Thursday 28 February 2019

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Uffz.Walter Köhne, 3./JG.1 Deelen 1943

Fw 190 A5 (W.Gr.21) Uffz.Walter Köhne, 3./JG.1 Deelen 1943 -1/72 Eduard kit built by Jiří Lenert.

Artwork by Claes Sundin. Claes' Centura Publishing site to browse and order all his artwork books is here

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Bundesarchiv Photo report series #4 II./JG 27 Trapani, Sicily, June 1943

PK photographer Büschgens was on Sicily during May 1943 and took a nice series of images featuring the men and machines of II./JG 27. The 'official' caption reads; " Nordafrika, Tunesien.- Leutnant Hans Lewes mit Schwimmweste bekleidet vor einem Jagdflugzeug Messerschmitt Me 109 mit Tropenfilter stehend.."

Above; Lt. Hans Lewes of 5./JG 27 seen on the field at Trapani during May 1943. Good view of the sand filter and the white wing-tip and spinner on what was probably a G-4 minus Gondelkanonen. A drop tank is fitted. Lewes was KIA in 'Black 1' on 10 June crashing 25 km south of Marsala most likely as a result of damage in combat. 10 June was a day of peak Allied air activity over Pantelleria with 1350 machines over the island including 650 Viermots..and a 'black' day in the history of II./JG 27. The Gruppe put up 12 Bf 109s and in the face of overwhelming Allied numerical superiority no fewer than nine pilots were shot down and killed. II./JG 27 was withdrawn to the southern Italian mainland from 20 June after these heavy losses..

Below; maintenance Instandsetzung on a G-6 Trop. "Red 1" in Trapani during May 1943. Just visible part of the Sonnenschirm fitting below the windshield.

More from this series in the II./JG 27 Gruppe history from Messrs. Prien/Stemmer/Rodeike. See also JfV 11/I - caption info from the accounts in these works..

Overlooking Trapani and background to this Gondelwaffen-equipped Gustav is Monte Erice which is where the Gefechtsstand of the JaFü Sizilien was located..this is 'Yellow 6'. Note the WerkNr. 16 600 has been chalked onto the prop blade (left) just below the technician's head..

Above; "Red 1" - just visible below the cockpit is the 5.Staffel emblem. Below; "Yellow 8" of 6.Staffel, a G-4 Trop. Note the white wing-tips and fuselage band..

Eric M. Bergerud on " Fetishizing the enemy "

Back in 2013 I wrote an 'opinion piece' in response to a 'Sprue Cutters Union' debate on what would not pass across your workbench. One respondent wrote '..Luftwaffe aircraft - I won't model anything with a swastika on it...' Part of my response to this follows;

".. the amount of fuss and brouhaha made over some newly kitted Luftwaffe aircraft types - the Me 262 and of course the latest Bf 109 kits spring to mind - is often I feel inappropriate. The fuss heralding the new Zoukei Moura Heinkel He 219 is typical of this sort of unhealthy fan-worship - the He 219 was a relatively inauspicious type, constructed in low numbers with only a handful of combat feats to its name, yet it is unfailingly and unceasingly built up as some sort of charismatic, even 'sexy' aircraft. I don't for the life of me know why. Ditto for the Tiger tank. A great big slab-sided monster that invariably had to be scuppered by its crews as they couldn't move it when it broke down - which was often. Nearly all the 120 Tigers deployed in Normandy for example were lost within eight weeks of the D-Day landings. Of course in many instances some of the fuss that we modelers make over these subjects is reserved for the sheer quality of the kit itself - as modelers we can simply admire and appreciate a super new tool for the technology involved in producing it and the finesse and incredible detail of the parts.  On a wider level we may even recognise the quality of the technology the Germans developed in 1944-45; after all even if the V-2 rocket (for example) was a terrible waste of resources and lives and achieved next to nothing, it undeniably helped put man on the moon. Of course war drives technological change and advancement. One point never to be forgotten though - German industrial prowess during the war years owes everything to the massive deployment of foreign and slave labour in appalling conditions -between 1942 and 1944 over 650,000 Frenchmen alone went to work in German factories. Despite this however many German pilots and crews were completely apolitical- some brave souls even removed the Hakenkreuze from their aircraft- and certainly not all Germans were Nazis ( a British term designed as an insult - not used by Germans themselves ) and many had deep misgivings about the regime. Possibly none of the leading Luftwaffe aces such as Hartmann and Barkhorn, Steinhoff etc were Nazis either - after all men such as these were instrumental in re-launching the Bundesluftwaffe in the 1950s as a bulwark against Soviet Communism. Nor can you deny the place of some German aircraft types in history - 33,000 examples of the Bf 109 constructed makes it an important type whoever deployed it. As a modeler what I try not to do is portray Spitfires and P-51s with swastikas on them (captured examples); that does appear to me to be purely gratuitous. To respond to your point about 'non-modelers' looking askance at us Luftwaffe modelers I can simply point to the huge efforts deployed here in the UK recently to raise the last surviving Dornier Do 17 bomber from the waters of the English Channel, where we put it over 70 years ago during the Battle of Britain! The editorial in the current edition of the German aircraft magazine "Flugzeug Classic" even thanks the British for doing this and argues that gestures like this towards former enemies serve to advance the cause of peace. My feeling is that while there is of course generally speaking huge antipathy towards the swastika and all it stands for, the machines themselves even though developed under that evil regime can still largely be appreciated..and modeled.."

