Wednesday 31 August 2022

new from Lela Presse - The Luftwaffe in Italy 1943-45


Following on from their recent 'Luftwaffe in Tunisia' (Jean-Louis Roba) and 'Last victory in the Mediterranean' ( Jean-Louis Roba with Chris Shores) Lela Presse have just published their latest 'BATAILLES AÉRIENNES' monograph, 'The Luftwaffe in Italy 1943-45' by Jean-Louis Roba.  Coverage of bomber, fighter, transport and recce units is based on archival documents including POW interrogation reports and features plenty of first-person accounts. French text. Still well worth acquiring at only 13 euros - 96 pages, 150+ photos, profile artworks  - but easy enough to read with, for example, the google translate app on your smartphone..

IV- Transport units 

 In the course of the resupply operations flown into the Tunisian pocket, the German Transportgeschwader (the designation TG had replaced the former KGzbV in April) had suffered terribly. Above all else, there was a shortage of escorts for the Ju 52 and Me 323 transports. On April 22, the ‘infamous’ disaster at Cap Bon took place - fourteen TG 5 Me 323 six-engine behemoths were shot down with their passengers and cargoes. - TG 5 continued to be based on its aerodrome at Pomigliano to supply the islands. One Me 323 pilot, Oblt. Ernst Peter*, recalled: 

 "..After the operations in Tunisia, our unit flew almost daily from Naples-Pomigliano to Sardinia, with the handful of aircraft that remained and those that could be brought to us from Leipheim. For a while we were able to enjoy life. From time to time we would see, far above us, the condensation trails of an enemy reconnaissance plane that had come to watch the area or, sometimes, tight formations of heavily laden bombers arriving from Africa to sow death near the Alps. We could continue on our way because these formations were not at the same altitude as we were and any potential fighter escorts they might have did not care about the transport planes flying at much lower altitudes. It was a nice feeling to be able to fly alone, not having to rely on a fighter escort and only having to rely on yourself. We did not have to endure the attacks on our runways like Cagliari/Elmas, Alghero, Venfiorita/Olbia, Decimomannu, Villacidro or Milis, so it was a good time and, after the costly and hard operations in Africa, almost a relief even though we often had to fly for three hours over a sea stretching as far as the eye could see. We mainly refuelled the 90. (leichte) Division with fuel, Flak equipment, vehicles, ammunition, etc..."

* "..schleppte und flog Giganten"

The strains within the German command

The Bf 109s of the 'Pik As', based in Sicily, were to bear the brunt of the powerful air attacks on the island. On 18 May, suitably escorted four-engine bombers dropped their ordnance on Pantelleria and Trapani. Eight P-38s were claimed but no bombers - a testament to the quality of the escort. On the 19th, the USAAF targeted Trapani and, although six Lightnings and two Curtiss were claimed, again no bombers fell victim to the 'Pik As'. That day, 7./JG 53 lost two of its pilots. On the 20th, Spitbombers from Malta bombed Comiso. And so on... These almost daily attacks gradually wore down the Sicilian defence units. 

 JG 77's first major combat since the evacuation from Africa, however, did not take place until June 18, in the Sardinian sector of Olbia. In support of local Italian units, III./JG 77 faced a large formation of B-25s escorted by P-38s of the 27th, 96th and 318th FS. Two P-38s, three B-25s and a Boston were claimed by the three Staffeln, who seem to have lost no aircraft. 

 The Allies had barely paused after the capture of Tunisia. On the night of 10/11 June, they began their invasion of Europe by landing at Pantelleria. On 12 June, after the small Italian island of Pantelleria, the island of Lampedusa surrendered almost without a fight. 

 Confronted with these rapid Allied actions it was decided to completely overhaul the German command in the Mediterranean;
 -all Wehrmacht units in the south came under the control of Marshal Albert Kesselring hastily appointed OBS Süd (Oberbefehlshaber Süd); 
-Luftflotte 2 was taken over by the energetic Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen, cousin of the famous Great War pilot;
 -the bomber units dependent on II. Fliegerkorps were regrouped under the Fernkampfführer Mittelmeer, Oberst Dietrich Peltz. Peltz (who in 1941 had led the dive-bombing school at Foggia) was to attempt to instil the new tactics that had been honed in the West against the UK and to develop various measures such as attacks at low altitude or the movement of units to more distant airfields, in order to reduce the risk of destruction by Allied bombers.

