Thursday, 21 September 2017

Galland Emil Caffiers am Kanal 1940 Friedrich - #ebay photo find 221

Above, 22 victory markings on the Gkr. III./JG 26 Bf 109 E-1 seen in Caffiers on the Channel coast, summer 1940

Below; the machine in the background is presumably one of Galland's Friedrich 'specials' with the cowl MG 17s replaced with two 13mm MG 131 machine guns - the 'bulge' aft of the cowl gun trough  accomodated the breech of the up-gunned MGs with the cartridges being ejected sideways through improvised ejector chutes. The image presumably dates from late summer 1941, note absence of yellow cowl and/or 'Schlageter badge'. Heavily mottled finish.

on offer here

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

forthcoming AIMS Bf 110 F/G conversion set for the Dragon 1/32 kits from John McIllmurray

" ..Hello everyone, I am pleased to let you know progress on my AIMS Bf 110 F/G conversion set for the Dragon 1/32 kits. Gun pack and spinner have been 3D designed and await printing, rudder and upper engine cowl and upper and lower nose finished, rear canopy and exhausts under way, MG 81Z already done, cockpit ammo boxes still to do and revised exhaust stubs done. Still have to do straight late exhaust damper. All going very well. Just got all the decals finished and they will go off to printers any day now. Hope you like the selection. I am doing two boxings - 200 units each and both will be available at the same time - perhaps as soon as Christmas depending on how long it takes to get decals printed. One boxing is the F-4/G-2 day fighter / bomber and includes 2x F-4 options and 2x G-2 options plus 1x national insignia and full stencil set plus and everything needed to make what can be seen in the profiles. Other boxing is for the G-4 night fighter and includes 5 options plus 1x set of insignia and stencils and all what is needed to do the options As I do everything by email naturally I can tailor make orders so if you are using E-2 Trop kit and have some of the parts or if you are set on doing the F and do not need the G parts in the day fighter boxing I will remove them and lower the cost. £ TBC. Lower cowls will be split so they can hang open - still have to do the interior detail. Likewise the nose gun bay will be open. Hope you like the profiles......"

John's AIMS site is here

more Eastern Front Junkers Ju 52s - Wintertarnung - ebay photo find #220

Junkers Ju 52 possibly of KGrzbV 9 (4V+ ?U) seen unloading supplies possibly in the Demyansk pocket, Russia during early 1942. However the emblem on the nose closely resembles that of 4./KGrzbV 172. Click to view in close-up and large

on offer here

Superb new Ju 52 reference photo book - " Le Junkers Ju 52, de la Lufthansa à la Luftwaffe" by Grégory Alméras and published by  LeLa Presse - book review here

Approaching 1,000 posts and 3.5 million page views for the Luftwaffe blog

Back in March 2013 this blog passed one million page views in 420 posts, after three years of existence. See this post at this link. Today this Google blog "FalkeEins -The Luftwaffe Blog" is fast approaching 1,000 posts. Page views are now well over 3 million with daily views anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000. Below, a little screen-shot of my stats in the run up to Christmas 2016. As Nick would say, 'it's not a job, I do this for fun'. I think of it primarily as a vehicle to support the projects that warrant it, whether that be books, kits, decals, ebay shops etc etc. Thanks as ever to all supporters and correspondents, including Jean-Yves, Jean-Louis, Michel, Laurent, Erik, Robert, Jochen, Kurt, Claes, David, Simon, Paul, Alex, John, Nick, Markus, Many, Eddie, Andy, Tara, Sylvie and many others including the ebay sellers who enable us to repost their images here with links to their sales, Marco, Michael, Oliver, Darius and Manuel.

The 'strange' death of Staffelkapitän 11./JG 7 Lt. Erwin Stahlberg, April 1945 - Avions magazine "Hors Série" 'special' published by Lela Presse, "Les pertes des Messerschmitt 262"

The new Avions magazine "Hors Série" 'special' published by Lela Presse, "Les pertes des Messerschmitt 262" by Philippe Saintes (Me 262 losses) is a neat 100-page monograph packed with pics and profiles. Good value for money at only 17 euros, 'Avions' subscribers get a generous discount and economic postage rates (3 euros in Europe) make this a 'must-buy'. See a pdf extract and order here.

A carefully compiled compilation from published works, the main sources used in "Me 262 losses" are most notably the usual Foreman, Smith, Creek and Jurleit. However Philippe has also included one or two errors that can also be seen in these previous tomes. The most blatant example is the reported destruction in combat of the Messerschmitt 262 flown by Oberleutnant Erwin Stahlberg, Staffelkapitän of 11./JG 7 on 14 April 1945, attributed by the author -as in numerous previous works - to a Mustang pilot, Captain Clayton K. Gross of the 354th FG.

