Thursday 14 March 2019

The death of Egon Mayer, 2 March 1944. New Luftwaffe books

 The latest volume in the "Dans le Ciel de France - Histoire de la JG 2 "Richthofen" series covers in detail the history of the "Richthofen" from 1 January 1944 until its definitive withdrawal from French territory in late August. This period was marked by heavy, bitter and deadly combat as the Allies softened up the defenders ahead of the landings in Normandy. Heavily outnumbered, the tenacity of the Luftwaffe pilots was no longer sufficient to defend the skies of occupied France. Losses on both sides were considerable - none more so than in JG 2. In the space of just a few months the Geschwader lost two Kommodoren and two Kommandeure, who together had posted combined victory claims around the 400 mark. The chapter covering JG 2's defensive battles on the D-Day landing front reveals that the "Richthofen" were particularly active there from 6 June 1944. 

2 March 1944 was a particularly 'black day' for the Geschwader - airborne with his Geschwaderstab from Cormeilles, north-east of Lisieux, Normandy, Kommodore Mayer - the 'ace of aces' in the West - was vectored over the Ardennes against a USAAF daylight raid aimed at Frankfurt am Main. Having suffered the recent loss of his long-time wingmen Gruppenadjutant Hptm. Fritz Edelmann (KIA 30 January) and Ofw. Rudolf Alf (hospitalised 21 January), Mayer's 'new' Schwarm was far less experienced. All four Fw 190s missed the rendezvous with II. Gruppe airborne from Creil, north of Paris and III. Gruppe who had overnighted at St. Trond in Belgium. Continuing north-eastwards Mayer appears to have subsequently lost the other three Fw 190s of his Schwarm and, as an 'isolated Fw 190', he was easily picked off by 365th FG P-47 Thunderbolts near Montmédy (1st victory for Maj. Robert L. Goffey). He was the third Kommodore of the Richthofener to be shot down and killed after Wick and Balthasar. His award of the 'Swords' was announced on the day of his death. Egon Mayer had filed claims for some 102 enemy aircraft, all in the West,  including 26 four-engine bombers, 51 Spitfires and 12 P-47 fighters. Mayer's funeral was held at Beaumont with great pomp and ceremony. In his guard of honour were Huppertz and Wurmheller - both would soon know a similar fate. Mayer is buried in the war cemetery of St. Desiré de Lisieux.