Wednesday 31 March 2010

Me 262s of III./JG 7 undergo maintenance at Brandenburg-Briest, April 1945

Atmospheric shots taken from a German TV 'doku' depict Me 262 jet fighters of III./JG 7 undergoing maintenance at Brandenburg-Briest, April 1945. The aircraft  seen in the first few frames is a Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a of 11./JG7 parked off the runway at Brandenburg-Briest.

Groundcrew glad in their ubiquitous black overalls attend to the 30 mm MK 108 cannon in the nose of 11./JG 7's 'White 8' prior to another sortie from Brandenburg-Briest in the spring of 1945.

Note the unusual 'tortoise shell' camouflage finish and the green tactical number '2' barely discernible under the JG 7 'running fox' emblem on the nose of the aircraft. This machine is displaying the chevron and bar of the Geschwader Operations Officer although may have been flown by the Kommodore Mjr. Weissenberger. It is not known if this aircraft belonged to the Gruppenstab of the III. Gruppe or had been assigned to the Geschwaderstab. Note the Stab command makings on the rear fuselage are those from the Gruppenstab. However there is no III. Gruppe vertical bar present. Why this aircraft should be wearing a combination of Geschwader and Gruppe markings is uncertain. Similar screen shots were also used by Robert Forsyth in his Osprey JG7 title.

Oblt. Franz von Werra - Battle of Britain ace ?

Best known as 'The one who got away' Franz von Werra had made a number of attempts to 'escape' while held in the UK. He was subsequently transferred to a prison camp in Canada. However he didn't exactly 'escape' from detention there - in fact he was able to alight from the train taking him to a POW camp. This was in April 1941. According to his own account he then paddled a small boat across the St. Lawrence with his bare hands. 

Von Werra was the third German serviceman to have crossed to the neutral US by this stage of the war but the 'von' in his name ensured the US press would fill column inches with the 'Baron's' 'story'. While the US authorities did plan on sending him back to Canada, the German embassy in NYC hurriedly organised his onward travel to Mexico and south America. However 'von' Werra was not a German or even a 'von' at all. He was born to impoverished Swiss parents, the 'de Werras' and 'sold' to his adoptive German parents (cf. Wilfried Meichtry). His motives for 'escaping' were rather less than 'heroic' - according to Burt Leasor's book & the film based on it, the British had apparently told fellow inmates about his considerable tally of false claims - specifically five Hurricanes shot up on the ground on 28 August 1940 during a sortie where he claimed four aerial victories - all these claims were apparently accepted by his superiors, specifically Oblt. Sannemann and Hptm. von Selle, without witness statements - and needless to say were false. His 'determination' to escape may have been at least partially motivated by the possibility of his fellow German POWs taking a very dim view of his 'fraud'. Author Robert Michulec in Greenhill's 'Luftwaffe Aces' describes him as the 'greatest liar of the Jagdwaffe aces'..

The official Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report (which can be found in Air 22/266 at the Public Records Office) is as follows, courtesy David Bryant:
"21/4 Me.109 WNr 1480
Force landed at Love’s Farm, Marden, Kent on 5/9. Markings black outlined in white. Crest: Shield U-shaped, outlined in red, divided into 8 segments coloured black and white. Wing tips and rudder painted white. Camouflage all blue. Fuselage all blue. Spinner divided into alternate black and white sectors. Fitted with DB601A engines made by Mercedes Benz werk nr.10598. Aircraft force landed following fighter action. Condition reported to be very good. Standard armament two 20mm. cannon and two MG17s. Starboard wing shows many .303 strikes." 

 A note on the 'white nose' seen in so much artwork of this machine. Logic suggests the cowling would have been noted as being white if such had been the case - given that the wing tips and rudder were noted as being white. So the assumption, based on photographic evidence showing the cowling as lighter than the RLM 65 behind it, is that it is a "fresh" RLM 65 or even a RLM 76. 

Below; a close-up extract from a good quality print, ie not the poor quality repro above. This clearly shows the fuselage 'blue' does not resemble at all the white seen on the spinner....