Over on Doog's blogspot this same theme was pursued under the header " Fetishizing the enemy ". Recently author of the monumental work on the Pacific Air War "Fire in the Sky" Eric M. Bergerud posted a contribution to the debate which I reproduce below..

"....In past years I’ve taught and written military history for a living – WWII and Vietnam mostly so I’ve thought about the pull German topics have often. Among people like me who were born in the wake of WWII, there’s an undoubted interest in things German. Newly invented TV was deluged with WWII series – I’d guess everyone my age knew what Hitler looked like by age 10. And everyone’s father was in the war – most fighting Germans. I lived in Alexandria VA in 1975 and there was a big military memorabilia store – German stuff was top dollar – especially anything SS. I sold books via the Military Book Club and they always had entries like “SS Daggers.” I suppose it appealed to some “blood and soil” wannabees. The SS, and German tankers, also wore black uniforms – quite nicely tailored also (this was intentional – Himmler has fashion consultants) and were keen on images – the swastika is powerful, ditto the “deaths head.” I actually doubt there have ever been many American neo-Storm Troopers out there – in my experience it’s a rare American who knows much about history. But there’s something baddass, or counter cultural (think biker gangs with German helmets and swastikas) that has its appeal. (Wonder how much money a good Luger would bring at auction?)

As to models, you’ve on to something. You could have pointed to ships also. I share your fondness for ScaleHobbist – and if you want to buy a 1/350 battleship, there are more German selections than US. So the unbalance is real enough. I have no idea why German aircraft have such attraction except, as you note, the bad guys made very good looking machines. (Gotta think Darth Vader and the Empire here – Lucas fashioned them after the SS – complete with Storm Troopers). The FW and 109 are lovely planes. The 262 is also a splendid bird with deep history. (And, to be fair, German ships were very easy on the eye.) But the other bad guys had neat planes too. To my eyes, the Zero has nearly perfect lines – the wings and tail are particularly graceful – it’s my aesthetically favorite warplane. The Macchi 202/205 is also a beautiful plane – but there aren’t dozens of kits Japanese or Italian planes. (Hasegawa and Tamiya do have a home market of course.) All fighters are neat – high performance planes are a little like high performance boats/ships – rather look at a 12 meter yacht or a fishing trawler? a modern frigate or an oil tanker? Yet I don’t share the universal admiration for the Spitfire look – the wing is just too much. Our planes all have kind of a business-like appeal, but don’t win beauty contests. The P 51 reminds me of a guppy; the 38 is two planes stuck together; some pilots called the Corsair “hose nose” for a reason; the Hellcat/Wildcat – successful uglies. The Jug is the quintessential US fighter – it evokes Detroit iron and a couple thousand machine gun bullets – a flying sledgehammer. But lines aside, the allies made more distinct types than did the Germans. (The Japanese had more fighter types than the Germans, although only the Zero and Oscar were produced in WWII type numbers.) And worse – many are not well represented by model makers. The P-38 begs for a new rendition in 1/48 – be a whopper in 1/32. Eduard finally did a proper Tempest, but we do need a good Typhoon. The B-26 has no in print model period. There’s no good B-24 in 1/72 or 1/48. (Guess Hobbyboss has just released a 1/32: unfortunately I need my garage for a car.) The Soviets intentionally kept their variants to a minimum – but I’d think the LA-5 and IL2 would both deserve multiple kits.

