Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Renowned Luftwaffe historian and author Erik Mombeek has spent the best part of 20 years tracking down and meeting up with many of the former members of Luftwaffe fighter wing JG 77, collecting their testimonies, copying their documents and assembling the best of them for this second "Special Album" of the "Luftwaffe Gallery" series. This is not a day-by-day history but a compilation of stunning photographs (many published here for the first time) and new translated personal accounts (by this blog author) from the pilots and ground crews who were there, superbly illustrated with the aircraft profile artwork of Thierry Dekker, one of the best in his field.
The story of JG 77 is told here in broad strokes and to all intents and purposes for the first time in English. Characterized by the diversity of its origins, the unit fought on all fronts where the Luftwaffe was committed (hence the title of the album) and its pilots flew the Messerschmitt Bf 109 virtually from first to last. JG 77 was notable not only for the number and quality of its emblems and personal insignia but also for the presence in its ranks of a very large number of the leading Luftwaffe fighter aces. As was the case with Erik's first "Special Album" dedicated to the "Abbeville Boys" of JG 26, the limited print run of this latest title in the series will make it a highly sought-after collector’s item in just a matter of months.
Looking forward to seeing this one in print and still working hard on the personal accounts; you can reserve your copy by going to Erik's web site here (go to 'what's new?')
Soft cover, 96 pages, landscape format ......
Around 200 photos and 30 profiles
Published 15 August 2015
Friday, 26 December 2014
The Norsk Luftfartsmuseum - Norwegian Aviation museum - in Bodø has recently put on display a newly restored Fw 190 A-3
14.(Jabo)/JG 5 was activated in Petsamo in mid February 1943 under the 27-year old Hptm. Friedrich-Wilhelm Strakeljahn, the former Staffelkäpitan of 12./JG 5. This new Jabostaffel extended the Luftwaffe's Eastern Front bomber force beyond the Polar circle to the tip of northern Norway - albeit with an initial strength of just eleven Fw 190 A-3s, modified to carry bombs in a Norwegian repair facility at Kjeller. The second-hand A-3s, formerly belonging to 11./JG 5, were supplemented by a couple of older, overhauled A-2 variants. The basic modifications consisted of adding the ETC 501 bomb rack under the fuselage and removing the outboard wing MG FF cannons. Such machines were unofficially designated Fw 190 A-2/U and A-3/U.
For such a small force the unit's achievements apparently earned a number of notable plaudits;
" ..the unit owed a lot to the great personality of its commander, “Straks” Strakeljahn. A characteristic figure in a white fur cap, permanent smile and neatly-trimmed beard, he was usually to be found among his pilots. “Hptm. Strakeljahn was like a father to us; the perfect officer” – one of his pilots recalled. Lenient and cheerful on the ground, in the air he was an aggressive and efficient fighter pilot. This would be proven during a three-day run of luck for 14.(Jabo)/JG 5 in early May. On 7 May German recce aircraft discovered a Soviet convoy sailing across the Motovskiy Bay. In late afternoon six FW 190s, escorted by four Bf 109s of 9./JG 5, took to the air. It soon became apparent that the convoy was defended from the air by about 20 Hurricanes and P-39 fighters. As the Messerschmitts engaged the escorts, the Focke Wulfs, each armed with SC 250 bomb, went for the vessels. Fw. Karl-Heinz Froschek sank a “M”-class submarine escorting the convoy, whereas “Straks” sent to the seabed a 2000-ton auxiliary with a direct hit. The following day Uffz. Walther Pohl sank another “M”-class submarine. On 9 May Hptm. Strakeljahn himself sank a 3000-ton freighter. Further attacks were not so successful; on 11 May Lt. Günther Busse, flying “black 7”, fell to anti-aircraft fire from the ships in the Pummanki Bay. Nonetheless, on the same day the commander of Luftflotte 5 Generaloberst Stumpff sent his personal congratulations to 14.(Jabo)/JG 5 - five days later, more compliments came, this time from… AH himself!..."
..quoted in Fw 190 Vol III (Kagero)
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
On 24 December 1944 the acting Kommandeur of II.(Sturm)/JG 300, Klaus Bretschneider was shot down and killed by Mustangs. Call sign Specht Anton - Bretschneider- scrambled at the head of JG 300 against an 8th AF raid - was easy prey for the aces of the 357th FG. His Schwarm had been directed right into the path of the aggressively flown P-51 Mustangs. His Sturmbock Fw 190 A-8 (W.Nr. 682204) was a specialist bomber destroyer variant fitted with cockpit armour and 30mm cannon and entirely unsuited to dogfighting. The hapless German pilot plummeted to earth near Kassel, almost certainly dead at the controls. His loss was a hard blow for his pilots. Klaus Bretschneider flew Wilde Sau sorties with JG 300 in July 1943 with 6. Staffel then 5. Staffel, claiming 14 victories by night. Before being appointed Kapitän of 5. Staffel and serving as acting Kommandeur, Klaus Bretschneider served also in Stab II./JG 300 and Stab/JG 300 and by the time of his death he had claimed 20 additional victories against US aircraft by day. The 'eternal Leutnant' had been promoted to the rank of Oberleutnant and, by late 1944, was a rare Defence of the Reich fighter leader to wear the Knights Cross.
