Monday 29 July 2013

Oblt. Franz Barten & Uffz. Heinz Girnth of III./ JG 53, July 1944 Lippspringe

Currently on offer via Michael Meyer's Ebay sales is this better quality repro of Uffz. Heinz Girnth's "schwarze 11" of III./ JG 53 (8.Staffel) photographed at Bad Lippspringe during July 1944 where the Gruppe was based on Reich's defence duties and shown on this blog just a few days ago.

Girnth's Bf 109 G-6 "Black 11" is profiled by Thierry Dekker in part IV of Jean-Louis Roba's history of JG 53 (Lela Presse, July 2013). Girnth survived the war and filed some 11 victory claims. Informal snapshot of the same pilot, below..

 Above, a different view of a well-known photo depicting Uffz. Heinz Girnth in front of another Erla-Haube fitted G-6 at Bad Lippspringe, July 1944.

Below; pilots of 9./JG 53 photographed in April 1944 on the airfield at Tuscania. From left, the Staffelhund "Bello",  Staffelkapitän  Oblt Franz Barten, Uffz. Robert Harder, Uffz. Paul Mang and Uffz. Heinz Girnth.

Barten is another of those virtually unknown 50+ Jagdwaffe aces. He flew with 2./JG 77 at the outbreak of WWII and took part in the Westfeldzug and the Battle of Britain and returned three victories before I./JG 77 was redesignated IV./JG 51 in October 1940. By the end of 1941 flying in the East he had achieved some 25 victories. He was wounded in action during November 1942 with his score at 42 and did not return to combat flying until June 1943 when he was posted to 7./JG 53. He became Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 53 in July 1943 with the death of previous incumbent Oblt. Hans Roehrig on 13 July 1943. Having returned some 55 victories (Meyer gives him 52 ) in 895 combat sorties, Franz Barten was shot down and killed by P-47 Thunderbolts on 4 August 1944, apparently 'murdered' while hanging under his parachute, after being strafed by his victors. His chute came down in the vicinity of Reinsehlen. Two of his 55 'kills' were B-24s over Italy during 1943. He was awarded a posthumous RK on 24 October 1944 and promoted to Hptm..

Herbert Maxis' Bf 109 G 'white 13' IV./ JG 53 - Bodenplatte 01/01/1945

part rebuild, part replica of Herbert Maxis' Bf 109 G-14 'white 13' of IV./ JG 53 (WNr. 784998) photographed at the Aviaticum museum, Wiener Neustadt Ost near Vienna, Austria where it has been on display since 2006 as a "G-6". Photographs courtesy of photographer Ray Barber. Thank you very much Ray!

The original machine -built by Mtt Regensberg- was lost during the Bodenplatte operation of New Years Day 1945 - the pilot managed to get his machine down in one piece in an orchard close to a US anti-aircraft position but was promptly shot dead. Having been stripped by souvenir hunters, the wreckage was later bulldozed into a hole in the ground and dug up during 1987.  This is, I believe, the only Bf 109 in Austria today - in their 2007/02 issue Flugzeug Classic called this exhibit a memorial tribute to the Wiener Neustadt facility which was ultimately responsible for the production of some 8,000 or so of these machines during WW II.

 On 1 January 1945, during operation Bodenplatte JG 53 had orders to attack the airfield at Frescaty near Metz. Before reaching the target Uffz. Herbert Maxis took hits from an American anti-aircraft position (the 455th AAA  Bn., 'A' Battery) stationed at Oberfelsberg. Maxis force landed only 200 yards from the American positions and was shot and killed climbing down from the cockpit - "assassiné" as Roba puts it in part IV of his history of JG 53. In some accounts the gun battery crew are reported to have believed the German was going to pull a pistol although he may have been merely pressing his hand against a body wound. Pte Billy Taylor of the 739th FA Bn;

"..the pilot carried out a perfect belly landing. Before I could get to the aircraft the pilot was shot dead and his flight tunic pulled off the body. He was lying in a pool of blood across the port wing root, his arms stretched out over his head. He had thick black hair, looked about 20 years old, perhaps less, and bore a strange resemblance to one of my cousins. He had been shot by one of my friends, Smith, as he was getting out of the aircraft. A grave registration detail took away the body and the next day, officers from HQ came to question Smith - they didn't think much of the fact that a German pilot had been shot in cold blood and left lying in his underwear. There was talk of a courts martial but this idea was quickly abandoned when the brass learnt that the pilot had opened up on us at low altitude with everything he'd got.."