 However, given the large number of units assembled in a restricted space that had now become a front line, the Germans faced serious logistical problems, as Karl Gundelach pointed out; 

 "…In Sicily, it was necessary to find new airfields for the fighter and the Schlacht units. This was difficult because very often all that was available was just farmland. Göring received many complaints from his Kommandeure about the slowness of the Italians to find solutions (...) It was also necessary to reinforce the Flak arm; especially the batteries defending the vital Straits of Messina. (...) It was planned to establish barrage balloon booms here, but the Italians preferred to keep them for their own ports. (…).Aerodromes in Sardinia had to established and air transport to the island stepped up. The Allied air forces then sent their long-range aircraft to disrupt this air traffic, which led to losses. (...) The greatest difficulties were in Calabria, where there was a lack of aerodromes for fighters. The best equipped were in Apulia but they were too far away for the Tagjäger. (...) Following the heavy losses of the Flak in Tunisia and the equipment which had been abandoned there, there was a lack of batteries. Most of them were to be assigned to Sicily but Sardinia needed 15% of the manpower that had been gathered. It was therefore necessary to bring in anti-aircraft units from northern Italy at the risk of undermining the protection of the industrial towns working for the Axis war effort… " 

 These problems undermined local command in the face of a numerically superior enemy. Added to this was Göring's mistrust of the Jafü Sizilien, General Theo Osterkamp, who had been installed in this position by OBS Kesselring. Osterkamp had already been removed from the command of a Geschwader by Göring as early as 1940, the Reichsmarshal considering him too old to exercise such responsibilities.

On June 25, a large formation of B-17s passed north of Sicily to raid Naples. II. and III./JG 53 as well as elements of JG 77 were guided towards the bombers from the ground. II./JG 53 missed its interception while JG 77 could only put up a very brief fight due to lack of fuel. Two B-17s were claimed by two aces of III./JG 53 ( 55th victory for Oblt. Schiess and the 68th for Oblt. Roehrig) but Uffz. Alfred Kowaleswki (9./JG 53) was shot down over the Straits. Two other Fortresses were also downed. Enraged by this 'incompetence', Göring demanded that Inspector of Fighters Galland ensure that one pilot from each Gruppe be brought before a court martial and tried for 'cowardice before the enemy' (Feigheit vor dem Feind)....

Web site of publisher Lela Presse is here

Friday 26 August 2022

Dornier Do 17 Kauz nightfighters from Chandos, Airfix/Owl Kauz conversion in 1/72nd scale


Do-17 Z10 "Kauz II" night-fighter with 'Spanner' infrared detection system - I./NJG 2 at Gilze Rijen, Holland 1941.

Since other types were judged unsuitable for the Nachtjagd, the Do 17 and the Ju 88 became the principal long-range 'night fighters' put into service by the Luftwaffe at the end of 1940. At the risk of stating the obvious, the Do 17 and Ju 88 were bombers. They were 'adapted' as 'fighters' as a result of the Luftwaffe's lack of resources. This choice was essentially dictated by their greater endurance which meant they were well-suited to a new tactic - long-range 'intruder' missions over the UK as flown by I./NJG 2.

II./NJG 1 ( established at Amsterdam-Schiphol in June 1940 on the back of IV./NJG 2) was redesignated I./NJG 2 on September 1, 1940. Kammhuber had come up with the tactic of launching its aircraft (twin-engine 'heavy' types) over England to attack the enemy bombers 'at the source' - '..when I have to
destroy a wasps' nest, I don't attack the wasps one by one but wait until they have all returned to the nest to smoke them out'. The idea was probably a good one but its application was piecemeal and enjoyed only partial success..

The Gruppe was led by Major Karl-Heinrich Heyse who had been in charge of II./NJG 1 since July 1, 1940. Heyse, born in 1908, had been an artilleryman before joining the Luftwaffe in 1933. Staffelkapitän in K/88 (bomber Staffel) during the Spanish Civil War, he then flew in the West (1939/1940) with KG 55 before moving to the 'heavy' fighters.

His subordinates were : -1./NJG 2: Oblt. Herbert Bönsch - led the Zerstörerstaffel of KG 30 before commanding 4./NJG 1. His Staffel flew Ju 88 C-1s; -2./NJG 2: Hptm. Rudolf ('Rolf') Jung, ex-Staka of 2./ZG 2. The Staffel was equipped with Do 17 Z-7s and Z-10s and some Ju 88s. -3./NJG 2: Hptm. Karl-Theodor ('Kurt') Hülshoff, ex-Staka of 7./KG 54 and later 6./NJG 1. The Staffel flew Ju 88 C-2s but was still in training at the time and was to be added to the Gruppe shortly.

Two views of Do 17 Z-7 'R4+HK' 2./NJG 2, Gilze Rijen

via Rich Carrick

" The new book from Chandos Publications on the Luftwaffe's Dornier Do 17/215 ‘Kauz’ night fighters in WWII is nearing completion. I have therefore made the book available to pre-order on my website. Please click on the link below. .."