The following account of the day via Uffz. Ernst Schröder (5./JG 300):
" ..That day our Gruppe was at its usual strength, about thirty combat ready aircraft. Oberleutnant Bretschneider was flying at the head of the formation with his number two, Unteroffizier “Pimpf” Erhardt. We climbed away in a wide sweep to the west. Listening to the exchanges between Bretschneider (“Specht Anton”) and Jagddivision control at Döberitz, I realized that the bomber formations incoming from the west were heading directly towards us. But as we reached an altitude of 6,500 meters we encountered the American fighter cover, several flights of Mustangs, which fell on us with a clear height advantage! At that instant we ought to have employed a tactic that we had rehearsed for just such an eventuality, which involved coming out of our parade-like Sturmgruppe formation and splitting off in separate Schwärme to attack the Americans who at this stage were still outnumbered. But Bretschneider ordered us into a defensive circle, a manoeuvre no doubt dictated by prudence but hardly appropriate in the circumstances! But what else could my comrades do? They were mostly former blind flying instructors or ex-bomber pilots used to flying the Junkers 88 and were barely capable of performing the most basic fighter pilots' moves. They were there to bring down enemy bombers — American escort fighters permitting! There followed an intense and confused mêlée, during the course of which I was more fearful of a collision than enemy aircraft. Indeed there were more Focke-Wulfs than Mustangs around me. I recall catching sight of “Pimpf” Erhardt’s “Red 8” with a P-51 hard on his heels below my plane. I yoked brutally around to port and let myself “fall” in behind the American. My bursts struck home and hit by several shells, the Mustang disappeared from Erhardt’s tail and dropped out of my field of vision. Matthäus Erhardt had not been hit. Unfortunately his period of grace lasted only until the following 14 January, the day his knee took the full force of an explosive round fired by a B-17 gunner. As usual in a scrap involving large numbers of fighters, aircraft wheeled down from 6,000 meters towards the ground maneuvering in all directions. Pilots often found themselves isolated, occasionally in a sector of the sky where no other aircraft — either friend or foe — was to be seen. I saw numerous columns of smoke spiraling up from the ground, marking the crash sites of a similar number of aircraft. The clash had lasted barely ten minutes. Shaken by what I’d just experienced, I set course eastwards, left the combat zone and almost wrenched my neck keeping a watch on my tail. I landed at Löbnitz at 15:40 and was, if I recall correctly, the only 5. Staffel pilot, along with Leutnant Graziadei, to return to our airfield that afternoon. Most of our comrades that had survived had been forced to put down elsewhere and only got back to Löbnitz during the morning of Christmas Day, as at 15:45 on this 24 December day it had already started to get dark. There were many that never came back.."
More on Bretschneider's Sturm aircraft on this blog here
His Neptun 217 equipped nightfighter is covered in detail with another rare image of great quality from Jean-Yves Lorant here
As usual with JG 300 subjects all text and images via Jean-Yves Lorant (personal account translated by this blog author). You can be sure that anyone writing on JG 300 in print or on the net - especially FB - has borrowed extensively from Jean-Yves...
Above, a nice clear view of Fw 190 A-8 'Red 3' Werk Nr. 171641, the usual aircraft of 5. Staffel JG 300 ace Konrad Bauer seen here (right of picture) at Erfurt- Bindersleben during September 1944. The machine is undergoing weapons harmonisation - note the wide open field, cleared of agricultural workers before any firing testing could begin..Note that during September 1944, II./ JG 300 was not yet at Löbnitz. The port side of this machine bore the inscription 'Kornjark' a 'jokey' reference to the pilot's favourite cognac.
Standing on the wing and operating the firing button is Bauer's erster Wart, Ogfr.Josef Plum. On the far left is Unteroffizier Wilhelm Ladner, a 5 Staffel mechanic. Click on the image to view large..
Friday, 19 December 2014
Fw 190 A-2/3 "gelbe 7" (probably WNr. 5257) of 9./ JG 2 features the stylised eagle wing design associated with III./ JG 2 with an Adlerkopf (eagle's head) on the cowling. Directly below this, "Yellow 8" is another 9. Staffel machine
currently on offer from Manuel Rauh here
from Oliver Rogge's current Ebay sales, a selection of 7./ JG 2 Emils somewhere in France featuring the Staffel Zylinderhut emblem on the nose (a thumb pressing down on the British top hat) rather than the III. Gruppe emblem. The pilot in front of the rudder with the victory markings appears to be Kommandeur Mix. Note the sponge mottle appears to have been applied over the top of the III. Gruppe wavy bar.
