Wednesday 30 September 2020

Alte Adler - Great War pilots in the WWII Luftwaffe

There were a number of notable 'alte Adler' who flew combat in WWI and who then went on to serve  in the WW II Luftwaffe- aviators such as Mix, Osterkamp, Loerzer, von Greim, von Schleich, Hasso von Wedel, Vollbracht, Frommherz, Huth, Hammes etc etc. But while most of these men flew in the new Luftwaffe either pre-war or during the early years of WWII very few achieved any great 'success' in the air - over the preceding 25 years advances in aeronautics and the mental and physical requirements of flying had grown exponentially. And during the summer of 1940 a number of more 'senior' commanders were removed from their posts by Göring to be replaced with younger more dynamic men. However a few names do stand out - in this blog post we look briefly at the careers of some of the more notable 'alte Adler'; Alexander von Winterfeldt, Hans Krug and Alfred Lindenberger.

Alexander von Winterfeldt was born in Berlin on 30 October 1898. He was the younger brother of Rudolf, eldest son of Detlof von Winterfeldt and Marianne née Freeia von Rotenhan. Born into a family with a strong tradition of high-ranking military service and related to the German nobility, Alexander was named after Prince Alexander of Prussia, a cousin of the Kaiser. His grandfather had served at court as Prince Alexander’s aide-de-camp.

He served as an infantryman, then flew fighters during WWI . In August 1918 he had been posted to Jasta 20 - 'Jasta Busse', deployed since January 1917 above Belgian Flanders. In August 1918, the unit was based in Menin (Menen) near Courtrai and was commanded by an ace, Leutnant Joachim von Busse, then credited with half a dozen victories
A brief translated extract from von Winterfeldt's memoir, a 64-page unpublished manuscript entitled "Meine Erlebnisse in den Kriegsjahren 1916 - 1919";

 "..I wrote to you when I shot down my first victim. Yesterday I achieved my second aerial victory. With five Fokkers, we attacked a dozen Sopwith Camels, a dangerous single-seater opponent. My comrades engaged the enemy, killed one, and then disappeared. I stayed with the Sopwiths because I wasn’t going to leave without having at least taken them on. I was flying in all directions as they were all trying to bring me down. I took about twenty impacts in my machine but was able to down one of the Camels in flames. The English are no laughing matter but the German fighters are formidable in combat. Every day a dozen Englishmen are shot down by our pilots. But here we no longer have proper accommodation which is a real burden and we fly constantly – many sorties per day. We are now in Wingene near Ghent. We are like flying gypsies. Many of our Ketten however are totally annihilated and our losses are heavy. But at home it appears that things are even worse as those returning from leave tell us. So I feel much better at the front. Brother Rudolf is not far from here. He is fighting in Flanders as a battalion commander. "

Alexander’s father was one of the plenipotentiaries that assembled at Compiegne to sign the 11 November 1918 armistice. However like many of the Kaiser’s officers he refused to accept, even passively, the drastic conditions imposed on his country. Little is known about his activities during the inter-war period, aside from a long voyage to China on a sales trip for the Henschel firm. Called up as a 'reserve officer' on the outbreak of WWII he flew with JG 2 in the Westfeldzug (campaign in the West, 1940) aged 42 years old. He was subsequently appointed Kommandeur of III./JG 77 for Barbarossa. Russia took a toll on his health and he was repatriated home. Promoted to Oberstleutnant, he was sent to Austria to command a training school, JFS 4 in Wien-Schwechat (Vienna) but on 16 May 1942, Alexander von Winterfeldt perished in the crash of his Bf 109 E near the airfield. He was buried with military honours on 20 May 1942. Alexander von Winterfeldt was credited with four air victories in 1918, a further nine during 1940/1941 and fifteen aircraft destroyed on the ground. Of the three von Winterfeldt brothers only Rudolf survived the war – younger brother Kurt was killed serving with an armoured unit in Poland during February 1945.

On February 9, 1986, Richard Kraut celebrated his 91st birthday. As a Leutnant he had been posted to Jasta 4 on August 3, 1918. He subsequently served with JG 2 and JG 54 in the WWII Luftwaffe and was one of the last surviving Richthofener or "Eisgrauen" ( a term that denoted membership of the Jagdgeschwader Freiherr von Richthofen during the period 1917-1918..).

On February 6, 1986 Fritz Fromme (left) celebrated his 90th birthday as one of the last surviving WWI aviators at that time. Born in Dusseldorf in 1896 he underwent pilot training in Johannisthal in late 1915 and then trained on fighters. In March 1917 he served with Fliegerabteilung  A265 based near the French town of Laon. During the inter-war period he was a Fluglehrer and sports flyer. With the occupation of the Rhineland in 1936 he joined the Luftwaffe and was posted to JG 26 and from May 1941 commanded the Ergänzungsgruppe of JG 26 until he entered American captivity at the end of the war. He never flew again - quoted in the German fighter pilots magazine  Jägerblatt he stated;

 " ...after two eye and two hip operations, two crashes and two World Wars I've had my fill.."

