Saturday, 25 September 2010

Wolfgang Falck - Colin Heaton interview






An edited version of this interview was published in Military History, February 2000, Vol. 16, No. 6, pp. 42-8. Colin Heaton's website HeatonLewis Books


Wolfgang Falck on the the early days of the Luftwaffe, Zerstörer sorties over Poland and the setting up of the Nachtjagd.

==========
Q-Wolf, when and where were you born?
A- I was born 19 August 1910 in Berlin.
Q- Tell us about your youth, and about your family.

A- My family came from West Prussia in Danzig, which is now Gdansk, Poland. My mother was from Bremen and she married my father who was from Prussia, and he was a pastor. My sister Ilsa was born there on 7 February 1898. My sister Irmgard was born on 19 July 1904. They both married officers and had children, but they have both been deceased for many years.
Q- How about your education Wolfgang; what was it like?
A- From 1917 to 1931 I was educated in the Realgymnasium at Berlin-Teptow and I passed the Abitur. I became a member of a flying group; some of us students who, under the watchful eye and control of a teacher built and flew models of gliders. Since we were living in Berlin I visited all of the air shows in the area, including airports where I admired and studied the different types of aircraft.
Q- How did you become a pilot?
A- That is quite a long story. On 1 April 1931 to March 1932 I was at the German Commercial Flight School in Schleisseim, near Munich where I finished training. I then went on to Infantry School at the training regiment in Dresden for two courses. This was due to the fact that the Versailles Treaty limited Germany to a 100,000 man army, the Navy allowed only 15,000 men and the air force was totally banned. This was called the Reichswehr, and each year the army took about 225 volunteers as cadets to be educated as officers.
Q- How difficult was it to get accepted?
A- Thousands applied each year and it was considered great luck if you were accepted. My unit, the 2nd Rifle Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment ‘Hirschberg-Silesia’ decided to take me as one of the five men accepted each year. Since the German government decided to establish its own air force, the Ministry of Defence selected thirty young men each year, previously enlisted by the regiments to receive the education that was necessary to become pilots. This would go on in secret for one year, and the camouflage was excellent. I was so lucky to be one of the thirty who was selected, which then sent me to Schleissheim at the Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule (previously mentioned). We were ‘civilian’ students of the school where we were officially trained as the pilots of the airliners. After the one-year training period twenty were sent back to their regiments, while ten were selected to spend about half a year in Lipetzk, Russia. The trip took twenty-four hours by train with our destination being just south of Moscow, where we were to be trained as fighter pilots.
Q- How was this organised?
A- At that time there existed a Top Secret arrangement between the Reichswehr and the Red Army, and Germany was allowed to operate this school away from the eyes of the western governments. There was also a camp farther to the north for making and training with chemical weapons, with another training camp close to the Ural Mountains for tanks. At this time Germany was not even allowed tanks or U-boats! This was how I spent the summer of 1932, from April to September in Russia. It was a wonderful time for me and for the ‘Black Air Force’. On 1 October 1932 I rejoined my regiment, yet no one but the regimental commanding officer knew that I was a qualified fighter pilot. Now to be a recruit was a hard time for me, then I graduated and we received the regular education as all the other
aspirants in the regiment and throughout the Infantry School. This was the academy for future officers in Dresden until September 1934, with one exception. During this time when the normal cadets trained at a camp proving ground, I was sent with the other pilots for refresher training at Schleissheim. On 1 October 1934 I was promoted to lieutenant and simultaneously eliminated, or ‘retired’ from the army. I then joined the Deutsche Luftfahrtverbände officially, and in this organisation I earned the title of Kettenführer, or ‘section leader’. This organisation was the camouflage for the future Luftwaffe, and I later became the chief instructor. In 1935 Hitler terminated all the restrictions placed on Germany and we were officially designated the Fighter Pilots School, and it was then that we were again officially re-admitted into the German armed forces, in this case the Luftwaffe. I was again reinstated as a lieutenant.