Von Werra was awarded the RK later in the year, although his victory tally - even inflated - was well short of the usual total required to earn the coveted award. Von Werra replaced Oblt. Wilfried Balfanz as Kommandeur I./JG 53 and was promoted to Hauptmann. He achieved his first victory on the Eastern Front on July 6, 1941 and a view of his rudder scoreboard towards the end of July 1941 shows some 40 Abschussbalken - his claims ultimately bore little relation to his credited victory total. He left Russia in mid-August 1941 to get married.

Hubertus von Bonin Fw 190 ace of JG 54

Hubertus von Bonin was born in Potsdam on 3 August 1911. He was killed in action on 15 December 1943 near Gorodok in a fight with Soviet P-39 Airacobras. Bonin was credited wth shooting down 77 enemy aircraft. The majority of his victories were claimed over the Eastern front, starting with 4 victories in Spain while flying with Legion Condor. His commands included Geschwaderkommodore of JG 54. His brother Jürgen-Oskar von Bonin was killed in action as an observer in a transport Geschwader while another brother Major Eckart-Wilhelm von Bonin, Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross recipient, was a 37 kill night fighter ace and survived the war.

Erich Hartmann JG 52 - 352 victories ..or 80 ? (last edited August 2016) Russian research Dimitri Khazanov

WW II 'Ace of aces' is Erich Hartmann. His victory toal of '352' confirmed kills has assumed legendary status - but is probably some way from the actual number of aerial victories achieved by Hartmann. The figure of '352' was probably first presented as his 'official' victory total in Toliver's 'Blond Knight..', a book that was written at the height of the Cold War.

 In the words of one historian 'Blond Knight' "..offered little research, nothing from Russian archives and no bibliography..".***

Most researchers appear to have rather discounted it in any discussion of Hartmann's record. Since the the late 1960s some have attempted to look a little more critically at Hartmann's record and a recent article by Russian researcher Dimitri Khazanov went much further. If Khazanov has an agenda, it is nonetheless the case that certain statements he makes regarding Hartmann's total are valid.

Firstly German archives are themselves contradictory. Indeed only 289 of Hartmann's 'victories' were in fact 'officially confirmed' before the German claims sytem broke down in early 1945. Secondly, only 307 of his supposed claims had even been 'officially' filed before the end of the war.. As is well known the initial months of combat on the Russian front were significant for huge losses of men and matériel on the Russian side. For each German aircraft lost the VVS (Red Air Force) lost ten primarily as a result of superior training, combat experience gained in the West, and significantly superior combat aircraft performance. However none of these factors explain the phenomenal results apparently achieved by Erich Hartmann. His war began as the tide was already turning in the East, with Soviet industry turning out ever more modern aircraft and the German armies on the defensive in every sector.  Hartmann's chief 'tactic' involved catching lone Soviet aircraft unawares far behind the front lines, with only a wing man's statement to support his claim. This goes someway to explaining the disparity with Soviet records. Hartmann would often claim three or even five Soviet a/c shot down on a sortie. Khazanov concludes ;" (..) Hartmann's actual successes probably amounted to no more than 70 to 80 Soviet aircraft shot down..." He continues... "It is therefore not incorrect to state that the scores of other famous JG 52 aces are likely to have been largely superior to Hartmann's, given that the evidence for his victory claims is much more unreliable than that for other pilots such as Barkhorn and Rall (..) This has much to do with Hartmann's tactic of catching lone Soviet aircraft unawares far behind the front lines, with only a wing man's statement to support his claim and goes someway to explaining the disparity with Soviet records since aircraft lost in this way were recorded as missing in action and not as shot down in combat..."

The debate is currently raging yet again on various forums (..and again, on TOCH during May 2016)

 Few contributors appear to have read Khazanov's material which was presented first in an article published by French magazine 'Le Fana de l'Aviation'. Khazanov's 'research' as presented in the article mentions several occasions when Hartmann claimed multiple victories and where the VVS suffered few or no losses at all. A number of such cases were detailed by Khazanov;

* 29.05.1944: During the Soviet air strike against the Romanian airbase of Novela, Erich Hartmann claimed three "LaGG-7s" (La-5s) shot down. In fact, the Soviet 5 VA did suffer losses - three Il-2, but the 302 IAD, which provided escort for the attack and was equipped with the La-5FN, did not suffer any losses ..