This story of the death of Lt. Erwin Stahlberg is unfortunately a total invention, endlessly repeated and misrepresented. At least two Ospreys ('Aces of JG 3' -extract below - and 'JG 7 Nowotny') repeat this 'account'- Stahlberg crashed to his death at the controls of his jet, shot down by the P-51 of Clayton Gross..

Colin Heaton in his 'Me 262 Stormbird' refers to him as Lt. Erich Stahlberg of 9./JG 7, shot down in combat of course.

The truth is that Lt. Erwin Stahlberg did not even fly a sortie on 14 April 1945 far less meet an untimely end in combat. The reality is much more mundane albeit a little bizarre...

15 April 1945 -the closing weeks of the war in Europe. III. Gruppe of JG 7 are completing preparations for one of their final moves, eastwards, via Bavaria, into the Protectorate of Bohemia, part of the one-time Czechoslovakia. This was virtually all that was left of the once-powerful jet command IX. Fliegerkorps (J). Transferring to Prag-Rusin the Gruppe had put down in Plattling the previous day, 14 April, according to one account. However on the morning of the 15th Erwin Stahlberg is still very much alive. But his Me 262 jet is unserviceable. Stahlberg elects to hitch a ride with a convoy of ground crews, jumping up into the cab of a truck with Luftwaffe mechanic Uffz. Theodor Becker and Uffz. Walter Wetzer, previously of 3./JG 300. Stahlberg's truck is towing a trailer loaded with heavy oxygen bottles. The road convoy sets out in the early afternoon on the route that links lower Bavaria with Czechoslovakia. On a section known as the Ruselberg-Strecke between Deggendorf and Regen the road is hilly, steep in places and notorious for accidents. Stahlberg's truck slows as its approaches a bend on a descent on this section. Suddenly it starts to pick up speed. The driver lets out an exclamation - " Scheiße, die Bremsen - the brakes!" By now Stahlberg's truck is speeding downhill. Turning into the bend, the driver fights with the wheel. Tyres squealing, the truck skids side on, sliding into the turn. The momentum of the heavy load pulls both truck and trailer over the edge. Stahlberg is thrown from the cab into the fast-flowing river below. He disappears under the surface. Seconds later the trailer plunges into the water. On top of him. Stahlberg never comes back up. At the crash site the bodies of the three men are retrieved and taken to the church in Deggendorf..

Stahlberg's friend and Staffel comrade Leutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm Schenk, who had followed him to III./JG 7 after the dissolution of I./JG 300 in March 1945 described the accident which cost Stahlberg his life in a letter written during 1983 ;

" ...Stahlberg was unable to make the transfer by air as his machine was not serviceable. The road convoy travelled on the route that links lower Bavaria with Czechoslovakia known as the Ruselberg-Strecke. (Deggendorf-Regen). He was travelling with ground crews in a truck hauling a trailer full of heavy oxygen bottles . The road descends steeply down into Deggendorf. At a sharp bend the brakes gave way and the truck and trailer went off the road straight into the fast-flowing river. Stahlberg was thrown from the cab into the water and the trailer plunged down on top of him. He drowned. I attended his funeral in the cemetery at Deggendorf. His body was later transferred and interred at the graveyard of Hofkirchen-Leithen an der Donau where I took this photo of the headstone.…"

This account by "Timo" Schenk is confirmed by the register of deaths that can be read at the catholic chuch in Deggendorf where the names of those who died in the crash of the truck on the Ruselberg-Strecke are listed;

Stahlberg, Erwin, Oberleutnant, Jagdgeschwader 3 (his unit prior to postings with 1./ JG 300 and 11./JG 7 ). Born 1 March 1917, died 15 April 1945 at 15:00 on the Ruselbergstraße.
Becker, Theodor, Unteroffizier, mechanic, born 25 October 1919 at Daseburg, fractured skull 15:00 15 April 1945 on the Ruselbergstraße.
Wetzer Walter, Unteroffizier with 3./JG 300 (disbanded mid-March 1945) Born 10 September 1921, hospitalised in the Res. Lazarett IA at Deggendorf, died 29 April from complications of lockjaw.

Details of the circumstances of the death of Erwin Stahlberg are related in the history of JG 300 by Lorant and Goyat 'Batailles dans le Ciel d'Allemagne' (Docavia, 2005).