Q- Where did you go after that, Wolfgang?
A- In April 1936 I was assigned to JG-2 ‘Richthofen’ and I was assigned to the fifth Staffel, or 5./JG-2 located at Juterborg-Damm. My primary job while there was to train the young new pilots who came to us from the fighter school. In 1937 I was promoted to first lieutenant. Since the squadron leader was given a command at the academy I became the commanding officer of that squadron at the age of twenty-seven. Later that year I became the adjutant to the group commander and was stationed at Doeberitz, not far from Berlin. In 1938 the third Gruppe of JG-2 was stationed at Fuerstenwalde to the east, and it was there that I became a Staffelkapitän, holding the position but not the rank. Later in 1938 we were given a new name and refitted as 2. Staffel ZG-76, a heavy fighter Geschwader. We received our new aircraft and from this point on we no longer operated in single engine fighters; now we had a rear gunner, two engines and greater range. It was with this unit that I my first missions of World War II.
Q- What was your first combat?
A- On 1 September 1939 we invaded Poland and I flew early morning operations to Krakau in the south. On this mission we escorted a bomber group which flew a raid on an enemy airfield, and we encountered no opposition. No Polish aircraft were to be seen. During the next few days I scored my first three victories, obsolete Polish aircraft. After the Polish campaign was finished we were transferred to the Western Front to protect Germany against possible French air raids, but we never had any. On 17 December 1939 we flew to Northern Germany to our new base at Jever, close to the North Sea west of Wilhelmshaven. I was involved in the 18 December battle, now referred to as ‘The Battle of the German Bight’, or ‘Bay’ where the Royal Air Force tried to bomb German ships in the harbour at Wilhelmshaven with twenty-four Wellington bombers. We managed to shoot down twelve of them. In January 1940 I was promoted to Hauptmann a and made CO of I./ZG 76. While with this wing I participated in the campaigns against Denmark and Norway, which were launched on 9 April 1940. My later operations started on 10 May with the invasions of Holland, Belgium and France, and also operations on the English Channel coast against the RAF.
Q- How did you become the ‘Father of the Night Fighters?’
A- I first began thinking about the night fighter idea after we relocated to Aalborg in Northern Denmark. Every evening the RAF bombers flew over us on their way to bomb Germany, and us as well on their return trip. They would bomb our airfield or machine gun our aircraft during low level attacks, and here we were, the fighter pilots sitting in a trench! This was a very demoralising situation for us. I thought; ‘If the RAF can fly at night, so could we’, and I checked out three other crews as well as myself about the possibility of flying at night, and the results were positive. It was possible, but there would be necessary modifications implemented, as well as making the necessary arrangements with the local anti-aircraft battery commander concerning search lights and later the only radar station which was located not far from us. One night, or rather very early in the morning the RAF returned from a raid into Germany, and as usual dropped a few bombs on our airfield. I ordered the flight to take off with four aircraft where we hoped to meet them. Three of us saw an enemy bomber and we went in to attack, but it disappeared into the fog just over the sea. However, from this we learned that it was possible with a certain amount of organisation, modified aircraft and special ammunition to use at night which would not blind us, we knew that we could fight the bombers. My group commander asked me to write a report about the experiences, including all of my proposals for such missions. I completed the report and I believe that this particular report was more or less the only one read by the higher authorities, including Göring and Hitler.
Q- What was the result of this review?
A- Well, the birthday of the Nachtjagdfliegerdienst was 26 June 1940, when I was made Kommodore of the new outfit. This was after I received a call from General Ernst Udet, asking me to come to Berlin. I ordered two Ju-88 medium bombers to Berlin-Schoenefeld to take part in some tests, but I did not know what this was about at first. Udet informed me that our industry had developed some instruments, which could locate targets with distance and altitude, and this was why my crews were sent there. I met the civilian engineers, and they showed me to the station, called Wuerzburg-Geraete.
Q- How did that work?
