Monday 20 April 2020

JG 2 Friedrich June 1941 - ebay photo find #330

Bf 109 F-2 'yellow 8' flown by Fw. Heinz Jahner of 9./JG 2, seen here on the right. Jahner was shot down and bailed out injured on 2 July 1941 during 'Circus' no. 29. He 'claimed' his first victory, a Spitfire at 12:37 during this sortie but it proved to be his last as he never returned to front-line duties. He ended the war with JG 106. On the left, his wingman Uffz. Karl Nowak and Uffz. Johann Straub in the middle. Jahner recalled his last sortie with JG 2 in Volume 2 of the Mombeeck/Roba  "Dans le Ciel de France -histoire de la JG 2 'Richthofen' -1941";

"...My experience led me to being directly assigned to Stab II./JG 2 with whom I flew many sorties, usually alongside 'Assi' Hahn. However, I was transferred to 9./JG 2 to compensate their somewhat heavy losses while also continuing to fly with the Gruppenstab. It was also with the Gruppenstab that I flew my my last combat sortie of the war. On 2 July 1941, I took off around noon with my Kaczmarek, Uffz. " Buck 'Nowak.' Assi Hahn was unable to fly the sortie and was replaced by an Oberleutnant (I forget the name). We started the climb for altitude and had reached one thousand metres when we we were hit on the bounce by nine Spitfires from much higher up. I threw my aircraft into a tight turn but a Spitfire had me in his sights and my machine took hits. Becoming uncontrollable, my 109 went nose down. I jettisoned my canopy, threw off my straps and jumped clear. I realized then that my rudder had been torn off, probably by an explosive shell ... but in a way this was fortunate for me because it meant that I couldn’t collide with it. After deploying my parachute (probably prematurely), I lost consciousness and was dumped heavily on the ground in an orchard without having regained all my senses. Men of a flak unit based in the orchard later reported that they had observed the fight and that my descent had lasted twenty minutes. Being deprived of oxygen at altitude severely affected my health and I had to stay for two months in hospital. I briefly rejoined my Staffel but most of my friends had gone, except Lt. Schnell who was then in command. However, my health did not permit me to fly fighters and I was posted to a training unit.."

Nowak was an ace with around 12 claims. His first was a 266 Sqn Blenheim shot down on July 4, 1941. He was KIA on June 12, 1942, his Fw 190 shot down off the Isle of Wight.

Below; Me 109 F 7./JG 53 with 38 victories flown by Lt. Hermann Neuhoff (3rd from left) RK on 19 June 1942. On April 10 as Staffelführer 6./JG 53 Neuhoff was shot down by a Hurricane (but may have fallen to a JG 53 Bf 109) and taken captive. He was subsequently awarded the RK for his 40 victories (23 in the East).

via Michael Meyer's Ebay sales here

Friday 10 April 2020

Kommodore JG 2 Balthasar Bf 109 Friedrich May-June 1941 - ebay photo find #329

In February 1941 a new Kommodore was appointed to succeed Helmut Wick at the head of JG 2. Hptm. Wilhelm Balthasar was an ace who at the time enjoyed almost as big a reputation as Wick's having been one of the leading Luftwaffe fighter pilots through 1940. Following seven victories in Spain he was 'side-lined' during the Polish campaign but made up for it in the West and was awarded the RK during June 1940 for around 33 victories, a tally that included (at that time) at least 11 ground 'victories'!

Two 'new' views of Balthasar's presumably 'brand-new' yellow-nosed Bf 109 F-2, most probably only just received at the unit. Rudder scoreboard shows 31 victories (May 19, 1941).


Balthasar was probably already dead by the time these pictures were developed. He was killed in combat on July 3, 1941 over northern France. Here a rare view taken at Kommodore Balthasar's funeral ceremony..