Note that Robert Dorr in his "Fighting Hitler's Jets' publishes Clayton Kelly Gross's account of his jet victory on 14 April - " I sighted the jet ..sporting a large 'Red 1' on its fuselage....I subsequently met the pilot I had shot down that day  - a certain Kurt Lobgesong.."

William Hess in his "German Jets versus the USAAF" writes;

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Henschel Hs 123 LG 2 auf Feldflugplatz Polen, Frankreich

a neat selection currently on offer from dw-auction here depicting Hs 123 of LG 2 and other types on various field strips in Poland and France. Above;  " for your 4 o'clock tea-time "

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Dornier Do 217 E and K of KG 2 - ebay photo find #218

The primary Kampfgeschwader in the West during 1943-4 operating the 'D' 'K' and even 'M' variants of the Dornier Do 217 bomber- for a short period simultaneously -was KG 2. Here courtesy of seller Oliver Rogge - who identifies these as KG 40 machines - 'D' and 'K' variants of the Do 217 seen together in 'Nachtbomber' finish preparing for a sortie probably from their base in northern France. Another image showing '10.Staffel' painted on a prop blade is another indicator that these machines are on the strength of KG 2. Kommandeur of IV. Gruppe during early 1943 was Hptm Helmut Powolny, possibly seen in the bottom image walking across the tarmac at Melun-Villaroche north of Paris..

new-tool Airfix Me 262 -should the wing slats be open or closed ?

It appears that the new-tool Airfix Me 262 in 72nd scale is finally here with Airfix taking orders on the website. It looks like it will be a nice kit although I've read one or two gripes about the apparent lack of options such as slats and flaps. I'm sure there will be lots of aftermarket; flaps, vac canopy, resin engines, wheels and so on. And just in time too. The Revell Me 262 is getting very long in the tooth nowadays - the last one I built I had to smash-mold a new canopy. The Academy 262 tooling was also first released way back - in 2007 to be exact! It is reasonably detailed but as with a number of Academy WWII kits the basic outline shapes are a bit off; the fuselage is rather fat and wide with an overly bulbous nose. The Academy glazing is, for example, far too wide for the Revell kit. The canopy in the last Revell 262 I attempted was un-useable but it can't be replaced with an Academy canopy (which also happens to be a tad 'flattened-out' at the top..). We certainly have no lack of aftermarket decal options for the 262 already!

Below; Airfix at Nuremburg - IMPS Deutschland photo

As far as the discussion about 'poseable' slats is concerned, see below - the 'famous' Transit films 262 walkaround sequence in the 'Wings of the Luftwaffe' video series clearly shows that the slats are deployed on the ground. They can be pushed in and pulled out - and could be left out. Whether this was because they had a tendency to stick or not I don't know.  The sequence goes on to show the technician working on the inboard slats, pushing them in and then letting them slide back out...

Note that the Me 262's slats are not 'sprung' or have any actuators - they simply slide in and out on rails. In the clip below the technician is pulling them out and pushing them in - whereupon they 'slide' open of their own accord. Once landed and parked-up good practice says they should be closed up before leaving the aircraft for any length of time. You really don't want anything getting into the gap or into the mechanism. Checking the freedom of movement of free-floating slats as they open and close is part of good pre- and post-flight inspection on types thus equipped. Other points to consider;  because the Me-262 has a tricycle undercarriage the wing is more horizontal to the ground compared to, say, the Bf 109, so that it is more likely that gravity will cause the Me 262's slats to drop out on their rails. You're less likely to see this on a Bf-109 because gravity will be acting with the coefficient of friction to keep them in. And they could be locked in.

Note that the slats are lockable. "North American F-86 SabreJet Day Fighters", (Warbird Tech Vol. 3, Hughes and Dranem) - North American engineers actually used the slat locks from a complete 262 wing when they were putting together the slats on the XP-86. "…Finally an entire Me-262 wing was flown in from Wright Field. North American engineers disassembled the slats and modified the slat track mechanism to fit the XP-86 wing. The engineers also used the slat lock and control switch from the Me-262. Although not perfect, it was at least a start and the slat worked. "

So if you have a man in a black overall walking around your 262 model it would be entirely reasonable to have the slats open on one side and closed on the other. In other words when modelling the Me 262, wing slats could be deployed in any manner you see fit. Note though that in the air aerodynamic forces keep the slats in and they will deploy as the airflow is not sufficient to keep them in and the wing is losing lift. See this discussion here on

Also on this blog;

blue/white Karoband chequers on KG(J) machines

Revell Me 262 in 72nd scale;

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

New and forthcoming Luftwaffe books - JG 54

from Thierry Dekker;

