Monday 27 November 2023

a new Luftwaffe quarterly publication from Chandos due early in 2024


A new publication from Chandos is always an event. The news that a new quarterly publication will be launched early in 2024, entitled 'Axis Wings' is great news for the Luftwaffe enthusiast. 'Axis Wings' will be a compendium of stories, artwork and rare photos concerning the Luftwaffe and co-belligerent air forces from inception to demise. Chandos hope that this will be a regular publication and currently have two issues in the pipeline. Each issue will feature prominent and respected authors, who have contributed articles that are too short for a conventional book, but too long to just sit on a hard drive somewhere, unshared. According to Chandos supremo, Rich Carrick '.. there is still a great wealth of information on the Luftwaffe and its allies waiting to be uncovered and shared, and 'Axis Wings' aims to redress that balance...'

Each issue will be around 200 pages, in full colour, with detailed information, fantastic artwork and rare photos (including previously unpublished material)

" It gives me great pleasure to announce that Chandos Publications, in association with Robert Forsyth at Chevron Publishing, will soon realise a long-held ambition to release the first in what we hope will be a long-running compendium relating to the Luftwaffe and co-belligerent air forces. Drawing on the talents of many well known names in the Luftwaffe research and writing community, each issue will be packed with stories, photographs and artwork. There are many fascinating pieces of information on the Axis air forces that are still unpublished, that are too short for a regular book, but are also too important to sit on a hard drive ad infinitum. 'Axis Wings' aims to make these stories known, accompanied by specially commissioned artwork, and photographs from private collections. Each issue will be approximately 200 pages long, in a softcover format. The price will be around £40 per issue, and initially we plan to release two issues per annum. A subscription with a reduced price is something that we will consider if there is strong enough interest. The success of this project very much depends on how well the concept is received, but as long as there is a demand we will keep working. We hope that 'Axis Wings' will grow organically, and become self-perpetuating, and to that end we welcome the submission of stories, photographs and comments for future editions..."

not forgetting of course the new 390-page volume on the He 115 due imminently, "Heinkel He 115 Developmental and Operational History 1937-1952" ...

More news, including how to order, on the Chandos Publications Ltd website here

Sunday 26 November 2023

He 177 KG 100 - archive photo scan (8)


A crew member taking a pee at the tail wheel of I./KG 100 He 177 A-3 '6N+NS' prior to a sortie. Scanned from the Ulf Balke photo archive...

Saturday 25 November 2023

"Joschko” Fözö, ein Fliegerleben mit Mölders - first 'kill'


By the time Mölders left Spain in early November 1938 he was the most successful fighter pilot of the Legion Condor with 14 victories. One of his young 'protégés' was Lt. Josef “Joschko” Fözö who ‘finally’ managed his first victory on 31 October during a bomber escort sortie, a 'kill' he recounted his 1943 memoir ‘ein Fliegerleben mit Mölders’...

" ...the Staffelkapitän is setting up for an attack. We are still almost one kilometre from the adversary and yet Mölders has pulled up into a steep climb. We follow. I make a rough calculation of the enemy’s strength – three squadrons, around 35-40 aircraft. I don’t recognize the model. They are not Ratas or ‘Curtiss’ fighters. It is a new and sleek design, fast, much faster than the Ratas. Will we be faster? Yes, we are. And more powerful. Not that speed decides the combat – that is down to the skill of the pilot and the quality of his fighter. And we are Germans in German aircraft. Like a buzzing swarm, the cloud of fighters suddenly splits up for the attack. I stay tight to Mölders covering his tail. Then he dives on the first, attempting to come in on an oblique pass. He gives it a burst from all barrels as the enemy machines raises his nose to fire. Der Pilot muss getroffen sein. The pilot must be hit. I see him just pull up slightly, then sluggishly and helplessly falling away and spinning down, clear indication that there are no control inputs. My brain works with feverish clarity. I pick out a thousand details like a film strip being wound on rapidly..I climb after the next opponent and try and get in behind him, but he banks into a tight curve and veers off to the side. Should I follow in after him? I’m just about to haul the stick over and throw the throttle wide open, when – like a present from heaven – a second enemy fighter climbs up directly into my line of sight, barely a few hundred metres distant. I can dive away underneath it, or fly right past it or I take it on. Is it time? Fractions of a second to decide. I press myself down behind the sight, every fibre of my being obsessed with the single necessity – to fight. Time flashes past. Now, now – he sits slap bang in the middle of the ring sight. Eyes, don’t fail me – brain, remain clear – hand, squeeze the firing buttons! If only my guns don’t jam then the victory is certain! I press the buttons and a stream of rounds hisses from the barrels. I follow the tracers. There, on target. My burst slams right into the nose and the engine – right where I have aimed, the bullets strike home. Unless a miracle saves him, he is done for..."

