Tuesday 27 February 2024

II./JG 26 Fw 190 A-2/3 - Instapic #4


 'Instapic' on the FalkeEins blog is a series promoting and highlighting some of the 'unseen' jewels in the 'German collection' at the ECPA-D. Certain social media platforms enable images to be posted that are visible for no-more than 24 hours. This is what will happen with 'Instapics' on the Luftwaffe blog. To avoid missing out keep checking in ...this is 'Instapic' #4.  

The well known images of "Jochen" Müncheberg in his Fw 190 A-2 (with Kommandeur chevrons) following a sortie over the Channel Front are located in ECPA-D file DAA 2010  (where they are unfortunately incorrectly captioned). Here are a couple of rarely seen (if at all) images from that file and one (bottom) more widely circulated (and published).

 On 19 September 1941 Müncheberg was promoted to Hauptmann and named Kommandeur of II./JG 26 based in Moorsele, Belgium. The ace ended 1941 with a total of sixty-two claims. Between 13 March and 30 April, he added thirteen more successes to his victory scoreboard before going to the Eastern Front.        

Click on the image to view in full-screen mode. 

Friday 23 February 2024

Fw 190 A-6 'Green 13', Walter Oesau, Stab./JG 1 - ebay photo find #366


Manuel Rauh ebay sale, see link at the bottom. Three images of one of Oesau's Fw 190 A-6s. This 'green 13', according to the seller, was seen with JG 1. A good view of the inner gear doors usually deleted on the A-6 and spoked wheel hubs. The key 'identifier' for an A-6 is the 'Abführschacht' cartridge ejector chute in the lower wing for the outer wing MG 151/20 visible in the photo below (p202, Rodeike, 'Jagdflugzeug 190'). Oesau flew an A-5 'green 13' in JG 2 during May 1943 and was appointed Kommodore of JG 1 on 23 November 1943. Note the angled style of the figure '3', similar to the style seen on his FW 190 A-6, "green 13" WNr. 550171. Photos published in "German Fighters in the West" (Stipdonk/Meyer, JaPo 2022) show that particular aircraft with a red fuselage band and the new, ‘winged-1’ emblem of JG 1 on the engine cowling introduced by Oesau in January 1944.


ZG 1 Caudron C.445 with Wespe emblem

On offer here

Saturday 17 February 2024

5./KG 100 Heinkel He 177 A-5 and crew - archive photo scan #14


Via Ulf Balke collection.

Heinkel He 177 A-5/K.IV seen in or around May 1944 in II./KG 100 at Aalborg.  - in other words a He 177 A-5 fitted with Kehl IV equipment for launching stand-off weapons. Click on the image to view large.

Kehl IV allowed missions to be flown with either two Hs 293s (powered) or four Fritz X's (unpowered) in theory. A mix of both stand-off weapons was not possible. The Hs 293 was too large to fit on the wing centre section rack/lower fuselage rack.

II./KG 100 was the last operational He 177 anti-shipping unit. It actually only ever flew one operational mission and that - fortunately for them - did not result in contact with the enemy.

The aircraft appears to be WNr. 550131, 6N+DN of 5.Staffel (so spinners are red up to the section covering the prop blades). 

This aircraft was the first example of the second block of around 240 x He 177 A-5/K.IV Serie aircraft built by Arado, Brandenburg/Neuendorf (ArB) as W.Nr. 550 031 to 550 270. (The first Arado A-5 block was very small; just six as W.Nr. 550 001 to 550 006.) Stkz. is unknown.

This nose shot of another A-5 from II./KG 100 has been published in Balke ('Kampfgeschwader 100 Wiking') but the image there was reversed. Note the addition of the sealing tape to the large servicing panels in the fuselage sides behind the cockpit. 

Self-evidently, these scribble schemes were unique to the individual aircraft. It is, however, definitely another He 177 A-5/K.IV of II./KG 100 from the same period. No other He 177 unit carried this scheme which was essentially a quick and economical way of lightening up the dark factory finish. Because these aircraft were only going to have a reasonable chance of surviving a mission if attacks were performed at dusk and the return leg was flown by night,  the factory finish finish had to be lightened up very considerably. A little later the factory finish was changed over to one where the entire fuselage sides and tail fin were painted in a light colour eg see KG 40 in the summer of 1944.

