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? "
- 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 bekämpfen...as 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
Thursday, 5 December 2019
Saturday, 30 November 2019
new Luftwaffe books and recent additions to the bookshelf - Jagdfliegerverbände 13/IV, Eagles over the Sea, Luftwaffe in Africa
After helping out with a bit of 'research', Mr. Robert Forsyth was kind enough to send me a copy of his latest Osprey title.
Einsatz in der Reichsverteidigung und im Westen 1.1. bis 31.12.1944
The latest huge tome in Jochen Prien's stupendous JfV series arrived a while ago, and is the fourth volume covering the Jagdverbände in the West during 1944. Indispensable for anyone interested in the period. I've already used it to back-up some of my own writing. In fact no-one writing or commenting on the Jagdwaffe, either pilots or machines or campaigns, can afford not to consult this series of books. Pages 1-50 of this volume provide an appraisal of the organisation of the day fighter units in the newly established 'Luftflotte Reich' along with a comprehensive description and assessment of the various fighter types in service during 1944 before coverage of the Gruppen of JG 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. For modellers, these volumes provide a fantastic source for 'new' photos. Highlights in this volume for me were the views of the Fw 190 A-8 flown by the Gkr. III./JG 2 Huppertz, KIA on 8 June. 508 pages.
And I have just noticed that Rogge has some volumes from the series for sale on Ebay currently here. A copy of JfV 13/III is being offered with 20 euros off list price (slight knocks to the cover).
In the Casemate Illustrated series, by Jean-Louis Roba.
Features first person accounts, artworks, 128 pages, 200 photos, nice thick glossy paper and glossy card cover.
Title: The Messerschmitt 210/410 Story
Author: Jan Forsgren
Publisher: Fonthill Media
Review by Robin Buckland
"....This new book from author Jan Forsgren tells the interesting story of the Me 210 and 410. While the two aircraft looked similar at first glance, the differences were clearly important.
It starts with the need to find a successor to the Me 110 as a 'Zerstorer', or Heavy Fighter. I learnt that the first prototype had a twin tail arrangement, similar to the Me 110 as did a competing Arado design which is also included. This was quickly changed to a single, tall tail design. It goes on to tell us about both the good and bad points of the design. In the case of the 210 the bad outweighed the good, and despite it entering production the design suffered continual problems that caused too many accidents, often fatal for their crews. All the same, they were supplied to the Hungarian air arm. The story is well illustrated with archive photos and a number of individual accounts from aircrew who flew them, as well as their combat history. Production was eventually cancelled and the type needed redesign.
There is short piece on an Me 310 design, but that didn't proceed, but the Me 410 did. A lengthened fuselage, alteration to the main wing and other updates are explained and the revised design did go into production and active service with the Luftwaffe. The 410 was used as a heavy fighter, intercepting the American bomber formations, as well as a light bomber, nightfighter and a reconnaissance variant. The armament combinations are interesting for having two remote control gun barbettes on each side of the fuselage and variants were also fitted with heavy 37mm and 50mm nose mounted guns.
I have always liked the look of the Me 410 design, perhaps influenced by an old Frog model kit that I built when I was young. This is a marvellous history of the type and the archive photos will interest many modellers as well as aviation historians I think. An excellent follow up to the author's earlier book on the Ju 52. A would definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in Luftwaffe aircraft of WW2......"
Lawrence Paterson's 'Eagles over the Sea' is an elegant and earnest account of Luftwaffe maritime operations during WWII. This first volume is part one of a planned two volume set and covers the period 1939-1942. Opening with a two chapter account of the early years of German naval aviation going back to WWI and the inter-war period leading to the creation of the Luftwaffe, the author focuses on the Legion Condor's seaplane Staffel as a key moment in the development of German maritime aviation. In Spain the seaplanes in the AS 88 were deployed in ad-hoc fashion on offensive actions. Martin Harlinghausen was a key figure on torpedo-carrying He 59 seaplane missions that sank a number of British vessels in particular. He would go on to command X.Fliegerkorps in the Mediterranean. The first signs of the inter-service rivalry that bedevilled German air-sea operations became apparent. Offensive actions were the domain of the Luftwaffe while the Kriegsmarine essentially were limited to maritime reconnaissance.
The Germans in fact never developed a naval air arm. As is well known they never managed to build an aircraft carrier ..or at least put one into service. They did develop a coastal aviation service for rescue, recce and mine-laying and adapted four-engine civilian transport aircraft to the long-range anti-shipping and strike role. Offensive actions were always the domain of the Luftwaffe and Goering fought tooth and nail with Raeder to maintain the status quo. Early offensive actions were particularly hit-and-miss due to the unreliability of German air-dropped torpedoes -as the author points out resources for the development of the weapon were a constant source of friction between the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine. Even Hitler himself had to get involved to arbitrate in the dispute, finally assigning the weapon exclusively to the Luftwaffe in 1942.