“Joschko” Fözö climbs down from his Bf 109 A. Fözö's machine was coded 6-16.

Lt. Fözö’s Bf 109 A '6-16'. In his 1943 account he captioned this image “ ein neuer Balken..ein neuer Abschuss..” ( ‘ another kill marking.. another victory’). Scanned directly from his book - published 1943. Fözö returned three victories in Spain. '6-16' served with all three Staffeln of J/88 at various times and was eventually handed over to the Spanish air force.

Friday 24 November 2023

Oblt. Armin Faber, Stab III./ JG 2 - was he 'disorientated', did he get 'lost' or did he just 'defect' ?


Is there anybody visiting this blog who isn't familiar with the different versions of the Armin Faber 'story' and how the British were 'gifted' a brand new example of the Fw 190 on 23 June 1942. The unlucky pilot was Oblt. Armin Faber who after shooting down Sgt. František Trejtnar over the Bristol - and not the English - Channel, apparently became disorientated and by mistake landed his machine at RAF Pembrey in south Wales. Observers on the ground could not believe their eyes as Faber did three victory rolls, lowered the Focke-Wulf's undercarriage while inverted and following a quick half-roll made a perfect landing into British hands...or so the story goes.

That evening elements of III./JG 2 - 7. and 9. Staffel  - were at three-minute readiness and playing handball at their dispersal at 'Maupertus' - according to Faber's interrogation report. They were ordered up to intercept the RAF's Perranporth and Exeter Wings (312 and 313 Sqds led by W/Cmdr Vasatko) flying escort for six Bostons on RAMROD 10, a raid on Morlaix airfield. In the fighting Oberleutnant Egon Mayer, Staffekapitän of 7./Jagdgeschwader 2, claimed his 47th and 48th victories. Elsewhere the 26-year old Oblt. Armin Faber - III. Gruppe Adjutant and former instructor at Werneuchen with around 1,000 hours in his logbook - was flying on his 18th combat sortie. He had got airborne some three minutes late after a fellow pilot returned with engine problems..and 90 minutes later touched down at RAF Pembrey, apparently 'lost' and running out of fuel. Fellow pilot Uffz. Willi Reuschling had already shot down a Whirlwind and a Hudson before he collided with Vasatko's Spitfire and was also taken captive that evening. When he heard of Faber's landing he reputedly said, " that is the sort of bloody stupid thing he would do..!".

Philip Hawes on his YT channel 'Caliban Rising' has done a good job of explaining the Armin Faber story on his YT channel using primary sources such as the pilot's own interrogation report.

"..In this video, I delve into the remarkable incident of JG 2 pilot Armin Faber, who unexpectedly landed his Focke-Wulf FW 190 in Pembrey, Wales AKA the "Pembrey Incident". But the story you know might not be the whole truth.

I'll begin by exploring the popular narrative: a daring pilot, a dramatic chase, and a landing that handed the Allies a priceless war asset. But, as I dig deeper, I uncover a more complex and compelling version of events.

Relying on primary sources and a personal conversation with a close friend of Armin Faber, I challenge long-standing assumptions to reveal a narrative steeped in historical accuracy yet overlooked by many.

So, come along as I debunk myths, present facts, and add a touch of my own brand of humor to this puzzling tale. Get ready to see this WWII enigma through a new lens in an academically sound yet engaging format. It's time to rethink what we thought we knew about the Pembrey incident!.."

A single click to view here


Thursday 23 November 2023

late-war Gustav - archive photo scan (7)


..just back from a hectic and breathless (breath-taking!) week at the ECPA -D in Ivry, Paris. More on that soon. Meanwhile I scanned this at a friend's house from a negative; a (presumably) late-war G-14 (possibly), 'yellow 15' with Erla Haube and no antenna mast. Note the figure '5' doesn't appear to have been fully filled in with yellow paint. The camo demarcation is rather distinctive. No other info -one for the Experten perhaps. Thanks to Del for photo enhancement.

Sunday 12 November 2023

Werner Mölders on the Channel coast, summer 1940 - archive photo scan (6)

Werner Mölders on the Channel coast, summer 1940

II./JG 77 Emils in Brest - archive photo scan (5). A new JG 77 monograph due soon!


..these photos simply labelled "Brest".  II./JG 77 departed Scandinavia** for France in early November 1940. Machine with Kommandeur chevrons and 'Seeadler' emblem probably belonged to Hptm. Karl Hentschel. Click on the image to view large!

