Monday, 10 May 2010

Luftwaffe profiles (Konrad Bauer, Hans Weik, Wilhem Moritz, Grislawski, Kennel etc )

Bf109 G-6 flown by Hptm Gerd Stamp, Gkr. I./JG 300, summer 1944

 I'm not a big fan of profile artwork nowadays - unless its very well done. For example Mark Styling's Luftwaffe images are especially poor. Once upon a time I did a bit of 'artwork' - some of it was even published, but I quickly gave up since I simply couldn't spare the five hours it took me to create my illustrations. I got fed up with nudging individual pixels around the screen. Of course you can tell that from the quality, but at the time I was happy enough with them. In fact lots of my profiles are still floating around the web, so I thought I'd bring together some of my own artwork - which I've collected from other sites, thanks guys - on my own site. And say what you like about them, I reckon my Karl-Heinz Langer  G-6 of III./JG3 is miles better than Mark Styling's effort! Click on the images for a slightly larger image ..if you dare

FW 190 A-7 'White 9 + ' of Hptm. Alfred Grislawski, 1./J.G.1, January 1944

Hans Weik was Staffelkapitän of 10./JG 3. Attacking B-17s raiding Memmingen on 18 July 1944 he was wounded by return fire while flying Fw 190A-8/R2 (W.Nr. 680 747) "White 7". He flew "White 7" from 27 June to 18 July 1944 returning two of his 36 total victories. His wounds were serious enough to keep Weik from any further front line duties. On 27 July, Oberleutnant Weik was awarded the Ritterkreuz for 36 victories. In April 1945, Weik was transferred to III./ EJG 2 at Lechfeld to train on the Me 262 jet fighter.

Hans Ifland, IV./JG3 April 1944 (reference photo in Prien 'Chronik einer Jagdgruppe')

Karl-Heinz Langer, Staffelkapitän 7./JG3 October 1943. Ignore the model pic(above), the mottle looked absolutely nothing like that !

Walther Dahl's 'blue 13' - the cowl emblem was layered into the picture after scanning it in from a decal sheet printing - yep, even 'real' profile artists take these sort of shortcuts ! Published in Scale Aircraft Modelling, vol 23 issue 1, March 2001

FW 190 A-8 W.Nr 171 789 'Black << + -' of Major Karl Kennel, II./S.G.2, Kitzingen, Germany, 8 May 1945

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Julius Meimberg (JG2 ace) and Gerhard Baeker - a German view of the Battle of Britain

In an interview published in the British 'Observer' newspaper in the year 2000 prior to the commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, two Luftwaffe pilots who fought over England shoot down what the Germans refer to as the Battle of Britain 'myth'. In a recent thread over on the TOCH forum I was surprised to realise that this 'German' view of the Battle of Britain is not more widely known - probably because it is rather at odds with the accepted view. This piece should be read in conjunction with my earlier blog post on the Battle of Britain here Luftschlacht über England - the significance of the German defeat during the Battle of Britain
I have to say that I don't entirely share the views of the two pilots as related below, that firstly the Luftwaffe wasn't defeated and secondly that the mere presence of the Royal Navy prevented Hitler from proceeding with an invasion. And while Hitler's failure to achieve air supremacy over Britain - which he used as a pretext for postponing invasion - probably didn't alter the outcome of the war, it certainly did eventually allow the Western powers to prevent the entire European mainland from being over-run by the Soviets.

"...Sixty years after the duel in the skies, German veterans in Berlin say that its importance is exaggerated. German fighter pilots, famously seen off during the Battle of Britain, will not be commemorating their dead this year for a simple reason: they believe the British are talking up an 'insignificant' clash in the skies that did not alter the course of the war. Ahead of the sixtieth anniversary of the famous dogfights between Spitfires and Messerschmitts, German pilots are still engaged in fighting talk over the events of 1940 that Winston Churchill declared the victory of 'the few' British pilots on behalf of 'the many' in a battle that saved Britain from becoming part of the German empire.