 A couple of things go on in the armor world I think. First, in this regard the Germans really did lead the field in subjects to model. Since the 50s experts on military technology have criticized the Germans for their ceaseless tinkering with weapons which was extremely inefficient. (Albert Speer admitted he was never able to stop over-engineering – but Nazi German was not an efficient place – thankfully.) After the 1941 “T-34/KV shock” there was this desire to put a 75mm gun on anything that could move and you do get a lot of weapons. Here the contrast is marked with the allies. The Russians always believed in “keep it simple stupid.” (There were serious doubts about the T-34 in 1940 – ended on June 21 the next year.) The US was reluctant to make big changes because of efficiency, but also because of logistics. The Brits made quite a few – mainly because they couldn’t come up with a good one until 1945. And unless you’re a “Shermaholic” there is a certain limit to what a modeler can do in US olive drab, UK khaki green or Rooskie green. I like Panzergrau, but it’s the late war German kits that wrack up the numbers – and the very nature of the 3 color scheme meant that there are an almost unlimited way to paint a German tank. (I’m a WWII partisan, and would avoid SS stuff – but I think that would mean not building most Tiger Is and all Tiger IIs. Fortunately Wehrmacht artillery kept their mits on Stugs which prevented the SS from getting their pick of those.) Also, I think Chinese firms have something of a herd mentality. Dragon makes German models. So, last year alone Rye Field, Tacom and Meng all came out with Panthers – two with full interiors (yikes). To be fair, Tacom has done a very nice Grant/Lee and it was needed. (note- Eric fails to mention the huge and horrible Model Collect E 100 'land cruiser')

Yet if history means anything to a modeler, there are some major allied weapons that are mostly on the shelf. Where are US half-tracks and scout cars? How about US and Soviet tank destroyers? If a modeler has five Tigers and no Stalins; or five Panthers and no T-34/85s that’s a way of saying history isn’t very important. (No real reason it should be of course.)

There’s one port in the storm. Tamiya continues to amaze. I’ve never made a Panther, and I’m working on Tamiya’s new Panther D right now – splendid kit. But look at their recent “new tool” armor kits. There’s a US M-10 and Sherman “Easy Eight” (Tamiya’s version – not to be confused with the brief Tamiya rebox of a Tasca); a Lend Lease M5 Stuart and US Scout Car; a jaw-dropping WWI MK IV (with an electric motor), a Valentine and an Archer. Maybe best of all, they took their super-neat BT-7 and turned it into a SU-76 – the second most produced Soviet AFV of the war and a very effective weapon. All of this against one Panther. Why a new Tamiya Spitfire and 109 in 1/48? Maybe it was simply to bring their 1/32 technology to the more common 1/48 scale and put everyone else in their place. I’ve got both along with the new Hein and they’re beauts. I know many wanted a 1/32 Jug, but Tamiya ration their kits. Maybe next year. But, I hope, Tamiya picks a 1/48 Lightning – that would sell. (Might as well plug the “new Airfix” – their kits of the last five years aren’t without flaws, but they’ve competently covered some really neat subjects and not German dominated – just finished their P-40B and C-47. And they’ve just come out with a new Wellington – a very important plane that has inspired some lame models up till now.)...."

Friday 22 February 2019

RAF B-17s attack the 'Admiral Scheer', 8 September 1941 - JG 5, Lt Alfred Jakobi, Bf 109 T

"..On 8th September 1941 German fighters easily shot down two of the four Fortress Is of No. 90 Sqn RAF dispatched to bomb the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer docked in Oslo, Norway. By September 1941 the British had lost, in combat and accidents, nearly half of their 20 B-17s. Somewhat disappointed, they relegated the remaining aircraft to Coastal Command for long-range patrols..."