A 1983 issue of Jägerblatt featured the career of former Jagdstaffel 18 ace Paul Strähle. He returned 14 victories under Htpm. Berthold before being appointed to command Jagdstaffel 57 towards the end of the war. In the interwar period he founded his own air transport business 'Luftverkehr Strähle' before the monopoly of such activities was turned over to Lufthansa. He then set up in business taking aerial photographs until such activity was banned by the authorities in 1938. During WWII he 'continued' this specialism serving as a 'reserve' officer in the reconnaissance arm - Luftaufklärung.

 Lt. Hans Krug of 5./JG 26 had served as an airman in the Royal Bavarian Air Service during WWI. He later flew as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War and achieved nine confirmed victories during World War II. His last victory was Fairey Battle of No. 142 Sq. RAF claimed on August 23, 1940 in the evening near Boulogne. Six British crews were tasked with attacking the E-Boots. Two were shot down by German fighters and two made an emergency landing in England. The fighters from JG 3 and JG 26 claimed six victories.

Born in Nürtingen, south-east of Stuttgart, in April 1897 Alfred Lindenberger served initially during WWI in the Württemburger infantry regiment 119. He had achieved three 'kills' as an observer/air gunner in Flieger Abteilung 234 before pilot training during early 1918 and joining Jasta 'Boelcke' where in a matter of months he went on to become an ace. With the formation of the 'new' Luftwaffe in the 1930s he served as a flying instructor. During early 1944 he applied to fly in the defense of the Reich. Given that his superiors had already removed a number of 'old hands' from combat commands, it seems unusual to find a veteran of his age being allowed to fly combat. In the end Lindenberger - known as 'the Kaiser' to his new comrades - flew his first combat sortie at  the controls of a Fw 190 during September 1944 in II./JG 300. Some sources state that Lindenberger flew with IV.(Sturm)/ JG 3, or that he assumed command of II.(Sturm)/JG 300 during the summer of 1944 - he did not in any practical sense. JG 300 of course was no longer a 'wilde Sau' unit by June 1944 and through the summer of 1944 operated heavily armed and armoured single-engine fighters against US bomber streams in the Sturmgruppe role.  Lindenberger claimed two Viermots before his 'blue 17' was shot down over Halberstadt on 28 September 1944. He parachuted to safety and was back in the cockpit to return two more claims against the bombers on 17 December. JG 300 shifted to the Eastern Front in late January 1945. Lindenberger flew his first 'ground-attack' sortie against Soviet troops east of the Oder on 24 January 1945. II./JG 300 had flown east on 23 January arriving at Schönfeld-Seifersdorf. Lindenberger flew his last sortie of the war on 2 April 1945 - probably as wingman to Bauer, who filed his last claim that day - but was forced to make a crash-landing gear up at Löbnitz.

Much more on Lindenberger's story in issue 232 of 'Avions' magazine..

Lindenberger as Rumpler gunner/observer in FA 234 with ace pilot Vzfw. Karl Jentsch. Jentsch published his memoir 'Jagdflieger im Feuer' in 1937.

Monday 28 September 2020

More Ebay madness!


still some way short of the £600  (GBP) bid for a copy of the JG 26 Luftwaffe Gallery special or even the 350 GBP for the Luftwaffe in Czech lands, but this recent win of Vol II of the Fw 190 Dora book from JAPO was eye-wateringly high. Perhaps now is not the time to point out that on a recent visit to the 'Aviation Bookshop' in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, a pile of these were still on sale on the shelves at their retail price !  (around £ 44..)

More Ebay book rarities on this blog here

And some of the rarer Luftwaffe titles that sold here

Friday 18 September 2020

Fw. Hans Schuster 4.(F)/123 (Eins) - air combat 'kill' over the 'Invasionsraum'


On June 8, 1944, B-24J 42-109830 'Daisy Mae Scraggs' was shot down by 109s just off the coast of the Cherbourg Peninsula near Granville. The aircraft exploded in mid-air and the debris came down on and around the Isle de Chausey. Five of the crew survived to become POWs and 5 were KIA. During the combat (as recorded in the MACR) the engineer/top-turret gunner, T/Sgt. Leedy claimed to have destroyed one of the attacking Bf 109s. The destruction of the B-24 was claimed by Fw. Hans Schuster of 4.(F)/123 (Eins) 05 Ost S/00/5 600m 8.00. 4.(F)/123 (Eins) reported no losses that day and their next loss was that of Willy Kammann described in the previous post.