A detailed account of II./JG 77 actions against RAF Bomber and Coastal Commands during the summer of 1940 appears in this blogger's "Luftwaffe Fighters -Combat on all Fronts" Volume I, published by Mortons)

Coming soon from the publishers of AÉROJOURNAL - due on 12 January 2024 is a 'special' (HS N° 47) devoted to JG 77 available to preorder now here

"..Heinz Bär, Joahnnes Steinhoff, Siegfried Freytag, Kurt Ubben, Wolf-Dietrich Huy, Gordon Gollob, Joachim Müncheberg or Armin Köhler - a number of illustrious Experten passed through JG 77, the Luftwaffe fighter arm's "ace of hearts" Geschwader, whose Gruppen quickly distinguished themselves at the start of the Second World War: I. /JG 77 in the Polish campaign and II./JG 77 protecting the Bay of Germany from RAF bomber raids. This was followed by the Western campaign for the former, the Norwegian campaign and protection of the fjords for the latter, and the unprecedented creation of III./JG 77 in July 1940 from the planned carrier fighter Gruppe that was to have manned the 'Graf Zeppelin', which was never completed. After the hard-fought Battle of Britain and victory in the Balkans and Crete, the three Gruppen of JG 77 were scattered across all fronts, in the Soviet Union of course, but above all in the Mediterranean. Hard-fought campaigns over Malta, North Africa and Italy were the Geschwader's 'finest hour' but which relentlessly wore down its fighting strength. In 1944, elements of the Geschwader took part in the Battle of Normandy and the defense of the Reich, with JG 77's last bloody feats of arms coming in the Ardennes and the "Bodenplatte" operation in December 1944-January 1945. This exceptional special issue is the complete history of this JG, which claimed some 4,000 victories between 1939 and 1945..."

Friday 10 November 2023

new tool Me 410 from Airfix - surprise kit announcement!


...Just checking its not 01 April... and just in time for this weekend's 2023 Scale Model World in Telford. Via the Airfix web site.

" We are thrilled to announce the newly tooled 1:72 Messerschmitt Me 410A-1/U2 and U4, the ‘backbone of Germany’s home defence’. The Messerschmitt Me 410 is undoubtedly one of the most impressive-looking aircraft types of the Second World War, the ultimate incarnation of Germany's fascination with the Zerstörer heavy fighter concept. Featuring two intriguing schemes, 137 parts, and an exceptional level of detail, this kit is bound to pique your interest.."

It would appear that the kit does not feature the ZFR (Zielfernrohr) telescopic sight visible in the windscreen when toting the heavy cannon. Model on display at the Airfix stand (Telford Scale Model World) . A look at the sprues here

Below; model build by Luke Flynn of Mach Models. See link below.

Below; III./ZG 26 Kommandeur Maj. Johann (Hans) Kogler dismounting his Me 410 in spring 1944. Kogler was appointed Kommodore ZG 26 that summer. According to one source he had three 'kills' as Kommandeur of III./ZG 26:-

24th February 1944 a B-24 at 1330 hrs
8th March 1944 a B-17 at 1335 hrs
11th April 1944 a B-17 at 1200 hrs

He was awarded the DKiG during July 1944 for his command of Zerstörer units. As Kommodore of JG 6 he was shot down and taken captive near Venlo during the Bodenplatte 1945 New Year’s Day airfield attacks.  

Via Michael Meyer expired ebay auction

..Mach Models have already built the kit on youtube - some views of the cockpit detail follow
Mach Models build of the kit on youtube. A single click to view here

Sunday 29 October 2023

Death of the Kommandeur - Maj. Helmut Fuhrhop I./KG 6 (Junkers Ju 188 E)


Above; I./KG 6 Ju 188 E medium bombers were based in Chièvres, south of Brussels for the Steinbock raids over England during the first quarter of 1944.

Just after mid-day on the afternoon of 29 February 1944 (1944 was a leap year) two Junkers Ju 188 Es took off from Melsbroek, north of Brussels, and headed for Dreux, 50 miles east of Paris. They were part of a force scheduled to fly another 'Steinbock' bombing mission over southern England later that day which was transferring to Dreux in small groups. One of the Ju 188s (coded '3E+AB') was flown by the Kommandeur of I./KG 6, Maj Helmut Fuhrhop. An Eastern Front veteran with KG 51, Fuhrhop was an experienced career aviator and RK-holder credited with sinking at least 30,000 GRT of shipping in 250 missions. He had also flown over one hundred sorties at the controls of a Legion Condor K 88 He 111 (Taghon p.49) and was an obsessive athlete who made his crews run around the airfield almost daily! (Taghon, p.166) At the controls of the second machine was Uffz. Wilhelm Mayer of 1. Staffel. Both machines carried five aircrew and a handful of groundcrew, while Fuhrhop had his two dogs, Chica and Ciro, on board. Meanwhile, seven Hawker Typhoon Mk.1b aircraft of 609 Squadron were getting airborne from Manston (Kent) to carry out a fighter sweep in the sector Le Culot-Florennes-Cambrai across Belgium/northern France. Led by Sqn Ldr Johnny Wells the group comprised, in addition to the Englishman, one Australian, one Canadian and four Belgian pilots. They had already strafed barges and tugs when they sighted the two Ju 188s flying south-west past Cambrai at about 1,000 ft. One of the Belgian pilots flying that day, Fg. Off. Charles Demoulin, later recalled; 
 “..We were at 150 ft and had our hands full keeping station in the flurries of snow that alternated moments of zero visibility with sudden clear breaks. Suddenly, two shadows loomed out of the gloom, flitting across our heading, just feet above us, to then rapidly disappear to our left into skeins of broken cloud. But not quick enough to prevent me from identifying them. They were Ju 188s, night fighters (sic!) and medium bombers.."