There are a number of photos of this machine, clearly taken at some sort of special photo op - perhaps an 'Erinnerungsfoto' for the six-man crew in front of their aircraft. See the front cover photo of the Griehl+Dressel: He 177-277-274 (Motorbuch) below. Interestingly this machine appears to be parked up in the long grass - literally put out to grass perhaps...as indicated by the caption in the English-language edition of the Griehl/Dressel book..

Caption compiled with the kind assistance of  Ivon N Moore.

Also on this blog;

Wednesday 14 February 2024

1/Lt Walt Konantz 338th FS, 55th FG - archive photo scan #12


a few notes from 1/Lt Walt Konantz's logbook  (338th FS, 55th FG)

August 12, 1944;

- ground strafing and dive bombing in Nancy-Verdun area. Destroyed 15 ammunition rail cars and a city water tower. Aircraft badly damaged by flying debris from exploding ammo cars but made it back to base [..] knocked off propeller spinner ..

August 13;

-dive-bombing and strafing south of Paris. Hit a railroad station with my two 500 lb bombs and strafed a German staff car.

August 14;

-escort B-17s to Mannheim-Ludwigshaven area. Shot-up two locos on the way out.

August 15;

-escort B-17s to Venlo and Twente airfields. Flak hit one B-17 and he blew up with his bomb load.

August 25;

-escort B-17s to Politz synthetic oil refinery north-east of Berlin. Saw one B-17 go down in a vertical dive from flak over the target. Time logged 6 hrs 45

August 29;

- strafing in Germany just over the French border. Shot-up three trains, one of which was a long troop train. Train was moving fast when I raked it from the rear to the front and saw soldiers jumping out the windows. When it finally stopped I saw 50-60 people lying in the fields and ditches near the tracks.

September 11;

- escort B-17s to Ruhland. Just before we were due to rendez-vous with our bombers, our squadron of sixteen P-51s was bounced by about 60 Me 109s. They dove through our formation firing all the way. One passed right in front of me. I had been using the relief tube and had my shoulder harness, seat belt and chute leg straps undone. I chased after him at full throttle in a vertical power dive from 24,000 ft. I reached 600 mph on  the airspeed indicator. The Me 109 pulled out at 5,000 ft, ripped his right wing off and spun in and exploded. 

P-51D 44-72296 CL-P "Saturday Night " flown by 1/Lt Walt Konantz. Note heavily greyed out star and bars. Via 'Aces and Wingmen' author Danny Morris. Sadly, Danny passed away last October. Click on the image for full screen view

Saturday 10 February 2024

" Die Laval Affaire " - last flight of the Luftwaffe, July 1945

On 9 April (1945) the Luftwaffe General Italien reported 14 Ju 188 D-2s on the strength of 4.(F) and 6.(F)/122 of which 12 were serviceable, but by 22 April, these two Staffeln listed 11 Ju 188 D-2s on strength all but one of which was serviceable. They continued to conduct intermittent reconnaissance over the Adriatic. On the morning of 2 May, a Ju 188 of 4.(F)/122, apparently devoid of any national markings, flew the head of the Vichy regime, Pierre Laval, out of Bolzano to Barcelona in neutral Spain, effectively marking the end of Ju 188 operations in the theatre.  (Ju 188 Units, Osprey)

On 31 July 1945 -  nearly three months after the cessation of WWII - an 'unmarked'  Junkers Ju 188 unexpectedly appeared above the former Luftwaffe air base in Hörsching- Linz and landed.   The US 79th Fighter Group was occupying the field at the time  - astonished service personnel quickly gathered around the machine (below). And as it turned out, the aircraft had 'explosive' passengers on board: it was the former Vichy Prime Minister Pierre Laval and his wife, who were to be delivered to France from their "exile" in Spain. Laval had twice headed the cabinet of the Vichy government collaborating with the Germans. Not only responsible for the Vichy 'rafles' (round-ups) of French Jews, he had notoriously proclaimed in a speech broadcast on French radio during June 1942 "..Je souhaite la victoire de l'Allemagne, parce que, sans elle, le bolchevisme demain s'installerait partout.." -   I want to see Germany victorious in this war because unless there is a German victory, Bolshevism would become established everywhere tomorrow....

