Wednesday 26 July 2023

Walter Dahl's "Rammjäger" - reviewed by Hans Ring in Jägerblatt April 1962 issue

"..IMHO one of the problems with Dahl of course is all his 'invented' victories - he received the Eichenlaub in March 1945 for 92 vics (or similar IIRC..) and yet ended the war barely two months later with the always-quoted figure of 128 !! Even though he wasn't in a combat unit any longer by that stage and hadn't been since the previous December...apparently it was Dahl's wife who actually wrote/compiled his memoir (Dahl was too busy with right-wing politics to write it himself) and that the figure of 128 is pure invention.."

" Most of those pilots from every country had unconfirmed kills, cross claims, and others that simply survived. I don't understand the point in vilifying Dahl. Instead of dragging some guy's name through the dirt, why don't we just accept that in the heat of battle, miles above the earth, and 70-years later, neither us nor they had a complete picture of what was going on?.." 

Two contrasting views on Walter Dahl's combat record. Most sources quote 128 victories. Of course Walter Dahl wrote a memoir - 'Rammjäger'- which only really covers the defence of the Reich. Unusually for a Luftwaffe fighter leader it has never been translated into English. Of course biographies vary in accuracy and in general terms are often 'unreliable' when it comes to dates and exact events. 'Rammjäger' is certainly not one of those "Flugbuch" type biographies to start with. But this is Walter Dahl - last Luftwaffe 'General of fighters' (or 'Inspekteur der Tagjäger') and according to some, leading four-engine bomber 'killer' and leading Mustang 'killer'. Also according to some, the leading Luftwaffe ace of 1945 with somewhere approaching 49 claims. So why is there no English translation of his book? What is the problem? 

Well, firstly, for 1945 Dahl was not flying with a 'regular' unit!  

.." I was trying to find information about the exact date when Walter Dahl joined EJG 2 but was unable to do so. Also I was unable to find dates for his 9+ victories with EJG 2. I was assuming that more information should be known as Walter Dahl survived the war? "

Dahl's book 'Rammjäger' does not mention service with EJG 2 at all, except to state that on 27 March 1945 -Dahl's birthday-  he, and Oberst Gollob were flying in an Si 204 D to visit Heinz Bär at his jet-training EJG 2 in Lechfeld, when they were spotted by a pair of P-51s, and through Gollob's inspired flying managed to elude them. In the afternoon Dahl test-flew a Me 262 and ran into some P-47s  strafing the airfield, and he shot down two of them for his 102nd and 103rd victories. Then he says that by 4 April he had his 110th victory, but no further mention of EJG 2. Dahl also writes that he finished the war with 128 victories - a figure quoted in just about every biography of the man written since - in other words he scored nearly 20 victories in just over 3 weeks even though he wasn't flying on operations! (he mentions only undertaking a number of Erkundungsflüge - eg 24 April -which resulted in combat) I think we can conclude that a large number of these later victories were 'imaginary'.... 

" ..could or would the Inspector of Dayfighters during the last months of the Reich want to fly a lot of sorties ? Could an aggressive pilot of Dahl's standing continue operational flying if he wanted to, especially during the final months? I think he could..."

Fair enough. Only, these so-called victories were witnessed by another pilot and long-term wingman ..who was flying in another outfit at the time!  

The (grossly inflated) figures for victories claimed and listed in Dahl's book were easily disproved even in 1962! Highlighting the missions of August 15, 1944, Dahl reports 102 victories for the Luftwaffe. The actual OKW daily report published the following day quoted just 29 including 27 Viermots. 

Noted Luftwaffe historian and claims 'specialist' Hans Ring reviewed Dahl's memoir in the April 1962 issue of Jägerblatt.

Ring writes; 

'according to a diary in our possession, II./JG 300 managed only a handful of victories for a small number of losses on August 15. Dahl however states that the Sturmgruppe Bretschneider downed 36 Viermots....'  

and concluded as follows;

" ..So anerkennenswert es gewesen wäre, einem breiten Publikum einmal nicht romanhaft den Abwehrkampf unserer Jagdwaffe fortzustellen, mehr Verantwortungsbewusstsein vor der Beweiskraft präziser Personen-, Zeit-, und Zahlenangaben hätte man erwarten dürfen. Wie soll man Vertrauen auf die Richtigkeit der übrigen dargestellten Ereignisse haben, wenn mann wiederholt auf grosse Unrichtigkeiten stösst. Vielleicht sind wir etwas zu feinfühlig wenn uns ausserdem an diesem Buch seine Tendenz stört, jene Mischung aus 'Und -wir-haben-doch- gesiegt" Selbstbespiegelung und - wir können es nicht anders nennen -infantiler Idealisierung..."

