Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Walter Loos successful Ta 152 pilot JG 301 and Sturmjäger JG 300 - the case of the 'smoking' log book. Fw 190 Defence of the Reich

It is very difficult to do an accurate write up on Walter Loos' war time career- the basic stuff you can get off Wikipedia, although even that short entry contains a certain amount of dubious information. After flying training he was sent to III./Jagdgeschwader 3 in January 1944. He achieved his first victory in the huge aerial battle over Berlin on 6 March 1944, when he claimed a USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress shot down. Later he was transferred to IV. (Sturm)/JG 3 and was apparently posted to Jagdgeschwader 300 in June 1944 and flew as Walther Dahl's wingman in the Geschwaderstab from July 1944 to early December 1944. On 29 September was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold, an award that was usually the precursor to the RK. In early December 1944 Loos was posted to undertake instructing duties with Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Ost. Loos then returned to combat duty in early 1945 with JG 301.With this unit he flew the FW Ta 152 for the first time at Soltau-Hannover. And according to photocopies of his Flugbuch in circulation, Loos  claimed four victories over Russian Yaks around Berlin in the last days of the war flying the Ta 152. On 20 April 1945 Walter Loos was awarded the Ritterkreuz for 36 victories. Walter Loos flew 66 combat missions and is credited with 38 confirmed victories and 8 unconfirmed. 30 aircraft were claimed on the Western Front, including 22 four-engined bombers. He himself was shot down nine times.
One of the leading authorities on Loos' units, JG 300 and JG 301, is French historian J-Y Lorant who interviewed many former pilots and personnel of both Geschwader during the 70's and 80's. Re-examining the documentary sources that he has collected over the decades for JG 301 a few years ago he concluded that there was some discrepancies concerning 'claims' and 'victories' obtained at the controls of the revolutionary late war Ta 152. This is perhaps not at all surprising given the chaos and confusion at war's end. For the record Reschke in his 'history' of JG 301 states that on 24 April 1945 engagements with Yak 9's during the final throes of the Battle of Berlin resulted in four Yak 9's being shot down. In poor visibility, two were claimed by himself and two by Obfw. Walter Loos (in "Green 4"). The Stabsschwarm lost Hptm. Hermann Stahl and his Ta152 that day. However the point of this is that when interviewed in the late 1970's Walter Loos stated that he had no victories - not a single enemy fighter claim - while flying the Ta 152. In the context of the combats that supposedly took place on 24 April 1945 this is a startling piece of info - at least for readers of Reschke's account. However Loo's claim is apparently supported by reference to the personal diary of Fhr. Ludwig Bracht written during March-April 1945 and the letters of Uffz. Rudi Driebe. Incidentally other thus-far-unpublished JG 301 documentary sources indicate that Stahl was shot down and killed on 11 April 1945. Ofw. Josef Keil was flying as his wingman that day. And despite Jeff Ethell's account in his Monogram Close Up - Archie Hagedorn never flew the Ta 152 in combat. The 'problem' with Loos may lie with versions of his Flugbuch that are in circulation - a version of the final page of his logbook that has circulated only shows flights 860 to 880 and also shows amendments in the form of sections pasted over each other. However there does apparently exist an 'untainted' copy although I have not personally seen it. As to his Ta 152 claims, they can only be described as 'unsubstantiated'.

Another 'problem' with Loos's Flugbuch is that Loos does not appear to have flown with JG 300 after 4 December 1944. This is problematic because Loos figures prominently as a witness in many of Kommodore Dahl's claims from late 1944 to early 45, when Dahl was supposedly still flying with Stab/JG 300. Evidence perhaps that many of Dahl's claims during this period were bogus, or he flew alone and had no witnesses! Considering the questionable nature of some of Dahl's "victories", such as on 5 December 1944, it would seem that the former was more likely. On 5 December for example, Dahl listed Loos as a witness, but Loos' last flight with JG 300 was the day prior, 4 December, before he was posted out as a flight instructor. His logbook shows no flights on 5 December 1944 and indeed, none between 4 December and 16 December 1944.

Of course most Flugbücher contain errors and omissions. It is not my intention to 'slander' Loos. Not only was he there, he has earned his place in aviation history as a rare front-line pilot to fly combat sorties at the controls of the Ta 152. As a small tribute - despite the factual errors therein - I offer a previously untranslated wartime newspaper report which was reproduced in a 1988 issue of Jägerblatt;

" War reporter Walter Henkels spent 11 April 1944 with the Sturmgruppe Udet  - the date of Walter Loos 21st birthday and recorded his impressions under the title 'Pauke-Pauke '.......... 

"..Feldwebel Walter loos is 21 years old today. Reason enough to open up a bottle of Oppenheimer Goldberg. Because in Oppenheim am Rhein, his home town, they know about fine vintages and you are only 21 once! But he won't be telling his comrades about this important day - because the Staffelkapitän has ordered that no one flies on their birthday and the weather forecast already seems to suggest that there will be a sortie today. The sky is the only invitation on offer today ...barely an hour has past before news of an incoming raid is announced. The Gruppen get airborne, form up and then climb to meet the enemy as ordered. Below them through the morning haze lies their land, where their parents, wives and children live ..in among the bombed out towns and cities. Have Feldwebel Loos parents not been bombed-out in Oppenheim? A voice through the headset,  " Four-engine bomber formation to our left.." Feldwebel Loos has seen them too, glinting in the sunlight, bomber Pulks drawn up in tight formation. Nobody will mention that their hearts are now beating a little faster or talk of that feeling in the pit of their stomachs or that their knees have started to tremble. But Feldwebel Loos can not forget that today is his birthday - today will be his lucky day. Suddenly, but as expected, the Kommodore's voice comes over the radio " Pauke, Pauke " The order for the Sturm attack .. the combat lasts just seconds, fractions of a second and just one word "him or me". The Fortress IIs loom up in the windshield like giants. It may be  - since he no longer recalls exactly - that he shouted the hunter's cry 'Horrido' into the throat mike. Nor does he know how he managed to fight off the "Mustang" with which he was caught up in a wild dogfight at 8,000 metres altitude. Soaked in sweat, limbs still trembling, he climbs down from his trusty Fw 190. " My birthday was a day of good fortune" he smiled inwardly as he was congratulated by his comrades and his Staffelkapitän. And the bottle of Oppenheimer that he had brought back from home for this very purpose - well, that was opened after all..."