The two images above show that what looks like damage from anti-aircraft fire in the image immediately above (see the caption in Weal's 'Bf 109 Aces') - especially in the fuselage area -seems merely to have been the result of the activities of 'souvenir hunters'. Luftwaffe blog readers may be aware that the cockpit and wing incorporated into the Flugmuseum Aviaticum exhibit are original items from this aircraft - WNr. 784998 (G-14/AS). 

Saturday 27 July 2013

A history of Jagdgeschwader 53 'Pik As' part 4 - Batailles Aériennes 65 Jean-Louis Roba

Just published from Lela Presse is the fourth and final part of Jean-Louis Roba's history of JG 53 in the usual 98-page A-4 soft cover format, content covers the period July 1943 to the final sorties flown during April 1945. Detailed accounts (French language) and pilot bios illustrated with plenty of rare photos and Flugbuch extracts. Even non-French speaking enthusiasts and modellers of my acquaintance snap these up for the 200 photos and 20 Thierry Dekker artworks for 12 euros. Highly recommended to all, contact Sylvie at for your copy...Previous issues in this series have been extensively reviewed on this blog, see, for example, the following coverage devoted to part 2 ..

Above, Bf 109 G-6 "black 11" flown by Uffz. Heinz Girnth of 8./ JG 53, Bad Lippspringe in late July 1944. Yellow lower cowl and rudder.

The « Pik As » and 'Husky'  (10 July – 17 August 1943)
Italian capitulation (18 August – 7 September 1943)
The early months of 1944 
The beginning of the end ( June-December 1944)
II./JG 53 over Normandy
II./JG 53 goes back to France
III./JG 53 leaves Italy and returns to the Reich
II. and III./JG 53 during September and October 1944 - hunting the hunters
The establishment of IV./JG 53 and the final months of 1944
I./JG 53 in late 1944
Fighting over Romania
I./JG 53 in Hungary, late 1944
II. and III./JG 53 and 'Bodenplatte', 01 January 1945
III./ JG 53 at Étain
JG 53's attack on Metz-Frescaty
II. and III./JG 53 in 1945
I./JG 53 during 1945

Also due from Roba later this year is this 'Avions' magazine special "Luftwaffe rudder markings" and part one of a new unit history series. Issue 1 will cover KG 100. More info as soon as the Lela Presse team return from their summer hols..

Friday 19 July 2013

new Classic Luftwaffe book " Junkers Ju 88 - From Schnellbomber to Multi-Mission Warplane" (Classic 23) First Look review

On the basis that you might not have seen this yet where you are, here is a quick first look at the latest exceptionally well-done Classic Luftwaffe book title, part one of a new 'landmark' study according to the publisher, of the Junkers Ju 88.  This is a densely-packed 328-page volume covering the " Development, Production and Technical history " of this long-serving Luftwaffe multi-role aircraft compiled by US technical author, engineer and pilot William Medcalf, better known to some as "Artie Bob". The text is well supported by several hundred rare photographs, manufacturer's handbook data and technical illustrations, scale line drawings and colour artwork courtesy of the excellent Simon Schatz and the incomparable Janusz Swaitlon. Medcalf describes the development and gestation of the Ju 88 with emphasis on flight testing and series construction and compares its performance with contemporary aircraft from abroad. The Ju 88 was probably the finest bomber to serve in the Luftwaffe bomber force, but its design, construction and speed meant that it was adaptable as a night-fighter, heavy fighter, torpedo-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. This high-performance aircraft entered service in limited numbers during the campaign over Poland in 1939, but subsequently flew on every battle front on which the Luftwaffe operated throughout World War 2, from the early Blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939/40 through to the Mediterranean and the vast Russian theatre. It was known widely as a feared night fighter, " representing the pinnacle of German aeronautical design technology" according to author Medcalf who has researched the type over a forty-year period. 

Posing the question in his introduction " Can a non-German write a good book about a Luftwaffe aircraft ? "   ( to reprise and possibly preempt the comments of the incomparable Peter Achs uttered elsewhere ) the author provides plenty of convincing evidence that they can! Of course Vergleichsmessungen zwischen Leitweik E und A4) is typical of the more "engineering-oriented" approach apparent in this volume devoted to the 'technical' history of the type.