The B-17 Flying Fortress was offered to the RAF early in 1941 and the first combat missions were flown during the summer of 1941. One of the first large-scale raids flown over the Continent was 'Operation Sunrise', a daylight raid mounted on 24 July 1941 against the German battle cruisers Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau holed up in the port of Brest in which three B-17s took part. The RAF's first B-17s were some twenty examples of the thirty eight B-17 Cs produced in the spring and early summer of 1941, designated Fortress I in RAF service. Forty RAF aircrew were trained at McChord Field, near Tacoma, Washington, from January-April 1941, before the aircraft was issued to No. 90 Squadron at Kinloss in Scotland. By 12 September 90 Squadron had carried out 22 raids, involving 39 Fortress sorties. Of those 18 had been aborted, two had bombed secondary targets and nineteen had bombed their primary targets. Only two 1,100 lb bombs were recorded as hitting their target. In that period two aircraft were shot down and two more crashed on landing after being badly damaged. One of their least successful raids was the attempt to find and bomb the heavy cruiser 'Admiral Scheer' anchored off Oslo, Norway on the morning of 8 September 1941.

The 90 Squadron machine WP-D/AN 525 "D-DOG" shot down on 8 September 1941 may well have been the first Fortress to come down in Europe

Crew: F/O David A A Romans (RAF)- P/O Frank Gordon Hart (RAF)- Sgt. John Brown (RAF)- Sgt. Peter Barnard Corbett (RAF)- Sgt. Robert Henry Beattie(RAF)- Sgt. Walter George Honey(RAF)- Sgt. Henry Merrill (RCAF). Their aircraft was downed by Jakobi and Steinicke of 13./JG 77 flying Bf 109 T-2 fighters although the congratulatory telegram from HQ see below) mentions Uffz. Karl-Heinz Woite (2./JG 77) as one of the successful pilots. Note the finish - the DG/DE/PRU blue scheme.

 In all eight of the twenty aircraft were lost in two months and the Fortress was withdrawn from operations over Europe. The performance of the Fortress confirmed the RAF in its belief that no daylight bomber could operate safely against the German air defences. The Army Air Force pointed out that the RAF was using the aircraft above its designed operating height and was badly overloaded, reducing its performance. The high altitude caused some of the guns to freeze up. The Americans also pointed out that the RAF were operating the Fortress in tiny groups, sacrificing the perceived benefits of mutual defence. The RAF experience did prove that the B-17 could not fly high enough to avoid the German fighters – the Bf 109 E and Bf 109 F could both intercept the Fortress at 32,000 ft. The Flying Fortress remaining in RAF service in limited numbers throughout the war. The most important user of the aircraft was Coastal Command. No. 220 squadron took over the Fortress Is of No. 90 Squadron..

An account of  'Operation Sunrise', appears on this blog here.

Monday 18 February 2019

Junkers Ju 88 Aces - a selection of Ju 88 'ace' photos - Helbig, Hogeback, Storp, Fischer , Schweickhardt

Hptm. Erwin Fischer (right of the sign) with Glas Sekt on the occasion of the 3000th Feindflug  of Aufklärungsgruppe 121. Note the white swan emblem of the unit, Ju 88 D coded 7A + NH

Despite having published at least three volumes on Junkers Ju 88 Kampfgeschwader in their 'Combat Units' series, Osprey editor Tony Holmes decided we needed at least one Ju 88 volume in the 'Aces' series. However on the evidence of this volume I would say to him that we probably need a few more of these as well. This is an excellent volume on the Junkers Ju 88, presenting an overview of the aircraft and the men who flew it in each of the roles it undertook; bomber, intruder, night-fighter, long-range day fighter and reconnaissance. Many of the more 'famous' Ju 88 pilots are covered such as Baumbach, Helbig, Herrmann and Heinz Rökker along with some of the lesser known. The profiles are some of the best I have seen in an Osprey book and the content highly readable and informative. However, it is not strictly an "aces" volume as it does not specifically look at those who claimed 5 or more kills whilst flying the Ju 88. If you are thinking of buying it because of the title, you may perhaps be disappointed. That being said, if you have any interest in the type and the exploits of its crews then buy it - it is a taster or as Robert himself referred to it " a toe-dipper". To cover all noteworthy Ju 88 "ace crews", in all the roles in which the aircraft undertook, would take several similar sized volumes. For example, Hermann Hogeback is only mentioned in a couple of photo captions and he would certainly qualify as the Ju 88 bomber "aces of aces" (with 500+ operational sorties and being one of only three Ju 88 pilots to receive the Knights Cross with Swords). Erwin Fischer is the only reconnaissance pilot to receive the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves (as far as I am aware) and he is not even mentioned in the text...

