Tuesday 27 October 2020

Kommodore of JG 77, Major Joachim Müncheberg


The most significant Tagjagd loss in North Africa occurred on March 23, 1943. On that day, the Kommodore of JG 77, Major Joachim Müncheberg, made his 500th Feindflug (war flight). He shot down a Spitfire (135th victory) near Maknassy but his Bf 109 G-6 was apparently hit by debris and brought down. Müncheberg thus perished in the African theater where he had cemented his reputation two years earlier when he led 7./JG 26. In his honor, the Geschwader adopted the badge of this Staffel: a red heart. His successor came from the East: Major Johannes Steinhoff, former Kommandeur of II./JG 52. During his first ‘war flight’ in African skies, the new Kommodore was shot down but was able to put his 109 down on its belly. 

 Via Jan Bobek; "..Here is a nice set of fresh Bundesarchiv photos featuring the Kommodore of JG 77 Jochen Müncheberg, seen with a Bf 109 G of the Stab JG 77, photographed in early 1943 in Tunisia..." More at Jan's 'Flying Rabbit' FB page..However the ace is wearing the field-grey 'European' uniform which suggests that these pictures of Müncheberg's G-2 were taken in Europe before his departure for North Africa.


Sunday 11 October 2020

Croatian Gustav Bf 109 G-10/G-14 deserter - in colour

 via Troy Smith; 

 ".. As a child I was given a bound copy of some Aircraft In Profiles, volume 5 I think. The dust jacket has long since gone. I was model mad anyway, it was the second real aircraft book I owned, and was much looked at over the years. As with anything new, certain images stayed with me, as it was all new, one was the Croatian "G-10" with stylised leaf fuselage cross ...

..but recently this 'new' image turned up on-line... "Bf 109 G-14/AS W.Nr. 782 104 (?) "Crni 4", flown by deserting pilot Vladimir Sandtner, I.Zrakoplovna Skupina. 2. Lovačko Jato, seen at Falconara after 16 April 1945.."

This image was totally new to me, and pretty jaw dropping... note the B-25 in the background too. I realised that the Croat 'cross' is much further forward than the original German one, and centered on a filler point (oxygen?) The colour looks washes out so I'm wondering if this is actually a base colour of 82/75.  There was much gnashing of teeth when this pic surfaced recently and essentially retired all those cherished late war brown/green camo theories. The goat's head emblem is still debated but IMO it's the variation of the one seen on a Fiat G.50. This newly released photo will hopefully result in a new set of decals..."

 Note too the over-painted wing crosses

Below; another view, taken with a film or filter that has made the yellow appear dark, has also made the area round the cockpit really dark, so maybe it is green/grey?

"...This view shows the port side artwork, note the goats head design which is just visible below the cockpit, and the C3 in the filler triangle. ..."

Are there any suitable decals out there ? I have a set from Intech but they do not include the cockpit artwork. some Kora sheets do..

Below; original intel report confirms that the type was a G-14 as flown by defecting pilot Sandtner. According to "Bf 109 Late Versions" (Wolowski, published by MMP) the 78xxxx serial confirms that this was a G-14/AS built by Messerschmitt Regensburg. Even though the small "chin" bulges were not required by the DB 605 AS engine, the theory is that this was done to increase parts commonality with the DB 605 D-engined G-10 and K-4 also being built at that time..


click on the images to view full screen

The external visible difference between the G-14/AS and the G-10 was apparently the position of the cold weather starter hatch on the starboard side of the nose - on the G-10 it was in line with the little hole on the rear of the cowl, on the G-14/AS it was lower down - this picture of Black 4 shows this clearly (just above the A of viscarra).

more on this britmodeller thread here

Friday 9 October 2020

La Luftwaffe en France 1939-1945, tome 1 (Arès, 2020)


