Sunday, 16 June 2019
posted by Steve Sheflin on TOCH
"..I am saddened to report that my friend James V. Crow passed away on Friday 03 March 2019 at his home. Jim was 79 years young, and a gentleman in the broadest sense of the word. The Luftwaffe research community, as well the rest of the world, has lost a star and a friend. Jim is finally with his lovely wife Erika again. Respectfully, Steve Sheflin..."
and from David E. Brown
"..This is a huge loss for many of us who have had the benefit of working with Jim and the honour of having him as a friend. Jim was unselfish in his sharing of Luftwaffe and related photos from his collection that be began building in the 1960s.."
Pick up any Luftwaffe book at random and chances are you will come across a credit for 'James V. Crow'. A veteran US serviceman who lived and worked in Germany for a number of years, Jim devoted much of his spare time to acquiring photos of WWII German aircraft and amassed an enormous collection of rare images. I was always thrilled that Jim would want to share his photo collection with a minor-league translator and blogger such as myself. He was always ready to send out 'new' photo material for whatever project or article that I happened to be working on. I introduced him to Kagero and many of his photos appeared in their 'Monograph' series - until the day that they failed to return some of his late-war Ju 88 images. Originals - since Jim didn't scan or 'photoshop'. Occasionally he went to the print shop and had copies prepared. Maybe the images sent to Kagero went 'missing' in the post back to him after being used in the monograph (Vol III Junkers Ju 88 is full of his rare images..) We never did get to the bottom of that business. Hopefully I always did the 'right' thing by Jim in sending him a copy of whatever book/monograph or article that his photos had appeared in as a result of my involvement and I of course always sent him small sums of money in exchange for images which he appreciated. And Jim must have written to me many times for help in identifying and captioning where possible his latest images. Jim's notes always appeared on the back of photocopies of the photos in question—I don't think Jim bothered with typing and as far as I am aware never used a computer and everything that went with it. He would always write in long-hand - unfortunately I always had trouble deciphering his hand-writing. He was a fund of stories as well - dining out on his relationship with Hans Ulrich Rudel and his glamorous wife in Chicago during the 70s. ( The Rudels were invited by the US government to participate in the development of the A-10 Warthog, conceived for close air support - 'Stuka Pilot' was required reading for the design team).
The two gentlemen quoted above have put it far better than I could - even if you didn't know him James V. Crow will be sadly missed by all in the Luftwaffe enthusiast community...
Starboard view of 'Red 1' of the Platzschutzstaffel (airfield protection squadron) of JV 44 in front of the control tower at München Riem airfield after the capitulation. Operating from the opposite end of the field to the Me 262 Turbos of JV 44, the Platzschutzstaffel followed specific orders; take off ahead of the Me 262s in Rotte formation, maintain a 1500m altitude umbrella and under no circumstances break off to chase enemy fighters. This view reveals that the cockpit has been ravaged by fire, possibly following orders to destroy the aircraft as the end neared. Built in December 1944 by Fieseler at their Kassel factory, this Dora is finished in the 82/83/76 scheme. Factory stencilling is intact. Undersurfaces are red with thin white stripes as a recognition marking for the airfield flak gunners. Behind the Siebel to the left of the picture is Fw 190 D-11 'Red 4'. Via Crow. Click to view full screen.