The Ju 188 D-1, WNr.230499, formerly 'F6+DM' of 4.(F)/AufklGr 122 landed in Austria  having flown in unannounced from Barcelona. This was the same machine that had carried Laval to Spain on or around 30 April 1945 displaying the civil registration D-CEDM. Laval was in Spain for three months until his visa expired. De Gaulle wanted him back in France to face trial and the Spanish were quick to give him up. The two pilots who had flown him out to Spain brought him and the Ju 188 into Linz. It was almost certainly one of the last flights of a Luftwaffe aircraft...Laval (along with Petain) was subsequently put on trial, received the death penalty and later executed. De Gaulle commuted the sentence handed out to Petain, his former mentor....

Sunday 4 February 2024

Hptm. Wilhelm Schmitter RK and his II./KG 40 Do 217 E & Me 410 V./KG 2 - Bundesarchiv photo report


Two recent posts have covered Do 217 'pirate' bombing raids and Me 410 intruder ops over England. Here is one pilot who flew both these missions. 

I was reminded (thank you Delmar!) that KG 2 was not the only Do 217 unit sending out lone 'pirate' missions against factory and industrial targets in southern England during early 1943. A closer reading of Chris Goss' Dornier Do 217 titles (Osprey Combat Aircraft No. 139 or the Crecy Classic volume) would have told me as much of course. This image - labelled by the ECPA-D only as ' KG 2 Eindhoven or Soesterberg, March 1943 '  shows the same aircraft that can be seen on p 38 of the Classic title  - ie a KG 40 machine, possibly flown by Oblt. Wilhelm Schmitter of the Stab II./KG 40, seen taxying in at Soesterberg. The pilot at the controls may be Schmitter in his 'F8+BC' with the decorated tailfin.

Below; another  view of a KG 40 Do 217 E taxying in. Note the unit code 'F8+ ??' appears in small letters at the base of the port tail fin. There are no codes on the fuselage. Note white outline Balkenkreuz (the Osprey title shows this as dark grey?)

A Bundesarchiv search turned up several more images (again, thank you Delmar!) - simply and not very helpfully labelled, " Belgien/Nordfrankreich.- Ritterkreuzträger vor Flugzeug Dornier Do 217" This is Schmitter wearing his Ritterkreuz awarded for some 170 bombing missions in front of his overall pale blue-grey 76 Do 217 E-4. Photo dates from early 1943. 

A pre-war pilot who flew as a Seeaufklärer before becoming a bomber pilot, Schmitter was awarded the Ritterkreuz in September 1942 and promoted to Hptm. in March 1943 and appointed StaKa of 5./KG 40. Later that month II./KG 40 converted onto the Me 410 and became V./KG 2. Schmitter was shot down over the UK on the night of 8 November 1943 and received a posthumous Eichenlaub and promotion to Major.

Below; Schmitter (left) in front of his Do 217 with his veteran crew, Uffz. Wagner (BO), Fw. Krohn (BM) and Fw. Heinz Gräber (BF) seen far right. Between 14 February 1942 and 16 July 1942 Schmitter flew over 45 bombing raids against England, hitting targets in Southampton, Birmingham, Norwich, Middlesborough, Sunderland and most notably Leamington Spa, when he was injured by return fire. In the period 31 May - 6 June Schmitter hit (my home town of) Canterbury on three night raids - these were part of the Luftwaffe's terror bombing campaign, the so-called 'Baedeker offensive' - short, sharp attacks on towns and cities better known for their cathedrals and other historic buildings than for any military or war industry connection. The damage inflicted and the story of these night attacks still forms part of the official Canterbury city guided tour - it is said that a Luftwaffe pilot deliberately avoided dropping his bombs on the cathedral (today a Unesco world heritage site).