 " commendable as it would have been to present the defensive struggles of our fighter arm to a broad public in a way that was not so novelistic, the reader should certainly have expected a greater sense of responsibility before the evidential value of precise first person, chronological and numerical data. How can  the reader have any confidence in the accuracy of the other events described when one repeatedly encounters major inaccuracies? [..] Perhaps we are reacting a little over-sensitively if we are also disturbed by the 'tendency' of this book, that mixture of 'and-yet-we-were-victorious' self-absorption and - we can't call it anything else - infantile idealisation..."

..or, in summary;  'romanhaft' 'grosse Unrichtigkeiten' 'infantil'  - novelistic, major inaccuracies and infantile !

Not surprising then that the last Luftwafe General of fighters never had his memoir translated into English.

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Wednesday 12 July 2023

new Luftwaffe books - Messerschmitt Me 309 Development and Politics


By Dan Sharp and Calum E Douglas

Chosen in 1941 to replace the Bf 109 as the Luftwaffe’s standard front-line fighter, Messerschmitt’s innovative Me 309 embodied a wealth of hard-won experience from the Battle of Britain. Its sturdy tricycle undercarriage would make landings safer, its capacious wings could accommodate much heavier weaponry, its retractable radiator would make it aerodynamically clean, its pressure cabin would allow high-altitude operations and its ejection seat would help preserve the Luftwaffe’s most precious asset – its pilots.

All of this was made possible by a fuselage specifically tailored to accommodate Germany’s newest and most powerful fighter engines: Daimler-Benz’s DB 603 and Junkers’ Jumo 213. Production of up to 800 Me 309s a month had been planned by May 1942 – more than all other German fighter types combined. Yet the type’s advancement from prototype to full series production was reduced to a crawl, not by technical difficulties but by political in-fighting, deception and manipulation behind closed doors.

The Me 309 was set up to fail – doomed to join a lost generation of mid-war Luftwaffe combat aircraft alongside types such as Focke-Wulf’s Fw 190 C and Junkers’ Ju 288 – but why and by whom? 'Messerschmitt Me 309 Development and Politics', the first book ever written solely about this aircraft, sets out its full history – from its forerunners and commissioning to its eventual cancellation and sale to the Japanese military. Using contemporary documents, authors Dan Sharp and Calum E. Douglas explain and explore the development and eventual failure of this fascinating ‘secret project’.

Available to preorder here

He 177 "Zerstörer" in the Ukraine - ebay photo find #361


one of the 12 He 177 A-1/U2 "Zerstörer" variants seen here during an intermediate stop in the Ukraine, equipped with a pair of Mk 101 30mm cannon (?) in the chin gondola.

RIAT Air Tattoo Messerschmitt Foundation Me 262


..footage captured by the Battle of Britain museum at Hawkinge and reposted using the 'embed' code supplied by FB. Escorted by a BBMF Spitfire the @airbus Messerschmitt Foundation Me 262 replica was seen heading across Kent en route to the Fairford airshow in Gloucs this week/end. The replica '262' will be based for a short period at RAF Coningsby following the show..a single click to view here..

A few images from Fairford by the inimitable Tad Dippel. And if you're wondering, yes, I know Tad - we met up at the 2016 RIAT. A fantastic photographer..

new Kommodore of JG 2 and Wick's successor, Hptm. Wilhelm Balthasar


Late February 1941 saw the appointment and arrival of the new Kommodore of JG 2. Wick's successor, Hptm. Wilhelm Balthasar, was another ace who enjoyed a considerable reputation. Born in 1914, he had been orphaned following the death of his father on the Western Front. Following his enlistment in 1933 and service in an artillery regiment, Wilhelm Balthasar had subsequently transferred into the Luftwaffe and gone on to serve in Spain. Appointed to lead the recce detachment of the bomber arm of the Legion Condor (claiming a single aerial victory), he had moved to the fighter arm and added a further six Luftsiege to his score. Kapitän of 1./JG 1 in Poland and during the offensive in the West, Balthasar had been awarded the Ritterkreuz on 14 June 1940 having achieved twenty three victories. In August 1940, the young officer headed up III./JG 3 during the air battles over England. He had added to his tally during the Battle of Britain but sustained injuries on two occasions. It was only following his return to flying duties that this experienced veteran was appointed to command the "Richthofen". Hptm. Karl-Heinz Greisert stood down from his temporary role in charge of the Geschwader and resumed command of his II./JG 2.

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

my ICM Friedrich is finished in the markings of Kommodore Balthasar as seen in late May 1941 in the three greys, but being an early F-2, there’s a chance it could have been finished in BoB Emil colours - 71/02/65. Decals assembled from various remnants, including the rudder ‘kill’ markings. Balthasar was one of the leading Luftwaffe aces during the campaign in the West and the Battle of Britain. He was killed in his new Friedrich during July 1941.

Overall the ICM Bf 109 Fs are a little tricky in parts -especially the cowl - but the detail is reasonably good..

More on Balthasar's Battle of Britain Emil

Starboard view Kommodore machine, May 1941