* 4.06.1944:  on this date during the fourth sortie of the day, Hartmann and his wingman Birkner were jumped by two Airacobras, with Hartmann shooting down both P-39s. Khazanov determined that they would have been the Airacobras flown by Mayor B. B. Gakhaet and Leytenant Nikolay L. Trofimov of the famous 16 GIAP. Both Airacobras returned home "..without a scratch! "

* 4.07.1944: Hartmann claimed three Il-2s north of Yassy, which were attacking German artillery positions. The formation attacked by Hartmann were 12 Il-2s of the 2 ShAK led by Leytenant Frolov, but they lost only one Shturmovik, which made a belly-landing in Soviet-held territory.

* 24.08.1944:  on this day Hartmann claimed his victories Nos.299 to 303 over the Soviet beachhead of Sandomierz across the Vistula river - all four were P-39s. The only unit equipped with Aircobras providing cover to Sandomierz were from the elite 9 GIAD led by Polkovnik Aleksandr Pokryshkin -  they sustained no losses in air combat that day. One Soviet P-39 pilot was reported missing after becoming separated from his comrades, "...who could have been downed by Hartmann. But at most Hartmann could score only one victory that day, never four...."

On 20 August 1943 Hartmann himself was shot down: according to his account (in Toliver), he dispatched two Il-2s before being hit by anti-aircraft fire. He managed to belly-land and was captured for a short period of time (later he evaded). In fact Khazanov was able to determine, that according to  Soviet records, what Hartmann attacked was a group of Shturmoviks of the 232 ShAP. One of the Il-2 pilots, Leytenat Pavel Evdokimov, saw a "Messer" jump his comrade V. Ermakov, who , firing at close range managed to put a 20-mm burst into the Bf.109, which performed a belly-landing - this was Hartmann's Bf.109 G-6. No Il-2 were lost by 232 ShAP that day, although two were damaged. Once again, Hartmann's "kills" were overclaims (even when in this case both were in good faith). And he was not downed by flak, but by Shturmovik pilot Pavel Evdokimov.

Khazanov conceeds that indeed Hartmann was a dangerous opponent, crediting him with at least two victories against Soviet aces: on 16.10.1943 he shot down the La-5 of Starshiy Leytenant Ivan Nikitovich Sytov (30 victories, 5 GIAP), and on 1.03.1945 the Yak-9 of Kapitan Sergey Ivanovich Lazarev (728 IAP, 256 IAD), but not before Lazarev shot down his the Bf.109G-14 of Hartmann's wingman G. Kapito (Lazarev's victory No.26)..."

And so on and so forth. I should also point out that Khazanov gives no indication of how or why he arrives at a final victory total of " 70 to 80 "for Hartmann..his article is simply not detailed enough and he presents evidence from Soviet archives for only a handful of dates. However his research does not appear to be motivated by 'political' considerations -he does after all praise Rall and Barkhorn.

Yet it was these two officers who persuaded Hartmann back into the Federal German Air Force post-war. Hans Ring and Jean-Yves Lorant responded to Khazanov's article in a later issue of 'Air Magazine' - both make the simple point that such 'over-claiming', if that was what Hartmann was doing, would not have been tolerated for long by Hartmann's comrades in JG 52. Nor would he have been welcomed into the Bundesluftwaffe if he was somehow 'tainted' ....

Khazanov concludes ."..Hartmann never enjoyed the reputation among his comtempories accorded Mölders or Galland...."

**** from 'The Myth of the Eastern Front' (Smelser/Davies, Cambridge University Press, 2008);

".. The 'Blond Knight of Germany' is a "hallmark of romanization", with its "insidious" title suggesting medieval chivalry that not only fails to characterize the conduct of the German Army in the East, but, indeed, marks its opposite.."