“ All three of us (the two other Typhoon pilots were Flt Lt Lawrence Smith and Fg. Off. Georges Jaspis) banked into a sharp turn at the same time and at some risk of collision since the other Typhoons did likewise. The chase was on ('C'est l'hallali'!). Throttles wide open and engine screaming we went flat out after the Ju 188s and within a matter of moments come across them in a clear patch of sky.

“In front of me, a multi-coloured ribbon streamed towards my Typhoon and I could see the gunner of the second bomber bracketing my Typhoon with tracer. A little right rudder to correct and the turret fell silent as the body of the gunner slumped in his seat. At that moment the gunner of the first Junkers opened up - his rounds flashed just past my cockpit. Left rudder and gun-button depressed I rapidly shifted target - there were flashes on the grey fuselage and an explosion and the port engine of the Junkers burst into flames. ”

Below; I./KG 6 Ju 188 E "3E+KL" on a transfer flight - these machines were seen only rarely in the air during daylight hours during 1944, usually during transfer flights..

The combat was a slaughter and both bombers were sent down in flames. Meyer crashed at Bohain-en-Vermandois while Fuhrhop’s aeroplane came down three miles further south at Seboncourt, some 20 miles south-east of Cambrai. Everybody on board was killed, including Fuhrhop's long-time observer Ofw. Alfred Schuber.  According to one account, Fuhrhop's wrist watch was stopped at 13:13. The Adjutant of I./KG 6, Oblt. Roters, identified the recovered bodies wrapped in parachutes the following day laid out in a nearby monastery. Fuhrhop's wife and her sister attended the funeral in Mons. Fuhrhop's replacement as Kommandeur I./KG 6 was Hptm. and RK-holder Hans Thurner.

Below; Fuhrhop's widow and her sister in black at the Kommandeur's funeral. To the right in the front row  are, from the left, the Kommodore, Maj. Hermann Hogeback, the Kommandeur II./KG 6, Hptm. Hans Mader and  Fuhrhop's successor, Hptm. Hans Thurner..

Extracted and adapted from Peter Taghon's superb 328-page large-format French-language history " La Kampfgeschwader 6"  published by Lela Presse. Published in June 2021, an 18-page PDF extract of Peter's book is available on the publisher's web site here

Saturday 28 October 2023

..somewhere in the East - archive photo scan (4)


Panje ponies and cart on a muddy field in the vicinity of a Feldflugplatz field strip. Click on the image to view large. Below, a closer view of the Arado on the right of the photo.

..and a view of the 'original' photo....

Saturday 21 October 2023

Paris, Buc or Le Bourget , summer 1941, Fw 190 'Fronterprobung' flight tests in II./JG 26 Otto Behrens - archive photo scan (4)


Above; Göring and staff examine the Fw 190 A-1 'brown 4' probably in Buc, Paris during August 1941. Göring - in pale blue uniform - is visible next to the port wing MG.

A fantastic contribution from Peter K. (Larry) who has forwarded photos from his grandfather's album - Peter's grandfather was (Oblt. later  Maj.) Otto Behrens, the man largely credited with getting the early teething problems wrung out of the Fw 190 and thus getting it into service. The unit charged with the introduction into Luftwaffe service of Kurt Tank's new BMW-radial engined fighter was an 'Erprobungskommando' (test detachment) under Behrens which started its work in Rechlin and then moved to Paris during 1941 to carry out operational trials (Fronterprobung). 

While the Behrens family who own the album are not entirely sure of the date and location of these images, one member of the General Staff who features on them - 'Hajo' Herrmann- recalls in his memoir (see chapter 8) that in July 1941 he was transferred to Paris and during that summer accompanied Göring to visit the latest 'innovations' on the airfield at Buc, 18 kms south-west of Paris (see third photo below, Herrmann at second left). 