Thursday, 13 June 2019
An Eagle's Odyssey - Johannes Kaufmann (trans. John Weal), Messerschmittt Bf 109 Air War Archive - new Luftwaffe books
Johannes Kaufmann enjoyed a long and diverse flying career in the Luftwaffe. He spent the first two years of the war as an instructor before flying his first combat sorties in July 1941, having retrained as a Bf 110 Zerstörer pilot with SKG 210 and ZG 1. He participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union (Barbarossa) and as a ground-attack pilot flew low-level strafing and bombing sorties against Russian tank and troop concentrations. His war ended at the controls of a Bf 109 escorting JG 4 Selbstopfer ('self sacrifice' or suicide) pilots flying against the Oder bridges. He also managed to return twelve victories including a Thunderbolt over the Ardennes and a Shturmovik in the final days of the war over the ruins of a shattered Berlin. That he survived is testament to his flying skills. His memoir 'Meine Flugberichte' ('My flight log') first appeared in German in 1989 - the cover photo depicted him being presented with a wreath to mark his 100th combat sortie in Russia. Brief extracts from his book are featured in the Classic Pubs Zerstörer volumes - and elsewhere on this blog. His career thus spans most of Hitler's war and highlights the ever-changing demands made on the Luftwaffe's pilots. In his role as a ground attack pilot in Russia he had no experience, little training and developed his 'tactical awareness' in the unforgiving apprenticeship of combat. From low-level bombing and strafing sorties, he flew at Stalingrad and subsequently went on to maritime operations over the Atlantic with KG 40, before 're-training' as a Bf 109 fighter pilot thrown into the desperate efforts to stem the Allied bomber offensive. Unfortunately while Kaufmann's account is fascinating, the original text was a 'difficult' if not to say somewhat dull read, with timings for takeoffs and landings repeated throughout, written almost exclusively from the point of view of Kaufmann's logbook. Hence the title no doubt. However translator John Weal is well aware of this and this new English edition - revised and enlarged from the original - attempts to rectify that situation by cutting out some of the detail and incorporating more context and background information on campaigns, locations and units. So whereas, for example, Kaufmann did not fly his first sorties with JG 4 until late summer 1944 - having seen his Ju 88 ZG 1 Gruppe disbanded and reconstituted as III./ JG 4 - the translator provides an account of this JG's establishment and early history. While Kaufmann had done little combat flying with KG 40 and ZG 1 (chapters are devoted to both units) he saw rather more action flying Reich's defence sorties against the massed formations of US bombers, clashing with Mustangs on the 27 September and 02 November missions which saw heavy losses inflicted on JG 4.
Below; cover of Johannes Kaufmann's " Meine Flugberichte " (lit. 'My flight reports..' ).
And while Kaufmann did not fly on the 1.1 45 Bodenplatte operation, Weal includes an account of JG 4's participation on the New Years Day attack on the Allied air forces and the subsequent changes in command at the head of III./JG 4 resulting from the charges of 'cowardice' filed against Kommandeur Eberle.
Notwithstanding the fact that the translator's 'voice' comes to the fore throughout, the result provides a good insight into the life and times of an 'ordinary' Luftwaffe pilot. While there is a good deal of 'background' on what life with a front-line combat unit was actually like, 'political' comment is notable by its almost total absence and the 'neutral' tone adopted throughout is a little disconcerting- there is no commentary whatsoever on the evolving war situation, nor is there any sense of impending defeat and chaos. Kaufmann does at one point attend one of Hitler's rallies and listens to the three-hour speech with 'rapt attention' while during a fighter leaders training course during March 1945 Kaufmann makes the point that lectures covering the German war economy and 'post-war' diplomacy are still being delivered.. Weal's writing is always a pleasure to read and if you have any of his previous translated personal accounts such as Hanning's 'Luftwaffe Fighter Ace' then this is worthy and interesting book. Rather unfortunately perhaps there are no photographs in this new edition. If you are going to add good chunks of text a photo page insert would have rounded the book out considerably.
The latest Chris Goss-compiled Luftwaffe photo book in the Frontline 'Air War Archive' series has arrived. ' Messerschmitt Bf 109 - the latter years ' covers the period 1941-1945, with a chapter devoted to each year at the front of the book and several chapters thereafter organised according to the theatre of operations, Africa, Eastern Front etc, with a brief look at Jabo operations, foreign operators and 'Captured' machines bringing up the rear. With a page count of 178 the book represents good value with some decent images reproduced large with comprehensive captions. The main body of the work is preceded by a 19-page look at the capture by the British of Pingel's Friedrich by way of introduction. Units covered primarily include JG 1, JG 2 and JG 26, with coverage chiefly given over to JG 27, JG 53 and JG 52 for the 'theatre' chapters. I noted just a single photo from JG 300 in the book but highlight for me is a series of very nice images of III./JG 2 Friedrichs and a number of photos of interesting JG 77 machines that were new to me.
Captured G-6s in unusual camo finish, WNr. 20790 visible on the tail fin. See pages 84-85 of 'Bf 109 - the latter years'..seen at Fassberg according to the book caption, although A.I.2(g)/131 via Michael Balss states Wunstorf. (thanks Marc..)
Bf 109 F-4/B WNr 7629 10.(Jabo)/JG 2, Oblt. Frank Liesendahl admiring his rudder scoreboard May-June 1942. Liesendahl was shot down and killed on 17 July 1942 and was awarded a posthumous RK. Compare with the image reproduced on page 98 of 'Messerschmitt Bf 109 - the latter years'..