 " Bonjour, luck would have it I am currently working on the same subject for two different publishers - the famous Eastern Front Jagdgeschwader JG 54. I have just completed some sixty new JG 54 artworks, 32 of these to appear in Erik Mombeeck's « Luftwaffe Gallery Special » n°3 and 30 in a new volume in the Lela Presse "Units" series compiled by Philippe Saintes and entitled 'Eagles of the Green Heart' - only two of these profile artworks will appear in both volumes! Of course the approach adopted by these two volumes is totally different, aside from the fact that one is published in English and one in French ..I've sent through an example of one of my artworks - as you know JG 54 was known for the original and unusual schemes applied to its machines! "

Thierry Dekker's artwork blog is here

And the blurb for Philippe Saintes' volume as written by this blog author for the Lela Presse web-site;

    Part one of a new French-language history of Jagdgeschwader 54, one of the best-known fighter units of the Luftwaffe. Philippe Saintes’ new history of this unit is illustrated with hundreds of photos (mostly rare and/or previously unpublished) and relates the struggles, successes and reverses of JG 54 during the first half of the Second World War when its pilots flew the Bf 109 exclusively. From first deployment against Poland in 1939 to the bloody duels with the Soviet air forces in the skies of Leningrad, including the combats on the Western Front during 1940, JG 54 (the 'Green Hearts') left its mark in European skies. Based on numerous first-hand accounts and documents (victory reports, stories taken from war diaries, loss lists) compiled over many years, the author reconstructs the history of this famous unit, which even today has remained largely unknown despite the presence in its ranks of many famous aces. 380 pages, more than 850 photos and 30 color profiles.

Jagdgeschwader 54 - the Eagles of the Green Heart. Volume 1. Publication 20/12/2017 Author: Philippe SAINTES Edition: Units history 05 ISBN: Published in DECEMBER 2017. FREE SHIPPING on pre-orders up until October 2017! Pre-orders by cheque (French bank account – to be cashed on publication). For overseas orders payment is also possible by bank transfer, bank or credit card but in this instance payment will be debited on placement of the order.

Generalleutnant Hans Seidemann and the Yak-3 - "Unbekannte Pflicht" Walter Wolfrum on the Bf 109 with Peter Cronauer (296 Verlag)

In June 1941, the Wehrmacht swept into Russia. Apparently caught by surprise, large numbers of out-moded machines in Russia's Air Force, the VVS, were destroyed on the ground and in the air. Alexander Yakovlev moved his design and manufacturing facilities east of the Ural Mountains and began production of the Yak-9 in 1942. Eventually some 16,800 Yak-9 models were built, more than any other aircraft in the Soviet Air Force. The Yak-9 was designed for mass production and durability. Due to shortages in Russia, it incorporated a minimum of scarce strategic materials. They were designed to outnumber the enemy, not for technical superiority. While not necessarily out-classing the Fw 190 or even the increasingly obsolescent Bf 109 in its early incarnations, Yakovlev's piston-engined fighters were good fighters in numbers, durable, maneuverable, fast, light, capable of absorbing a lot of battle damage and still getting home. The 'T' -tank-destroyer- variant armed with a 37mm cannon packed decent firepower. And appearing during the summer of 1944 the Yak 3 was one of the lightest, fastest most agile fighters of WW II  - " perhaps only the Spitfire could rival this machine for manoeuvrability "  according to Yefim Gordon and Dimitri Khazanov.

".. the Yak 3 conferred a considerable advantage - the effect of surprise. Its silhouette was essentially the same as that of the previous versions of the Yak fighter, but its performance simply didn't compare. It could out-climb and out-turn the Fw 190 and caused some panic among the Luftwaffe pilots who had difficulty comprehending just what had suddenly happened to them.."

(Joseph Risso, 11 victories, in "Normandie Niemen" by Jean-Charles Stasi)

 The Fw 190s and Bf 109s were hard-pressed to keep up with the Yak -3 and Jagdwaffe pilots were expressly forbidden from engaging the  Yak 3 below certain altitudes. If it had one weakness the wooden Yak 3 offered little protection to its pilot, the undercarriage locking mechanism was prone to failure and its outstanding manoeuverability and light structural strength resulted in several accidents. Even so, 7-victory ace Francois de Geoffre chose not to open his French-language memoir of flying and fighting with the Normandie Niemen with a description of this supreme dogfighter's air combat capabilities - his sortie flown on 23 September 1944 was a successful low-level high speed strafing of Gumbinnen rail station - the first incursion deep into German territory by the Regiment;

 " ...pushing the throttle wide open, and tucked in alongside side each other, our flight of four Yak-3s accelerated down the track and were rapidly airborne. We didn't climb but stayed low. At more than 500 km/h our deadly excursion through West Prussia was underway - 40 minutes of hurdling trees, roads, and villages, leaving our ear-shattering calling cards - the awesome fireworks of four cannon and eight machine guns.."