More articles on Erich Hartmann on this blog;

His last Bf109s;

New photo of Hartmann's last G-10

Bomber ace Franz Gapp - Ju 88 LG 1 & Me 262 KG (J) ace

Text written by Neil Page

Born in Erbach near Ulm in 1919 into a large family (six children) of modest means, Gapp was to count future ace pilot Anton Hafner among his schol pals and had an uncle who held a private pilots license. A member of the Flieger-HJ, Gapp joined the nascent Luftwaffe in early 1937 after his Reichsarbeitdienst and became a gunner/radio operator on Ju87s with I./Stuka 165 at Kitzingen. He started basic pilot training in November 1938 at the FFS /AB Straubing and passed out on multi-engined aircraft at Zeltweg ;

" on 18 February 1940 I was shifted to the bomber training school at Thorn where I flew the Do17, He 111, Ju 52 and Ju 86. My crew consisted of Alfons Ehrne (observer), Hans Heckman (radio operator) and Georg Schüler (gunner). We were to fly together until mid-1944 ".

During 1940 Gapp passed his Blindflugscheine and flew the Ju 88 for the first time with IV./LG1 at Greifswald.

 "..It was here that I met my future wife. As she was a civilian employee at the Air Ministry in Berlin we were always able to stay in contact during my many operational postings, whether I was in Africa, Sicily or the Crimea. A simple phone call to the Air Ministry would usually find her at her post.."

Gapp's crew was finally ready for their initial combat deployment during February 1941 and took charge of Ju 88 GN+OZ at München-Riem on Feb 14 , ferrying the aircraft directly to Sicily. There they were assigned to 8./LG 1, a Staffel led by the young Oblt. Hermann Hogeback. After two or three acclimatisation flights the new crew were deployed on anti-submarine duties during March and April 1941.

During June 1943 Gapp married in Berlin, before taking up a posting as an instructor with IV./KG 6 at Brétigny under Kommandeur Schlaumeyer. Gapp was to lead his charges on formation training flights as far north as the Thames estuary to acclimatise his young crews to the searchlights and ack-ack of the British defenses !! During September 1943 he was awarded the Ritterkreuz for his long distinguished service, presented to him by none other than the Kommodore of KG 6 Hermann Hogeback, Gapp's first Staffelkapitän. During November and December 1943 Gapp and five other crews were seconded to fly night and day sorties out of Bordeaux-Mérignac. IV./KG 6 shifted back to Germany during February 1944 and ceased all training activities following D-Day. During this period Gapp and his crew carried out often menial ground duties. Gapp was posted to the new KG(J) under Oberst Hogeback and flew a number of sorties at the controls of a Me 262. Gapp survived the war having flown over 400 operational missions in most Luftwaffe bomber and fighter types. Among his awards were the Deutsche Kreuz in Gold (21 August 1942)and the Goldene Frontflugspange. Joining the fledgling Bundesluftwaffe in 1956 he went on to become a test pilot on the joint French/German C160 Transall programme during the sixties. He retired from the air force in 1971 and at the time of writing still lives in Bavaria.

More on Hogeback and the KG (J) units

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Bf109 Friedrichs of JG54

Messerschmitt Me 109 (mit Kennzahl 7) features the Staffelabzeichen of 8./J.G.54 and the emblem of III./JG 54 and an interesting Tarnanstrich (camo scheme). Note also the score on the rudder (click on the image for a larger view)

Also on this blog;

Doras of III./JG54

Friedrichs of Philipp and Trautloft

Unknown aces & pilots of Jagdgeschwader 52 - Anapa, Kertsch, Kuban, Maikop

Seen in the middle of this snapshot (above) is Lt. Rudolf Miethig RK-holder & Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 52. RK awarded on 29.10.1942. Miethig crashed to his death on 10 June 1943 after colliding with a Yak 1 and losing a wing. It was his 101st Luftsieg.

  Seen on the left is 6./JG 52 pilot Uffz Franz Apfelthaler, at least 4 Luftsiege and survived the war. Middle Walter Krupinski RK and alongside him, Ogfr. Kurt Müller? at least 1 Abschuß, KIA on 19 February 1945. Photo taken in Maikop 1942

  Luftwaffe Flugzeugführer 6./JG 52 Ogfr. Heinz Otte. Shot down over Kertsch during 1943 and taken captive. Survived the war.

  Luftwaffe Flugzeugführer 5./JG 52 Lt. später Oblt Helmut Haberda shot down and killed on 8 May 1943 in Krymskaja/Rußland after being hit by ground fire. Returned a total of 58 Luftsiege. Seen here in January 1942 in Rostow Luftwaffe Flugzeugführer 6./JG 52 Oblt Ernst Quasinowski in Ljuban 1941. Wounded on 11 June 1942, achieved at least 5 Luftsiege.