Also on this blog;
More on Balthasar's Battle of Britain Emil

Starboard view of the JG 2 Kommodore machine, May 1941

Thursday 9 April 2020

Studying the Luftwaffe through prisoner interrogation reports (1)

A good friend of  ' FalkeEins - the Luftwaffe blog ' has kindly transferred many archival POW reports which make fascinating reading. No apologies for taking my cue from the equally fascinating TOCH thread "Studying the Luftwaffe through POW interrogation reports "....

The 'problem' with POW interrogation reports is obviously one of 'reliability' - note the 'Preamble ' to the report on page 1 below ;  " all three prisoners arrived with elaborate cock-and-bull stories ". On page 2 there are dubious statements;  referring to the formation of I./JG 4 the report notes that " is of interest that all these 'old hands' from JG 77 had at some  time or other served sentences for some military offence" ..or even  " Hptm Hahn had over 900 operational flights to his credit.."

The report featured here chiefly concerns the interrogation of Bf 109 pilots from I./JG 4. During early 1944, I./JG 4 was based in Littorio, southern Italy and operated principally over Monte Cassino and Nettuno during this period. Clashes with Allied fighters were frequent and deadly. During the month I./JG 4 lost seven pilots KIA including Kommandeur Hahn on January 22. Although he managed to bail out he struck the airframe and was unable to deploy his parachute. Hahn was replaced by Hptm. Walter Hoeckner and the unit moved to Frabrica di Roma. February 1944 was no better. Twenty victory claims - including three P-51s on February 8 - for seven pilots KIA and two taken prisoner.

On February 6  I./JG 4 carried out at least two escort missions from Fabrica for SG 4 Fw 190s in the Nettuno region. The first started at 09:20 hours. After completing the escort, the mission turned into a ‘free hunt’ which, it appears, was without incident. The aircraft landed at 10:15 hours. The second mission was, on the contrary, far more eventful. The formation (comprising of at least two Schwärme from 2. and 3. Staffeln) took off at 11:05 hours under the leadership of Hptm. Manfred Spenner. Uffz. Edmund Beuth (decorated with the Iron Cross 1st Class) led the Schwarm from 2. Staffel in his 'black 7'. After escorting the Fw 190s to their objective in the Nettuno area, Hptm. Spenner led his men on a strafing attack in the area of the bay. Shortly afterwards the pilots encountered a ‘Dragonfly’ and Spenner added his 9th 'victory' to his scoreboard. However, flying at low altitude, the aircraft were dangerously exposed to anti-aircraft fire. The Bf 109 G-6s of Uffz. Kurt Leopold ('yellow 2')and Uffz. Edmund Beuth were riddled with shrapnel. Leopold related his story to author Erik Mombeeck; 

“..I was flying on Spenner's left flank when the left hand side of my engine was hit by numerous impacts -anti-aircraft fire! I left the formation and banked into a curve, seeking to put distance between myself and the Nettuno sector quickly. I skimmed the tree tops at nearly 750 kph. Seeing a clear space in the Marais Pontins, I nursed the aircraft down for a belly landing. My aircraft careened as far as a large hole, which brutally brought it to a stand. The nose of the aircraft dug in and for a moment I thought it would turn over. Thankfully it settled on its belly and stopped. I clambered out of the cockpit and looked at the hits that had torn into the metal some 50 cms from the cockpit. I considered myself lucky to have survived unhurt! I quickly moved away from the crash site. After about 50 metres two shots rang out behind me. The bullets whistled over my head. Two warning shots! I flung myself full length on the ground and remained motionless. I slowly turned over onto my back to remove my yellow life jacket. Then I crawled towards a bush where I could hide. However I felt a weapon in my back. I became a prisoner of the Americans... "

" Detailed interrogation report on the two Me 109 fighter pilots and Fw 190 fighter-bomber pilot shot down on the ANZIO front on 6th and 7th Feb. resp " ;

Bottom paragraph below;