Flying Legends 2010, Nico Charpentier pictures, Yak-3 flown by British aerobatics champion Mark Jeffries, powered by a  V-12 1400 hp Allison engine, a rebuild by the 'original' factory in Russia following the discovery of the 'original' jigs. The original Klimov engines are not available however. Mark said;

 " ..I start the display at 400 mph, maximum speed is 500 mph, although I haven't had it up to 500 mph yet ! Instructions to Luftwaffe pilots were - do not engage below 4,000 metres, the sort of heights at which the Yak 3 normally operated. It is lighter and just as powerful so will out-turn any contemporary. In a dogfight it will just get on your tail and shoot you down.."

Walter Wolfrum's memoir was entitled "Unbekannte Pflicht" co-written with Peter Cronauer and published by 296 Verlag. He recalled a confrontation with  General Hans Seidemann  Kommandierender General of VIII. Fliegerkorps (Generalleutnant from 1 January 1944) not over the qualities of the Yak-3 but over the type's very existence!

" ....In the meantime I replayed that last dogfight in my head. No, they could not have been Yak-9s. What had just put me through the wringer looked very similar to a Yak-9, but evidently was in another class in terms of performance - and also in another class to the Bf 109. Could have I perhaps have encountered two of the mythical Yak-3A fighters, about which I had heard some terrible stories in the mess (Kasino) ? Supposedly we were near Schweidnitz, where our Corps commander, General Hans Seidemann, had set up his headquarters. This was a good opportunity to meet the jovial commander, whose champagne I had drunk on many occasions, and report to him directly. Seidemann had to be informed about the new Yak. We had to adapt our tactics to meet this new threat. I asked my (driver) to take me to him.  On arrival I was immediately summoned  into the Schweidnitzer officers' mess to meet him and his Staff. Admittedly, the anaesthetic of the artillery doctor who had just sown up my head wound was still working; it had a very long lasting effect. Nevertheless, I believed that I started to present a militarily correct account of my recent combat experiences, when Seidemann, after the first sentences, spluttered;

"..Have you all gone mad? You and your Jak-3! There is no Jak-3! And certainly not in this section of the front! It is a fairy tale ("ein Ammenmärchen"), how often do I have to explain this?!? "

Although I thought I knew him quite well, the General who had so often praised me for my 'extraordinary achievements in the air war' and who had visited me in hospital after my last serious wound, now gave me a terrible bawling out in front of his approvingly grinning staff officers ('machte mich zur Minna'). In unrestrained fashion the 42-year-old worked himself into a frenzy -  we let ourselves be driven mad by the enemy propaganda, and had the audacity to spread it further, he roared. We were seeing ghosts and over-reacting. All that remained now was to charge me with cowardice before the enemy and make an example of me in front of my comrades..

I wanted to blurt out a reply, but the effects of the cognac and seething with anger brought forth no more than a slurring. A few hours ago, I had just escaped with my life and for our gentlemen with the 'raspberry trouser seams' it was simply not true, that which could not be true. Although outwardly unmoved, my mood grew ever darker. I let Seidemann's never-ending tirade go over my head. In order not to succumb to the temptation to utter a retort, I turned on my heels and walked out, leaving him and his entourage standing there....

....Perhaps they did actually believe what they were claiming - that we still had the best machines. But those days were long gone. In the hands of an experienced pilot the Bf 109 could still be dangerous. But how many experienced pilots did we still have left? And by early 1945 the 109 was starting to get long in the tooth. It's development had reached its high point with the agile 'Friedrich'. Since then every planned upgrade and improvement was actually a step backwards. During the summer of 1944 I flew the G-6, in 1945 I flew the G-14, the G-10 and finally the K-4. The fuselage was strengthened, armament was increased and each time the engine had to be up-rated  to compensate. But the DB engine had reached the end of its development potential. The latest variant, the DB 605 was essentially the same DB 601 that had powered the 109 at the outbreak of the war. While the engine had been overhauled it was very vulnerable and breakdowns and failures piled up. When we flew for just three or four minutes at full-throttle and with emergency power, the engine was finished. The average engine life under front conditions was in any case only around 40 hours....In addition, we had not made any decisive progress in the armament. The 30 mm cannon MK 108, which fired through the propeller hub of the Me 109, was on paper an absolutely lethal gun and appeared mainly suited to combating the ubiquitous Il-2, but the weapon tended to jam easily. It fired shells weighing 480 grams at a muzzle velocity of only 550 meters per second and at a rate of 660 rounds per minute. One could almost observe the trajectory of these heavy, slow projectiles falling away without ever reaching their target - unless you were at very close range. I preferred the old MG 151/20, despite its smaller caliber. You could shoot much more accurately with it .."