Schuster claimed a Spitfire two days later on 10 June and in the photo below is seen describing a combat. Just visible on his flight jacket (bottom left) Ofw Schuster had been awarded the DKiG (German Cross in Gold). He received the award ( the usual precursor to the RK) for more than 100 "erfolgreiche Bild-Flüge" ('successful photo flights') and at least five confirmed kills. 

Schuster's Staffelkapitän Hptm. Heinz Feilmayer was lost on 17 August 1944 in the vicinity of Dreux and was replaced by Oblt. Werner Kohla. Heinz Feilmayer seen in the cockpit of his G-5 below.

In September F 123 returned to Gemany (Flugplätze Trier-Euren, Niedermendig). Ofw. Schuster was shot down on 24 December 1944 over Trier (close to the border with Luxembourg). He bailed out and become PoW as a pilot of NAGr. 1 (former F. 123 Eins.). Details of Schuster's loss via Hans Hauprich;

".. Ofw. Schuster's Bf 109 was either an G-6 or G-14 and fully armed. At two of the unit's crash sites (Uffz. Klems Dec. 44 and Uffz. Windsberger Febr. 45) I found 13 and 20mm rounds. Windsberger's 109 G-6 has two Typenschilder, one with G-6 and the other one an small "Baureihenänderung" for G-8 inside the left "Motorhaubenverkleidung". This small metal card could be removed for "Wartungsarbeiten".

Ofw. Schuster's wingman returned to Niedermendig and reported that "Schuster attacked the Thunderbolts and was shot down". The 109 crashed in an large wooden area and the pilot came down over US-held Luxembourg. I found no Interrogation Report for him. The "Namentliche Verlustmeldung" from NAGr. 1 gives no details of the aircraft.."

Tuesday 15 September 2020

MIA - Gefreiter Wilhelm Kammann 4.(F)/123, June 1944 - Vom Feindflug nicht zurückgekehrt

Gefreiter Willy Kammann was a Bf 109 pilot with 4.(F)/123 in northern France (Nonancourt). Kammann failed to return from a sortie on June 20, 1944 over the Seine Bay area and was believed shot down by Allied fighters while on a reconnaissance flight at the controls of Bf 109 G-5 W.Nr. 110381 "blue 5".

 According to the letter of  condolence dated June 26, 1944, sent to the family from his Staffelkapitän Hptm. Heinz Feilmayer and reproduced below, Kammann was assigned to fly a sortie with Ofhr. Schäfer, " of the oldest and most experienced pilots in the Staffel.. ". The sortie was a recce mission over the 'Invasionsraum'. Schäfer's machine however developed a technical problem so that Kammann found himself in the air on his own and elected to fly the sortie alone. He confirmed he was proceeding with the sortie " via a radio transmission some twenty minutes after getting airborne". Feilmayer writes that this was the last communication received from the pilot and that " there has been no subsequent news from him. .." Feilmayer states that Kammann was always keen to fly missions assigned to him, he was 'Einsatz begeistert' and 'pflichttreu' (dutiful) and on the day he went missing would have been determined to carry out his orders under all circumstances. He had no doubt fallen victim to the enemy's defences...." ..Over the past few days I have been hoping and expecting to receive some word of your son although I now see that I am forced to inform you of this very sad news.... I know that words will not alleviate your sorrow but the certainty that your son's sacrifice was for the (..) Homeland may be of some consolation... .. "

Staffelkapitän Hptm. Heinz Feilmayer was himself posted missing on 17 August 1944 after a recce sortie over the Dreux-Chartres-Versailles sector.

NB: spelling of names corrected, thanks to regular blog readers for pointing this out!

Willy Kammann (two 'm' and two 'n')
Heinz Feilmayer

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Bf 110 ZG 1 Agentur Karl Höffkes film archive

Phil LLoyd has been trawling through the footage made available via the Agentur Karl Höffkes film archive AKH and has come across some more Eastern Front colour footage.

" ...from the Agentur Karl Höffkes film archive - home movie taken by a Luftwaffe officer while a whistle-stop tour in a Storch on the Eastern front during late Summer 1942. Believed to have been filmed around Rostov-On-Don. Will be of interest to any Eastern Front Luftwaffe fans. I have extracted a couple of time codes which are worth a look...."

10:09:47 He 111, Ju 88 and Ju 87D - Knight's Cross winner...Name?

10:21:49 Me 110 SKG 210? or ZG 1 'S9+DK' - Bombing up and taxiing.

view Reel 3308

The following stills are reproduced here with the kind permission of Karl Höffkes.