Just over one year later, on the night of 10/11 August 1943  - II./KG 40 having been redesignated V./KG 2 - Schmitter, as Staffelkapitän of  15./KG 2 briefly based in Vendeville and then Epinoy, flew his first sortie over England at the controls of  a Me 410 ('U5+AJ'). This was a so-called 'Störangriff' or 'nuisance' bombing raid aimed at airfields around Cambridge. Schmitter's radioman was his Dornier BF Ofw. Heinz Gräber.( above right). Barely a fortnight later (on the night of 23-24 August) Schmitter's Me 410 was badly shot-up by RAF night fighters somewhere off the coast of East Anglia. The pilot managed to keep the machine (Me 410 A-1, 420214, 'U5+CF') in the air with both engines apparently on fire before the crew eventually had to bail out, coming down in the North Sea some eight miles off the coast of Belgium. After 90 minutes in the water both men were rescued by a Kriegsmarine vessel from Zeebrugge. Gräber had sustained serious injuries (leg amputation) but later received a Ritterkreuz. During the sortie and over the King's Lynn area (40 miles north of Cambridge) Schmitter had shot down a 97 Sqd Lancaster returning from a raid on Berlin. He was credited with his 4th victory.

The full story of Schmitter's career and his subsequent demise (KIA 8 November 1943, shot down by an RAF Mosquito near Eastbourne) is brilliantly told on the aufhimmelzuhause web site here 

Saturday 3 February 2024

new and forthcoming Luftwaffe books - Eastern Front 1945


" For the first time, this book outlines how air power helped win the war on the Eastern Front..[..].. the VVS assembled 7,500 aircraft in three powerful air armies to support the final assault on Berlin, while the worn-down Luftwaffe threw its last and most advanced weapons into the fight..."

"Eastern Front 1945" is the latest title in the Osprey Campaign series and is written by an Eastern Front expert William E. Hiestand. His text essentially leans on the best bits of Duffy and Glanz/House ('When Titans Clashed' ) to detail what was primarily a ground-based campaign for the capture of Berlin. He writes that 'information on the air campaign is limited and scattered among a variety of works' and appears to have compiled his text largely from Bergstrom, Price and a selection of Osprey works. So while there are good passages with neat diagrams of the Mistel attacks on the key bridges over the Oder and Neisse rivers, you get the usual, 'the Bf 109 first fought in the Spanish civil war..' etc etc. What, for example, was the point of discussing the career of the He 177 on p28 in the chapter 'Defender's Capabilities'? I'm pretty sure the He 177 took no part in countering the Soviet offensive against Berlin in 1945. So why bother when you only have 96 pages to work with ? The 'campaign' itself doesn't get underway until page 38! There's no room for Bautzen or Budapest, the author covers only East Prussia, the Baltic and Berlin. 'Berlin- the final offensive' starts on p68. The last part-chapter 'The Battle for the Reichstag' mentions some of the last Luftwaffe (resupply) sorties flown into Berlin and the von Greim and Hanna Reitsch mission to the Bunker gets the usual coverage. In between there's the 'usual' (Bergstrom-inspired?) 'Luftwaffe-regained-air-superiority' in the East during February 1945- there are some stats to indicate that the Luftwaffe flew over one thousand sorties on one day in late January but was soon down to its last fifteen hundred operational aircraft, including a suicide unit of some one hundred aircraft (Sondergruppe A) attached to Fiebig's Luftwaffenkommando Nordost supporting Army Group Vistula. There are some interesting text boxes that feature the Soviet air assault on Konigsberg (a 'fortress'), Khozedub's downing of an Me 262 on 19 February 1945 and Hans Rudel's downing on the Oder front that resulted in his leg injury. Apparently he subsequently "escaped to Argentina after the war " (perhaps better would have been 'escaped the wrath of Stalin by surrendering to the Americans and emigrating to Argentina in 1948'). Unfortunately Hiestand's text was marred by some terrible typos throughout. To pick a sentence at random; " one air group of JG 4 was equipped with the heavily armed Sturmbach version of the Fw 190 " ...what the hell is a 'Sturmbach' ?  At least the word 'Sturmbock' features correctly on p24. And since when has the French wartime leader been called "de Gaul"  ?? The photo selection is not very inspiring to be honest. The unidentified 'Fw 190 squadron' photo on p48 is a well known shot of II./JG 300 machines equipped with the Krebs-geraet rearwards-firing rocket, briefly toted during 1944 in the West..  Bizarrely JG 300 get no mention at all in the text (or captions). The image on p51 depicts Ju 88s parked in the forest along the Autobahn at Brunnthal in Bavaria. The photo of the 'Luftwaffe Bf 109 fighter' on p42 shows a square-winged Emil silhouetted in the sky with yellow cowl dating from the Battle of Britain period while the caption says something about '.. typical cloudy grey skies on the Eastern Front..' So this part of the book is a little disappointing. However the eleven pages given over to the maps, diagrams and tables are well-done and there are six pages of superb Jim Laurier artwork.  But why oh why do Osprey insist on printing it over two pages where most of the image is lost in the tight binding? Haven't they received enough complaints about this practise by now?  Anyway, given that you have to spend your Christmas book token on something in Waterstones, this title is well worth picking up. 