Jean-Louis ROBA has just published his latest hardback, book 1 of two to cover the history of the Luftwaffe in France during the Second World War. My pre-ordered copy arrived yesterday from French publisher Arès - better 'known' apparently for their histories of French military units. This fine A-4 hardback is jam-packed with photos and data - nearly 600 images according to the publisher's blurb. The author's approach to his subject matter is geographical, chronological and global. The almost two hundred pages of text are abundantly (!) illustrated with pictures taken by the veterans themselves, providing an almost 'intimate' view of life for operational and training units stationed on French soil, in many instances far removed from the usual propaganda clichés (men of JG 2 buying crabs in Morlaix, an excursion to Mont St. Michel etc etc). There are of course multiple views of aircraft and 'personalities'. Side-bars and text boxes (blue background) include DFS 230 and Gotha Go 232 training operations from Valence, the He 111 Z of the LLG, profiles of Harlinghausen, Sperrle and the commanders of 1. and 2. Fallschirmjäger Divisionen and even 'Lion cubs in the Luftwaffe ' or 'Göring in Paris'. Unusually for this type of work and because they are so numerous and spread throughout the volume, there is an 'index of side-bars' alongside a 'conventional' list of contents - although in the typical French format this appears at the rear of the book.

This first volume covers the first half of the war, from the Phoney War to the invasion of the 'zone libre' or the 'unoccupied territory'. Individual chapters cover the fighting during operations in the West in May and June 1940, the Battle of Britain, the defense of French airspace against the RAF's 'non-Stop' offensive incursions, the organisation of Luftflotte 3 after Luftflotte 2's deployment towards the USSR, the protection of Operation Donnerkeil and the reaction to the raid on Dieppe.

Chapter I covers pre-war Franco-German relations in the aeronautical field while chapter 2 is devoted to the 'Phoney War' including a full list of Luftwaffe losses over the border areas during this period.  Chapter 3 is a daily 'diary' of the Westfeldzug combats over France principally from the view of the St.G and KG committed in operations. Aerial activity did not cease in the intermediate period between the battles of 1940 and the intensification of the Allied bombing of Germany. Chapter 4 is entitled ' the first year in France' and there are four pages devoted to the dispositions of Luftflotten 2 and 3 with side-bars devoted to the 'Nahaufklärungsgruppen' and the establishment of the air-sea rescue service (Seenot). There is a fascinating overview of the aerodromes and installations exploited and occupied by the Luftwaffe  including graveyards and their often elaborately 'decorated' honour cemeteries (pages 102-104) or Ehrenfriedhöfe. The text does not just focus on airborne units. Ground units, anti-aircraft (Flak) and parachute (Fallschirmjäger) units as well as the various administrative entities are also featured. Luftnachrichten Schule 4 is covered on one page (radio operators school). Chapter VI covers a whole range of training units including the FFS pilot training schools, the Dewoitine D.520-equipped JFS 5 at Villacoublay and the Fiat Cr.42 -equipped JG 107 at Toul. There are 'annexes' that detail JFS 5 losses and two pages of Flak claims along the Channel coast for 1941.

Activities at Pau, Blagnac, Cazaux. Rennes, Istres etc etc along with other 'secondary' airfields feature, with first-person accounts detailing daily life (if you can handle the French text..). 

Mechanic Heinz Zimmer recalled; " ..in December 1940 I left Germany for the first time in my life and was sent to France in Cognac. I was assigned as a mechanic to the Ergänzungsstaffel 26, the operational training unit of JG 26, commanded by Oblt. Freiherr Hubertus von Holthey, a Baron. I arrived with a group of mechanics from Merseburg. We were billeted in a college. We worked on the Bf 109 Emil and Friedrich. The winter of 40/41 was very wet. The runway wasn't very good either. The Bf 109 was difficult to manoeuvre during take-off and landing. There were many accidents due to these factors. Nevertheless, as mechanics, we had many compensations in France. The climate was milder than in Central Europe and we ate much better. Eggs for breakfast but too often goulash the rest of the time.."