 " ..In JG 4 discretion is considered the better part of valour where encounters with Spitfires are concerned., particularly as the Bf 109 G-6 pilots are aware that not only are their opponents superior in number, but possess the better aircraft. Engagements with Spitfires are therefore avoided when possible.. "

Wednesday 8 April 2020

French use of Luftwaffe aircraft - Ju 88 in French service

Seen on eBay offered by a seller with a huge ‘archive’. These images show a Junkers Ju 88 G-6 used for ramjet propulsion tests and appear to be images from Pierre Dumollard’s « Junkers Ju 88 et 188 Français » as seen at the CEV (Centre d’Essais en Vol or Flight Test Centre) at Melun Villaroche during the early 1950s. Ju 88 G-6 s/n 3 made some 200 flights with the ARS 600 ram jets before being retired in 1955, including the ’accidental’ flight no. 6 - following a fault with his oxygen supply the pilot put the aircraft into a dive and reached a speed of Mach 0.7 (around 840 km/h). During 1953 André Turcat - future Concorde test pilot - also flew this aircraft at Mach 0.7 at 10,000 mètres altitude; according to author Dumollard, «  the limits of the Ju 88s performance had been reached » ! The type was replaced by a Gloster Meteor NF.11 which had the advantage of using the same fuel as the ramjet.

By the time it was retired from service the French had utilised the Ju 88 for nearly twice as long as the Germans and compared it very favorably with similar types such as the B-26 - the Ju 88 had a " shorter take off run, higher top speed , better rate of climb and could carry a bigger load for a similar range.."

More Ju 88 and Ju 188 in French service on this blog here

Tuesday 7 April 2020

new and forthcoming from Chandos - Blitz bombers - Arado 234 jets of KG 76 in the West 1944-45

..from Chandos Publications' Rich Carrick;

 " Hi guys - it gives me great pleasure to announce that I am now taking pre-orders for Chandos Publications' second title 'Blitz Bombers, Kampfgeschwader 76 and the Arado Ar 234: Luftwaffe Jet Bombers on the Western Front 1944-1945' by Eddie J. Creek and Robert Forsyth. (RRP £50, Postage: £4.00 UK, £14 Europe, £20 USA and Canada, £21 ROW)
Aimed at aviation fans (and model makers) in general and Luftwaffe aficionados in particular. Please head on over to my website to place your pre-order. I expect to take delivery towards the end of June but PLEASE allow for COVID-19 related delays! I have been assured that our printers are operating normally..."

This is the first time that the story of the Arado Ar 234 as the world’s first dedicated jet-bomber has been told in such detail in the English language. In late December 1944 the Luftwaffe surprised the Allies when it unexpectedly introduced a new, high-speed bomber to its inventory. Though deployed in small numbers, the Arado Ar 234 B-2 jet-bomber proved itself an effective day and night strike aircraft over the Western Front and a tough challenge for Allied fighter pilots who tried to counter it. Powered by the same Jumo 004 turbojets as the Me 262, the Ar 234 could attack pinpoint targets such as transport hubs or enemy vehicle columns and troop assemblies in ‘glide attacks’ with a high degree of impunity. The jets were flown by experienced and often highly decorated Luftwaffe bomber pilots who worked hard to master the new aircraft in a short time and amidst the chaotic conditions of a Third Reich in decline. ‘Blitz Bombers’ tells the story of KG 76’s operations when equipped with what was the world’s first jet bomber, the Arado Ar 234 B-2. The book is founded on original unit diaries, reports and other records, as well as various German and Allied material drawn from archives and private collections gathered over many years. It traces KG 76’s period working up on the aircraft and its subsequent combat operations over the Western Front from December 1944 through to the end of the war. The Geschwader’s jets took part in operations over the Ardennes, in the ill-fated Bodenplatte attack of New Year’s Day 1945, in missions against the Allied armies driving into the Reich in early 1945, and in a series of intensive strikes against the Ludendorff bridge at Remagen and the bridgehead established there by the Allies in March 1945. Following many years research, the book includes nearly 300 illustrations, comprised of rare photographs of KG 76’s aircraft, personnel and equipment, as well as the Allied aircraft and pilots who encountered the Arados in combat, plus key documents taken from the unit’s records. These are supplemented by specially commissioned and highly detailed colour artwork depicting the unit’s aircraft.