Dornier Do-17 Z-7 Kauz in 1/72nd scale, Airfix/OWL conversion by Jes Touvdal

Thursday 25 August 2022

JG 53 Emils with an 'unusually' positioned Hakenkreuz (swastika)


 ..following on from a previous recent post on JG 53's 'red rings' here are two images of JG 53 Emils with an 'unusually' positioned Hakenkreuz (swastika).  Of course a number of III. Gruppe machines were photographed with no swastika at all (cf. Schmidt's machine below), which many have assumed is connected to the 'red ring' marking around the cowl, or the CO's wife or an order to 'tone down' conspicuous emblems..

I'm guessing that in a number of instances the fin was 'reserved' for victory tallies (cf. Schmidt's machine below) while the swastika  - and hence the victory Balken - were possibly 'easier' to paint in these locations..unless of course these images have been 'doctored'. And having looked at a good number of JG 53 images I don't see (m)any Emils with 'red ring' minus the swastika...

Erich Schmidt III./JG 53, RK 23 July 1941.

Monday 22 August 2022

"nach stolzem Erfolg, vom Schicksal ereilt.." Erbo Graf von Kageneck, Staffelkapitän 9./JG 27 - ebay photo find #356


.." After proud successes, overtaken by fate.."  

Rudder scoreboard of III./JG 27 StaKa Erbo Graf von Kageneck on the award of his RK, late August 1941. Von Kageneck was shot down on December 24, 1941 by RAF fighters and subsequently died of his injuries (early 1942). One of Erbo's (four) brothers, August von Kageneck stated in his French-language account that the ace was shot down by 112 Sqn's Clive Caldwell..
" ...On August 1, III./JG 27 moved to Soltsy, located west of Lake Ilmen. From this airfield, the Gruppe fought over the combat areas near Staraya Russa, south of Lake Ilmen, and Veliky Novgorod which is north of Lake Ilmen. On August 10, Kageneck claimed a SB-3 bomber shot down. He became an "ace-in-a-day" on 14 August, claiming his 39th to 43rd Abschüsse, an I-16 and four ‘DB-3s’ in the vicinity of Novgorod. On 20 August, Kageneck was hit in combat and made a forced landing in his Bf 109 E-4 (WNr. 1326) near Chudovo (Tchoudovo) – he had logged his 300th combat mission in this aircraft (below, wreath '300'). The next day, his Ritterkreuz was confirmed, the same day as his 48th victory, an Il-2 north of Staraya Russa...."

Below;  - the same machine. Von Kageneck’s force-landed E-7 (WNr. 1326) ‘Yellow 1’, August 20, 1941. The Staffel number is painted on the engine cowl (see image above) while the rear fuselage displays a wide yellow band. The rudder scoreboard now displays 45 victory bars. His 45th had been achieved on August 16, 1941...

Saturday 20 August 2022

More late-war Gustav profile artworks from 'Angantyr'


Artwork and captions by Angantyr. The images are 'clickable' to view large

Information on this aircraft, variously identified in the past and even illustrated with a black-and white profile. On January 29, 1945, Oblt. Waldemar Balasus flying Me109 G-14 WNr. 0464493 'blue 32' of 4./EJG 1 was shot down by a P-51 of the 55th Fighter Group and crashed near Hamburg. He survived, most likely baling out.

Herbert Kutscha's G-6 'yellow 13' (12./JG 3), February 1944. An Erla 'spotted-dog'. See previous post for photographic reference.

Below; Bf 109 G-6 “white 2” of 1./JG 302 as it appeared during August 1944

Below; Uffz Rudolf Dreesmann  flew with  12./JG 51 on the Eastern Front before moving to JG 302. On July 7, 1944  he was airborne in this 4./JG 302 Bf 109 G-6  (WNr 412498). The Staffel had taken off to intercept bombers approaching Munich. At 9000 meters, Dreesmann signaled to his wingman, Lt. Hallenberger, that he was in trouble. He decended to 5000 meters where he entered clouds. He was not seen again. Although the profile is speculative, it is nevertheless based on known facts about this production batch, as well as known practices of 4. Staffel JG 302. (reference source: Luftwaffe im Focus)

Another 'speculative' profile illustrating Bf 109 G-10 WNr 491282 of the Stab III Gruppe JG 6 crash-landed on January 1, 1945 during Bodenplatte. Hptm. Wilhelm Kindler POW.


Bf 109 G-14 W.Nr 460 408, "Gelbe 4", Gefr. Georg Kuhr, 3./JG 76, Nijmegen, 29 September 1944.  

Bf 109 G-14/AS of III./ JG 77 at Neuruppin as seen in late 1944. The photo is to some extent covered by fog, so a certain amount of interpretation has been used as well as drawing on “sister ship” WNr 786 316 “white 4” at Kassel.