At 83, Julius Meimberg is typical. He can remember almost every detail of a war in which he flew more than 250 missions as a fighter pilot, including dozens over Britain.

'It's all exaggerated,' he said. 'Churchill succeeded in creating this myth that so few did so much for so many. When you look at how we fought against the Americans later, the Battle of Britain was very little in comparison.'

There will be no official commemoration of the Battle of Britain in Germany, and the few surviving pilots who fought on the German side see no reason to mark the anniversary. Even if they did, Meimberg believes that none of today's generation of Germans would take any notice or express any interest in their wartime adventures.

'Nobody's interested in that here. There's nothing here, they're even getting rid of the memorial rooms for squadrons. You won't see a single swastika there, for example, because a whole period has been wiped out, even though it's part of their history. I think it's a very bad thing to try to undo history,' he said.

Meimberg was a 23-year-old lieutenant in Jagdgeschwader 2 'Richthofen' when he started flying up to four missions a day over Britain. He admits that he seldom thought about his opponents on the British side as people: they were simply targets.

'The people who were inside them [the fighter aircraft] were the same as us, except that they spoke English and we spoke German. We only saw the aircraft. I find that a bit difficult to understand today. We didn't see the people, only the aircraft. We fought aircraft against aircraft. We were fighting for our Fatherland and they for their England. It was like sportsmen - there were good and bad ones,' he said.

Gerhard Baeker was 25 when he flew his first bombing missions over England and he too regards the British preoccupation with the Battle of Britain as disproportionate. Like Meimberg, the former pilot who took part in the bombing of Coventry remembers August and September 1940 as just one incident in a long war.

'For me, the battle lasted from August 1940 until July 1941. What they call the Battle of Britain in England was just August and September.

'But for us it was only starting. England had declared war on us. We didn't want a war with England. We had the Russians at our backs.

'The Hitler-Stalin pact was an unnatural pact. We always hoped that England would give way and recognise that the Russians wanted to effect their world revolution - which was proven to be the case after the war,' he said.

Baeker dismisses as absurd the suggestion that the RAF prevented a German invasion of Britain by depriving the Luftwaffe of air supremacy. He argues that the German armed forces, which had only been fully reconstituted in 1935, could never have secured a bridgehead or defeated the Royal Navy.

Meimberg agrees that the Battle of Britain did not prevent a German invasion, but he claims that, if Germany had attempted to occupy Britain, the operation would have succeeded.

'The Germans could have occupied England afterwards. It was diplomacy that prevented that. It seems to me that the English led the Germans by the nose by showing a willingness to make peace but in reality playing for time. I saw the British at Dunkirk and I know they could not withstand an invasion,' he said.

Meimberg received serious burns and a number of broken bones during his service as a fighter pilot, but he says that the struggle to survive after the war was more difficult than anything he experienced in battle.

Unlike their counterparts in Britain, men like Meimberg and Baeker are at best forgotten and at worst reviled in their own country. A few tiny organisations, such as the German Fighter Pilots' Association, struggle to keep their traditions alive and to take care of veterans who find themselves in difficult circumstances.

But the German public has little time for the defeated soldiers of a war that brought shame and destruction to their nation.

'War is not the continuation of politics by other means, war is the utter failure of politics and politicians. We're described as Hitler's soldiers, but it is a totally false view that we were ideologised,' said Meimberg......"

Friday, 7 May 2010

"Hitler's Kamikazes" - from Sturmstaffel 1 to Schulungslehrgang Elbe

An interesting documentary film broadcast on Franco-German TV channel 'Arte' and available on a German-language DVD.

