. and III./JG 77, JGr. 200, Stab, I., II., III. and IV./JG 300, Stab, I., II., III. and IV./JG 301, Stab, I., II. and III./JG 302, Stab, I. and II./JG 400, Jasta Erla and EKdo. 262 as well as Stab, III., IV. and 13(Z)/JG 5 fighting against the Western allies. The addendum contains additions, corrections and several photos complementing the earlier volumes. There are in all some 180 photos. JFV 14 is in the final round of corrections and will go to the publisher before the end of September - Vol. 14 covers the operations in the Mediterranean ToW in 1944 of I./JG 2, I./JG 4, I./JG 5, Stab, III. and IV./JG 27, II./JG 51, Stab, I., II. and III./JG 53, Stab, I., II. and III./JG 77 with 10./JG 301 as well as II./JG 301. It will comprise some 460 pages and 347 photographs,so that we will have three volumes this year. And we’re approaching the end of the tunnel – just two more volumes of Part 15 – 1944 in the East -, the first already under way, and one or two for 1945. I’m really looking forward to it, and the team is determined to bring this series to a fitting conclusion.."

The publisher's Ebay sales site is here

Monday, 24 August 2020

"Unser letzter Flug .." Kurland evacuation - last flight of the Luftwaffe, May 1945

The order for the capitulation of all German armed forces signed a week after the suicide of Adolf Hitler on May 7, 1945 contained a special addendum referring specifically to the Heeresgruppe Kurland and the necessity to implement an evacuation of as many personnel as possible to the West.. The following day,  May 8 1945, the Luftwaffe launched a desperate rescue mission to evacuate German wounded and troops from the 'Festung'  (the 'fortress' or rather 'pocket', the so-called Kurlandkessel) in Latvia. German forces had been effectively cut off since late 1944 by the Soviet advance. According to the Mark Felton video below, that morning - May 8, 1945 - some 35 Ju 52s flew into Grobina/Grobin in Latvia from Norway to evacuate encircled German troops from the peninsula, intending to fly the wounded troops and men with children back to Germany. Over the Baltic the transports were set upon by Soviet fighters and no fewer than 32 of the Ju 52s were set alight and downed and the mission ended in tragedy and destruction.

Mit Ju 52 aus Windau am 8 Mai 1945

".. on May 8, 1945 at around 15h00 six Ju 52s managed to get airborne from Windau and head back to Germany - Richtung Heimat! The machines were overloaded - carrying at least 30 passengers - and I needed two attempts to get airborne. Near Greifswald my machine took hits from ground fire and was set alight. I managed to make a successful crash-landing but we ended up in Soviet captivity. Did any of the comrades from that flight survive Soviet imprisonment? What became of the other five transports? Does anyone know what happened to pilots Hptm. Brettschneider and Fw. Skripitz? "

Helmut Hemmer in  Jägerblatt  magazine.

Mark Felton video -  a single click to view here

In a 1986 issue of  Jägerblatt  I./ JG 54 ace Artur Gärtner wrote;

"..I managed to get out of Kurland in a Ju 52 of Transportgeschwader 1. 1.Staffel of I./JG 54 was based in Windau but conditions on the airstrip were so bad that the Fw 190s could not get airborne. We were almost certainly bound for Soviet captivity. We were extremely thankful for the efforts of our fellow airmen in the transport units who dared to undertake those last flights into the pocket - a number of Ju 52 crews lost their lives as a result. The crews that came into Libau could have had little or no idea of the dispositions of Soviet ground forces or even the location of the front lines and many came under heavy ground fire as they flew their landing approach..."


November 1944 on the Feldflugplatz at Skrunda in Kurland - 1. Staffel pilots in front of the A-8 'white 12' flown by Staffelführer Sepp Heinzeller, fifth from the left.

For the fighters of JG 54 there were also dramatic scenes on the last day in the 'Kurlandkessel'.

In an early 1980s issue of Jägerblatt magazine, Fw. Karl Wolf,  a former II./JG 54 ground crew member, recalled;

".. in the early hours of the morning of May 8, a friend from my home town, Ogfr. Ernst Eggers of the Luftn-Truppe called me. His unit was stationed with us on the airfield at Cirawa.