  Luftwaffe Flugzeugführer 6./JG 52 Fw Theodor Mohr seen following his bale out over the Kuban Brückenkopf (bridgehead) during the summer of 1942. Had achieved at least two air victories. Wounded on 11.4.1944

  Casual snapshot taken on a trip out from Anapa June 1943. From the left, Uffz. Friedrich Barnickel. 9 Luftsiege, survived the war, Lt. Ludwig Kuhn, Lt. Helmut Lipfert (RK + EL), Lt. Heinz Sachsenberg (RK on 9.6.1944 in total 104 Luftsiege), Fw. Heinz Pilz, 28 Luftsiege, Lt. Ferdinand Klassen, 20 Luftsiege KIA on 22.4.44, Uffz. Franz Apfelthaler, 4 Luftsiege survived the war.


Hptm Helmut Lipfert (RK + EL) Staffelkapitän of 6./JG52 pictured with comrades on the occasion of his marriage in 1944 in Krakau. Lipfert achieved some 203 Luftsiege. Figure on the left is Wilhelm Batz


Sunday 21 March 2010

Finnish Bf109 ace Ilmari Juutilainen

A selection of video grabs depicting Finnish ace Ilmari Juutilainen preparing for a sortie. Juutilainen was the top scoring Finnish fighter pilot of WWII. Flying Fokker D.XXI, Brewster Buffalo and Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, he was twice awarded the highest Finnish military decoration, the Mannerheim Cross, and is considered the highest scoring non-German ace of all time.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Bf109 cockpit video

RAF pilot Paul Day discusses the cockpit of the Bf 109 - his comments are based essentially around a comparison with the Spitfire. Chief weaknesses appear to be the canopy framing and opening and the generally cramped working room and consequent lack of leverage obtainable on the stick..

Saturday 13 March 2010

Captured Fw 190- Fw 190 walkaround

The following images are taken from the Life magazine archive. This machine is likely FE-125 /T2-125 Fw190G-3 WNr.160016 ex DN+FP. This particular ex III./SKG 10 Fw190G-3 was on display with other German and Japanese aircraft as well as experimental US aircraft at the Army's Technical Command Center at Akron, Ohio - Wright Field from October 13 - 21, 1945. Approximately 200,000 Americans viewed the show on Saturday and 300,000 on Sunday. In addition, high ranking personnel from 26 other countries visited the display including Soviet Lieutenant General Rudenko, Colonel Sir Vivian Gabriel from the British Command and several American Aces. German magazine Jet & Prop Issue published a report on the exhibition entitled 'Vor 46 Jahren in Ohio: Kriegsbeute-Schau und amerikanishe Exoten' in their 3/91 issue (see colour image).

Friday 12 March 2010

'Red 19' Uffz Ernst Schröder Sturmgruppe 5./JG 300

Questions about this machine regularly crop up on modelling forums. Here's a couple of photos I posted on in response to just one such query regarding the camouflage finish of Schröder's Fw 190. 'Red 19' ( WNr. 172733 ) was the regular aircraft of Uffz Ernst Schröder of 5./JG 300 from about August through to November 1944 which was pretty unusual for that time frame. Produced by Focke Wulf in Cottbus during May or June 1944 this machine was produced as a six MG gun Jägerausführung or fighter variant Schröder's Staffel generally flew top-cover for the Sturmgruppe and the pilot would also have preferred to remove the outer MG 151/20 cannon, " but this was strictly prohibited .."  This machine was not equipped with the Mk 108 3-cm cannon. A red Rotbraun 45 Reichsverteidigung fuselage band was applied to this machine during its 25-hour Check or Kontrolle. Rotbraun 45 red oxide primer paint was also applied to the bolts which attached the armoured ring to the front of the cowl. The Kölle alaaf (Kölnisch dialect for 'Cologne is Alive') inscription on the fuselage side is here missing its exclamation mark. The canopy is missing the Antenneumlenkrolle antenna tensioning device so that the aerial wire hung slack along the fuselage with the canopy open. Note a photo of the starboard side of the aircraft taken in November 1944 has the inscription Edelgard under the cockpit, Schröder's girlfriend at the time.