The chapter turning 'Turning North and West' focuses on the invasion of Denmark and Norway, launched on 9 April 1940. Five Do 26 seaplanes (V-1 to V-5) were brought together in the so-called Transozeanstaffel incorporated in 9./KGzbV 108. Among the pilots flying these machines were the 'cream' of the Lufthansa fleet : Rudolf « Miesi » Mayr, the Graf Schack von Wittenau, and later night fighter ace Ernst-Wilhelm Modrow among others. The Staffel was tasked with transporting troops, munitions and mail with particular responsibility for re-supplying the Narvik area which saw hard fighting between the Allies and General Eduard Dietl's Gebirgsjäger. Deploying civilian machines flown by 'civilian' pilots highlights the lack of preparedness for waging a war of aggression in the supposedly 'invincible' Luftwaffe.
'The End of the Beginning' covers the Atlantic battle ground (page 268). Against a background of conflict between the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe over the direction of maritime units, Goering largely got his own way. Development and testing of air-dropped torpedoes was one area where the conflict had resulted in no progress whereas the Fleet Air Arm had shown the efficacy of Britain's torpedo bombers - why was the venerable Swordfish biplane such an outstanding machine? Because slow and stable were the prerequisites for an air-dropped torpedo launch. With no progress on torpedo development the Kriegsmarine was ordered to turn over the technology to the Luftwaffe in April 1942 and the Germans were forced to make official representations to the Japanese to share their technology.
Harlinghausen's X. Fliegerkorps moved to the Mediterranean as part of Luftwaffe initiatives in support of Italy's failing war in North Africa. Harlinghausen himself took part in one of KG 26's first raids on the Suez canal. Due to bad weather and the distances involved the raid in January 1941 was a disaster with ten He 111s lost. Harlinghausen's He 111 ran out of fuel and put down in the desert.
As naval actions go none are more well-known than the sinking of the Bismarck. Apparently the battleship was not as bereft of air-cover as is sometimes imagined. Ju 88s of KGr. 606 overflew the scene of Bismark's last stand. The battleship itself carried four Ar 196 float planes which it was unable to launch as the catapult had been disabled.
In 'Blue Water, Grey Steel - the Mediterranean and Eastern Fronts' the author details KG 30's raids on Malta, quoting from Herrmann's biography. Herrmann's attack on Piraeus during Operation Marita and the sinking of the SS Clan Fraser is a well-known action but the author brings us a fresh appraisal and in 'Torpedo Los - the Arctic and Malta Convoys' there is more on the Arctic convoys especially the 'famous' PQ 17'. The Arctic route was the only way the Allies had of assisting the Soviet Union. Knight's Cross winner Gerd Stamp's recollections feature in the author's account of Lehrgeschwader 1's operations against the Malta convoys (page 399). Other units covered include KG 26 in Norway (page 346), the 17 December trials with Fw 200 as torpedo carriers and 8./KG 100 operations over the Black Sea, Sevastopol (page 406).
Volume I ends with an appendix covering the aircraft types and with 'Torch', the Allied invasion of Vichy North-West Africa about to begin.
Author Paterson is of course a noted author of German naval operations. AFAIK this is his first book covering the Luftwaffe. The style of his work is very much in the vein of Hooten and Williamson - very readable and full of detail. The bibliography indicates that he has a good grasp of German-language primary and secondary sources, always a good indicator in my book of the seriousness and reliability of a book dealing with WWII German subjects and I look forward to Volume II of his history of Luftwaffe maritime operations.
The latest monograph from Philippe Saintes is Part II of the 'Derives et Victoires' series published by Lela Presse - profile artworks, 96 pages, 185 photos - a bargain from the Lela Presse website where you can download a pdf extract of the title.
On a recent road trip to Belgium I secured a copy of a long sought after title " La chasse de jour allemande en Roumanie" (Luftwaffe Day fighters in Romania) which covers in depth the air battles for Romanian oil from the establishment of JG 4 to 'Tidal Wave' to the combats of April-July 1944 fought by JG 77 and JG 52 to the Russian arrival in Bucharest in August 1944..it is only a slim soft-back and 25 years old but is packed with first-person accounts and rare images..
..and a box full of Jägerblatt magazines - plenty of material for future blog posts!