More new titles listed in the order of their likely appearance, starting with the new caraktere 'special issue' on JG 77, a new Luftwaffe book from Jans Forsgren on the Me 110 via Fonthill and concluding with two eagerly anticipated books from Mortons and another new Osprey in the Dogfight series (!) from the prolific Robert Forsyth!

Valiant Wings Heinkel He 177 - publishers blurb; " .. Our twentieth title in the Airframe Album series will be an essential reference for any Luftwaffe enthusiast and anyone tackling the Revell kit or other kits in 1/72nd and 1/48th scale. Our biggest Airframe Album to date - 192+ pages!

The Heinkel He 177 Greif contains:

A wealth of historical and walkaround photographs and detail images of the type including data from flight manuals and spare parts catalogues
Period detail images & diagrams during production and service use
Isometric views by Wojciech Sankowski of all prototype, production and test airframes
Concise camouflage and marking notes
Colour profiles and stencil diagram by Richard J. Caruana
Detailed build of the Revell 1/72nd He 177A-5 by Libor Jekl
Lists of all He 177 kits, accessories, decals & masks produced in all scales
Front cover artwork by Arkadiusz Wrobel

From Lela Presse, a French-language history of the Siebel Si 204 in French service and the French derivatives the NC 700, 701 and 702 Martinet aircraft. More than 350 aircraft of this type served in the French air forces until the mid-1960s. The origins of the 'Martinet' resulted from the heavy constraints weighing on the French aeronautical industry at the end of the Second World War: the most effective solution to provide the forces with an essential liaison  and training  type was to continue - with a change of name and some modifications- manufacturing the Siebel 204 D. The Martinet can thus trace its lineage to the German Kl 104, Fh 104 then Si 204. The SI 204 D was in service with the Luftwaffe in 1940 for the training of front line aircrews. In Bourges, during the occupation, the Société Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques du Center (SNCAC) produced 168 Siebel 204s for the Wehrmacht. With the liberation, production continued under the name NC 700 then NC 701, these models being differentiated by French propellers and engines. A version dedicated to the transport of 8 to 10 passengers  was also built under the designation NC 702, recognizable by its unglazed nose. Under the name Martinet, the NC 700, 701 and 702 joined the units of the Air Force, but also those of the French naval air arm while some Siebel 204s were taken over from German stocks and also assigned to French units. NC 701s flew in the French colonial conflicts in Indochina and then in North Africa, carrying out medi-vac and passenger transport duties. The training of pilots in twin-engine flight and of radio navigators  were also among the important roles carried out by the “Martinet”. This huge 448-page work features some 600 photos and 80 colour profiles.