Above; Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 142338 coded 'F1+GS' flown by the Gruppenkommandeur III./KG 76 Hptm. Heinrich Schweickhardt. The coat of arms of the city of Heidelberg recalls Schweickhardt's birth place. He was flying this aircraft when he went missing during a transfer flight on 9 January 1943.

Hptm. Heinrich Schweickhardt (1914-1943) awarded the RK as Staffelkapitän 8./Kampfgeschwader 76, (Ritterkreuz 04.02.1942, Eichenlaub (138) 30.10.1942)

Appointed Kommandeur III./KG 76 in March 1942 Schweickhardt and his crew went missing during a flight from Catania to Athen-Tatoi on 9 January 1943 after a radio message from about noon saying he was having engine trouble. This was after combat about 100 km west of Zakynthos or Zante. The aircraft was a Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 142338 coded 'F1+GS'. Posthumously promoted to
Major, credited with around 400 missions.

Below; Junkers Ju 88 A-6 1./(F)123 (4U+SH) after a recon mission flown by Ofw. Bach, Perugia Italy. Chased by Allied fighters the pilot flew so low over the sea that the propellers struck the water and shattered. Fortunately the wooden propellers broke evenly which allowed the engines to keep running and Bach made it back to his base in Perugia at a some what reduced speed..

Two views of I./KG 77 machines. Note the white winter finish applied even to the prop blades in the lower picture

below; torpedo-carrying Ju 88 of I./KG 26 taking off from Bardufoss in March 1945 to attack a Murmansk convoy. Note the Schiffssuchradar - shipping search radar FuG 200 Hohentwiel. To the right of picture Oberst Ernst Kühl is seen saluting the departing aircraft. 

Chris Goss has a different caption in his Frontline " Junkers Ju 88 - the twilight years"  which reads as follows;   A Ju 88 of I./KG 26 taxying out at Bardufoss to attack an Allied convoy, RA 64, on 20 February 1945. In the crew is Oberst Ernst Kühl who had recently been given command of a Fliegerdivision based in Narvik. He was holder of the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub and had flown 315 combat missions, most of them with KG 55.

Below; interesting cockpit views and a rare portrait of Werner Baumbach at Munich Riem during 1942..

Junkers Ju 88s of KG 26 being readied for sorties out over the Med from Sicily. Note the twin under-slung torpedoes in the first image below, each weighing approx 750 kg, of which 200 kg was explosive. To launch the weapons the Ju 88 pilot had to maintain a speed of 180 km/h at an altitude of forty metres. In theory the torpedo could be dropped up to two kilometres from the target but in practise a more realistic range was barely 800 metres. However at distances such as these the Ju 88  pilots were very much aware they would likely find themselves in a maelstrom of defensive fire.

On 22 December 1942 Ju-88s from III.Gruppe KG 26 torpedoed and damaged the British troopship Cameronia. Strikes were made all along the African coast. Allied air attacks cost the unit four aircraft on 8 February 1943 when the unit's base at Cagliari-Elmas, Sardinia was bombed. In July 1943 the unit also contested "Operation_Husky", the Allied invasion of Sicily. On 12 August the unit struck at Allied shipping in the western Mediterranean losing 10 machines for little result.

Below; Kommandeur I./LG 1 Hptm. Joachim Helbig seen in Catania, Sicily during 1941. He was awarded the Eichenlaub during January 1942 after some 200 sorties..