 The Ergänzungsgruppen established throughout France are covered in some detail. At the beginning of 1942, all the Ergänzungsgruppen subordinate to the Jagdgeschwader were disbanded and divided into four large school units, the EJG Süd, West, Ost and Nord. They were primarily established in the South of France, where the climate was more favourable for training (this was at a time and in a sector where British intrusions were very rare). Heinz Zimmer was posted to Cazaux, one of the airfields of the EJG Ost; " ..I found the climate quite debilitating. We were bored. There was no food to buy in the area and the only recreation was going to the beach at Pilloy-sur-Mer near Arcachon. In the spring of 1943, we were moved to Landes de Bussac (Ste Marie). I had barely arrived when I ran into ... Hermann Graf who recognized me, his former mechanic. He ran the school and I was delighted to run into him again. Apart from this excellent surprise, life remained the same. The track was sandy and many machines were damaged. At that time we received a visit from General Adolf Galland.."

 Another mechanic Uffz. Philip Schmelzer had re-trained to fly the Bf 110 and then moved to fighters. In May 1943 he was posted to Toulouse-Blagnac; "We arrived in Blagnac. There were only pilots in our group, since we were going to be re-trained on single-seaters. At the school we were introduced to Heinz Bär, who had been withdrawn from a front unit because of his differences with Hermann Göring after the fall of Africa. We were first trained on the Bf 109. But we had been told so many bad things about this aircraft (it was hard to fly, it's undercarriage was fragile, visibility was poor...) that we were somewhat terrified when we took the controls. Accidents were commonplace. Graf then brought us together and calmed us down by taking the drama out of this plane. After his explanations, things went much better. We then passed out on the FW 190 and I very much appreciated this machine".        


 a veteran of 1940, Oberfeldwebel Herbert Kaiser flew with III./JG 77. In late January 1943, he had been evacuated from Tunsia and sent as an instructor to the Er. JGr. Süd in Marseille. On March 14, 1943, at Marignane airfield, he was awarded the Knight's Cross for his 54 victories by the school's commander, Oberstleutnant Alfred Müller, a former Great War pilot. Kaiser returned to JG 77 and then JG 1, surviving the war with 68 victories to his credit. On the left is Oberleutnant Erwin Clausen, a JG 77 comrade also attached to the school as an instructor.  Clausen was KIA as Kommandeur I./JG 11.

There are a number of colour profile artworks distributed throughout the book (by Jean-Marie Guillou) but the content is so dense I almost failed to notice them on initial perusal. Images of period documents (and the odd newspaper report) that add so much visual interest and additional data are dotted throughout the text. And I have not yet mentioned chapters covering night fighters and the 'invasion' of the southern zone following 'Torch'. While there is a large range of material featured, the author is at pains to point out that this work is 'merely' a synthesis of the variety of subject matter that could have been included in a more 'exhaustive' work, but I have to say he has done a fabulous job with the material he has presented. The lay-out is a little 'crowded' even so and some of the images are just a little on the small side since there are so many of them. I would have liked to have seen some details of aircraft production too since a number of types went straight into Luftwaffe service from French factories - although there is some detail in the photo captions perhaps this is for part two. The text makes clear that increasingly hard-pressed resources were spread ever more thinly over larger and larger territorial areas, forcing the staffs to make choices and the hard-pressed personnel to perform  with sometimes very limited or obsolescent means. Overall though any comments or criticisms of mine are pretty minor-league and it is impossible to do justice to the book in a short review.. Congratulations to the author. If you have any interest in the history of the Luftwaffe then this work devoted to the daily life of Luftwaffe units in France is highly recommended. Hopefully Part 2 will be with us some time next year!


Hermann Göring  seemed to enjoy visiting Paris and France rather more than his Führer who preferred Rome according to most accounts. Contrary to popular opinion Göring did not visit France just to acquire artworks. Here he is seen arriving in Buc to visit 1.(F)/123 on 15 August 1941 with Barbarossa in full swing. The descent from his Fw 200 was probably a little awkward. Later in the year he met Petain at Saint-Florentin and also visited Dieppe following the abortive Canadian landing in August 1942.