Also on this blog;
The story behind the book with Eddie Creek and Robert  Forsyth

Monday 6 April 2020

review 'Luftwaffe in Africa " - Jean-Louis Roba, Casemate Illustrated series, 'Black Tulip' by Erik Schmidt

a new review  of the 'Luftwaffe in Africa " title by Jean-Louis Roba (Casemate Illustrated series). This review is published in the latest issue of the bi-monthly Iron Cross magazine. Flypast Magazine have also reviewed this title, describing it as a 'superb read'.

Do please indulge me here, I don't often get asked to work for a 'mainstream' publisher and when I do it doesn't usually get reviewed ...

The Casemate Illustrated series are 'Osprey-like' monographs of 128 glossy pages with neat glossy card covers, 150-200 photos and profile artworks by Vincent Dhorne. This particular volume features newly translated first-person accounts by this blog author and covers aspects of the campaign in North Africa that are generally little known; KG 26 raids on the Suez Canal, KG 40 Fw 200 transport missions, Go 242 glider units and the end in Tunisia with JG 77 to cite just a few examples from the text..

Also published by Casemate this month is Erik Schmidt's life of Erich Hartmann entitled 'Black Tulip'. This is a book that will quite probably divide the air-warfare enthusiast fraternity but possibly interest a more general readership. According to the blurb 'Black Tulip' is the dramatic story of history's top fighter ace..
" over 1,404 wartime missions, Hartmann claimed a staggering 352 airborne kills, and his career contains all the dramas you would expect. There were the frostbitten fighter sweeps over the Eastern Front, drunken forays to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, a decade of imprisonment in the wretched Soviet POW camps, and further military service during the Cold War that ended with conflict and angst.."

 Schmidt's book is subtitled 'the Myth...' The 'myth' is the story of how Hartmann's service on the Eastern Front with JG 52 (and briefly with JG 53, although not even mentioned by the author)  was simplified and elevated to a particular sort of Western mythology during the Cold War, driven by a network of writers and commentators personally invested in his welfare and reputation. " These men, mostly Americans, published elaborate, celebratory stories about Hartmann and his elite fraternity of Luftwaffe pilots. With each dogfight tale put into print, Hartmann’s legacy became loftier and more secure, and his complicated service in support of Nazism faded away. A simplified, one-dimensional account of his life - devoid of the harder questions about allegiance and service under Hitler - has gone unchallenged for almost a generation..."

So the author's discussion of how Hartmann's wartime career has been portrayed is regularly punctuated with 'reminders' that Hitler fought a terrible war of conquest and that the guys flying the planes with the red stars were NOT the 'enemy'. (..which is a little tricky since post-war for a very long period and to the average American they most certainly were..)  " Here was a tough-as-nails freedom-seeker who had been swallowed into the Soviet camps and then soared out of them, a man whose fighting values would have put him at home in the U.S. Army Air Corps or the Royal Air Force at any time...". Schmidt's point here is that the " Luftwaffe aces are basically caricatures of themselves" and that this serves no-one, not history nor the 'aces' themselves.

The author's portrayal of Hartmann's wartime career ends on page 117 of 'Black Tulip'. The second half of the book is probably the most interesting part of the book (IMHO) as Schmidt discusses the ace's return from captivity and his 'reinsertion' into 'professional' life. This of course coincided with the 'rebirth' of the German nation (or at least the Western half..). However as a 'Diamonds' winner Hartmann very quickly found himself being passed over for promotions ' by pilots who had never flown a combat sortie or fired a shot in anger..'