This is my translation of Schröder's own account of his first combat sortie, 8 August 1944

"...Takeoff from Holzkirchen at 10:45. As I was untested in combat, I had been designated to fly as number two, or wingman to Fahnenjunker-Oberfeldwebel Richard Löfgen, who was leading our Sturmgruppe on this sortie. I therefore found myself at the controls of “Red 12” flying in the lead Schwarm. The Gruppe had been able to put a good twenty or so Fw 190s in the air. The weather was fine, the sky virtually cloudless.I recall that we were airborne for quite some time, reaching a height of more than 6,000 meters, which meant that we had to clip on our oxygen masks. Changes of track relayed by Jagddivision (Döberitz?) came loud and clear over the frequency. Finally, after flying for an hour and a half, we were informed that the “fat cars” would soon be in sight. I kept a constant look out, in so far as I was able while maintaining position as the number 2 to the Verbandsführer. We were flying the typical close-knit — and quite restrictive — formation characteristic of the Sturmgruppen. It was imperative to keep station. For an instant I caught sight of a contrail at much higher altitude. It was impossible to know if this was a friendly aircraft or not. It wasn’t long before the information and the orders being transmitted over the radio became more insistent: “You should be able to see the fat cars!” Suddenly I saw our prize: 25 or 30 B 17 bombers, a little off to the right in an oblique line that was as straight as a die, five hundred meters below us. Most of them had a bare-metal aluminium finish, others were camouflaged. On their current track they would cut across our path. It was like watching a gigantic aerial flypast. I instinctively made myself small in the cockpit, imagining, in my fervor as an unfledged fighter pilot, that they had seen us and that hundreds of machine guns were about to open up on us! But nothing of the sort happened and the Americans plowed on below us, unperturbed by our presence. What a majestic sight these enormous aircraft were as they streamed their mostly long trails of condensation behind them.For a moment I wondered why Löfgen had not wheeled down and around to the right to attack them in a dive. And then I realized… bloody hell! Another “Mahalla” was heading towards us, at a slightly higher altitude than the previous formation. Once again we let these bombers pass by below us. I immediately caught sight of a third box, flying more or less at our own altitude. Stretching way back into the distance were yet more boxes of bombers one behind the other, specks that took on the appearance of a swarm of gnats…Suddenly all hell broke loose. The terse order “jettison drop tanks!” came through the earphones, and in the second that followed, numerous pale blue auxiliary tanks went tumbling down into the void. Löfgen had just peeled away, bunting over to the right and was diving between the box of Flying Fortresses that had just gone past below us and the following box which was looming — menacingly — ever larger. I tightened my turn a little to keep close to our number one. I now kept my eyes fixed on him, which meant that I couldn’t watch what was happening around us. Then, exactly 1,500 meters ahead of us, I counted 25 B 17s. Despite being well out of range at this enormous distance, their gunners opened up. The sky was suddenly streaked with thousands of sparkling pearls. Or at least this is how the tracers appeared in the dazzling blue sky. I was instantly reminded of the games that we played as children in our garden and how my brother Helmut would love to try and turn the water hose on me! Thousands of bright, sparkling drops just seconds from sluicing down on me. But I could only throw the briefest of glances forward, forced to keep station on Löfgen’s wing, and anxious, above anything else, not to collide with him.Another order came over the radio: “Pauke, Pauke, auf sieee, Rabazanella!” I had to pick out a bomber immediately. I quickly switched on the gunsight and flicked off the armament safety switch. I almost forgot in my excitement! It was then that I felt intense fear, expecting to be hit at any moment. My bomber was still a respectable distance away, his wings not yet filling the graticule of my Revi. I shot a glance to my left. Löfgen had already opened up, all guns blazing. The Boeing rapidly loomed large in my sight and I opened fire. I saw several flashes up ahead. Were these the impacts of my shells or the gunners returning fire? It was impossible to tell. There were more flashes in the tail gunner’s position and on the rudder. This time my bursts had clearly raked him. The great bulk of the “thing” had assumed imposing proportions, it was time to break off. But how, above or underneath? I unleashed a final salvo, and for a fraction of a second, thought I glimpsed the fuselage ablaze. The tail gunner’s compartment appeared enormous. I rammed the stick forward, flashing past underneath the bomber, pulling negative Gs as I rolled several times while diving headlong before taking stock of what was happening around me. A short while prior to the attack I had seen a very large city off on my starboard side, which from a height of 8,000 meters was laid out like the pattern on an antique ornamental carpet. This could only have been the capital of the Reich — Berlin. Consequently there would be numerous airfields in the area.The constant craning back and forth, to and fro, as I surveyed the sky all around me, had started to make my neck hurt. There was not a single aircraft, either friendly or enemy, in my field of vision. It was time to ease my 190 out of its crazy plunge earthwards. By the time I had leveled out, my altimeter was indicating around 800 meters..."