Next, a correction of an earlier machine from JG 76 a rather short-lived unit that later became part of JG 300, as you probably know...

 Next one is something of a "mystery machine" apparently attached to the bomber unit KG 77 - I have wondered why a bomber unit would use fighters? There is a reference picture on the net. It shows a Bf 109 F upgraded to G-2 standard with a pilot that appears not to be german. It also carries the back cockpit armour standard to G-1 and G-3. As no individual letter is shown (or of low contrast) I have made one up. I have speculated that as it was attached to the first Gruppe, and I believe that the last letter of the codes looks like a "B" to me, I have concluded that it belonged to I Gruppe stab, which should explain the medium-colored tip of the spinner. By the way, I believe that interpreting colors from black-and white photos is one of the most difficult tasks imaginable!


Below; Hans Seyringer and his II./JG 27 Bf 109 G-6/R3/R6 (quote) "His G-6 crashed on Winterhaarweg at Boekelo Holland on 30 January, 1944, cause: aerial combat with a P-47; and pilot disposition: bailed and returned (DeSwart). One known victory, a B-17 N of Kaiserslautern on 14 October, 1943. His 2nd, a a P-47 at Borkel, 12 km S of Eindhoven on 30 January, 1944"

Below;   Bf 109 G-10 (Erla) as flown by the Gruppenkommandeur I./JG 300 Stamp in November 1944. As far as I know, the only known image just covers part of the left fuselage, so, some artistic license has been used. Another unknown factor is if it carried the identification band or not. My profiles are a mix of totally authentic pictures (rarely achieved) to more or less speculative ones, where only the WNr is known. There are some factors that will add to the confusion as for example, aircraft that was brought back for overhaul/repair were frequently both up- as downgraded. Another factor is the example that a Bf 109 G-6 equipped with MW50 didn't automatically make it a G-14, and so forth.

Nicely done Angantyr, thank you! More late-war Gustavs in profile by Angantyr on this blog here

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Oblt. Herbert Kutscha IV./JG 3, Bf 109 G-6 'yellow 13' - ebay photo find #355


Oblt. Herbert Kutscha earned his Knights Cross with 5./ZG 1 in the East. Appointed Staffelkapitän 12./JG 3 in Italy during 1943, he briefly led IV./JG 3 in the air during early 1944 after 83-victory ace and IV. Gruppe Kommandeur Franz Beyer was shot down and killed on 11 February 1944 (a successor not immediately appointed). 

 Airborne from Venlo/NL on 24 February 1944, Kutscha was shot down in combat with P-47s at the controls of this Bf 109 G-6, WNr. 411048, "yellow 13" (below). Despite his wounds he was able to take to his parachute over Quakenbrück and was out of action for several months.

(caption data via Jochen Prien's 'Chronik einer Jagdgruppe' )

On offer here

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Reasons for the Bf 109 'tall tail' aufgestockte Leitwerk - Calum E. Douglas on Twitter

reposted using the Twitter 'embed' code and comments

..I had always assumed the 'tall tail' on later 109s - the so-called aufgestockte Leitwerk - was about providing increased lateral control at high speeds and reducing stick forces. It enabled the incorporation of Flettner tab(s) controllable from the cockpit. First variant equipped was the G-6/AS (with AS engine). Being able to better keep the sight on the target as a consequence was obviously very useful for a gun platform too. Otherwise, as usual with the Bf 109, the reasons are not always entirely clear. 

..and on the long-defunct '109 Lair' site this report (partial title page above) details high-speed flight tests with a Bf 109 F fitted with a tall tail following incidents in service of  "..overcompensation of the ailerons and insufficient effect of the elevator at high Mach numbers ". Conclusions right at the bottom;

 ".. diving with power applied at speeds from 800 km/h the aircraft is no longer stable around the vertical axis. At the same time the aircraft made violent 'fishtailing' movements - overlapping movements around the longitudinal axis and around the transverse axis (sliding roll moments, Paddelbewegungen - I'm assuming this is what is referred to a 'Dutch roll' - a combination of rolling and yawing oscillations ). One is tempted to counteract this with the ailerons and it is suspected that many of the incidents reported thus far can be traced back to not applying adequate rudder corrections. It is recommended that  (1) with increased speeds as planned enlarge the tailfin/rudder assembly on series production of the G-version and (2) limit aileron deflection as a safety measure by up to 50% of current values if over-compensation should occur.."