" On 17 April 1945, just three weeks before the end of WWII, German suicide pilots - Kamikaze Flieger - dove their aircraft into the Oder bridges near Küstrin -the pilots, human bombs, died in vain in a war that was already long since lost. Kamikaze pilots were not just a Japanese phenomenon. At the end drew nearer for the Third Reich even German pilots flew so-called Selbstopfer-Angriffe - 'self-sacrifice attacks'. On the orders of Hermann Göring himself young pilots fresh out of training school were ordered to fly ramming attacks against US bombers in unarmed and war-weary combat machines or to fly so-called 'total' missions in bomb-laden craft diving them into bridges and other strategic targets. Their duty was to sacrifice themselves for the Fatherland and their chances of survival were slim. This is the story of six pilots who lived through these final weeks of the war as the regime took its last radical steps. Their story begins in the Flugschulen (flying schools) of the Hitler Jugend..."

The first half of the documentary looks at the activities of the Sturmstaffel in interviews with former Sturmstaffel pilots Oskar Bösch and Siegfried Müller, with particular focus on the ramming mission of the Sturmstaffel.

Oskar Bösch recalled;

"...We were young boys when we learnt to fly. In the HJ we learnt to fly gliders. These were 'high performance machines' - I personally made one flight of over ten and a half hours duration. Such activities were actively encouraged so that we went practically from riding bicycles to piloting high performance fighters like the Fw 190 of 3,000 hp. The sheer pleasure of being able to fly was so great you never thought of the three minutes of air combat. The biggest dangers in combat lay in the approach to the bomber formations since the gunners would open up while you were still some way from the formation. The flashes of their guns sparkled like candles at Christmas, it all looked relatively harmless from a distance of 2 kilometres. When you flew through that and curved away, you knew your fire would have inflicted damage, possibly even set alight the bomber - and that he wouldn't get home in that state. It wasn't about killing men - you just saw the machines and they had to be brought down..

...After the sortie we would relax in the Kasino (mess) .. sometimes there would be girls and dancing and accordion playing and we'd drink and eat - lots of alcohol would be consumed so that the next morning if we had to fly a sortie we'd probably still be under the effects of the drink. We could clear our heads with a blast of oxygen and at that moment as the engine was started up then we'd feel fresh again and high on adrenalin. We did everything that we could to harden ourselves, we weren't heroes. It wasn't as if we'd shout " Hurrah - jetzt greifen wir an ! - attack !". no, it wasn't like that at all..."

More specifically on the Sturmstaffel's 'ramming' mission, Bösch continues;

"Ich verpflicte mich als Sturmjäger an den Feind zu gehen ohne Rücksicht auf das eigene Leben..die Pflict zu erfüllen, wenn die Bomber nicht abgeschossen wird, dann muß man durch Rammen den bomber zum Absturz bringen.. our duty if we couldn't shoot the bomber down through cannon fire was to bring it down by ramming, using our propellers like giant circular saws to hack through the tailplane. As to how to do this I didn't really give it much thought - I remember on one sortie suddenly there was a bomber in front of me, and I was out of ammunition and the opportunity was there to fly a ramming attack. I was about fifty metres behind the bomber and caught in the turbulent slipstream from the engines and it was all I could do to keep my aircraft under control. I was buffeted and bumped, and then literally tossed over the Boeing's wing, missing it by about half a metre with my own wing..."

The second part of the documentary discusses so-called 'Totaleinsätze' where the chances of survival were much lower. Chief of these was the call for volunteer pilots for a 'Sondereinsatz' or 'special mission' which would enable young and inexperienced pilots especially to demonstrate their 'heroischer Einsatzbereitschaft' - their 'heroic preparedness for combat' - brought together under the Deckname -or cover name- Schulungslegrgang Elbe.

In the programme Fritz Marktscheffel describes how fledgling pilots barely out of their teens rubbed shoulders with more experienced fighter pilots in the Schulungslehrgang Elbe. There were volunteers from all ranks from Gefreiter up to a Hauptmann and Ritterkreuzträger, pilots who had just finished their basic training and pilots with more than 400 missions. Marktscheffel details his own flying experiences prior to joining Elbe - 'my personal experience as a pilot comprised basic training, training on multiple engine a/c, blindflying licence (especially Ju 88), member of a nightfighter training unit, but just for 6 weeks (no training as result of fuel shortages) and finally volunteering for day fighter training. I had about 50 takeoffs and 10-12 hrs. on the Bf 109'.