  The Ju 88 served in numbers with the air forces of Finland, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Spain and France and its appeal as a combat aircraft, especially to modellers, is perhaps in large part due to its widely dispersed service. Its variants are also covered in depth - including the entire 188/288/388 family- as is the wide array of armament and equipment with which it was fitted - the Ju 88 A mounting RZ 65 rocket launchers suspended from the ETC racks was new to me. Modellers are well catered for with plenty of detail pics and illustrations along with Simon and Janusz's brilliant profile artwork covering a variety of markings and camouflage schemes - personal favourite here is probably the full-page artwork of the Ju 188 V3 WNr 10008 "ST+GL" that served as GfM Milch's personal transport as painted by Janusz Swaitlon. 

The last chapter "Flying and Fighting the Ju 88, Ju 188 and Ju 388 " (Chapter 14 pages 279-307)  serves as a prequel for the forthcoming volume II entitled " At war -Day and Night ", a work that looks just as exciting by the way. I am also pleased to report ( as a German-speaking enthusiast with a penchant for pilot accounts )  that my very modest contribution to Vol I appears on pages 304/305 with more to come in Vol II..

Thursday 11 July 2013

" Messerschmitt Bf 109s over the Mediterranean -Part 1" Topcolors from Kagero Karl-Heinz Witschke JG 77

I mentioned in my last 'literature' review that I thought the latest 'Topcolors' (no. 34) " Messerschmitt Bf 109s over the Med -Part 1"  from Kagero was superb with some great subjects "sourced" from and inspired by Erik Mombeek's Luftwaffe Gallery series, Luftwaffe im Focus and Jochen Prien's Jagdfliegerverbaende series. Top quality decals by Cartograf (very thin..) for eight subjects in three scales in a twenty page booklet, all for less than the price of some other companies decal sheets on their own. 

Courtesy of Kagero here is one of the artworks painted by Arkadiusz Wrobel depicting the F-4/Z WNr 13060 "Yellow 2" flown by Uffz. Karl-Heinz Witschke of JG 77. Note the emblem of 3. Staffel aft of the white Med theatre fuselage band. The cowling bore the inscription Hptm. Werner Tismar, in honour of the deceased StKa who was KIA during April 1942 in Russia. Witschke himself was shot down over Malta on 29 July 1942..

Click to see a full screen view..

Wednesday 10 July 2013

A new book in my library - " Nachts über den Wolken. Ein Fliegerleben, wie es wirklich war - Erinnerungen an den Zweiten Weltkrieg " Wolfgang Zebrowski SKG 10 - review Osprey Duel Bf 110 vs Lancaster (1942-45)

 a blog update for bibliophiles in the spirit of my favourite thread at " A new book in my library.."  Some new and not so new Luftwaffe books..

" Nachts über den Wolken. Ein Fliegerleben, wie es wirklich war - Erinnerungen an den Zweiten Weltkrieg " is Wolfgang Zebrowski's 144-page tale of combat flying with SKG 10 under Maj. Kurt Dahlmann. Zebrowski was posted to 1./SKG 10 in France in early 1944 and flew 144 combat sorties at the controls of Fw 190 G " Red 2"surviving night raids over England and the Normandy  invasion front. During the later stages of the war he saw action over the Ardennes and even attempted to drop ordnance on the bridge at Remagen. Memoirs from Fw 190 pilots are not exactly thick on the ground and Zebrowski was one of the few survivors from his Staffel. " Nights above the clouds " is written in simple straight forward Fliegersprache German. This second printing appeared in 1997, copies are available from re-sellers for less than 10 euros. 

New from Mushroom - nice profile artwork, handbook drawings, museum walkarounds and some text in handy A-5 format. You may have seen much of it before but hard to resist when its this well done and, in this easy-to-read format, great for the morning commute. Must get their Storch and Taifun volumes - and please hurry up with the Hs 123 book, Roger!

New from German publisher Geramond is the latest issue of Flugzeug Classic's "Special" series (No 11 covers Me 262 projects, Misteln, helicopters and liaison types) which is building into encyclopedic coverage of all Luftwaffe types. Similar to Lela Presse's style of monograph these 100-page A-4 soft cover 'magazines' are available in the UK from The Book Depository or even Amazon. If you don't read German each issue features around 250 photos and profiles for around £10. Recommended.