Deployed early on in the Mediterranean, LG 1 would soon prove to be one of the most formidable and feared opponents of the Royal Navy. Under the orders of Kommandeur Helbig, the "Helbig flyers" of I./LG 1 as they were dubbed were responsible for sending many Allied ships to the bottom. Notable actions included the sinking of three large transport vessels Clan Campbell, Clan Chattan and Rowallan Castle from the convoy MW 9, during attacks on 13–14 February 1941. On 22 May 1941 during the Battle for Crete, LG 1 Ju 88 pilot Gerd Brenner finished off the RN cruiser HMS Fiji with heavy loss of life. III./LG 1 also damaged the Australian destroyer Waterhen on 9 July 1941, sinking it on 11 July. The Geschwader supported the Afrika Korps effectively in Libya and Egypt until 1942. Bombing raids were made on the Suez Canal, Cairo during this time. On 11/12 May 1942 I.(K)/LG 1 again led by Helbig were responsible for sinking HMS Kipling, HMS Jackal and HMS Lively in the Gulf of Sollum. Helbig below on the right..

Below; Iro Ilk Staffelkapitän of 1./LG 1 during 1943 and bomber ace at the controls of his Ju 88. Both Ilk and his close friend in LG 1 Gerd Stamp were awarded the Knight's Cross with I./LG 1 for audacious attacks on British shipping in the Med, before going on to fly single engine night fighters with the wilde Sau. Ilk was shot down and killed by Spitfires as Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 300 on 25 September 1944. Post-war Stamp achieved high rank in NATO and married Ilk's widow.

Having carried out intruder attacks over Britain with some success for almost a year, the Ju 88 Cs of I./ NJG 2 were transferred to the Mediterranean and the western desert of North Africa in late 1941.  Ju 88 C-4 " R4+EL" (3./ NJG 2) came to grief during the transfer flight to Sicily and made an emergency landing near Naples. Crash landed by Flugzeugführer Fw Robert Lüddecke (front) on 22 November 1941 at Capodichino-Naples. Lüddecke had returned three night victories - Nachtluftsiege - at the time of the incident.

Below; seen far left Ritterkreuzträger Hptm. Hermann Hogeback, Kommandeur III./LG 1 on the occasion of a commemoration of the 5000th sortie flown by the Gruppe, Stalino, September 1942.

Three bomber aces of KG 6 with around 1,000 sorties between them, Hptm. Rudolf Puchinger, Staka 8./KG 6, Kommodore Walter Storp and Kommandeur III./KG 6 Hermann Hogeback.

Partial view of a formation of V./KG 40 Ju 88 C-6 heavy fighters seen over south-western France during early 1943. Nearest to the camera is Ju 88 C-6 "F8+RY" with Oblt. Kurt Necesany at the controls, while behind this aircraft is "F8+NY"

Diving Eagle of KG 30 seen on Herrmann's Ju 88 A-4. Early in World War II, Herrmann flew bombing missions in the invasion of Poland and the Norwegian campaign. By 1940 he was Staffelkapitän 7./KG 4 re-designated 7./KG 30 at the end of the Battle of Britain. In February 1941 his Gruppe was transferred to Sicily, from where it attacked Malta then fought in the Battle of Greece. In one attack Herrmann sank the ammunition ship Clan Fraser in the port of Piraeus. The explosion sank 11 ships and made the Greek port unusable for many months. He was appointed Kommandeur III./KG 30 and flew missions against Russia. He was a controversial figure in 'right-wing' circles post-war.

"..Herrmann was one of the most deadly Luftwaffe pilots of the Second World War and one of its most innovative air tacticians; a committed Nazi determined to fight to the end, he even formed a special unit of fighter pilots whose task was to ram Allied bombers out of the air..."

 ..from his obituary published by the British 'Daily Telegraph' in 2010. Read it in full here

The above is intended to serve as an introduction to the two Ju 88 photo volumes compiled by Chris Goss in Frontline's 'Air War Archive' series..while Volume one focused on the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, Volume two, "the Twilight years- Biscay to the Fall of Germany" covers the activities of Ju 88 Gruppen in Russia and the Mediterranean and looks at reconnaissance and torpedo operations. Heavy fighters also receive a chapter  - 'Battle over the Bay' covers the little-known ZG 1 - and there is a small section at the end on the Misteln..