Forbidden from discussing the order that had brought them to Stendal with fellow pilots, the volunteers believed that they were on a 'Schulungslehrgang' or training course but after a week at Stendal their orders came through.

'We didn't know what task we were being trained for until Oberst Herrmann came to Stendal to explain that our special mission would be to destroy enemy bombers in a Rammstoß'.

This would be Göring's 'großer Schlag' or 'Big Blow'. The illusion had to be maintained that the pilots would be participating in 'Heldenhaften Kampf' or 'heroic combat'. However, much of the training comprised Nazi indoctrination with the viewing of propaganda films and lectures on the dysfunctioning capitalist system. According to Marktscheffel the young recruits were unsettled by the preparations being undertaken with the aircraft - radio equipment and onboard armament was removed. Many of the aircraft to be flown in the attack were no longer 'Einsatzfähig' or serviceable. The Luftwaffe was slowly collapsing. For this reason around a third of the young pilots brought to Stendal would not be able to fly the sortie. Following an 'Abschieds' or 'leaving' ceremony 120 pilots awaited the order to takeoff. The 'Elbe' mission finally launched on 7 April 1945 was the first combat sortie flown by fighter pilot Klaus Hahn. Hahn had already decided that he would not ram a bomber but once in the air he was set upon by P-51s and in the ensuing combat seriously injured. According to Marktscheffel some twenty five bombers were rammed by Elbe pilots - some forty Elbe pilots died that day. Göbbels' diary entry for 7 April 1945 mentions this first German Rammeinsatz. ' ..The results were not what had been expected from this first experiment '..
In the final part of the film Gerhard Baeker, a former He 111 and He 177 pilot with KG 1 and later Gruppenkommandeur II./JG 3 is also interviewed - ' there was an 'echte Untergangs Stimmung' - a real mood of defeatism at the end. Yet the propaganda machine continued to urge that every sacrifice had to be made for the preservation of our German way of life and community - "du bist nichts, dein Volk ist alles". On 16 April Soviet tanks crossed the Oder and as Baeker explains he had to seek out volunteers from among his pilots to fly 'Selbstopfer' or self-sacrifce missions..'da kam ein Aufruf zur Selbstopferung...all attempts to destroy the Oder bridges had failed and now the only possibility of staving off defeat was for suicide pilots to dive their bombed-up machines into the bridges. But I gave no orders to any pilots of my unit that I myself would not have flown..'

Jagdpilot Erich Kreul ends the film by talking of the hopelessness of the situation, of German attempts to prevent the Russians crossing the Oder and his suicide mission - ' I hadn't really thought much about it before but now when I took off on the sortie it was striking how small Germany had suddenly become..' Kruel describes how he survived the sortie by baling out - he had decided that he was unable to go through with the Selbstmordmission - and as a result was perhaps the only survivor of this Kommando.

One final thought - I'm certain that the veterans in this film would object most strongly the very dramatic title given to this film. Not only were they almost certainly not 'Nazis' but the two types of air-to-air missions frequently characterized as German "Kamikaze" missions had perhaps less in common with the Japanese Kamikaze than might be imagined. Surviving Sturmjäger pilots recall very few ramming attacks - in a letter Hubert Engst recalled having witnessed only one - Klaus Bretschneider's ramming of 7 October 1944. And while Schulungslehrgang Elbe was established specifically to ram US heavy bombers, emphasis was placed on personal survival and the option of baling out after ramming. However Selbstopfer 'kamikaze' mssions by pilots instructed to dive their laden machines into the bridges over the Oder were indeed a feature of the last weeks of the war as this film chillingly and movingly makes clear.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Fritz Krause NJGr.10 Mosquito victory

7/8 July 1944
Oblt. Fritz E. Krause: 1./NJGr.10 Mosquito W. Kyritz, 65 km. N.W. Berlin: 7.800 m. 01.55 692 Sqn Mosquito MM147

Fritz Krause's action report for 8 July 1944. He was airborne from Berlin Werneuchen at 00:40 hours, flying a radar-equipped Fw 190 A-6.