" Karl, der Krieg ist aus..! - the war is over .."

I passed the news around to my comrades in our Blockhaus bunker - we were all shocked. What would happen to us now, 1200 kms from home surrounded by the Russians ('der Iwan'). It was around 02:30 when the call went out for the Staffel to assemble at our dispersal on the airfield some 4 kms distant. Transported in trucks, we were to take only what we could carry. Our 'boss' Ritterkreuzträger Oblt. Schleinhege gave out the necessary instructions and delivered a brief pep-talk confirming the war was over. There was a call of 'three cheers for the Fatherland'. At 05:00 the machines were prepared - all equipment such as radios and armament - was removed to save weight and create space. Harnesses were fitted into the fuselage spaces so that three ground crew members could be transported in each Focke Wulf 190. All remaining rations were shared out. By 07:30 the machines were ready. At 07:40 a Soviet recce machine appeared overhead - there was no flak fire and nothing moved on the airfield. A short while later as I was still in the cockpit of 'Black 8' making final checks I saw Herbert Leymann pointing to the sky to the north - it was full of Russian aircraft. Our first thought was that this was an attack on the airfield - we dashed quickly to the slit trenches and took cover as the Russians - Gott sei Dank - plastered the far side of the field. Shortly afterwards 3. Staffel flew in from Windau to make the trip home with us. We were to get airborne at 09:00. Before then several Ju 188 Fernaufklärer landed and parked up alongside the strip adding to the confusion on the small and sandy runway. At 09:00 there was another raid on the field, with no great damage and then finally at 10:00 the signal to get airborne came through ..."..Start frei.." ..I was the last of the four of us to climb into our 'black 8' retracting the footstep and giving the 'OK' signal to our pilot Ofhr. Karl Heber -  alles fertig!... "

Uffz.Karl-Heinz Höfer of 6. Staffel was another 'schwarze Mann' in the radio compartment - the so-called 'FuG-Loch'- of a Fw 190, in this particular instance Uffz. Walter's 'Yellow 12', the aircraft taking off from Libau-Nord and landing safely in Flensburg on the morning of May 8.

Below; 6.Staffel sleigh ride in Libau, 1945, Staffelkapitän Hptm. Helmut Wettstein holding the reins, Uffz.Karl-Heinz Höfer under the 'arrow', Fw. Toni Meißner on the Panjepferd.

Oblt. Gerd Thyben, Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 54 recalled the end in Kurland;

".. all sorts of rumours were circulating by the evening of May 7, 1945. When the orders for the Geschwader arrived Hptm. Findeisen, last Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 54 summoned his Staffelchefs in Libau and informed them of the surrender of all German forces and gave orders that all aircraft be made serviceable and prepared to takeoff.  In the early hours of the morning of May 8 I received the Klarmeldungen for my aircraft and Hptm. Findeisen gave us our transfer orders (Verlegungsbefehle). Takeoffs for our departure from the Courland 'fortress' were to get underway from 07:30 in Rotten or Schwarm-sized groups. Airborne that morning we set course for Kiel-holtenau  - my Katschmarek Fritze Hangebrauck was tucked in alongside me on my port side. Suddenly I spotted off to the port side in the distance and some 500 meters below us crossing our path on a northerly track a single twin-engined machine...a Soviet Pe-2..."

In a 1976 issue of Jägerblatt magazine a former Luftwaffe Techn. Inspektor based in Libau, Kurland named Wilhelm Uhlshöfer noted;

".. on May 5 I learnt that the fighter units intended to fly back to Schleswig-Holstein. However to carry out this flight each machine would need to be equipped with a 300 ltr Zusatz tank. There were plenty of drop tanks in our store. However we had none of the (hose/rack) connectors - Verbindungsteile - that ran from the tank to the machine. I knew where they had be ordered in from - a depot somewhere between Königsberg and Berlin - but the necessary telegram had to be counter-signed by a General or equivalent rank. No such person was available. I had to employ a certain amount of deceit and cunning  to get the order sent- - I forged the signature. Thanks to my underhand action a Ju 52 arrived the following day with the necessary parts, enabling some 127 fighters to fly back to Germany. When I talk to former comrades now we often wonder whether we took advantage unfairly but at the same time we saved many men from Soviet captivity...".