Schröder had a number of victories over P-51 Mustangs before the events of the 27 September 1944, the so-called 'Kassel catatrophe', the decimation of the 37 B-24 Liberators of the 445th BG, the highest one day loss of any bombardment group in the 8th Air Force. Flying in the third wave of attacking Sturm machines he shot down two 445th BG B-24 Liberators. These were his only Viermot victories.

This machine was 'lost' on 27 November 1944 when Schröder was forced to belly land after a dogfight at low altitude with a P-51. The aircraft was eventually repaired and returned to service with JG 301.

Friday 5 March 2010

Lt. Wolfgang Fischer I./JG2

Grub Street are publishing Wolfgang Fischer's memoir (translated by John Weal). A few years ago I translated an extract from Fischer's memoir which appeared in the Kagero monograph series on the Fw 190. Fischer was a pilot in I./JG2 at the time of the Normandy landings in June 1944 but he had in fact volunteered for service within weeks of war being declared. Over the course of the following years leading up to D-Day he was given a succession of postings; long-range recce unit, a decoder in a met office in occupied France; bomber Geschwader, flying instructor before being posted to the Richthofen Geschwader in Italy, from where he was shot down in his FW 190 by Mustangs en route to Normandy. By now a Leutnant, he survived to fly offensive rocket attacks over Gold Beach on D-Day, only to be shot down again on D + 1. He was taken captive and sent first to a hospital in the UK, then into captivity in the USA. He was finally repatriated in April 1946. His description of all these events is entertaining and well-written, ranging from comic to tragic.

On 6 June the Allied air forces flew 14,674 combat sorties in support of the D-day landings, while the Luftwaffe managed just 319.

I./JG 2 was nearest fighter Gruppe to the Allied beachheads based in Cormeilles-en-Vexin sixty km from the coast.

Lt Wolfgang Fischer of 3./JG 2 described the sortie he flew;

" we were woken at 04h30 and taken to the airfield from the hotels in the town (Nancy) where we were quartered. We were airborne a short while later and flew to Creil (north of Paris) at around 05h00 to have our Fw 190s fitted with underwing rocket launchers. We took off again at 09h30 to strafe shipping off 'Gold' beach. There was 7/10 cloud cover as we overflew the Seine estuary, which allowed us to close on our targets and launch our rockets. We could see a huge number of enemy fighters orbiting over the landing beaches. My rockets probably scored a direct hit on a "Victory" class troop landing vessel...we fled the scene and returned to Chamant near Senlis (south of Creil )after this sortie.."

JG 2 clashed with Allied aircraft towards middday. At 11.57 Kommodore JG 2 Major Bühligen shot down a P-47 near the Orne estuary. A major battle took place in the afternoon, when ground attack Typhoons were encountered near Caen. Four of them fell in a few minutes' fight. Two more Typhoons were brought down by evening. Lt. Fischer continued;

"..there were no further sorties that afternoon and the pilots of I./JG 2 spent the afternoon bathing at the swimming pool in Senlis.. a joint sortie with III./JG 2 was organised for the early evening against gliders on the ground near the Orne estuary under Gruppenkommandeur III./JG2 Hptm. Huppertz who landed at our field with five machines at we aproached Bernay we spotted a formation of a least twelve (335th FS/4th FG ) Mustangs strafing German infantry near a bridge over the Risle...using the evening mist and setting sun for cover we climbed to 1200m to take up a position for a classic bounce..the ensuing combat lasted just minutes as we were each able to select a target before diving down on them… 8 P-51s were shot down with no losses on our side !.."..