Karl Borris (TO II./JG 26) writes that II./JG 26 moved to Le Bourget in August 1941 to convert onto the Fw 190 A-1 (Rodeike, 'Jagdflugzeug 190' p28) The Fliegerstabsingenieur (Technical Officer of JG 26) Ernst Battmer describes Otto Behrens was the man largely responsible for getting the Fw 190 into service - " praise is too high for his work" (Rodeike 'Jagdflugzeug 190' p33). The period of 'Fronterprobung' or operational testing in Paris was a disaster due to the constant engine over-heating issues - " die Fronterprobung wuchs sich zu einer Katastrophe aus.." Practically every flight ended up with some sort of engine damage and very often the engine over-heated just taxying out, causing any test flight to be scrubbed. ('..der Motor wurde bereits sauer beim Warmlaufen oder beim Rollen zum Start und die Maschine mit Kolbenfressern blieb stehen..') It was Behrens who forced through the changes required as Focke Wulf claimed that the BMW engine 'tauge nichts' (literally, was not worth a damn..) while BMW stressed that Fw had not allowed for enough cooling air flow to the big radial in the original design of the aircraft. The lack of cooperation between the two companies forced Behrens to knock heads together - probably not too onerous a task with the head of the Luftwaffe taking a keen interest in the new fighter. Rechlin had already test flown the Fw 190 against all leading Allied fighter aircraft then in service ..and it had not out-performed Messerschmitt's Friedrich in comparison testing. (see link below)

Above; far right alongside Göring at Buc airfield was the corpulent commander of Luftflotte 3 Sperrle. 

Following the death of Schneider in December 1941 Behrens resumed his former position as 6./JG 26 Staffelkapitän. During 1942 he transferred to the Kommando der Erprobungsstellen der Luftwaffe based in Rechlin. Here he was promoted to Hauptmann on 1 January 1943 and to Major on 1 June 1944. He ended the war as Kommandeur der Erprobungsstelle Rechlin.

He later went to Argentina - with Tank and Galland - and flew as test pilot in Tank's Ta 183 derivative the Pulqui. He was killed on 9 October 1952 in a crash while testing the Pulqui.

Otto Behrens (facing camera) with Göring during August 1941 (probably) at Buc airfield, Paris

Also on this blog;

Friday 20 October 2023

"..a flight from Larissa (Greece) to Salonika " , April 1941 - archive photo scan (3)


..the inscription on the back of this image reads " ..a flight from Larissa (Greece) to Salonika.. " (Thessaloniki, Greece)..

A yellow-cowled Henschel 126 comes in to land, II./JG 77 Emils in the foreground (note emblem forward of the cockpit on 'white 3'). Both Emils appear to have white wingtips and yellow rudder and cowl..

Another image from the same negative strip, so date and location is spring 1941 somewhere in Greece. Nearest the camera "TD+MS" appears to be a rare Klemm Kl 31. Note the Siemens radial. The Kl 31 was the first German four-seater touring monoplane and appeared in 1933.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Kurt Ubben, Kommandeur III./JG 77 - photo archive scan (2)


Kurt Ubben first saw combat with II./186, the so-called Träger or 'carrier' Gruppe established in November 1938 as a carrier fighter unit to equip Germany’s first aircraft carrier, the “Graf Zeppelin”. The 4.Staffel mustered with the Ju 87 Stuka while Staffeln 5 and 6 received the Bf 109. The unit first saw action in Poland and then in Norway.

This is his G-6 trop seen in Foggia, southern Italy, during the late spring of 1943 displaying small command chevrons just forward of the fuselage cross and the III./JG 77 wolf's head emblem with 'Wander-Zirkus' inscription.

Thanks to Del for the 'post-scan' photo-processing and image enhancement.

Tuesday 17 October 2023

He 115 in Reval fitted with ice skids


having recently acquired a 'proper' scanner (Epson V330) thanks to a friend, I'm experimenting with some 'test' scans. This may be the first in a new series of regular (daily?) archive photo scans. 

.." mit dieser He-115 flogen wir nach Montierung von Eiskufen in Reval Seenoteeinsatz.. ..after our He 115 was fitted with steel skids for operations from ice (and snow) in Reval (former name of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia) we flew air-sea rescue missions from there .."

Posted above is only a 'screen-shot' of the scan which is otherwise nearly 3 Mb in size. Click on the image to get a larger view. Below, a view of the original photo, which is no more than a couple of inches sq. Very small. But scanning at high res and 200% I'm starting to get some decent results. Thanks Del & Paul for recommendations on the Epson scanner settings!

Tuesday 10 October 2023

JG 77 in Italy, September/October 1943 and the Macchi C 205 in JG 77 service - were there any aces ?