Sunday, 30 November 2014
JG 2 assigned 2., 6. and 7. Staffeln during the autumn of 1940 to the specialist anti-shipping Jabo role. According to Erik Mombeek in his history of JG 2 "Dans le Ciel de France" (Vol II) JG 2 had approached this new commitment only half-heartedly and during the spring of 1941 was still training with 50 kg cement bombs in the Seine estuary. The Staffeln of neighbouring units (such as JG 26 for example) had made considerably more progress.
Fritz Schröter recalled the training sorties flown by 6. Staffel - the so-called Jagdbomber Staffel;
" ..Some distance to the north of Beaumont-le-Roger- in the Seine estuary to be exact- lay a ship wreck which made an ideal target for our training exercises. We approached it at wave-top height or from the direction of the shore at low altitude. At a precise distance from the target we would pull up three hundred metres before diving back down towards the wreck, throwing the throttle wide open in order to make ourselves as difficult a target as possible for potential anti-aircraft gunners. The bomb would be jettisoned just before the target disappeared beneath the nose of the aircraft, followed by a sharp pull-up which took us virtually through the masts and superstructure of the vessel. If we had judged the distance and speed correctly, the bomb struck the ship at the waterline. A 250 kg bomb could tear a breech large enough to sink a ship. Otherwise a near miss would detonate with the force of a sea mine. However during training we only employed 50 kg bombs -which had far less explosive force- in order not to totally destroy our practice target..."
Above; in the spring of 1941, 6./JG 2, the Jabostaffel of II. Gruppe, took on strength several of the new Friedrichs - note the Staffel emblem painted on the bright yellow cowling.
Pilot accounts from the Jabostaffel of I./ JG 2 focus on the relatively inauspicious results achieved by the Jabos - on the morning of 17 May 2./JG 2 flew a sortie that saw the unit dropping its twentieth 'live' bomb. According to Oblt. Dietrich Wickop's account (quoted in 'Dans le Ciel de France' );
"..Mund and Niesmann flew a Jabo mission against a convoy south of Swanage. The secondary target was the
During the evening of 17 May 1941, Oblt. Frank Liesendahl’s Jabostaffel 6./JG 2 (whose emblem in close-up above clearly hints at its specialist mission) claimed considerable damage inflicted on a cargo ship of some 2,500 GRT. However Uffz. Helmut Ries failed to return from this sortie.
Oblt. Frank Liesendahl’s rudder does not display any victory bars but is seen here in 1942 (see 'blue 1' below) decorated with the silhouettes of the ships sunk or damaged as a result of his attacks, including an armed merchantman of some 10,000 tonnes GRT (third silhouette from the top) which was claimed on 23 June 1941 during what was almost certainly the last Jabo sortie flown by Liesendahl's 'first' Jabostaffel 6./JG 2. On 10 July 1941 Liesendahl, Kapitän of 6./JG 2, was wounded in combat with a British fighter.. he nevertheless managed to land his aircraft in Abbeville but for the second time in just over a year he started a two-month stay in hospital. After the first three sihouettes, Jabo successes resumed in 1942 following Liesendahl's return to JG 2. By that time command of 6./ JG 2 had reverted to Lt. Erich Rudorffer and new Jabostaffeln had been established...
Below; close-up of the ship-munching fox emblem of 10.(Jabo) / JG 2 also affords a good view of the belly ETC 250 rack enabling a
All images above are currently offered on ebay.de here
Saturday, 29 November 2014
More 8./JG 27 Bf 109s from the 'Liebhold' album.
Liebhold with Italian comrades, "Red 7" in the background - note "striped" upper surface camouflage
Below; "writing a few words of greeting to my beloved Marianne following my award of the EK II. 24 January 1943 " - Liebhold with Schroer in deckchair and sunglasses and Schroer's "Red 1" in the background. 8./ JG 27 on detachment to Maritsa, Rhodes
Michael Beuckmann's ebay sales are here and include this I./ JG 54 F/G
Manuel Rauh's ebay sales - see below for link. Nice view of the Kommandeur machine II./ JG 27 at Trapani, Sicily and an Emil of I./ JG 27 "white 12" downed in the West
Beute Blenheim IV "YH-F"
Images from the album of a veteran of III./ KG z.b.v. 1. Ju 88 and Ju 87 B in North Africa. Note the Balkenkreuz positioned on the white theatre band
Arado Ar 66
Manuel Rauh's current ebay sales are here
Bf 110 C/Ds displaying the Drachenwappen (dragon emblem ) of ZG 52 on the nose on offer here
JP Militaria Ebay sales here