Monday, 18 February 2019

Junkers Ju 88 Aces - a selection of Ju 88 'ace' photos - Helbig, Hogeback, Storp, Fischer , Schweickhardt

Hptm. Erwin Fischer (right of the sign) with Glas Sekt on the occasion of the 3000th Feindflug  of Aufklärungsgruppe 121. Note the white swan emblem of the unit, Ju 88 D coded 7A + NH

Despite having published at least three volumes on Junkers Ju 88 Kampfgeschwader in their 'Combat Units' series, Osprey editor Tony Holmes decided we needed at least one Ju 88 volume in the 'Aces' series. However on the evidence of this volume I would say to him that we probably need a few more of these as well. This is an excellent volume on the Junkers Ju 88, presenting an overview of the aircraft and the men who flew it in each of the roles it undertook; bomber, intruder, night-fighter, long-range day fighter and reconnaissance. Many of the more 'famous' Ju 88 pilots are covered such as Baumbach, Helbig, Herrmann and Heinz Rökker along with some of the lesser known. The profiles are some of the best I have seen in an Osprey book and the content highly readable and informative. However, it is not strictly an "aces" volume as it does not specifically look at those who claimed 5 or more kills whilst flying the Ju 88. If you are thinking of buying it because of the title, you may perhaps be disappointed. That being said, if you have any interest in the type and the exploits of its crews then buy it - it is a taster or as Robert himself referred to it " a toe-dipper". To cover all noteworthy Ju 88 "ace crews", in all the roles in which the aircraft undertook, would take several similar sized volumes. For example, Hermann Hogeback is only mentioned in a couple of photo captions and he would certainly qualify as the Ju 88 bomber "aces of aces" (with 500+ operational sorties and being one of only three Ju 88 pilots to receive the Knights Cross with Swords). Erwin Fischer is the only reconnaissance pilot to receive the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves (as far as I am aware) and he is not even mentioned in the text...

Above; Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 142338 coded 'F1+GS' flown by the Gruppenkommandeur III./KG 76 Hptm. Heinrich Schweickhardt. The coat of arms of the city of Heidelberg recalls Schweickhardt's birth place. He was flying this aircraft when he went missing during a transfer flight on 9 January 1943.

Hptm. Heinrich Schweickhardt (1914-1943) awarded the RK as Staffelkapitän 8./Kampfgeschwader 76, (Ritterkreuz 04.02.1942, Eichenlaub (138) 30.10.1942)

Appointed Kommandeur III./KG 76 in March 1942 Schweickhardt and his crew went missing during a flight from Catania to Athen-Tatoi on 9 January 1943 after a radio message from about noon saying he was having engine trouble. This was after combat about 100 km west of Zakynthos or Zante. The aircraft was a Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 142338 coded 'F1+GS'. Posthumously promoted to
Major, credited with around 400 missions.

Below; Junkers Ju 88 A-6 1./(F)123 (4U+SH) after a recon mission flown by Ofw. Bach, Perugia Italy. Chased by Allied fighters the pilot flew so low over the sea that the propellers struck the water and shattered. Fortunately the wooden propellers broke evenly which allowed the engines to keep running and Bach made it back to his base in Perugia at a some what reduced speed..

Two views of I./KG 77 machines. Note the white winter finish applied even to the prop blades in the lower picture

below; torpedo-carrying Ju 88 of I./KG 26 taking off from Bardufoss in March 1945 to attack a Murmansk convoy. Note the Schiffssuchradar - shipping search radar FuG 200 Hohentwiel. To the right of picture Oberst Ernst Kühl is seen saluting the departing aircraft. 

Chris Goss has a different caption in his Frontline " Junkers Ju 88 - the twilight years"  which reads as follows;   A Ju 88 of I./KG 26 taxying out at Bardufoss to attack an Allied convoy, RA 64, on 20 February 1945. In the crew is Oberst Ernst Kühl who had recently been given command of a Fliegerdivision based in Narvik. He was holder of the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub and had flown 315 combat missions, most of them with KG 55.

Below; interesting cockpit views and a rare portrait of Werner Baumbach at Munich Riem during 1942..

Junkers Ju 88s of KG 26 being readied for sorties out over the Med from Sicily. Note the twin under-slung torpedoes in the first image below, each weighing approx 750 kg, of which 200 kg was explosive. To launch the weapons the Ju 88 pilot had to maintain a speed of 180 km/h at an altitude of forty metres. In theory the torpedo could be dropped up to two kilometres from the target but in practise a more realistic range was barely 800 metres. However at distances such as these the Ju 88  pilots were very much aware they would likely find themselves in a maelstrom of defensive fire.