Thanks to Pen and Sword for the review copy.
Monday, 13 May 2019
Friday, 3 May 2019
Hptm. Theo Nordmann Kommodore Schlachtgeschwader 3 - his Feldpostbriefe, latest Exito decals pack 'Luftwaffe Ground Attackers'
Behind Hans Rudel the leading Stuka pilot was Major Theo Nordmann. Nordmann was born on 18 December 1918 in Dorsten (Wesphalia), the sixth of eight children. He joined the Luftwaffe on 1 November 1937 and attended the Luftkriegsschule (air war school) in Gatow before training as a Stuka pilot. After flying against England and in the Med - destroying some 5000 GRT of shipping and harbour installations on Malta- he flew on the Eastern Front following the launch of Barbarossa on 22 June 1941. He was awarded the Ritterkreuz in September 1941 after 200 sorties having accounting for 21 tanks and 14 anti-aircraft batteries. By 20 August 1942 he had flown some 600 sorties and was posted back to the Heimat to serve as a test pilot at Rechlin. By early 1943 he was back in the East and on 1 February 1943 flew his 700th sortie. On 16 March 1943 he was awarded the Eichenlaub, prior to being posted to France for more test flying. On 14 August 1943 he was appointed Kommandeur II./StG 3 and in April 1944 he flew his 1000th combat sortie prior to re-training on the Fw 190..
II./SG 3 Kommandeur Hptm Theodor Nordmann being greeted with a bouquet on reaching a landmark 1111th sortie (one thousand one hundred and eleven)..Picture above from Hans Schuh's article on Nordmann's Feldpostbriefe in Luftwaffen Revue. Nordmann's Fw 190 F-8 via expired Ebay auctions.
Two rare images from expired ebay auctions. Note the diving crow emblem used by I./StG 1 and II./StG 3 that became I./SG 1 and II./SG 3 in October 43 and then converted to Fw 190 respectively around Dec 44 and June 44.
In December 1944 Nordmann was appointed Kommodore of StG. 3. In January 1945 Nordmann was killed when his Focke-Wulf Fw 190 F-8 (Werknummer 588202) collided with his wing man, Oberfeldwebel Sroka (Fw 190 F-8 Werknummer 933242) in bad weather north of Insterburg. He claimed some 80 Soviet tanks destroyed and 43,000 gross register tons (GRT) of merchant shipping sunk. He flew almost 1300 combat missions, including roughly 200 with the Fw 190.
Below; the latest Exito Decals 'pack' release features Nordmann's Kommandeur II./SG 3 Fw 190 F-8 as illustrated by Janusz Swaitlon and based on the photos reproduced here..
This new Exito decal set is entitled “Luftwaffe Ground Attackers vol.1” and covers three different German assault aircraft, .. as usual with Exito you get a nice decal set of new 'first-time' subjects, full colour A-4 glossy prints of each 'subject' and detailed colour camouflage discussion as the artist explains how he arrived at his 'colour decisions'. More info and ordering details on the Exito site here
In a fascinating article that appeared in an issue of Luftwaffen Revue Hans Schuh examined Nordmann's letters home - his Feldpostbriefe. Like most service men serving far from home, letters and news from parents, relatives, girlfriends and wives were a key factor in the maintenance of morale, especially on the Eastern Front. The campaign in the East posed huge organisational difficulties for the field postal service which threatened to overwhelm the organisation. Transporting mail over such large distances was only possible through the use of aircraft. By order of the Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe (commander-in-chief of the air force) dated 26 March 1942 deliveries were transported by six dedicated aircraft, a figure which later rose to eleven. Since the main focus was on the supply of mail to troops fighting at the front the number of monthly shipments and their weight was limited and payment of one Mark was required for each item dispatched.
Nordmann's letters were principally sent from the Nordost Front in Russia and were addressed to his parents and sisters.
" ..dearest mother - your loving letter of 29 January gave me so much pleasure.. for a brief moment pushing the hard winter fighting to the back of my mind..."