Thompson produced the Classic Pubs Seeflieger volume with Dave Wadman so this volume from Fonthill Media should be recommended. Individual chapters cover all the Küstenfliegergruppen in 160 pages, so unfortunately this will not provide the sort of coverage that Roba gave us in his huge Luftwaffe Seaplanes volumes from Lela Presse. I didn't really see the point of devoting chapter 3 - with one paragraph printed twice - to camouflage and markings. The AS/88 is covered in an appendix at the end of the volume.

 This is Volume 1 and Volume 2 is also out now- Red Kite/ Wingleader's 'Luftwaffe Crash Archive'. While most of the aircraft are familiar a lot of the pictures are not. Nor are the Air Intelligence and police crash reports around which the text is organised.

 Another new series from Kagero entitled "Units". I picked up the JG 54 and Stukageschwader Immelmann titles, both for less than the price of an EagleCals decal sheet. You get photographs, interesting captions, colour profiles in a readable 32-page booklet, along with decals for four machines in three scales - what more could any JG 54 fan want? Well, better photo and text print quality for a start - here it is frankly abysmal and the choice of aircraft for the decals/profile artwork somewhat less than stunning. However their latest 'Topcolors' (no. 34) " Messerschmitt Bf 109s over the Med -Part 1"  is superb with some great subjects "sourced" from and inspired by Erik Mombeek's Luftwaffe Gallery series and Prien's Jagdfliegerverbaende series

 New from Claes Sundin , a work of the highest class - artwork is often a matter of personal preference but Claes has to be the best in his field. I'm just sorry I missed his "RLM 04" limited edition book. Prints are also available as in this lovely Schlacht Hs 123 below. 

Yannick Delefosse's huge monograph " V-1, Weapon of desperation" from Lela Presse. This is the second Edition of  a much-praised work first published in 2006. This 2011 380-page hardback reissue includes 60 new plans, 514 new photos and 20% more text (French language) and represents a considerable re-working of the original volume. Chapters focus on research, development, technology and the operational deployment of the weapon along with a study of underground storage sites and detailed treatment of 155 Flak Regiment, its organisation, its personnel, uniforms and even losses. British counter-measures and intel are also covered and the book sheds new light on certain myths and preconceptions that still exist in the literature, some of which have recently re-appeared in the latest Osprey Duel title 'Meteor vs V-1' Needless to say this book doesn't appear in Osprey's bibliography. This book is the most definitive treatment of the subject presented in any language.  