A- There was a desk for me and another where another man sat, and he had a map, which was painted on a glass disk showing the present position of one of the Ju-88s, which was playing the ‘enemy.’ This was picked up by ‘Wuerzburg-Geraete’ (WG). The same controller guided the other Ju-88 to the target in order to come up from behind him. I watched this procedure three times. I saw the problem; these engineers were not pilots and they gave the night fighter the present position to the target, which made the fighter fly a ‘hundekurve’ and had problems arriving in the right position. I asked the people if I could take over the directional guidance by radio, and I had no problem finding the heading of the
target, and I gave the night fighter the correct orders to locate the bird, and it worked. The engineers were quite surprised that I guided the fighter to the target so quickly. I was deeply impressed and convinced that this was the way of the future for night fighting. I called Udet and gave him the full report, complete with my assignment and opinions. Udet reacted immediately and positively, and he asked me to arrange for two Fiesler ‘Storch’ aircraft, and to mark off a night fighting manoeuvre area. He believed that if it worked at high speed and high altitude, it should work at lower speeds and altitudes. Udet came in and he took off in a Storch with radio, and I flew the other without any radio communications.
I was the target and Udet was the fighter. If he located me and came in from behind he would fire a signal rocket. I would then disappear and he would do it again. So we flew at night without any position lights and he ‘killed’ me twice. After landing everyone one was happy and this assured continued development. Afterward I reported to (General Josef) Kammhuber, and he then authorised the next step, the Wuerzburg-Reise and on board radar. I then returned to my unit. That was when I was ordered
by Göring to form Nachtjagdgeschwader 1. I was with my wing stationed in France on the North Channel coast, just west of Le Havre, and it was just before the beginning of the Battle of Britain. All of a sudden I received special orders to Duesseldorf in order to fly against the British bombers at night. The RAF was attacking the Ruhrgebiet, Cologne, etc. I was very angry about the order because we had no experience; the crews did not possess the necessary knowledge to accomplish this task, and we did not have all the necessary equipment, all of which I had expressly requested in my report. Two days later I was summoned to Wassenaar in Holland to meet with Field Marshal Hermann Göring, and during this meeting he ordered m to establish the first night fighter group, which I did with the help of Johannes Steinhoff, and it became NJG 1, and Göring made me Kommodore. On 19 July 1940 I was promoted to Major and I was the first Geschwaderkommodore of the new generation, and the youngest. Not long after this I received another wing which became NJG 2. I very soon had crews fresh from Destroyer School as well as a flood of volunteers ad complete groups which we converted to night fighting. Since I was the ‘Old Man’ and the inventor of this idea, the men named me the ‘Father of the Night Fighters’, which has followed me ever since. As you know several books have been written about that over the years.
Q- How long did you remain Kommodore of these groups?
A- About three years, and in 1943 I transferred to the General Staff where I became 1A, which is Chief of Operations in the Staff of Air Fleet Reich at Wansee, west of Berlin. We were responsible for the defence of Germany both night and day, and it was a job full of problems I can tell you. In August I asked my friend and superior, Adolf Galland, who was General of Fighters to give me a command somewhere at the front; I could not take Hitler and Göring anymore. Galland understood. In September 1944 I became Fighter Pilot Leader-Balkans which included Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. The radar systems in Greece to the Peloponnesus were within my ‘empire’ as well. I was situated at Pancevo, near Belgrade, and this meant that I was responsible for the defence of these countries night and day against hostile air raids. This job was important but it did not last long. In October 1944 we corrected our positions because all for the fighter units were withdrawn to the Home Defence of Germany proper, and all during this short period we had constant trouble with partisans and the Russians. As the war closed in on us we retreated towards Vienna, and thus ended my command of the Balkans.
Q- When were you awarded your Knight’s Cross?
A- Göring awarded me the Ritterkreuz on 1 October 1940.