Published during September 2020. Publisher's website for ordering and more page views is here

Format 215 x 305 mm - Bound, hardcover, 196 pages, 600 photos, 7 color artworks. French text

Sunday 4 October 2020

Seenotstaffel Dornier Do 24


From early 1943 3. Seenotstaffel operated out over the Golfe du Lion from l’ Étang de Berre on the Mediterranean coast. Some nice views of one of the unit’s machines being hoisted into the water at the start of a sortie. Note the crew member on the upper wing to hook and unhook the crane..(ECPA -D). There appears to be a ladder deployed from just aft of the cowl of the middle engine (not running) to enable the crew member to get down from the wing. (thanks for pointing this out Stephen). Similar images appear in Jean-Louis Roba's new book "La Luftwaffe en France 1939-1945, tome 1 " just published by Arès.

The Dornier Do 24 was one of eight German types constructed by French industry for the occupying power, the main contractor being the S.N.C.A.N based in the former CAMS factory in Sartrouville on the Seine to the west of Paris.  During 1943 twenty two Do 24s were delivered followed by a further 30 machines before the Liberation...a further 20 machines were ordered for the ‘new’ French ‘Marine nationale’ post-war. No fewer than 40 of the type saw service with the French, remaining in service until 1953. 

Saturday 3 October 2020

new Luftwaffe books


Currently on the 'to-read' pile;

Part II of Philippe Saintes’ history of JG 54 Grünherz has been published in the series "Histoire des Unités" by the French-language specialist publisher Lela Presse. Despite being a soft-cover this is a fine book. It features 333 densely filled pages, both in terms of text and illustrations. There are eleven chapters, organised both in chronological order and according to the geography of the theatre of operations, with a Gruppe in the West and two Gruppen in the East in Courland. Final operations with the Bf 109 are detailed followed by the transition onto the Focke-Wulf 190 and the arrival in service of the first Fw 190 D-9s. Each chapter ends with a partial conclusion and a summary of casualties. More than 800 photographs, both black & white and colour, and some thirty profiles illustrate the text - personal accounts and captions are in blue-ish green and blue to differentiate them from the text in black which makes reading a lot ‘easier’ if you can handle the French.  The footnotes are also coloured in olive green. A general conclusion gives way to a copious thirty-page appendix listing all JG 54 pilots. Acknowledgements, sources and references and two pages of errata from Volume 1 wrap up this excellent two-volume history of the Grünherz. All kudos to the author, his contributors and Lela Presse for producing these excellent volumes - a shame there are no equivalent productions in English in the works currently (..unless you know differently). I believe the author is currently writing/researching another Jagdgeschwader history so look forward to that.

From the ‘Military book collectors’ page on Facebook

Go here for the review of these books on the britmodeller forum

Recently published by Mortons in a very nice hardback format is Dan Sharp’s ‘Secret Projects of the Luftwaffe - Jet Fighters 39-45'. This is a fine production of over 300 pages and 600 photos on glossy paper with plenty of drawings, diagrams and conference translation transcripts describing the convoluted genesis of the German jets. 'Luft 46' and paper projects- featuring some designs based on only the sketchiest details or the odd drawing - are not really my ‘thing’ but author Sharp has dug deep into the archives and provides new developmental histories of well-known types such as the Me 262, He 162 and Me 163 which feature 'new' information and more accurate developmental timelines which go a long way to correcting previous histories. Much of this new information sheds additional light on many of the lesser or unknown jet projects that were under development or attained operational status during the period 39-45. This is an important work for enthusiasts interested in aviation history during a period when technology and innovation propelled flight into new dimensions.

Coming soon, part 1 of " The Luftwaffe in France - From the Phoney War to the invasion of the Unoccupied Zone" (a first Luftwaffe book from French specialist Éditions Arès) a new Luftwaffe Gallery from Erik Mombeeck and a new Osprey....