Monday, 21 August 2017

Oblt. Erwin Leykauf "Blue 1" Staffelkapitän 12./JG 54

Signed photo of Oblt. Erwin Leykauf  offered for sale on Ebay here. Leykauf is seen climbing down from his Bf 109 G-4 'Blue 1' of 12./JG 54 some time during April-May 1943 either in northern France or Belgium. Leykauf had been appointed Staffelkapitän in April 1943 and a few months later moved to 11./JG 54 in the newly established IV./JG 54. Leykauf survived the war with 33 confirmed victories, 27 of which were scored over the Russian front. In May 1940, he joined 2./JG 21 and shortly after on May 10, he scored his first victory. I./JG21 was re-designated III./JG 54 and Leykauf was posted to 7. Staffel with whom he flew during the Battle of Britain scoring 4 victories.

 Below; Bf 109 G-6 with Gondelwaffen "Blue 12" and 'Blue 1' of  12./JG 54 seen in May 1943. Source: film compiled by Erwin Leykauf via

Also on this blog;
Film diary of a Jagdstaffel July 1941 - Erwin Leykauf 8./JG 54

Robert Jung 3./JG 300 "Auf verlorenem Posten" - the story of a young fighter pilot in the Defence of the Reich

Robert Jung was an enthusiastic 17-year old young glider pilot when he was accepted for fighter pilot training in the Luftwaffe during 1942. After attending the Luftkriegsschule (War College) and then being accepted for Jagdfliegerausbildung (fighter pilot training) he was posted in August 1944 as a youthful  Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier (officer candidate) to the leading 'all-weather' Reich Defence Geschwader JG 300 "..inständig hoffend nicht zu spät zu kommen " - eager to arrive at the front before it was too late. Although he had been instrument-trained, perhaps fortunately for Jung wilde Sau operations were by now a distant memory for the pilots of JG 300. But just twenty fours later his youthful illusions about life in a front-line fighter unit had been shattered - the war was irretrievably lost and while the sense of duty remained, every sortie was a fight for survival against hopeless odds. Jung recalls that the JG 300 pilots invariably "..prayed for clouds.." (page 19). The historian of JG 300, Jean-Yves Lorant recalled Jung as a very amiable man but with a somewhat fallible memory;

".. He visited me in Paris in 1993. His recollections of life in I./JG 300 were very fragmentary. I even had to identify for him some of the various instruments that can be seen in the Bf 109 cockpit photo in his book. He also failed to recognise his Staffel comrade Bert Wendler in the 3. Staffel photos that I was able to show him such was his memory. Although in the end I did put the two of them back in contact. Jung knew his memory was poor and that was why I was asked to compile the brief history of JG 300 that appears in his book of war-time recollections that he self-published in 1993. His replies to my questions were on occasion rather disconcerting. The book itself is probably not really worth reading as history - Jung changed some names and left others, fortunately..."

13 September 1944 was a day of huge American aerial activity over Germany - well over 1,000 US bombers and hundreds of fighters were launched at various targets. It was 10:35 when the green flare signalling the order to take off rose into the sky over the airfield at Esperstedt. The Messerschmitt 109s of I./JG 300 took off behind the Bf 109 G 14/AS “double chevron” of Ritterkreuzträger Hptm. Gerd Stamp. Barely twenty aircraft, the last of Stamp’s machines that were combat ready. This small formation was vectored over the Halle-Leipzig sector where combat was engaged at about 11:40 with a small force of 357th FG Mustangs. At about 12:15 the Bf 109s of I./JG 300 closed on several boxes of B-17s between Eisenach and Coburg. Oblt. Manfred Dieterle, Kapitän of 2. Staffel, saw several strikes impact against a B-17 which veered out of formation trailing a thick plume of black smoke in its wake. At 12:50, Dieterle landed back at Esperstedt in his “Red 7”. After Gfr. Hans Dahmen (2. Staffel) and Fhr. Otto Leisner (1. Staffel) had each claimed a Boeing destroyed, the German pilots once again clashed with Mustangs of the 357th FG, now joined by P-51s of the 55th FG. After his Schwarm had been scattered, Jung's G-14 was chased by four Mustangs. In the dogfight that followed, one of the P 51s flew in front of him - a short burst from his three guns resulted only in the jamming of the engine-mounted cannon. Managing to get into a good position for a second time, Robert Jung unleashed a burst from his cowl machine guns and saw his rounds explode against a P-51’s wing, which appeared to catch fire. The Mustang rolled slowly inverted and went down vertically. Despite the proximity of the ground, Jung did not have time to observe his victim crash. He himself had taken hits fired by one of his pursuers and had to attempt a dead stick landing, putting his “Yellow 3” down gear up in a field. The Bf 109 G 14/AS flipped over as it struck the ground. The concussed pilot was pulled clear of the aircraft and transported to the nearest hospital. If a victory claim was filed, then it was not confirmed.