Report posted on the 109Lair here Click on the pages to move through the report.

also on this blog;

Jukka Juutinen review of Calum E.Douglas' "The Secret Horsepower Race" here

Monday 15 August 2022

Teil 15/I 'Einsatz im Osten' - a new title in the Jagdfliegerverbände series - Prien/Bock/Balke/Stemmer


On 22 June 1941 the Jagdwaffe deployed some 20 fighter Gruppen in the East for Barbarossa, around 1000 aircraft more or less. This was a rather lower figure that the numbers of fighters deployed for the campaign in the West during 1940!  Barely three years later - and leading up to the massive Soviet  'Bagration' summer offensive - the Jagdwaffe had just 11 Gruppen and several 'independent' Staffeln available to cover the entirety of the Eastern Front -just over 300 serviceable fighters, some 75% of the total on strength in the East.  A 'Luftlagebericht Ost' dated January 2, 1944 put Soviet strength at 12,000 aircraft of which 4,500 were fighters. In fact the entire fighter arm of Luftflotte 6 in the middle sector of the Eastern Front, the Schwerpunkt of the 'Bagration' offensive, comprised the Stab/JG 51, I./JG 51 and several Staffeln, for a total of no more than 50-75 serviceable fighters. As at least one author/researcher has already pointed out, this was not necessarily the result of losses sustained or Soviet 'dominance' - even if the new 'Jak 9' and La 5 fighters arriving at the front to replace the MiG-1 and LaGG-3s were at least comparable to the Bf 109 G-6 or Fw 190. Entire Geschwader like JG 27, JG 3 and most of JG 77 had been moved to theatres in the West - Africa, the Mediterranean, the Defence of the Reich - because of the pressure being exerted by the Western Allies. Even the Geschwader left in the East during 1944 were not at full strength -  Staffeln went to the West as the military situation there worsened - 2./JG 51 under Oblt. Horst Haase was sent to join IV./JG 3 during May 1944 and  Staffeln from JG 51 and JG 77 went to join JG 1 and saw action in Normandy. Pilot strength in the East was further reduced as each Gruppe gave up a Staffel of pilots for the West in May 1944. III./JG 11 arrived in the East during June 1944 while II./JG 51 did not serve in the East until September.  Since the turn of the year the Luftflotten had been forced to deploy their meagre fighter resources piecemeal at 'crisis' points along the front, while the rapidity of the Soviet ground advance was such that those Gruppen present in the East were forced to fall back far to the West - as early as February 1944 in the southern area IV./JG 51 shifted to Orscha, followed in March by II./JG 54. From the same airfield I./JG 51 covered the left wing of HGr. Mitte as well as 16. Armee on the right wing of HGr. Nord. 

Below; from a PK photo series (Opitz) depicting G-6s of 3./JG 51,  'Brown 11' (WNr. 410 827) is being refuelled probably at Orscha in early 1944. (see pages 274 - 282 of Teil 15/I). Note yellow spinner.

Such was the dearth of Luftwaffe fighters on the Eastern Front that  a fighter training programme for the Schlacht Fw 190 pilots was implemented. 1./JG 51’s Günther Josten was seconded to Wilna, Latvia, on June 19 to train the pilots of II./SG 3 in the art of fighter combat. In his diary he described what happened on a training sortie flown a few days later on June 21, 1944 in collaboration with KG 1 Heinkel He 177s, part of a Luftwaffe long-range bomber force being assembled to strike at Soviet industry and production in the East:

“After an hour in the air a report came over the radio – 150 ‘furniture vans‘ (‘dicker Möbelwagen’ or ‘Viermots’) sighted 20km south of Warsaw heading east. The news left us dumbfounded. We were flying at 4600m altitude when suddenly we caught sight of the formation below us. It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like it. We overtook the formation and then turned around to attack them from head-on. I took my Schwarm directly through the bomber formation and brought effective fire to bear on two of the machines, one of which was left trailing a thick banner of smoke. By this stage we were running short of fuel and had to turn back for home..."

This was JG 51s first encounter with US 8th AF bombers and their P-51 escorts, the Americans en route to Poltava in the Ukraine on their first 'Frantic' shuttle mission -– from England.. I./JG 51 claimed two P-51s, one falling to the Staka 3./JG 51 Oblt. Walter Wever (his 37th)  while Uffz. Hans Stroinigg claimed the second P-51 along with a ‘Fortress II’ (his 11th). The following night Poltava and Pirjatin were raided by a force of IV. Fliegerkorps medium bombers and some 54 B-17s and 15 P-51s were destroyed on the ground.

The following day, June 22, the Soviet 'storm' 'Bagration' broke – four Soviet ‘Fronts’ launched against Army Group Centre initially aiming to re-take Minsk. The Gruppen of JG 51 found themselves in the direct line of the Soviet offensive in Orscha, Bobruisk and Mogilev and were forced to hastily fall back to the other side of the Polish border while claiming 33 victories without loss on June 23, including eight for Lt. Wilhelm Hübner in three sorties and five for his Staka Hptm.Edwin Thiel of the Stabsstaffel. Josten returned his 92nd and 93rd. 