The letter of 7 January 1944 noted his relocation back to Russia, and according to the letter dated 14 January 1944 "immediately and takes full possession of him again. Behind him lay obviously "magnificent days of vacation", which he spent with his girlfriend Viviane and his family in his home town of Dorsten. He also writes however of " the first days of heavy combat " following his re-deployment, which already lie behind him again; "old familiar pictures, but combat is now even harder". Due to the harsh winter, the weather conditions feature heavily in the letters of this time. His letter dated 16 February 1944 states;
"... shifting fields almost daily and committed in bad weather and with whatever means to hand have exhausted me to my limits ... snow, rain and fog have become our worst enemies. "
It was not just the winters in Russia that were hard. The operating conditions in the Russian summers cost much strength and effort. So writes Theo Nordmann on 12 July 1944;
"..oppressive heat, long approach flights and 3 - 4 hours of sleep for every 24 hours of work have left us fit to drop! In order to survive the hardships of battle a solidly grounded inner attitude, a certain mental strength, an unconditional trust in our own strength -hardened through a thousand fires - is more necessary than ever!.."
He continues by self-confidently reporting on the "resounding successes" of his pilots;
"..On our shoulders rested - without any sort of help- in the first week of the Russian offensive the main burden of the fighting in the air ..from 03:00 in the morning until late in the evening we flew our brave Ju-87s against the enemy under the most difficult fighting conditions. Our successes are achieved only with very hard sacrifices." (July 12, 1944)
With the conversion to the new Schlacht Focke Wulf 190 operations were obviously judged to be even more effective;
"..I had just finished my conversion training when Russian tanks threatened the airfield directly. Up to now I have successfully defended two airfields against tank attacks and we were airborne until we had ensured the fields remained secure..." (30 July)
In the face of these successes and his evident enthusiasm for the struggle, recognition, awards and promotions quickly followed. In March 1943 he had already received the Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross - in September 1944 the Swords would be awarded. In the meantime he was promoted to Major on 1 April. What author Schuh calls " his daredevilry and his commitment to heroic soldier-tum.." fitted into the spirit of time and made him a 'showpiece' of National Socialist propaganda. On home leave in Dorsten the Party, the Hitler Youth, the Wehrmacht, the Lazarett and his old grammar school all feted his achievements. After the award ceremony of the Oak Leaves his was the first entry in the so-called "Golden Book" of the town. Theo Nordmann willingly participated in all this and expressed himself after the events of 20 July 1944 in a letter dated 21 August 1944 as follows;
"..The events of 20 July have had no influence on us. The fighting man at the front regards this cowardly and wretched act with rage and bitterness. The Führer is also spared nothing!.."
"Zwei Me 109 Jagdeinsitzer vernichten einen feindlichen Fesselballon" - Two Me 109s shooting down an enemy barrage balloon
Lt. Hans-Otto Lessing, JG 51, Wissant, Channel coast, letter home 17 August 1940
" ..yesterday I returned my fifth victory. This includes two barrage balloons, which count as one 'kill'.. that is not many when you consider how many opportunities we have had, but they do not always go down when you shoot at them.."
Tuesday, 16 April 2019
III./JG 2 Fw 190 A-4 with Adlerkopf cowl seen on 3 December 1942 as per the inscription on the reverse of the picture - "..meine Warte und meine Machine (Vannes) .."
A slightly different image from that seen in Erik Mombeek's 'Histoire de la JG 2 Richthofen Volume 4' showing pilots of 9./JG 2 alongside Wurmheller's Fw 190 A-5 'yellow 2' WNr. 7334 - the rudder scoreboard show 78 markings. The photo dates from the evening of 28 June 1943 - 158 B-17s attacked locks and submarine-pens at Saint-Nazaire between 1655 to 1725 hrs. Airborne from Vannes III./JG 2 claimed 13 B-17s, although possibly four of these were duplicates. The 17:17 hrs claim was assigned to Oblt Philipp, the 17:31 claim to Lt Benno Eder, the 17:55 claim to Ofw Ebert and the 17:58 claim to Ofw Friedrich May.
Uffz. Swat seen first left has just recorded his second victory, while Wurmheller is fourth left glancing at his rudder. The very experienced Fw. Karl-Heinz Munsche is third left (below).
Fw 190 A-5 WNr. 410 012 'chevron + bars' ('Winkel Strich') flown by Maj. Hans Philipp, Kommodore JG 1 (seen in the cockpit) May-June 1943. Philipp was based in Deelen during this period. Three different views of this machine can be found in part 2 of the excellent two-part feature by Philippe Saintes covering Hans Philipp's career in 'Avions' magazine (nos.224 and 225). Note the FuG 16 ZE antenna under the port wing in the second image..