"...I was flying over Berlin when I saw a twin-engined aircraft caught in the searchlights; it was heading in a westerly direction. I was then at 8,500 metres altitude. I closed in on the aircraft until I was 700 metres above its level, opened the throttle wide and dived. I came in too low and opened fire from approximately 200 metres beneath and astern the enemy at 01:48 and kept firing as I closed in. Almost instantly my first salvo hit the starboard engine which erupted in a burst of sparks before trailing a thick plume of vapour.

As I had over-shot, I had to break off the attack immediately and found myself on the right, alongside the enemy aircraft whose cockpit and external fuel tanks I saw clearly, and so was able to identify it without doubt as a Mosquito.

I fired off recognition signal flares to draw the attention of the flak and the searchlights to my presence. The enemy 'corkscrewed' in a series of desperate evasive manouevres. Because of the thick white 'fog' of vapour I was able to follow him, although he had already left the searchlight zone in a north-westerly direction.

Following the trail, I managed to attack twice more. On my third pass, I saw a further explosion on the right wing and an even stronger rain of sparks. At 2,000 metres he disappeared, turning at a flat gliding angle under my own machine. I did not see the impact on the ground as this was hidden from my angle of view.

On my return flight, passing Lake Koppeln, I was able to estimate the crash-point as lying some 60-70 kilometres northwest of Berlin. When I returned to base a report had already reached them about the crash of a burning enemy aircraft at 01:55 hours at EE-25 to the west of Kuerytz. My own machine was covered in oil from the damaged Mosquito. I was flying 'white 11' which was a 'Porcupine' equipped with the Neptun J radar and a long-range fuel tank for night-hunting against Mosquitos. One of the crew of the Mosquito, Flight Lieutenant E.V. Saunders, DFC, baled out and was taken prisoner. Three days later, at 01:20 hours on 11 July, 1944, I myself had to parachute to safety over Berlin, shot down by the Berlin flak!..."

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Focke Wulf Fw 190 Dora 9 in Military Aircraft Monthly

To presumably 'tie in' with the release of the new Eduard Dora kit the latest (May 2010) issue of 'Military Aircraft Monthly' includes a rather poorly done piece on the Fw 190 D-9. Quite why any editor could imagine that he could usefully contribute anything of interest on the 'operational' history of the D-9 (the stated aim of the piece) in only three pages is beyond me, but when combined with Peter Scott's error-strewn artwork then impressions are rather less than positive. Also illustrated in the article are two Ta 152's -although not mentioned in the text- but no D-11s or the usual D-13. Here's an example at random, but frankly I could have picked any of the illustrations ..this is one of several 'unit unknown' (including the Ta 152 !!) Where did the yellow fuselage band come from ?

Here's the reference photo from my collection (ie does not appear in the article) and 'my' caption by way of comparison..

On May 5, 1945, Czech Radio called on the citizens of Prague to rise up against the Nazi occupying force and for five days Czechs took up arms against German troops until the Red Army arrived in the capital on May 9. Elements of JG 300 - attempting to fall back to Prague from southern Germany - were caught up in the fighting during the uprising. This particular Dora was on strength with Stab./JG 300 and photographed in Prague in June 1945. Kommodore Günther Rall's Geschwaderstab had re-equipped with the Dora in late April 1945. It is unlikely that the former JG 52 ace ever flew a combat sortie in a D-9 during his brief tenure of JG 300. Given the shortages of fuel in the last weeks of the war, sorties flown by JG 300 Doras comprised a handful of training circuits and strafing missions against US spearheads pressing into southern Germany. 'Black <4' displays a representative 211xxx series camouflage finish with a solid RLM 83 dark green engine cowling and an over-painted area of RLM 75 on the rear fuselage, with wing upper-surfaces finished in the standard 75/83 Focke Wulf scheme.