German fighter defences  though were hopelessly inadequate. Some 140 'kills' were claimed during the period 22-30 June over the area of HGr. Mitte - while the Red Air Force flew  over 25,000 sorties! A German 'air situation report' dated July 1, 1944 estimated Soviet losses  for the four days from June 22-26 at just 0.8% of the aircraft committed. Front-line Soviet combat strength was now estimated to be 17,200 aircraft. So weak were the German forces that the entire front was broken through within a week and some 28 German divisions were destroyed. Eichenlaub holder Thiel (76 victories) was shot down and killed strafing a Soviet column on July 14 near Kobryn. The offensive ended in late August as the Russians were stopped at the Vistula river (Weichsel) on the East Prussian border and in front of Riga, Latvia. 

 This latest volume of Jochen Prien's mammoth history of the Luftwaffe fighter units, Part 15 Vol I reaches the Eastern Front 1944 - Operations in the East - 1 January to 31 December 1944. It is of course virtually impossible to 'review' these volumes - it will require months of careful reading to get the most out of history like this. (..the preceding paragraphs are based on data presented in the book)  Suffice to say that this is another 500-page tome from the Prien team filled with exceptionally detailed data from sources most of us are never likely to see and some 240 rare photographs. The major part of the text focuses on JG 51 (pages 211-493) - as there is no Geschwader 'history' as such -apart from the old Aders/Held title - most of this section is 'new'. The overview of the course of the ground fighting amounts to 25 pages - covered is the area of HGr. Süd in the first half of 1944 until the beginning of the Soviet summer offensive, ground operations by HGr. Mitte in the first half of 1944 until the beginning of the Soviet summer offensive and similarly in the area of HGr. Nord in the first half of 1944. The Soviet summer offensive against HGr. Mitte and the fighting on the northern section of the Eastern Front after the beginning of the Soviet summer offensive is also outlined, as is the fighting in the southeast - Romania and Hungary. This opening text section on the ground fighting is followed by an overview of the fighter units' operations in the East - 1 January to 31 December 1944, before the 'meat' of this volume - individual Gruppe histories for the period covered, starting with JG 5. Along with the usual loss/victory reports for the individual fighter Gruppen operating in the East through 1944, the operations of each are described through the Luftlagemeldungen (air situation reports), personal diary accounts (Josten, Schack) and log-book records. The so-called 'Startkladde' daily ops record for 7./JG 51 for the first five months of 1944 is published in full. Units covered in Teil 15/I are JG 5, III./ JG 11 (more over-sprayed Balken- and Hakenkreuze) and all four Gruppen + the Stab of JG 51. The Stabsstaffel JG 51 (190 Jabos) is covered over 45 pages.

Below;  seen left is Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 51 Hptm. Diethelm von Eichel-Streiber in front of G-6 'white 1' (WNr. 411 123) formerly on the strength of 7./JG 51 but transferred to the Gruppenstab when 7.Staffel was moved to West during May 1944. The Kommandeur himself was posted to the West in late August to take over I./JG 27  (partial caption info from Teil 15/I)

Below; seen in East Prussia/Lithuania is 'Black 1' flown by StaKa Lt. Anton Hafner 8./JG 51 during the summer of 1944 with tall tail, yellow spinner and rudder.

The publisher's website is

read our Luftwaffe blog interview with Jochen Prien here

Wednesday 3 August 2022

Wartungsarbeit - Bf 110 G "2N + ??" (10.(N)/ZG 1 Lt. Josef Kociok)


 This interesting image shows (presumably) a maintenance task being undertaken on a Bf 110 - but what does it show ?  Attention seems to be focussed on the rear of the machine - master compass calibration or FuG instrument landing test perhaps? 

..No, none of these! Thank you to Alexander S for pointing out that the vehicle in the photo is an oxygen cart - the Sauerstoff-Umfüllgerät 10-50A could be mounted on its own twin-axle 'car' or on a 3-ton truck. The operator is at the Schaltafel or control panel at the rear of the unit which has been backed up to the aircraft.

The machine appears to be a "G" - note 'rounded' enclosed rear cockpit canopy and the MG Z mount apparently minus any armament. As the account below makes clear there would be little call for rearward-firing MGs on an Eastern Front Bf 110 night fighter, if that is what this is. Note the code '2N'  ahead of the Balkenkreuz -   according to Michael Holm's site 10./ZG 1 received the Bf 110 G-2 during the late spring of 1943 prior to the aircraft being 're-assigned' to the 'new'  4. and 5./NJG 200 during the summer of 1943.

