Thursday, 24 March 2011
NEW from Casemate "The Last Drop" - Operation Varsity March 24-25 1945
From the view point of the Luftwaffe's hard-pressed fighters, Varsity was perhaps the final nail in the coffin for those piston-engined fighter units still offering resistance on the western Front. Even the leading Reich defence Geschwader JG 300 was committed against the Allied airborne forces landing east of the Rhine! The forces put up by III. and IV./JG 300, weakened by losses in combat and accidents, amounted to only some fifteen aircraft per Gruppe while II./JG 300 put 32 fighters in the air. This was to be their last major action of the war. Fw. Ulrich Hampel (7. Staffel) was flying as wingman to Ofw. Rudi Zwesken;
"...We were jumped by Mustangs with a big height advantage who proceeded to cut to ribbons the last three or four Schwärme of our formation in almost total radio silence! My attention was drawn to a muffled cry, barely audible in my earphones. I thought I heard the word “Mum”, but it was perhaps “Mustang”. I immediately shot a glance behind and saw, staggered back to the horizon, seven or eight palls of black smoke, which marked the sites where my comrades had plunged into the ground. I saw one them going down and impact in a ball of fire. The fact that I was flying in Rudi Zwesken’s Schwarm most probably saved my life. Just as we became aware of the drama being played out behind us, one or two very audible shouts of “Mustang!” shattered the radio silence. The two leading Schwärme broke hard and turned into the enemy fighters. I yoked my ship into a steep turn to starboard while switching on my gunsight and dropping my ventral tank. In such situations of “clear and present danger”, breaking hard to starboard was axiomatic, a sort of practiced routine. The enemy fighters almost certainly failed to follow me because of the surprise effect of this maneuver. Given the low altitude, the combat was brief. As my Schwarm had been split asunder, it was “every man for himself ..."
The mission was a disaster for JG 300 as the Focke Wulfs and Messerschmitts were cut to pieces by P-51s of the 353rd FG. The few remaining fighter aces of the Sturmgruppe II./JG300 were killed including Fw. Ewald Preiß of 6./JG300 and Rudi Noske of 8./JG300.
Of the 32 Focke-Wulf 190s airborne from Löbnitz, barely ten made it back to the airfield. 5. Staffel had lost six pilots. 6. Staffel had been literally wiped out during the encounter. If Lt. “Gustl” Sallfner’s 7. Staffel had returned largely unscathed, claiming two Mustangs shot down, the same could not be said of 8. Staffel. Two of its veteran pilots, Hptm. Kurt Loos and Fw. Rudi Noske, perished near Göttingen. The last Sturmgruppe defending the Reich had suffered irreplaceable losses.
Uffz. Hans Bastek (5./JG 300), shot down and killed over Göttingen on 24 March 1945 by Mustangs of the 353rd FG