Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Bomber ace Franz Gapp - Ju 88 LG 1 & Me 262 KG (J) ace

Text written by Neil Page

Born in Erbach near Ulm in 1919 into a large family (six children) of modest means, Gapp was to count future ace pilot Anton Hafner among his schol pals and had an uncle who held a private pilots license. A member of the Flieger-HJ, Gapp joined the nascent Luftwaffe in early 1937 after his Reichsarbeitdienst and became a gunner/radio operator on Ju87s with I./Stuka 165 at Kitzingen. He started basic pilot training in November 1938 at the FFS /AB Straubing and passed out on multi-engined aircraft at Zeltweg ;

" on 18 February 1940 I was shifted to the bomber training school at Thorn where I flew the Do17, He 111, Ju 52 and Ju 86. My crew consisted of Alfons Ehrne (observer), Hans Heckman (radio operator) and Georg Schüler (gunner). We were to fly together until mid-1944 ".

During 1940 Gapp passed his Blindflugscheine and flew the Ju 88 for the first time with IV./LG1 at Greifswald.

 "..It was here that I met my future wife. As she was a civilian employee at the Air Ministry in Berlin we were always able to stay in contact during my many operational postings, whether I was in Africa, Sicily or the Crimea. A simple phone call to the Air Ministry would usually find her at her post.."

Gapp's crew was finally ready for their initial combat deployment during February 1941 and took charge of Ju 88 GN+OZ at München-Riem on Feb 14 , ferrying the aircraft directly to Sicily. There they were assigned to 8./LG 1, a Staffel led by the young Oblt. Hermann Hogeback. After two or three acclimatisation flights the new crew were deployed on anti-submarine duties during March and April 1941.

During June 1943 Gapp married in Berlin, before taking up a posting as an instructor with IV./KG 6 at Brétigny under Kommandeur Schlaumeyer. Gapp was to lead his charges on formation training flights as far north as the Thames estuary to acclimatise his young crews to the searchlights and ack-ack of the British defenses !! During September 1943 he was awarded the Ritterkreuz for his long distinguished service, presented to him by none other than the Kommodore of KG 6 Hermann Hogeback, Gapp's first Staffelkapitän. During November and December 1943 Gapp and five other crews were seconded to fly night and day sorties out of Bordeaux-Mérignac. IV./KG 6 shifted back to Germany during February 1944 and ceased all training activities following D-Day. During this period Gapp and his crew carried out often menial ground duties. Gapp was posted to the new KG(J) under Oberst Hogeback and flew a number of sorties at the controls of a Me 262. Gapp survived the war having flown over 400 operational missions in most Luftwaffe bomber and fighter types. Among his awards were the Deutsche Kreuz in Gold (21 August 1942)and the Goldene Frontflugspange. Joining the fledgling Bundesluftwaffe in 1956 he went on to become a test pilot on the joint French/German C160 Transall programme during the sixties. He retired from the air force in 1971 and at the time of writing still lives in Bavaria.

More on Hogeback and the KG (J) units