More at the kfzderwehrmacht page here

Also on this blog;

Ofw. Josef Kociok 10.(N)/ ZG 1

An excerpt From "Night Witches", by Fergus Mason

" ... On May 9 Kociok shot down three U-2s from another regiment. Then on the night of May 15/16 he encountered the Night Witches. The 46th were out in force that night, to harry the Germans as they fell back on the Taman Peninsula. The deputy regimental commander, former airline pilot Senior Lieutenant Serafina Amosova, was leading a squadron in an attack on one target when the Germans tried to replicate the “Flak circus” tactic that had caused so many problems at Stalingrad. It was less successful this time; in retreat they found it harder to set up the elaborate traps, and the bombers were running at the target one after another. The guns weren’t well enough sited to catch them and the tracers were flying harmlessly wild. Then Amosova saw a trail of sparks race up into the sky and burst in a green flare. Instantly the guns stopped firing. Two miles away and 1,000 feet above, Josef Kociok was orbiting the target zone in a wide circle. Looking out the side window of his Bf 110 G-2 he searched for the tiny shapes of the Soviet bombers in the glow of the swinging searchlights. It was a confusing image, with bomb explosions and curving streams of tracer shells confusing his eyes. Still he watched patiently, until he saw what he was looking for: a line of moving specks, four of them a few hundred meters apart, all heading directly for the target. He opened the throttles and banked, swinging the big fighter round until he was directly ahead of the bombers, then chopped the power and pushed the stick forward. The Bf 110 tipped into a shallow dive. He lowered the flaps to keep the speed down as far as he dared – the Destroyer had a higher stalling speed than even the Bf 109 – and thumbed the transmit button on his radio. He gave the bearing of the incoming bombers then finished with, “Attacking now.” Seconds later the green flare popped open and the guns fell silent. He was clear to make his attack run. Weaving around in the decoy role off to one side of the defenses, Amosova saw the searchlights swing away from her towards the inbound group. It was hard to hold the Kukuruzniks in the beams but enough light was being thrown in their direction that they were suddenly clearly visible. There was no flak though, so they kept going, boring in on their target. The first of them was within yards of the drop point now, already starting to climb to avoid the blast of its own bombs. Then, to her horror, it seemed to stagger in the air as small explosions erupted all over the forward fuselage. Instantly it caught fire and spun out of control as the roar of powerful engines suddenly swelled out of the darkness. The Bf 110 was now hugging the ground, not much higher than the Soviet biplanes flew. As the first bomber blazed up like a candle Kociok pulled back on the stick to leapfrog the falling wreck, then dropped the nose again. The onrushing shape of the second Polikarpov swam into the glowing bars of his sight. His thumb stabbed down on the button, white flames erupted from the nose and the floor vibrated under his feet as the cannons thundered. The second U-2 was snatched aside by the stream of shells and bullets; it, too, erupted into flames and fell towards the steppe. Kociok was already lining up his guns on his next victim. Amosova could only watch in horror as the Messerschmitt skimmed along the line of bombers, blasting them one after another and sending all four crashing down in flames. Around her the other crews were already scattering and heading for home. There was no choice. A one-second burst from a Bf 110’s guns threw out over four pounds of metal and explosives, all travelling at more than twice the speed of sound. It was enough firepower to shatter a U-2 in an instant, and this pilot had the skill to pick off his targets with a single, lethal blast. If they tried to attack again they would be wiped out. Amosova forced her own plane a little lower, practically hiding behind hedges all the way back to the airfield. When Major Bershanskaya heard about the massacre she instantly grounded the regiment for the night; a third of a squadron had been destroyed in a minute, and she wasn’t willing to risk it happening again. Amosova, Popova and the others walked back to their billet in an old school building and sat, weeping, looking at a row of eight empty camp beds...."

(thanks Tim, what happened to the WIP on BM?)

Monday 1 August 2022

I./SG 1 and the Warsaw uprising (Warschauer Aufstand) - August-September 1944


Today marks 78 years since the Polish Resistance Movement started their uprising in Warsaw on August 1, 1944. The Uprising divides opinion, even among Polish historians. For some, it was a heroic battle for the honour of the nation. For others, it was irresponsible and self-destructive. According to "Germany and the Second World War " "..the uprising seems very ambivalent. It was directed militarily against the Germans, while politically it was an attempt to quash the USSR's attempt to 'sovietise' Poland...". The Polish underground army, Armia Krajowa, was strictly 'anti-Bolshevik', rejecting both Hitler’s regime and Stalin’s rule. Its leaders aimed to liberate the capital with their own hands and so light a beacon for a future sovereign Poland..In the event, the Russian summer offensive had already come to a halt on the outskirts of Warsaw -  the Soviets had out-run their supply lines and exhausted their ground forces. It was at this same moment that the Germans launched a wholly unexpected counter-attack in front of Warsaw. This  turn of events led to disaster for the Polish capital. 