This latest 'Duel' title features the usual competent text, the usual Bundesarchiv pictures, unfortunately already seen many times before, a relative dearth of first-person accounts and some neat cockpit and 'action' illustration by Hector and Laurier, two of the best in the business. Unsurprisingly (for an American) author Forczyk concludes that Bomber Command's night offensive was on the whole thwarted by the Luftwaffe night fighter defenses, the Lancaster being especially vulnerable to the upward firing armament of the Bf 110 twin-engine night fighter. The 'duel' was largely fought out against a backdrop of tactical innovations by the radar scientists and while the British had the strategic edge at all times, German nightfighters were able to score some tactical victories, although usually (not that the author points this out..) when weather conditions conspired to leave the raiders exposed to night fighter offensive action. Which happened occasionally with disastrous consequences for the bomber crews. While the text skips neatly through events and actions to which entire books have been devoted elsewhere, ultimately though the Lancaster and its crews get relatively little credit here for the almost wholesale destruction wrought on German industrial centres and related infrastructure. The fact that German armament production increased during 1944 is explained, Mr Forczyk, by the FANTASTIC resources devoted by the Germans to bunker building, civil defence, production dispersal, underground factories, the massive deployment of foreign and slave labour and many other factors - not least the relative ineffectiveness of the USAAF's daylight bombing offensive - and not to any failure of Bomber Command's night offensive. The author produces statistics on the cost to the UK of producing a strategic bombing force which make interesting reading - his aim though is to show that the British invested almost as much in the Lancaster "program" as the US did in the atomic bomb project and seemingly got far less in return for their investment. He ignores the evidence that roughly 50% of Germany's entire war effort was devoted to DEFENDING against the RAF's strategic bombing campaign while British expenditure on strategic bombing was 12% of the UK's total war outlay - a decent enough return I'd have thought. And US Lend-Lease "meant that the British didn't have to produce landing craft or machine guns.. ". Maybe not, but simply put, Mr Forczyk, RAF Bomber Command were the much vaunted Second Front in Europe; even early on in the war large numbers of Germans - not just women and children - were manning anti-aircraft guns in German cities and constructing huge bunkers for civil defence. A considerable number of these could perhaps have been fighting soldiers at the front against the British in North Africa or against Stalin's Russia in front of Moscow - not every Flak 88 produced was mounted in a Tiger or deployed as towed piece on the Eastern Front. By the time the RAF launched it's first 1,000 bomber raid (May 1942, not 'late 1942') the city of Cologne had devoted nearly one hundred million RM to civil defence including bunker building. This was just one German city. See Zaloga in 'Defence of the Third Reich' (an Osprey "Fortress" title) for some figures. Hitler of course had ordered the 'Sofortprogram' of huge civil defence projects from the first raids on Berlin that took place in mid-1940. Difficult to describe the bombing of Germany as " ineffectual " in the context of the overall picture of German home defence and the FANTASTIC resources it tied up. Of course the author quotes the RAF's own 1942 Butt report which highlighted the difficulties of hitting individual factory targets from 4 miles up. Hence the campaign against the Ruhr district. For the British, 'Terror bombing' was the only offensive weapon available to Bomber Command in mid-1940 when British backs were to the wall. As usual American writers/historians tend to forget this. Nor do they tend to point out that the USAAF were just as eager to bomb the big German cities and especially Berlin as the RAF were and the USAAF tried any number of times to do just this from March 1944 when they felt sufficiently strong enough. The USAF hid (hides) behind the pretense that collateral casualties were avoidable but the vaunted Norden sight was just as ineffectual above cloud cover and of course US policy over Japan was no more than 'area bombing'. Having already demonstrated that Kammhuber's Himmelbett and the limited 'box' system for the night defence of Germany could be easily overwhelmed, Bomber Command comprehensively defeated & blinded the Nachtjagd over Hamburg in July 1943 - Forcyzk almost says this; his emphasis though is on the "40,000 civilians " that died. In the context of this defeat of the German night fighter force it is perhaps not surprising that 'Bomber' Harris thought his heavy bomber squadrons could go on and finish the job. Even the Nazi hierarchy (men like Speer) thought they could too - not that Forcyzk says this. Rather bizarrely Forczyck ends his text by declaring that the resources devoted to the Lancaster could have been far better spent on another great British aircraft, the de Havilland Mosquito. Mosquitoes were already largely deployed as Pathfinder's, target makers, intruders and in the 'Berlin express', the highly effective 'Light Night Striking Force' that no German defences could counter so this is a somewhat anomalous assertion in the context of this title. The bomber offensive might not make much sense to author Forcyzk 70 years after the event - but I'm afraid authors - and series - like this tend to ignore the context in which the machines they are writing about were deployed. With German bombers over the UK  almost nightly during the early part of the war was it really practical not to retaliate in kind and could Churchill seriously have remained PM until 1945 had he done nothing to take the war to Hitler's Germany ? 

Recommended reading on this topic

 Demystifying the German " Armament Miracle " During World War II: New Insights from the Annual Audits of German Aircraft Producers   -  Lutz Budrass, Jonas Scherner and Jochen Streb (2005)
"1944-1945: Allied Air Power and the German National Railway;"

"..The author focuses on the Reichsbahn as a lynchpin of the German wartime economy. In my studies regarding the Me 262, I have been of a mind that the bombing campaign against oil and its affect on the military, especially the Luftwaffe, was the key to the Luftwaffe's loss of operational ability in the last year of the war. However, the author has made a strong case that bombing attacks against the Reichsbahn were of even greater import against the ability of the German economy and war effort to succeed.  
In its purest terms, it doesn't matter if war materiel could still be fabricated, if you simply couldn't get it from point A to point B it was useless. Coal was the most important commodity carried, as the Reichsbahn, industry, and home heating required it to be available..."

Friday 5 July 2013

Belly landed Bf 109 F/G of II./JG 3 ace, Fw 190 Schlachtflieger

the current super selection of offers on from Darius Werner (DW Auction) includes this nice series of a II./JG 3 Bf 109 Friedrich/Gustav..(a G-2?), evidently assigned to the Gruppenstab. Note the yellow frame-width theatre band directly aft of the Balkenkreuz. Long-time Gruppen-Adjutant of II./JG 3 was Ltn. Max-Bruno Fischer..

Also on offer is this new shot of Hans von Hahn (left, seated) and his Stab I./JG 3 Friedrich.