 In re-evaluating Hartmann's career, Schmidt uses all the secondary sources that are to hand.  Many airwar enthusiasts will be familiar with them. There is no in-depth discussion of Hartmann's 'claims list' and the author really misses the chance to explain here how the Cold War 'mythology' of Hartmann's career was 'boosted' by the continual focus on his record '352' victories - a record that does not really stand up to close scrutiny. Hartmann became a 'hero' for the West post-war and books about him became best-sellers. " Chronicles of the Luftwaffe pilots have become best-sellers ..but the most ardently pro-Wehrmacht ones often masquerade as deep research" As Schmidt puts it, if you want to know what polish a German officer put on his boots you can find that out but whether he was a Nazi or not, that is another matter. Schmidt's account is a counter to the narrative of 'chivalrous knight' of the sky that 'filtered' into the market-place post-war. Colin Heaton's 'The Aces speak' comes in for some sharp criticsm here for his 'default' attitude towards his interviewees. Schmidt argues that post-war writers  - Toliver, Constable, Heaton and their ilk - have created a 'comfortably clean view' of the Luftwaffe aces as happened with other branches of the Wehrmacht. Black Tulip' looks a little harder at Hartmann and so much of the German Wehrmacht in general. Ultimately thought there is little new here and Schmidt's conclusions are pretty modest too - while many of Hartmann's fellow aces were not full-blown Nazis they were hardly 'Blond Knights' either.

Friday 3 April 2020

Fw 190 in Brussels Evere

" ...On 4 November 1944, 416 Sqn RCAF moved to Base 56 at Evere, Belgium, an ex-German Luftwaffe airfield. When the RCAF pilots flew their Spitfires into the former Luftwaffe base [5 November 1944] they found one abandoned Fw 190 fighter aircraft. Many photos were taken on or beside this enemy fighter, including four images by pilot Gordon Hill...

This became the first German fighter aircraft seen up close by most of the Canadian Spitfire pilots and they climbed all over the enemy fighter... A month later, the British Army came to remove the fighter and it blew-up. It had been booby trapped by the retreating German troops. A lesson learned the hard way by all pilots in 416 Squadron...

From the Clarence Simonson blog 'Preserving the Past' " The making of a WWII RCAF Spitfire pilot"

Fw 190 A-8. WNr. 680883
(Best image I’ve seen of this machine, my collection via James V. Crow- click on the image to view large. Note that in the last two photos most ‘detachable’ parts of the airframe have gone!)

III./JG 51 Gefr. Gabriel Tautscher - Ebay photo find #328

III./JG 51 Gefr. Gabriel Tautscher, "hochgenommen" to mark his 50th. He was a recipient of the  DKiG for this achievement.

Rare image of one of only 24 Jagdflieger to achieve 50 victories and not to have been awarded the RK. By late 1943 award criteria was at least 75 victories and a number of aces had returned well over one hundred victories before being awarded the RK.
Tautscher returned his first victory on October 23, 1942 south-west of Subzow (captured October 11, 1941 and retaken by the Red Army during the first Rschew-Sytschowka-Operation on August 23, 1942). Tautscher was the highest scorer in 9.Staffel during the Kursk offensive. His best day was 12 July 1943  - he claimed three LaGG -3 and two MiG-1 fighters and added another two victories the following day. On July 17 he claimed four - three LaGG-3s and a single LaGG-5. He scored at regular intervals through August 1943 with his next handful of claims not being until December.
Tautscher of 9. Staffel was shot down by Soviet anti-aircraft fire - Flakvolltreffer -on January 12, 1944 north of Osaritschi. This was also the date of his final 'claim', an Il-2 - it was usual Jagdwaffe practise to assign a final claim to a fallen ace. Tautscher's final 'score' was 55 vics.
Photo published on p. 244 of " Das Jagdgeschwader 51 - JG Mölders" by Paul Stipdonk and Michael Meyer.