 The Poles began the uprising without any significant logistic reserves, assuming that the fighting would last only about three days (in fact it lasted 63 days), and that on the fourth day the Red Army would march in. At first their calculation seemed to make sense, for on 31 July the seemingly unstoppable Soviet troops had reached Praga, the eastern suburb of Warsaw.  At this the leaders of the uprising decided to start fighting the next day, 1 August. They could not know that the Germans, who seemed already beaten, would then be launching a counter-attack  - the city along with the railyards were of major importance for the Germans. The tank battle before Warsaw, which resulted in the encirclement and destruction of large parts of the Soviet 2nd Armoured Army, began at exactly the same time as the uprising. However, after several Soviet armies had arrived as reinforcements, something happened which the insurgents had expected even less: the Red Army units waited—as the Poles see it—at the gates of Warsaw, without doing anything, until the Germans had defeated the uprising.

Very few air assets from Gen. der Flieger Ritter von Greim's Luftflotte 6 were at hand to help crush the uprising. While some sources describe the resistance as being suppressed by the "might of the Luftwaffe" in reality only a comparative handful of Luftwaffe bombers -elements of one Stuka Gruppe, I./SG 1, and perhaps a second, III./SG 77 - operated over the smoke-shrouded city.  Experience from the Stalingrad disaster in particular had shown that fighting in urban terrain required air elements capable of pin-pointing and knocking out enemy strongpoints. As in Stalingrad though the Stukas were in almost constant action and inflicted great destruction to the city - according to some sources over 1400 sorties were flown and 1500 tons of bombs dropped. Warsaw also saw the combat debut of the hastily-established Sturm-Mörser-Batterie 1000 - their assault mortars (based on the Tiger chassis) fired four 350 kg rocket-projectile type shells an hour, each capable of bringing down a three-storey house. 

  Warsaw Uprising stuka ju-87 bombing Old Town

From mid-August 1944 only a handul of Ju 87s, detached from I./SG 1 and commanded by future RK-winner Oblt. Klussman, stayed in Warsaw flying from Okecie airfield. Lt Heinz Jakubowski of 3./SG 1 flew a number of sorties over the city;

"..The airmen were given copies of city maps on which the targets had to be found. The city was burning everywhere, dense smoke obstructed visibility. Attacks were carried out 'kettenweise' (Kette formation) - no bombs were allowed to fall on our own positions. If this happened the pilot was immediately relieved. These missions were pure madness..."

In the south of the city stood a factory chimney, which the insurgents used as an observation post for their artillery. German guns would be unable to ‘knock out’ the chimney, so knocking it down fell to the Stukas as Jakubowski recalled;

 " making my way to my dispersal I saw a small tracked vehicle pulling a crude wooden sledge with a 1000-kg bomb. 'The 1000 kg bomb is going under the belly of Jaku's Ju,' they said. I turned around and went to the command post...and got confirmation there. Schornstein ‘umlegen’ -"knock down" the chimney. From all sides I received advice on how to proceed. I rummaged in my memory of Stuka school knowledge ('Stuka-Schulekenntnisse') and had tables at hand from somewhere; ..'..the SC 1000 is 2800 mm long, has a diameter of 654 mm and contains 530 kilos of explosives. The circle of destruction is 35 metres, the splinter circle is 360 metres, the depth of the crater is ten metres and the volume of debris ejected is 1000 cubic metres. Then it was time to do the maths: The approach against the wind was possible. The target for the bomb impact was five metres in front of the foot of the chimney, so that the chimney itself would collapse into the bomb crater. So it could work.. I had the fabric cover of the floor window in my Ju removed and the glass pane cleaned. The bomb was loaded in the Junkers (mit Schloss 2000) carrier rack and then myself and the accompanying machines set off. Would I find the chimney at all in all the smoke? Slowly the target came into the ground window ('Bodenfenster'), the chimney stood there like a match! After several small course corrections ...Now! ... with a jerk, the now-lightened machine veered upwards and the bomb fell! A sharp right-left turn to get the smokestack back into view. Where did the bomb go? Straight to Moscow?"

Finally 'Jaku' saw the bomb going down. Would it fall too short? ... A cloud of dirt and debris billowed up from below, a huge cloud of dust that was slowly turning  red. It had to be the bricks of the chimney! In the FT a voice croaked in confirmation: Gratuliere!  -  "Congratulations!"

(to be continued..)