Monday, 24 September 2012

more Luftwaffe/JG 53 in the Mediterranean, Comiso, Sicily

Bf 109 F/G of 6./JG 53 probably at Comiso during 1942. From the left, Ofw Rudolf Ehrenberger, 49 Luftsiege,  KIA on 8.3.1944, posthumously awarded the RK on 5 April 1944, Fw Erich Paczia, 14 Luftsiege, KIA 1 February 1943, unknown, and on the right, Staffelkapitän Oblt. Günther Hess who achieved some nine victories and was posted missing on 20 March 1943. Friedrichs at Comiso below

Gustav of JG 53 following a bombing raid on Cancello, Naples. The pilots recalled above all the intense heat of the Mediterranean summer.  JG 77 Uffz. Helmut Schwarzenhoelzer; 

" ..on Sardinia we were accomodated under canvas and the stifling heat was unbearable. Temperatures reached forty degrees plus on the ground in the broiling sun while at altitude in the cockpits of our 109s temperatures could fall as low as minus twenty..." 

Below;  atmospheric view of Ju 88s on Comiso, SicilyImages from Michael Meyer's current Ebay sales

Ju 88s from LG 1, KG 77 and KG 30 were all at one time or another based here and Fliegerkorps X occupied the island as early as November 1940 in their vain attempts to neutralise the Royal Navy and the strategically important island staging post of Malta with its deep natural harbours. Catania became the base of Stab, II. and III./LG 1; as of January 12, 1941, these units were in possession of respectively 4/2, 38/38 and 38/38  Junkers Ju 88A-4s. The reconnaissance ju 88s of 1.(F)/121 were also located here with 12/3 Ju 88Ds. Below; shackling an SC1800 to the rack of  a KG 30 Ju 88 at Comiso.

In December 1941 the Ju 88s of the Stab KG 54 (Obstlt. Walter Marienfeld), I./KG 54 (Hptm. Georg Graf von Platen), KGr 606 (Obstlt. Joachim Hahn), and KGr 806 (Maj. Richard Linke) also arrived on Sicily. A further intensive five-month-long campaign was launched against Malta in order to restrict the operational capabilities of the RAF and the Royal Navy - according to James Holland Malta became the most heavily bombed target of the war. KG 77 joined these operations in January 1942. Raids were mounted against Hal Far, Takali, Luqa and Kalafrana airfields as well as the naval base at La Valetta. By mid-March there were about 40-50 sorties a day under strong fighter escort (JG 53, JG 77) The Hurricanes defending Malta incurred heavy losses in combat with the Bf 109 Fs. The turning point in the battle for Malta came on 17 March 1942 when the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle delivered the first fifteen Spitfires to the island. The USS Wasp delivered its first cargo of Spitfires during April.

Comiso hosted Afrikaversorgungs resupply flights flown with Me 323 Transporter

Axis forces in North Africa capitulated on 10 May 1943. At the Casablanca conference in January 1943 Churchill and Roosevelt (reluctantly) decided that the island of Sicily should be assaulted and captured as a base for operations against German forces in southern Europe. The campaign for Sicily began properly as early as 13 May following the German surrender in Africa. At this stage of the war the Allies had overwhelming superiority and deployed waves of low-flying B-17, B-24 and B-26 bombers against the airfields occupied by JG 77 and JG 53, routinely escorted by large numbers of Spitfires, P-40s, P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts. Kommodore JG 77 Johannes Steinhoff recounted in broad strokes the aerial battles for Sicily through June and July 1943 in his unusually powerful memoir Die Strasse von Messina. Facing crushing odds--including a commander, Hermann Göring, who contemptuously treated his pilots as cowards--Steinhoff and  pilots took to the skies day after day to meet the feared Flying Fortresses and swarms of Allied fighters in an echo of the later all-out assault on the Reich itself.