On 3 September 1943, the soldiers of the British XIII Corps mounted amphibious landings on the Italian 'boot' and 'invaded' the Italian mainland. Calabria was only lightly defended and Reggio airfield was quickly captured. This first landing in continental Europe took place in a country seemingly still allied with the Reich. But, since Mussolini's removal from power the new Italian government had been secretly negotiating with the Allies to change sides. The German High Command was not fooled by the friendly protestations of Marshal Badoglio, the new strongman of the Italian regime and were preparing to take control of the country in the event of an Italian U-turn. The location where the Duce was being held had already been identified and plans were being made for his release. This occurred on 12 September - Skorzeny's Gran Sasso 'coup de main'. On this same afternoon of 3 September I./JG 77 and IV./JG 3 intercepted an unescorted formation of B-24s over the sea near the Tremiti islands. Eight bombers were claimed by I./JG 77 (only three were confirmed). Eight B-24s were claimed by JG 3. Nine Liberators from the 98th BG were reported lost over Italy, most likely victims of these clashes.

On 6 September, Uffz Willi Wiemer's 'yellow 4' ( 3./ JG 77) was shot down by a P-38 of the 14th FG escorting Liberators. 7./JG 77 (in Sardinia) also suffered the loss of Lt. Hans Rund, whose G-6 'white 7' exploded in flight. Ofw Eduard Isken who had carried out a test flight in this machine shortly beforehand suspected sabotage. On the 7th, I/JG 77 suffered two serious injuries in a battle with P-38s escorting B-17s. Oblt Gerhard Strasen, Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 77 was shot down in 'yellow 10'. He reported;

"..Our unit was scattered around Foggia and it was from there that we were airborne to intercept the Viermots and their P-38 escorts. On that day, I was acting Kommandeur as Burkhardt was unavailable. In combat with P-38s north of Naples, a bullet went through my leg and I had to parachute out. On the ground, an Army Feldwebel loaded me into a vehicle and took me to a hospital. I was then transferred by medical train to Stuttgart where an amputation was planned. I was categorically opposed to this and was able to save my leg. I was granted a long period of convalescence, during which I got married. I rejoined JG 77 around May 1944 when the unit was fighting in northern Italy..."

In addition to Strasen, another wounded pilot from 3./JG 77 had to bail out, Lt Werner Behrendt. To replace Strasen, Lt Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert left II./JG 77 and became Staffelführer of 3./JG 77.

On 8 September, I./JG 77 and IV./JG 3 carried out their usual missions (reconnaissance and Alarmstart 'scrambles'). In the late afternoon a large fleet was spotted near Naples. But  at 5.00 pm, the Italian surrender was announced by the allied radio, surprising both Italians and to a lesser extent, the Germans. The Italian royal family, still near Rome, had to flee. Many Italian officers did not know what to choose: loyalty to their government or to the German ally. Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring quickly gave the order to neutralise the former ally - Unternehmen 'Achse'. Everywhere, German soldiers disarmed Italian units, which often fell apart and huge amounts of matériel was captured. An Italian naval battlegroup was already at sea - according to some to counter the Allied landings then about to take place at Salerno - but with the news of the 'volte-face', now attempting to make for Malta to surrender to the British. Attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Asinara by 'Fritz X' guided missile carrying Do 217s of KG 100 on 9 September, the Roma, one of the most powerful warships then at sea in the Mediterranean, was struck, split in two and sunk. More than 1,250 men perished.

The US Fifth Army landed at Salerno on 9 September in another huge amphibious operation. I./JG 77 and IV./JG 3 toting Werfer rocket grenade launchers flew strafing sorties over the Salerno landing zones - Fw. Horst Schlick of 1./JG 77 was hit by flak and managed to bail out, coming down unharmed near a main road into Naples. Elsewhere most of III./JG 77 flew out of Sardinia and landed on the Corsican airfield of Ghisonaccia. The Germans immediately disarmed the Italian troops present on this air base and took possession of weapons and equipment. Three days later, the men of "Ubben’s travelling circus" transferred to Casabianda still in Corsica. From there, the Bf 109s flew escort sorties for the ships and transport aircraft (Me 323 and Ju 52 Transporter) evacuating the German troops to the Italian mainland.

On 25 September the G-6 Gustavs of III./JG 77 were in Pise-Metato while using the airfield of Fiano to protect the industrial sector of Bologna. Uffz Karl-Heinz Böttner flew little during this period because he was sent to the Erholungsheim (relaxation and care centre) in Bad Wiessee following malaria attacks. Also there at the same time was his Kapitän Emil Omert who was recuperating following his injury sustained in Sicily.

