Saturday, 4 May 2013

Flypast Meimberg article "The men behind the Bf 109"- an unusual 'kill', 24 September 1944

current issue of Flypast - nice cover. More Schwalbe Me 262 air-to-airs on this blog

magazine contents include a small feature entitled 'Men behind the Bf 109' by Chris Goss who summarises the career of JG 2 ace Jule Meimberg. In his 'Britain at War' feature on Operation Sunrise as discussed elsewhere on this blog, Meimberg, according to his own account, ran out of fuel after downing three British bombers raiding the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau on 24 July 1941. In the subsequent crash-landing he sustained injuries that put him out of the war for nearly a year. In this latest extract from Meimberg's memoir the pilot is now Kommandeur of II./JG 53 on the Western Front. He describes an unusual aerial "victory" over Germany on 24 September 1944. Here's my more extensive version of the piece. I have corrected some turns of phrase in the magazine feature and added some additional text;

" ...We received a visit from Generalleutnant Beppo Schmid, who held forth to the Gruppe's pilots on the possibility of shooting up the parachutes of bailed-out enemy pilots - an aviator was only really out of the fight when he was dead, so there was no good reason to let enemy pilots hang under their chutes. After he had departed I said a few words on the subject, weighing my words carefully, since Schmid's turn of phrase had left it unclear as to whether he was merely expressing an opinion, outlining an instruction or giving an order;

" Gentlemen, you've heard what Generalleutnant Schmid has to say on the subject. You know that Leutnant Paashaus was murdered a few weeks ago as he was hanging under his chute. I however have no intention of carrying out such an act..."

" Well, I won't hesitate.."  Herbert Rollwaage smirked back at me. He had always had a rebellious streak and would contradict me on principle.  I tried to make allowances for his provocative defiance. For many of us it had become incredibly difficult to continue to fight a 'clean' war that was becoming ever 'dirtier'. My own examination came on 24 September 1944. On this day the Gruppe was deployed against 'Jabos' in the area of Metz-Nancy. After the passage of a cold front Seeger and I were airborne at 12:27 with two Schwaerme. The Rhine glinted beneath us and through breaks in the cloud we could see Ludwigshafen. As usual my neck was on a swivel as I quartered the sky; there, ahead of us, standing out against a dazzlingly white wall of cloud - a tiny dot, slightly higher than us and on a parallel  heading. A twin-engined machine..strange..the shape of the wings resembled that of a Focke Wulf Fw 58..but the Weihe was a smaller aircraft. We turned in towards it. It appeared to be an aircraft type that I had never encountered before and seemed to be unarmed.  By now we were in close and suddenly - like an electric shock - I recognised the red-white-blue roundels on the wings and fuselage. An RAF machine! Had he lost his mind, flying over Germany in broad daylight like that  - and with no fighter escort? I pushed the throttle forward with the idea of getting him to follow me, but at that moment he must have spotted us as he banked into a turn towards the wall of cloud, clearly trying to evade our attentions. By now I was in behind him and aimed a short burst of fire at his starboard engine. It was not my intention to shoot him down and I therefore unleashed a short salvo from my MGs alone. I did not fire the 109's cannon armament. It was then that the enemy machine pulled up into a steep climb, rolled onto its back and plunged earthwards. It went down like a stone, and, as the enemy pilot attempted to pull out, the machine's structural limits were far exceeded. With a jerk one of the wings came away from the fuselage and fluttered down like a leaf, while the rest of the aircraft plummeted to the ground. There was no sign of any chutes from the body of the aircraft. We followed it down in steep spirals until it augered in. I didn't feel good about this at all. I gave the order to turn for home...Once we were back on the ground I was determined to see for myself what type of machine this was.. it was a military target, of that there was no doubt, so according to international law I had done nothing wrong..but there was something about this incident that didn't add up. I set out with my driver but after a few kilometres we got a puncture and had to stop to put on the spare wheel. But after a second flat we had to turn back. In the meantime news of this downing had come through to the Gefechtsstand - my 'victory' was an RAF Dakota, a transport type with 3 crew. On board were 20 passengers wearing khaki uniforms. The pilot had evidently drifted off course or got lost while on a flight south..I had killed 23 men - people who had left behind parents, loved ones, wives or even children.. it was to affect me deeply...I had seen too many die, written too many letters of condolence, come too close to death myself, to simply put thoughts of the consequences of this sortie out of my mind... "

Julius Meimberg's  memoir entitled 'Feindberührung'  is published by 296 Verlag
Unfortunately I have no news on a possible English-language edition. Click the label link below for more