Below; The new Staffelkapitän of 7./ZG 26 Hptm.Johannes Kiel standing on the wing of his Me 110 G-2 "3U+.R" following a combat sortie and photographed at Rome-Ciampino July 1943. Kiel was a leading Zerstörer ace. Although shot down during the Westfeldzug by a GC I/5 Curtiss Hawk (H-75) and taken captive, he achieved some five victories during 1940 and the Battle of Britain with 3./ZG 26. On the Russian Front he took his score past twenty victories and was awarded the RK on 18 March 1942. He claimed three MiG-3s on 16 February 1942 (14.-16.) 7./ZG 26 moved back to the Reich (Plantlünne) at the end of July 1943 shortly after the photo below was taken. As Staffelkapitän 7./ ZG 26 Kiel was appointed Kommandeur of III./ZG 76 on 1 November 1943. He was shot down and KIA on 29 January 1944 in the vicinity of Kirchheimbolanden after combat with US bomber formations, while his BF was able to bale out - which suggests that he may have been hit by a B-17's return fire presumably after closing and launching his WGr 21 Werfgranate. Other sources suggest he was caught by 20 FG P-38s. He achieved some 25 air victories. See Stipdonk/Meyer Zerstörer-und-Nachtjagdverbände Teil 4 for more on Kiel.
" ...Jagddivision 7 split its fighters sending some north against the the 8th AF and the rest south against the 15th AF which damaged Udine airfield in northern Italy. ..The 8th AF judged today's (29.1.44) full strength raid on Frankfurt successful - a 'successful' mission was one which drew up the Luftwaffe. Bombing through overcast was now acceptable and although the name was never used (by the Americans) this was 'area bombing' ..." quoted in Caldwell, 'Day Fighters in Defence of the Reich.
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Zerstörer aces of ZG 26 on this blog
Above; Johannes Kiel over-seeing the arming of a Me 110 G-2/R 3 Zerstörer of III./ZG 26 photographed during the late summer of 1943 at Plantlünne and, below, in the cockpit of presumably the same machine. This aircraft is toting twin wing-mounted Doppelrohr WGr 21 mortar rocket launchers - more colloquially known as "stove-pipes" - for the launch of spin-stabilised mortar rockets intended to break up bomber formations.
Michael Ziefle in his " Me 110 - die Rehabiliterierung eines Flugzeuges " completely over-looks Kiel's shoot-down in his two page description of Zerstörer missions flown by ZG 26/76 during January and February 1944 in defence of the Reich, despite reproducing the image above on page 150; presumably Kiel's death fails to jive with his somewhat 'revisionist' view of these units. " Despite massive deployment of the US fighter escorts the Zerstörer could still successfully counter the bomber formations.." (p150). " The only superiority enjoyed by the P-38 escorts over the Zerstörer was numerical - and of course the much longer training period delivered to their pilots.." (p151)