On 20 October, III./JG 77 recorded a total of thirty-two Bf 109 G-6 fighters on strength. Returning to Metato, Uffz Böttner took part in various interceptions of American bombers pounding German positions in northern Italy. On 23 October, around Rome, the rudder of his G-6 was seriously damaged by defensive fire from B-17 Fortresses, but the young pilot was able to return to his aerodrome without too much trouble. (photo below) III./JG 77 was sent to Romania a short while later, I./JG 4 returning from this theatre to take their place in Italy.

The detachment of III./JG 77 in Pisa was also implicated by the Italian 'change-of-sides' on 8 September. Lt. Wolfgang Ernst, Stk of 9./JG 77 remembered;

" I was with a few pilots at Pisa airfield at the time. Our Schwarm was carrying out combined manoeuvres with the Italian navy. We flew over the ships all day long, and we were often invited dine in the evening in full dress. The food was excellent and the wine plentiful. It was all very pleasant. On the morning of the 9th, following the Italian U-turn, I decided to join the Gruppe now in Corsica. We took off and flew over the Italian fleet as it set sail to surrender to the Allies. We strafed some ships, which saddened us: only the day before we had been friends. Later we shot down a small Italian liaison plane over the mainland -flying due south, it was deserting towards the territory held by the Anglo-Saxons..."

Meanwhile II./JG 77 was put to work to disarm their former allies. A transfer to northern Italy had been planned since mid-August.  Overtaken by events the Gruppe had already given up its Gustavs.  Small groups of ground personnel were sent all over Italy to take control of the airfields; as for the pilots, they ferried the captured machines to northern Italy. It was at this point that the decision was taken to re-equip II./JG 77 with some of the captured Italian Macchi Veltro fighters. 

Technicians from the Gruppe were sent to Varese to study the Macchi Veltro. Equipped with a Daimler Benz DB 605 engine, this aircraft seemed adaptable to German standards as mechanic Karl Holland reported;

"..The engines, Daimler-Benz 601s built under licence, posed no major problems. The work of the mechanics was even easier because the amount of room reserved for the engine, auxiliary fittings, oil and coolant circuits was larger than on the Bf 109. As far as armament was concerned, the usual MGs were used, as well as heavy machine guns of a calibre close to 12 mm. No cannon. The pilots found the Macchis lighter but slower than the Bf 109s..."

The C.205 was used briefly by II./JG 77 from late September 1943 to the end of the year before the Gruppe reverted back to the Bf 109 G-6. The war diary of the Stab/JG 77 commented on 21.Nov. 1943 ;

" The machine is fast, and flies well, but has a tendency to lose speed in a sharp curve, and it is easy to get into a spin. Another aspect is the Italian radio. Despite transmitting clearly, the pilots can barely understand what is being said. Finally, refueling and reloading ammunition is very complicated, so restoring operational readiness takes a long time..."

The Kommodore's memories are more categoric; 

 "My JG 77 rarely used captured aircraft, apart from the Mc-205 flown by II./JG 77. It was a vicious machine that easily got into a spin which could be very difficult to get out of. It was used in combat and there were a few victories. (Maj. Johannes Steinhoff, Geschwaderstab JG 77).

Were there any German Macchi aces ? A reply to this question (answer/research) by Georg Morrison

" You may be thinking of Oblt. Joachim Deicke, who led the 6./JG 77. His aircraft, "gelbe 1" was a Macchi C.205, WNr.92212. BUT, none of his 18 claims (over 661 missions) were made using a Macchi. Three pilots had died in crashes, usually "pilot error." Uffz. Rudolf Funke was shot down on 1 December 1943 by a P-38 (C.205 "gelbe 4", WNr.92218), but was safe. Another C.205 was damaged in this combat. The last loss of 1943 was on Christmas Eve, engine fire on WNr.92224.

 Another potential candidate for JG 77 ace on the Macchi could have been Lt. Franz Hrdlicka, who led 5./JG 77. He made his 37th claim on 9.November 1943, which was likely in a C.205 - he posed for a photo, seated on the cockpit edge of a dark-finished example..". 

Recommended reading ;

The Luftwaffe in Italy 1943-45 published by Lela Presse, 98 page A-4 softback, some 200 photos/artworks. Only 13 euros. Available from the website. Eight-page PDF extract here

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Erwin ‘Caesar’ Clausen -6./JG 77 - ebay photo find #364


 Photos of JG 77 ace Erwin Clausen are comparatively rare - a large achive of JG 77 images gifted to this blog feature only a couple of this pilot. So a recent ebay find - a couple of which apparently depict Clausen's return with his 100th  - are of interest. (thanks Sinisa for the heads-up). 