‘Kurland-Zeitung’ report of the 22 December 1944 action over Libau; Thyben returned five victories and his wingman Uffz. Hans Thein the 1000th for the Staffel...


15 August 1944 in Riga, Kapitän Kittel after another successful mission. (100th victory for 3.Staffel according to some sources..) He would be lost in combat during February 1945, the highest scoring Luftwaffe ace KIA. A piece on Artur Gärtner (left) in Jägerblatt 4/87 cites 14 February 1945 as Kittel's death date (source, Kurowski) as do a number of other sources. The date of Kittel's last clash with Il-2s was most probably 16 February.  Gärtner added, "..Als Otto Kittel gefallen war, wurde es für uns dunkel im Kurlandkessel.."

'Happier' times for JG 54. July 1942 in Krasnogvardeisk, Ferntrauung ('distant marriage') of Otto Kittel. This wartime ceremony allowed marriage to be contracted when the fiancé could not take leave. While the soldier signed a document with great pomp and circumstance in front of the Commander of his unit, his fiancée did the same in front of the Bürgemeister in his locality.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

SG 2 pilot Feldwebel Eugen Lörcher's last flight, 8 May 1945

With the end in sight a number of Luftwaffe pilots fighting on the Eastern Front elected to flee westwards and travel home in their own machines - the highly decorated Oberst  Hans Ulrich Rudel who set off for Kitzingen in his Ju 87 is a prime example. Other pilots also took advantage of the opportunity to travel home with their machines. One of them was Feldwebel Eugen Lörcher from Altenstadt, who brought his bride with him in the 'luggage compartment' in the rear fuselage of his 5./SG 2 Fw 190 F-8 "black 3" (note - the radio compartment emptied of the kit).  Eugen Lörcher's headstone in the Altenstädter cemetery - he passed away on 1 June 2014 - is adorned with an aircraft motif and recalls the adventure that the pilot himself staged on May 8, 1945.

 "When he was still alive, we celebrated this date every year," according to his son, the Geislingen dentist Dr. Klaus-Michael Lörcher, who related the dramatic story to the local Geislingen newspaper. According to his own account, his father took off from the Kummer am See airfield near Böhmisch Leipa in the Czech Republic on 8 May 1945 at the controls of his FW 190 heading west. Rudel had issued the order to the pilots of Schlachtgeschwader 2 Immelmann to fly their machines to Kitzingen and to belly land them on the airfield. But Lörcher and his comrade Paul from Ulm wanted to get closer to home. Their brides, who were also at the Czech airfield at that time, were quickly packed into the 'luggage compartments'. The planes were full. Shortly after 5 p.m., the low level flight went along the Sudeten towards Nuremberg. There the two pilots came under anti-aircraft fire. While buddy Paul turned towards Nuremberg along the Danube, in order to arrive at Ulm, Eugen Lörcher oriented himself by the double-track railway line Nuremberg-Stuttgart. Even at no more than tree-top height he was always afraid of being much too high. "I thought I was already frustrated," he wrote in his post-war account. But then he saw the Hohenstaufen in front of him, flew along the Albtrauf in a left turn and pulled up the plane over the Helfenstein to look for a landing ground.

"At that moment my buddy Paul was rushing through under me," he recalled. He briefly waggled his wings in farewell, then headed for Aufhausen via the Schildwacht. On a large field between Türkheim and Aufhausen Eugen Lörcher set up for a gear-up landing, putting the machine down near the radar station. Pilot and bride scrambled out of the machine and made their way on foot to Eugen Lörcher's parents' house in Kantstraße 32 in Geislingen. This finally brought the war to an end for the pilot.

 Feldwebel Eugen Lörcher in front of his FW 190 F-8 "Schwarze 3" 1944 in the East (an der Ostfront). Mit dieser Maschine flog er am 8. Mai 1945 in die Heimat nach Aufhausen.

Adapted from Rahnefeld, M. (2015) ‘SO GESEHEN: Kriegsende mit Bauchlandung’,