What happened to Jung subsequently is unclear, as is the date of his return to the unit. It appears that his next sortie may not have been flown until March 1945. We know for certain that he flew on 24 March 1945 -  the Allies mounted the vast 'Varsity' operation to cross the Rhine on this date. Jung was shot down for a second time - but the landing site he gives, after bailing out, is some 120 km from the catastrophic combats that took place that day which saw I./JG 300 set upon by 353rd FG P-51s near Göttingen. Jung's 3.Staffel comrade and ace Mustang-Töter Fw Alfred Büthe was shot down and killed. Büthe managed to bail out  - in agony, his legs riddled with rounds fired by pursuing Mustangs - but died of his injuries later that day in hospital. His comrade Ofw Hans Fenten looked on helplessly as he lay in the next bed...

The aerial encounters of 24 March 1945 were some of the last to pit JG 300 against fighters of the 8th Air Force. As bomber interception missions progressively tailed off in favour of ground attack sorties, the pilots of JG 300 would clash with increasing frequency with the tactical air forces — 9th Air Force, 1st Tactical Air Force (P) and 2nd Tactical Air Force — which were supporting the advancing Allied ground armies

For the historian of JG 300, Jean-Yves Lorant, "..Jung's book is still of interest for its sense of 'atmosphere' and 'feeling'. A shame his memory was so poor - had other veterans recalled as little then there is no way that I could have contemplated writing a history of JG 300! According to Bert Wendler who was very reliable and had a detailed Flugbuch and memories of his 3. Staffel comrades, Jung flew no more than a handful of sorties 7 or 8 at the most. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of Jung  - he never did lend me the only photo he had of himself in Lederkombi as a Fj-Uffz in I./JG 300. Maybe he thought he wouldn't get it back or maybe he simply forgot to send it to me - whatever, I didn't press the matter. His wife told me she thought he had never got the original back from the camera/photo-shop that was supposed to be making copies. By the way the cover of his book was a composition painted by Richard Goyat depicting a I./JG 300 G-10 being pursued by a 357th FG P-51 on 14 January 1945..note the blue/white/blue fuselage bands introduced in JG 300 in late December 1944. Post-war he enjoyed a successful business career, eventually founding his own marketing company which he sold in 1988 .."

Saturday, 19 August 2017

the aces of JG 52 and Bagration, the destruction of the Ostheer July-August 1944

During the summer of 1944 the Third Reich was enduring colossal setbacks on both East and West fronts. After barely eight weeks of hard fighting, the Normandy front had collapsed with the Allies closing the Falaise Pocket - three Abteilungen (120 machines) of the vaunted Tiger and King Tiger tanks lost among much other materiel. Furthermore the Eastern front was seriously and rapidly contracting. The Soviets' launched their first major summer offensive -codenamed Bagration after a Georgian Tsarist marshall, a hero of the Napoleonic Wars - shortly after D-Day and threatened the total annihilation of the Ostheer's Army Group Centre. Hitler believed the blow would fall further south and Ritter von Greim's Luftflotte 6 covering Ernst Busch's central sector had available only one hundred ground attack aircraft and one hundred or so fighters, the bulk of his forces being outmoded bomber types. The offensive was launched on 22 June and the skies above Army Group Centre were reportedly thick with wave after wave of VVS machines. During July Operation Bagration virtually wiped out the most formidable assemblage of German military might. In addition there was the failed assassination attempt on Hitler!

It has been suggested that Hartmann's exploits through the summer of 1944 were 'built-up' by German propaganda to counter the constant barrage of bad news from the fronts - both East and West. Hartmann had passed 250 victories in June over Romania and was fast approaching '300'.