..and, after his hassles with various publishers, Christer's latest volume in the Black Cross-Red Star series is entitled "Stalingrad to Kuban" ;
" ..masterfully combines the combat experiences of both Soviet and German aviators into a coherent narrative...an indispensable reference.." Highly recommended..
Monday, 25 November 2019
In the leafy south-east Berlin suburb of Karlshorst in an incongruous building at the end of Zwieseler Straße, World War Two in Europe officially came to an end with the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht.
Zwieseler Straße 4 in Berlin-Karlshorst: Deutsch-Russisches Museum am 66. Jahrestag der bedingungslosen Kapitulation der Wehrmacht.
Nowadays, thanks to the Soviets, it is a museum, one of the best in the city, telling the story of the 'Great Patriotic War' against Nazi Germany, the capture of the city by the Soviet Army and the impact of all that on its hapless citizens. One of the main attractions of the museum is the 'surrender room' - preserved today as it was then. The room is almost exactly as it was on 8 May 1945, save for the carpet allegedly pilfered from the ruins of the Reichskanzlei on Vossstrasse. Much of the furniture is not original however.
After the signing of the official surrender document at Rheims on 7 May 1945, insisted on by General Eisenhower, who stated that if the Germans did not surrender unconditionally, then bombing of Germany would resume, Stalin was furious. How could the Allies force the Germans to sign a document of surrender with no Soviet participation, after what the Soviet people had been through? Given that the Soviets suffered the largest human and material losses of any country that took part in WW2, the absence of Soviet representatives at the surrender table was not acceptable. That night, everyone was packed into aircraft and flown to Berlin. Signing the Wehrmacht surrender in Berlin was Keitel.
From Zhukov's diary;
"The first to enter, slowly and feigning composure, was Generalfeldmarschall [Wilhelm] Keitel, Hitler's closest associate. Keitel was followed by Generaloberst [Hans-Jurgen] Stumpff. he was a short man whose eyes were full of impotent rage. With him entered Generaladmiral [Hans-Georg] von Friedeburg who looked prematurely old. The Germans were asked to take their seats at a separate table close to the door through which they had entered. The Generalfeldmarschall slowly sat down and pinned his eyes on us, sitting at the Presaedium table. Stumpff and von Friedeburg sat down beside Keitel. The officers accompanying them stood behind their chairs."
The tall figure behind Keitel (to the right) in Luftwaffe uniform is his 'English translator' - credited with around 10 victories Karl Boehm-Tettelbach was a former Kommodore of ZG 26. His account of the events of that day can be seen in Guido Knopp's 1980s ZDF series 'Der verdammte Krieg' which is available to watch on youtube. Post-war Boehm-Tettelbach went on to work with Pan Am and served as station manager at Nuremberg airport. His memoir published in 1981 was entitled Als Flieger in der Hexenküche.
Saturday, 23 November 2019
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-4 Kanonenboot 3./JG 27, JG 26 Priller 'black 13' Fw 190 A-8 - Ebay photo find #324
Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-4 Kanonenboot der 3. Staffel/JG 27 in Fels-am-Wagram Frühjahr 1944. Maschine trägt eine grüne RV-Bauchbinde. Geschwader-Abzeichen mit Schriftzug "Staffel Marseille". - Bf 109 G-4 of 3./JG 27 - note the 'Staffel Marseille' inscription around the Geschwader cowl emblem
Another view of one of Priller's 'black 13' A-8s on the 'Invasionsfront' and below, Fw 190 F-8 of II./SG 4 in July 1944..
This seller's current ebay sales are here
" My copy of the Luftwaffe Gallery JG 5 book has just arrived and it is as you would expect from Erik - full of interesting photos, informative narrative and quality colour profiles. The LuGa series is up there along with the Luftwaffe in Focus series as being a must have..."
" Hucks216 " on the "12 o'clock high" forum
Monday, 4 November 2019
Saturday, 2 November 2019
Over on FB this image is causing some debate....
Here is a profile view of 1./JG 300 machines during early 1944 at Hangelar, including 'white 1' with the wild boar emblem on the cowl - note Sankt Augustin convent in the background, right...a photo taken from the other side of this 'line-up' of 1. Staffel machines and showing 'white 1, 2 and 7' is on p 202 of the JG 300 history (Vol 1)...
The 'wild boar' emblem was subsequently adopted on the Fw 190s of Müller's 1./NJGr 10 in Werneuchen.
Eduard's new Bf 109 G-6/AS is released - one of the five markings options is for F-K Müller's 'red 2', the 1./NJGr 10 Moskito hunter flown by the ace during July-August 1944.
My 'history' feature on Müller's aircraft and night fighter career is available to read in the free 76-page November issue of Eduard Info - download it here