Q- How were the night fighters chosen?
A- In the beginning I visited the Destroyer School. There I created a report for the standards for the foundation of the night fighters, and several pilots came forward. We gave volunteer notifications later. Also from the bomber units and later even from the fighter units came the best men, including Hajo Herrmann and the Wild Boars to take their shot. Returning to the previous question, our night fighter force was impressive, working through intelligence, radar and flak commands; we had our intercept monitors and search reporting service with radar for all of them. That was never at any time any mention of the high frequency war, it was all too knew. That was when I was transferred to the Luftwaffenbefehlshaber Mitte in Berlin.
Q- You knew men such as Prince Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, Helmut Lent, Hans-Joachim jabs and Heinz-Wolfgang Schnauffer. What was your opinion of them?
A- Well, you mentioned the best pilots in the world when it came to night fighting. Prince Wittgenstein was a nobleman, not a National Socialist. He fought for Germany as had his family for five hundred years, and he was quite successful and a true gentleman, as were all of them. He was killed in the war, as was Helmut Lent, who won the Diamonds and had over a hundred victories. Hans Jabs is still a good friend of mine
who finished the war with the Oak Leaves and fifty victories, and the best was Schnauffer with 128 kills, all at night. Schnauffer died in France after the war in an automobile accident, a tragic way to go. He also held the Diamonds. These were extraordinarily brave men. All of these men were under my command and all were outstanding persons; full of idealism and first rate hunters and great pilots. They were very distinguishable people, strong willed and very ambitious, but in a good sense. They were highly intelligent with immediate responses to crises, untiring and happiest when they were on flight operations. Each in is own way was a unique character, but very reliable and I was proud to have known them.
Q- Describe the average night fighter mission; what were the hazards a man faced while fighting at night?
A- Many dangers faced the night fighter, which the day fighter was fortunate not to have to experience. We did not have to with escort fighters until later in the war as did the day fighter force, but we had the worry of our own flak, collision with our own aircraft as well as the enemy bombers, the flares dropped by the British planes to blind us, which would also illuminate your plane allowing the enemy gunners to shoot you
down, the possibility of your on board radar not working, leaving you blind, and flying across the sky locating black painted aircraft, it goes on. The fighting at night I think worked on the nerves more than
fighting during the day; all of these unknowns would mentally wear you down.
Q- How did the war effect the people as you saw it, and how did their attitude change as the war dragged on?
A- After the First World War time were very hard; inflation was outrageous, no work, it was terrible. When the Nazis came to power suddenly there were jobs, industry increased, building of homes and cities
were undertaken, and the armaments industry created millions of jobs, and of course the resurgence of the military improved life as well. What we know today about the concentration camps and such were unknown to most of us, even those in high military positions. That does not excuse what happened, but it should be mentioned that it was not a well known, collective operation. These terrible events were undertaken by men who abused their power in the name of the German people, and this led to our
destruction, and had nothing to do with the true soldiers, the professionals.
Q- What were some of your most interesting combat missions, Wolf?
A- My most interesting and dangerous missions were of course against the RAF. Later on I was given the order by my boss that I was not to fly combat any longer because I was needed for the planning and development of the defence organisation.
Q- How many victories did you have during the war?
A- I had seven confirmed victories, with a few more unconfirmed.
Q- How many combat missions did you fly, including day and night?
A- Altogether I flew ninety combat missions.
Q- How did the war end for you, Wolfgang?
A- To begin with, bad! No one dared ire a war criminal, as all of us were labeled. Later I tried to become a night guard in a factory to make enough money to survive, but I did not get that job. They did not dare employ men, even with all of my certificates, qualifications and curriculum vitae, etc., I tried here and
there to find work to earn money, but the British Army of the Rhine must have certain information about
me. They hired me as a ‘Civil Officer’ in 1946 for a series of forty-seven stores not far from Bielefeld. I asked the major, ‘Do you know who I am?’ and he answered ‘yes’, that he knew I had been a colonel in the Air Force and had the Knight’s Cross. He said that they were looking for people they could trust and were reliable. So I became the boss of 145 German labour employees and my boss was a Captain ‘R.E.’, and after some time we became good friends. In the evenings I attended a school for tradesmen
and after some time I passed the examination. In 1948 I joined a German company which was a branch of the medical and pharmaceutical industry, and after some further education I became a businessman.
After that I changed over to a large printing press company, which had started to produce playing cards. I started out as a lowly office employee, being promoted year after year until I finally became the
manager of that company. In 1961 a high level employer with North American Aircraft Company in Los Angeles asked me during an international fighter pilots’ meeting to join his company as a consultant in Germany. That was my chance to return to my old world, and I did this for six years until McDonnell Douglas asked me to join them in the same capacity. So I was very busy in Bonn for the next twenty years working for MDC. I worked for them until I was seventy-five years old! It was a wonderful and most interesting time, and MDC in its policies towards its employees is to say the very least unique. Since my retirement in 1986 I have been living here in Tyrol and I enjoy life in this beautiful countryside. This is the most beautiful part of Austria.
Q- What do you think of the new technology of today’s night fighting aircraft?
A- Today there is no difference between night and day fighter aircraft anymore. They see each other via radar and thermal imagery; they can engage each other without a pilot seeing his target. Because of the
new technologies you cannot compare the aerial warfare of today with the primitive methods we used in the Second World War.
Q- From my first marriage I have a son named Klaus, born in 1937 and today he manages a firm and forests of his mother’s lands in southern Bavaria. He has a daughter himself who is a manager of a large
storehouse in Cologne. My daughter Irmgard was born in 1940; she’s married and lives in Munich and has two sons who are students at the University of Munich. My second wife died in 1982 and she had two sons, both of whom I educated and prepared their careers. One is a banker and married with a son
and a daughter; the other was in the Merchant Marine and then served twenty years with Lufthansa as an instructor in their emergency division, and he also has a son and daughter. My third wife Gisela also has three sons; the eldest is a doctor in Hamburg. Her second son lives in Finland and is an artist, while the youngest owns his own company where he develops and constructs buildings, installations and such all over the world for all kinds of fairs concerning German industry. None of them are married! My wife Gisela is the widow of Hans ‘Assi’ Hahn, a well known fighter pilot who served with JG2 during the Battle of Britain, and during the war he achieved 108 victories, but was shot down and captured over the Soviet Union in 1943 after making a forced landing. He spent over seven years in Russian labour camps until he was released. He wrote his autobiography title "I Tell the Truth". I first met him in 1937 when I joined JG 2 and we, including our wives became good friends. Assi died five weeks after my second wife in 1982, and late 1983 Gisela moved from Southern France where she and Assi had their home, to St. Ulrich in Tyrol, Austria.
Q- Wolf, what advice would you give the young people of today, given the world situation?
A- Be grateful that we are living in relative peace; that you have a home and do not suffer from hunger.
Take over the responsibility for your family and your country, be tolerant of everyone, stay honest and busy, and look forward to what you intend do with your life. Always have a target and make sure that what you are fighting for is worth while. Life is short!