"..I suspect that Hartmann (352) may have been pressured on the occasion of his 300th - 19 claims over 2 days with a Propaganda Kompanie (PK) unit at the scene - it was after all a totalitarian system with dire consequences for those who resisted; bloody purges were even then occurring within the military following the assassination attempt on Hitler. Hartmann may not have been the most reliable claimer, but I don't believe he was typically as bad as on 23-24 August 1944..."  quoted on the 12 o clock high forum here

On the German side cameramen and PK reporters were ever-present to record the exploits, not just of Hartmann, but of all the aces of JG 52, recording astounding feats of airmanship in the face of the Soviet aerial onslaught. So what of the other JG 52 aces during this period?  A quick overview follows;

Below; JG 52 Kommodore Habrak and the victorious Erich Hartmann celebrate his '300th' on or around 24 August 1944

Below; Gruppenkommandeur Batz gets airborne on the 24th August 1944 from the forward landing ground south of Warsaw, flying off behind (presumably) his wingman at the controls of 'Yellow 12' also of III./ JG 52. Batz claimed his 200th on 17 August 1944.

Below;  Hartmann unbuckles from the rather anonymous short-tailed G-6 Gustav 'White 1' in which he claimed his 300th on the afternoon of 24 August 1944 having roared low across the forward landing field at Warzin rocking his wings..war correspondents and cameramen captured the scene as Hartmann climbed down from the cockpit of 'Karaya Eins' - a ground crewman pushes forward to place a garland of evergreen around his neck...

Above; Oblt. Fritz Obleser (in leather jacket!), Staffelkapitän  of 8./ JG 52greets Hartmann on his successful return with the '300th' on the afternoon of 24 August 1944.

More on Hartmann's 300th on this blog here

These stills were captured from footage made available via the Agentur Karl Höffkes film archive AKH and are reproduced here with the kind permission of Karl Höffkes.

Oblt. Rudolf Trenkel Staffelkapitän of 2./ JG 52 returned his 100th on 14 July 1944, while July saw Hartmann's former wingman and his successor as Staffelkapitän Fhj.Fw Hans-Joachim Birkner (9./JG 52) progress his victory tally to 88.

Walter Wolfrum was seriously wounded in combat on 16 July, when he was shot down by Airacobras of the 9 IAP. (Cronauer "Flieger-Asse und Kanonenfutter" with Flugbuch repro stating 'combat with Airacobras' pages 158-161)

Another Karaya Staffel pilot, 80-victory ace Lt. Herbert Bachnick, crashed to his death in East Prussia on 7 August 1944, his 'Yellow 4' shot down by P-51s escorting B-17s airborne from the Ukranian field of Mirogod.

Leutnant Herbert Bachnick ( February 9, 1920 - August 7, 1944) joined JG 52 in December 42. He won his first three aerial victories on 5 July 1943 over Kursk. From there his victory tally increased rapidly and by late 1943 he was already returned 47 Fliegerabschüsse. In March 1944 he recorded  27 Russian aircraft downed, including 4 on 12 March (59-62), 5 on 15 March (63-67), and five more on 19 March (72-76) ! He was awarded the Knight's Cross des eisernen Kreuzes dated July 27, 1944 as Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel and Flugzeugführer in 9./JG 52 after 79 victories. On 7 August 1944 Bachnick tangled with USAAF P-51s claiming one. But his Bf 109 G-6 (W.Nr. 166 065) "Gelbe 4" was hit. He attempted an emergency landing but the plane hit a railway embankment near Myslowitz with fatal consequences. Herbert Bachnick was officially credited with 80 enemy planes in 373 combat missions . his tally included 41 IL-2 Sturmoviks. Medals and other awards received: Flugzeugführerabzeichen; Eisernes Kreuz II.Klasse (August 6, 1943) and I.Klasse (7 September 1943); Frontflugspange für Jagdflieger in Gold; Ehrenpokale Luftwaffe für Besondere Leistungen im Luftkrieg (14 November 1943); and the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (February 5, 1944)

On 24 July Lublin fell and on 27 July Lemberg. The Kommandeur of I./ JG 52 Hptm. Alfred Borchers returned his 100th.

Elsewhere Lt. Franz Schall of 3./ JG 52 claimed his 100th on 31 August 1944 in his 'gelbe 13', having shot down eleven on 26 August (victories no. 83 to 93) and returned no less than thirteen (13!) on 31 August. These exploits saw him posted back to Germany to the Erprobungskommando Nowotny.

Lt. Anton Resch of 3./JG 52 returned seven victories on 26 August 1944 to take his score to 44.

Oblt. Otto Fönnekold (136 v) was killed..

The landmark 10,000th victory for the Geschwader was returned by the Kommandeur I./JG 52 Alfred Borchers on 2 September 1944, his 118th