Born on 5 August 1911 in Berlin, Erwin ‘Caesar’ Clausen joined the Reichsmarine (German Navy) in 1931, transferring to the Luftwaffe in 1935 where he received flight training as an Unteroffizier. When the war commenced Clausen flew in I.(Jagd) Gruppe of LG 2 under the command of Major Hans Trübenbach and filed his first claim on 9 September 1939 downing a Polish biplane. In France during the latter half of the Westfeldzug the Gruppe was stationed at Ferme Montecouvez, approx 15 kms south of Cambrai. Here I.(J)/LG 2 provided fighter escort for German transports resupplying the 4th Army in the vicinity of Cambrai. On 25 May Clausen would claim his second Abschuss, an Armée de l’air Potez 63, however his Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-4B, W.Nr. 5804, also received damage, resulting in a belly-landing near Cambrai (sustaining 75% damage). During the Battle of Britain flying fighter sweeps and ground attack missions he added just one more victory, a Spitfire on 23 September. Close to a month later, on 20 October Clausen’s Bf 109 was badly shot up over England by a Spitfire. He was able to limp back over the Channel for a forced-landing.

On the launch of Barbarossa I.(J)/LG 2 with some 40 Emils on strength was subordinated to JG 77 on the southern sector. Oblt. Clausen was CO of 1.(J)/LG 2 - Strakeljahn and Tismar led 2. and 3. Staffel respectively. He claimed two I-153 downed on 2 July. He was at Jassy, Romania on 15 July for the visit of King Mihail. I./LG 2 claimed 15 victories (six for Clausen) defending the oilfields from Soviet bombers during the interlude replacing III./JG 52 in this theatre. I./LG 2 returned to the 'front' in early October departing Romania for Mariupol. In early 1942 I./LG 2 was re-designated I./JG 77 (with the 'original' I./JG 77 being incorporated into JG 5). On 9 March Clausen claimed five for one of his his best days, reaching some 47 victories. A few months later - I./JG 77 departing the Eastern Front for the Mediterranean- Clausen was posted to II./JG 77 on the central sector of the Eastern Front.

Below;  Bf 109 F-4 'white 1' flown by Oblt. Erwin Clausen as Stkp. 1./JG 77. The rudder scoreboard shows 57 victories, the 57th being a claim for an I-16 on or around 14 June 1942..

During July 1942 as StaKa 6./JG 77 he was one of the leading 'scorers' in the Geschwader claiming some 43 victories for the month. During late September he was at Rastenburg to receive the Eichenlaub, having passed 100 victories during late August/early September.  Towards the end of the year he was replaced as StaKa by Lt. Johan Badum after falling ill with malaria. In February 1943 he was posted to EJG Süd and in June 1943 was named Kommandeur of I./JG 11. He was KIA on 4 October 1943 attacking USAF bombers near Borkum. Variously credited with as many as 132 victories although Matthews/Foreman located only one hundred claims on the microfilms. His awards included the DK (25 May 1942), RK (22 May 1942) and Oakleaves (23 July 1942). The image below may or may not show the celebrations for Clausen's 100th...

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Lt. Helmut Biederbick 7./JG 54 - ebay photo find #363

Photos of Lt. Helmut Biederbick posing for snapshots on his 7./JG 54 Friedrich have appeared in a number of publications including "Luftwaffe Fighters -Combat on all Fronts " Vol I and Philippe Saintes two-volume history of JG 54 published by Lela Presse.  These show him taking a snooze under the wing of his Bf 109 F-2 ‘white 5’ some time during the summer of 1941 and posing with his 1.Wart (first mechanic) on his 7./JG 54 Bf 109 F-4 ‘white 7’. This 'new' Ebay find shows us that it was 'white 5' that featured the inscription ‘Kabänes’. 

Leutnant Biederbick returned 14 victories with JG 54. He returned his first victory, an SB-2 on 23 June, 1941, the second day of Barbarossa. On July 6, 1941 flying ‘white 11’ he collided with ‘white 3’ flown by Uffz. Theodor Steinwendtner during a hard fight with SB-2s of 41 SAD. Both pilots were able to jump clear. Biederbick downed two Soviet aircraft on July 10, 1941; an SB-3 and an I-18 and scored two Soviet P-40s on July 19, 1942. 

He moved back to the West in October 1942, posted to IV./JG 1. He served as an instructor from December 1942. He flew as Staffelführer with 2./JG 1 from February to June 1944. His 15th victory was a B-24 (HSS) on April 8, 1944. His 16th was a P-51 five km north-west of Klötze on April 8, 1944. His 17th was a B-17 (HSS) on April 13, 1944, no location. On April 22, 1944 he downed a B-17 west of Rothaargebirge. He moved to JG 101 in July 1944. 

In February 1945 he was appointed Staffel kapitän of 5./JG 101 in February 1945 and survived the war credited with 19 victories. He died on January 10, 1996.