JG 2 was the principal Luftwaffe unit in action against overwhelming Allied air power on June 6. Overall, the unit shot down eighteen Allied aircraft (the entire Luftwaffe claiming 24 on that day), JG 2's most successful day in the entire campaign in Normandy. Kommandeur Hptm. Huppertz reported five claims before crashing to his death south of Caen just two days later shot down by a P-47. His replacement was another veteran, Hptm. Josef "Sepp" Wurmheller. He was shot down and killed barely two weeks later. Lt Fischer himself was shot down by flak the following morning over the beaches, bailed out unharmed and was taken prisoner

Monday 1 March 2010

Me 262 'Karoband' checker fuselage band - KG (J) units Gefechtsverband Hogeback - edit 11 January 2019

This Me 261 A-1a Jabo is reportedly "gelbe 3" of 3./KG(J) 54 and was found at a small airfield across the river from the town of Moosburg (NE of Munich on the Isar River). Other extant photos reveal that the lighter portions of the Karoband were originally white. They were lightly but deliberately oversprayed with 81 Braunviolet to mute to contrast with the dark blue cheques and not compromise the aircraft's overall camouflage that was also oversprayed with denser Wellen of 81. There is also evidence of the KG 54 "Totenkopfwappen" ahead of the windscreen. It too was overpainted with 81 but in this instance with a brush.

The overpainting of unit markings may well reflect the time when the remnants of Me 262 units operating in the Protectorate (KG(J) 6, KG(J) 54 and JG 7) were combined and folded into the ad hoc unit Gefechtsverband Hogeback in late April 1945.

Brown and Wadman were the first researchers to indicate that the Karobands were linked to the Kampfgeschwader (Jagd) units. This was based on photos of an Me 262 A-1a “Yellow 3+I” displaying a large style blue and white checker fuselage band ( originally interpreted as green/white) and most importantly, the famous KG 54 “Totenkopf” Geschwaderwappen.

An article by Jan Horn on KG(J) 6 indicated via pilot testimony that red and black were the colours for KG(J) 6 and blue and white for KG(J) 54 respectively. Recent photographic and crash report documents has linked an Fw 190 A-9 with KG(J) 27. The colour photo of the Bf 109 G-10 at Kaufbeuren shows it wearing a green/white band.
It is generally supposed that the various KG(J) units adopted fighter-style tactical markings, ie fuselage bands, sometime during March 1945. Since early 1944 and the deployment of Sturmstaffel 1 several units on the Western Front had been wearing colour fuselage bands for recognition purposes and it is thought that similar tail bands were adopted for Me 262 Kampfgeschwader units now operating as fighters. Interestingly - as pointed out by David E. Brown - the colours selected for the KG(J) unit’s bands shared the same dominant colour used by those fighter units that used the similar numerical designations;

Red – JG 6 & KG(J) 6
Green – JG 27 & KG(J) 27

(article credit David E. Brown)

posted by David on TOCH 11 Jan 2019

" Those are great photos and assist with research on this machine that I believe it comes from the late 1105xx to 1106xx(ish) werknummer series.

I base this on its original underlying camouflage of RLM 81/82 uppersurfaces with a light overspray of RLM 76 over the lower half of the fuselage to create a reverse mottle effect. This is characteristic of machines from the 1105xx to 1106xx series. Over this was oversprayed a Wellen pattern of a dark colour, my guess a green shade. These machines also have the faired-in tail light that disappeared after this group to be replaced by the small bulb type. The national markings styles fit with the series too. The blue and white KG(J) 54 small style Karoband is definitive to its I. Gruppe, and is the painted over “Totenkopfwappen” on the nose exhibiting the same dimensions and position visible on other aircraft. Based on the available photographs, it is possible to see how its V-kenn. changed through time:

• February(?) to mid-March 1945: “B3+??” - I./KG(J)54
• Mid-March to late April 1945: “ge.10+” – 3./KG(J) 54 (addition of dark green wellen and muting / overpainting of unit markings)
• Late April to early May 1945: “3+” – I./KG(J) 54? (addition of '3' over existing number '10')

Who the pilot was is a mystery but definitely someone who did not want to partake in Russian hospitality when they arrived in Prague on 8/9 May.