Friday, 29 April 2022

new book title - " 16 June 1944 " by Peter Kaššák


"  AUSTRIA: Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers attack a number of oil depots and refineries in the Vienna area through extremely heavy and determined opposition, including waves of rocket-firing Ju-88s. While covering the bombers during the penetration, target, and withdrawal phases of the mission, pilots of the 1st, 31st, 52nd, 82nd, and 325th Fighter groups down 40 GAF fighters between 0935 hours and noon.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA: Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers attack oil-industry targets around Bratislava.."

Eric Hammel in 'Air War Europa'.

Books describing a single day's events in the long war in the air have been popular since the classic Ethell/Price "Target Berlin" and perhaps even before that with the Middlebrook-penned "Schweinfurt-Regensburg". This is Peter Kaššák's second book covering one particular day - his previously released "Ordinary Day" related in detail the events of March 2, 1945 one of the last major battles of the air war over Germany. In  his new self-published title, "16 June 1944" the author relates the story of the US 15th AF attack on Vienna's petroleum refineries (Floridsdorf, Kagran, Schwechat) and the supplementary mission mounted on the same occasion against Bratislava'a 'Apollo' fuel refinery. Both raids were notable firsts in the campaign against Axis oil and the recently posted CO of 8.Jagddivision (formerly JaFü Ostmark or Austria) Obst. Gotthard Handrick (J 88, JG 77 etc etc ) could deploy only meagre resources, a handful of Gruppen from JG 302, ZG 1 and ZG 76 assisted by the Hungarian JGr. 101 and the Slovakian 'emergency flight'. Other units from 7.Jagddivision such as I./JG 300 based in southern Germany also participated in the air battles. 

The bulk of the text and images recount events as seen by the attackers as some 170 B-17s and nearly 500 B-24s were dispatched over the targets from bases situated along the 'heel' of Italy's boot, while the German and Hungarian defenders response is detailed in the text and then summarised in the last 15-20 pages of this 150-page title. Each Bomb Group's sorties are analysed in their own 'target' chapter with exciting personal accounts, a treatment extended to the escorts with chapters covering the actions of the 1st and 82nd FG P-38s and the P-51s of the 31st, 52nd and 325th FGs. Chapter 12, " Yellow-tailed Mustangs in action" recounts the 52nd FG's only loss during the raid - a P-51 B shot down by a P-38! This was the only escort fighter lost on the Bratislava mission and after 12 days in Budapest prison pilot 2nd Lt. Fred Crawford ended up in Stalag Luft III. The raid on the Bratislava refinery  - situated on the Danube just 33 miles from Vienna -  was flown by around 160 B-24s of the 98th, 450th,  479th and 376th BGs. Although small, the Czech petroleum industry supplied high grade oils and gasoline for the German war effort  and the author's account is probably a first in English.

" ..Suddenly the nose gunner's voice crackled the expected dreaded news - 'German fighters, 12 o' clock high, closing fast...' With adrenalin flowing I was no longer cold. The German planes hit like Thor's hammer, all guns firing. More went through the formation than broke short. I tried to hit them as they roared past but failed. I couldn't swing the heavy machine gun fast enough..Luckily for us they were concentrating on the first section. The first wave of fighters left us. I reloaded, shovelled empty cartridges overboard and prepared for the next attack. Then the slower German machines arrived - Me 410s, Bf 110s and Ju 88s - a second attack wave. ...[..]  out of the cloud layer above us and from the left a single Bf 110 fired rockets on our first was caught in the cross fire and set alight..burning fiercely it rammed into a B-24  and both planes exploded.. the single Bf 110 was followed by a wave of Bf 110s...."

This vivid personal account is 'interrupted' by the author to  be 'dissected' and analysed - the reader even discovers who was flying the single rocket-firing twin out in front. Some of the most vivid accounts from the bomber crews concern the 459th BG - one B-24 released its bombs through closed bomb bay doors setting the big heavy on fire. The text highlights many more notable combat actions and incidents as crews were downed and then either rounded up on the ground or helped to evade by partisans. One downed 460th BG crew got into a firefight with the Germans hunting them but reached the Yugoslav coast just five days after being brought down.
On 16 June 1944 the German and Axis defenders flew at least 200 sorties and in both JG 302 and ZG 76 there was a certain amount of satisfaction at their performance. While ZG 1 made no claims their actions contributed to the break-up of the bomber formations. 'Stories' such as Hammel's "rocket-firing Ju 88s" are assessed and other 'myths' that crop up in the literature are closely examined (black-painted Bf 109s ? - quite possibly, yes). The descriptions of combat are backed up with the usual array of Appendices detailing claims and losses and include a German fighter Gradnetz  grid chart for the zone of operations. A final 'conclusion' details what happened next at the installations hit - the Schwechat refinery was not hit again until September but was regularly raided into 1945, while at Floridsdorf there were more raids in June 1944. The air battle of 16 June 1944 was just the beginning of a series of huge clashes in this central European region while the 'battle for oil' was only just getting underway.

 This is a very worthy and well-done 'print on demand' book from a well-known researcher.  Peter Kaššák has written and produced this book single-handedly and his exhaustive research has resulted in a very readable account. The text is loaded with photos - not just portraits either - and print and paper quality is good. An excellent little title to add to your WW II airwar library! 

Peter Kaššák "16 June 1944" via Click here for more info and orders

Below; jacket illustration of Peter Kassaks' "16 June 1944". Top image shows a formation of 4./ZG 76 Me 410s on June 16.