On 22 December 1942 Ju-88s from III.Gruppe KG 26 torpedoed and damaged the British troopship Cameronia. Strikes were made all along the African coast. Allied air attacks cost the unit four aircraft on 8 February 1943 when the unit's base at Cagliari-Elmas, Sardinia was bombed. In July 1943 the unit also contested "Operation_Husky", the Allied invasion of Sicily. On 12 August the unit struck at Allied shipping in the western Mediterranean losing 10 machines for little result.

Below; Kommandeur I./LG 1 Hptm. Joachim Helbig seen in Catania, Sicily during 1941. He was awarded the Eichenlaub during January 1942 after some 200 sorties..

Deployed early on in the Mediterranean, LG 1 would soon prove to be one of the most formidable and feared opponents of the Royal Navy. Under the orders of Kommandeur Helbig, the "Helbig flyers" of I./LG 1 as they were dubbed were responsible for sending many Allied ships to the bottom. Notable actions included the sinking of three large transport vessels Clan Campbell, Clan Chattan and Rowallan Castle from the convoy MW 9, during attacks on 13–14 February 1941. On 22 May 1941 during the Battle for Crete, LG 1 Ju 88 pilot Gerd Brenner finished off the RN cruiser HMS Fiji with heavy loss of life. III./LG 1 also damaged the Australian destroyer Waterhen on 9 July 1941, sinking it on 11 July. The Geschwader supported the Afrika Korps effectively in Libya and Egypt until 1942. Bombing raids were made on the Suez Canal, Cairo during this time. On 11/12 May 1942 I.(K)/LG 1 again led by Helbig were responsible for sinking HMS Kipling, HMS Jackal and HMS Lively in the Gulf of Sollum. Helbig below on the right..

Below; Iro Ilk Staffelkapitän of 1./LG 1 during 1943 and bomber ace at the controls of his Ju 88. Both Ilk and his close friend in LG 1 Gerd Stamp were awarded the Knight's Cross with I./LG 1 for audacious attacks on British shipping in the Med, before going on to fly single engine night fighters with the wilde Sau. Ilk was shot down and killed by Spitfires as Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 300 on 25 September 1944. Post-war Stamp achieved high rank in NATO and married Ilk's widow.

Having carried out intruder attacks over Britain with some success for almost a year, the Ju 88 Cs of I./ NJG 2 were transferred to the Mediterranean and the western desert of North Africa in late 1941.  Ju 88 C-4 " R4+EL" (3./ NJG 2) came to grief during the transfer flight to Sicily and made an emergency landing near Naples. Crash landed by Flugzeugführer Fw Robert Lüddecke (front) on 22 November 1941 at Capodichino-Naples. Lüddecke had returned three night victories - Nachtluftsiege - at the time of the incident.

Below; seen far left Ritterkreuzträger Hptm. Hermann Hogeback, Kommandeur III./LG 1 on the occasion of a commemoration of the 5000th sortie flown by the Gruppe, Stalino, September 1942.

Three bomber aces of KG 6 with around 1,000 sorties between them, Hptm. Rudolf Puchinger, Staka 8./KG 6, Kommodore Walter Storp and Kommandeur III./KG 6 Hermann Hogeback.

Partial view of a formation of V./KG 40 Ju 88 C-6 heavy fighters seen over south-western France during early 1943. Nearest to the camera is Ju 88 C-6 "F8+RY" with Oblt. Kurt Necesany at the controls, while behind this aircraft is "F8+NY"

Diving Eagle of KG 30 seen on Herrmann's Ju 88 A-4. Early in World War II, Herrmann flew bombing missions in the invasion of Poland and the Norwegian campaign. By 1940 he was Staffelkapitän 7./KG 4 re-designated 7./KG 30 at the end of the Battle of Britain. In February 1941 his Gruppe was transferred to Sicily, from where it attacked Malta then fought in the Battle of Greece. In one attack Herrmann sank the ammunition ship Clan Fraser in the port of Piraeus. The explosion sank 11 ships and made the Greek port unusable for many months. He was appointed Kommandeur III./KG 30 and flew missions against Russia. He was a controversial figure in 'right-wing' circles post-war.

"..Herrmann was one of the most deadly Luftwaffe pilots of the Second World War and one of its most innovative air tacticians; a committed Nazi determined to fight to the end, he even formed a special unit of fighter pilots whose task was to ram Allied bombers out of the air..."

 ..from his obituary published by the British 'Daily Telegraph' in 2010. Read it in full here

The above is intended to serve as an introduction to the two Ju 88 photo volumes compiled by Chris Goss in Frontline's 'Air War Archive' series..while Volume one focused on the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, Volume two, "the Twilight years- Biscay to the Fall of Germany" covers the activities of Ju 88 Gruppen in Russia and the Mediterranean and looks at reconnaissance and torpedo operations. Heavy fighters also receive a chapter  - 'Battle over the Bay' covers the little-known ZG 1 - and there is a small section at the end on the Misteln..