Thursday, 23 September 2010

From my father's collection of photos: He-177 Lechfeld 1946

All Google blogs have their own Picassa web albums and all galleries posted on Picassa can be incorporated directly into any google blog - such as this one. The following images are from Jerome's Picassa album which features a nice selection of pictures snapped at Lechfeld during 1946.











Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Zvezda 1:48th scale Bf 109 F 2 Wingmasters magazine feature October 2010



Zvezda's recent 1:48th Bf 109 F has quite rightly got Luftwaffe enthusiasts excited, not only for being arguably the most accurate quarterscale '109 of any mark yet kitted, but also on account of its excellent level of detail. Over on britmodeller French master modeller Emmanuel Pernes described the Zvezda BF 109 F 2 as " one of the most pleasant and beautiful I've ever built ". Manu has very kindly agreed to allow me to post these pictures of his build. Here it is finished in the colours of Major Hans Philipp of JG 54 on the Russian front in 1941. The 'web' style camo finish is airbrushed and faded by micromeshing the surfaces and using some oil paints. Decals are from Lifelike.





But any injection moulded kit, no matter how good, must involve some compromises, and Vector have released a very neat resin upgrade set to correct some of the details that Zvezda have missed or simplified.

Starting with the interior, Vector provide a replacement instrument panel and gunsight. Both are distinct improvements over Zvezda's originals.




Moving on to the outside of the kit, there's a new spinner. The shape is the same as the accurate kit version but Vector have included the shaped cutouts for the propeller blades. The set also includes hollowed-out exhausts. The set includes replacement ailerons. The top surfaces seem identical to the kit items, but the undersides now have a nice subtle fabric effect that Zvezda missed for some reason.

Zvezda's Friedrich is a beautiful kit in the first place and the Vector set adds the icing on the cake.

This model will be featured in the October issue of 'Wingmasters' magazine. The new (August 2012) Zvezda Friedrich in 1:72nd scale is also featured on this blog at this link

http://falkeeins.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/zvezda-bf-109-friedrich-in-172-scale.html

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Luftwaffe models at Euromilitaire 2010 - Mistel marvel



..dominating the lines of Panzers and figurines at Euromilitaire was this superb 35th scale scratch Me 323 Gigant forward fuselage depicted offloading its cargo after a crash-landing! The 32nd scale Fw 190/Ju 88 Mistel was also a wonder to behold. Only got a 'highly commended' though.





differences between the FW190A-8/R2 and A-8/R8 sub-types in the Sturmgruppen



Photo print in my collection of Uffz. Peter Bock of 8./JG300 in front of his 'schwarze 2' Fw 190 A-8/R2 seen in early 1945. Note the Panzerplatte side armour, the outer wing Mk 108 cannon bulges and the armoured windshield quarter pane. Bock claimed a P-51 on 14 February 1945 over the Chemnitz-Leipzig-Dresden sector


A perennial question on forums and modelling sites is the request for more info on the 190A-8/R2 and A-8/R8.

" ...Does anyone know the difference between the FW190A-8/R2 and A-8/R8? The reason I ask is I have both the 1/48 Tamiya A-8/R2 and the 1/48 Hasegawa A-8/R8. In the instructions for the Tamiya kit it is advised that the fuselage guns for the R2 version be removed, but in the Hasegawa instructions for the R8 they have you leave the fuselage guns in. My understanding is the A-8/R2 and R8 had the extra armour on the fuselage side under the cockpit and it has the 30mm cannon added to the outboard wings and the fuselage guns were removed and this plane was made for attacking bombers and if the pilots could not shoot the bomber down they were suppose to ram it but few ever did.."

Well for most modellers the debate is entirely redundant - I'd go further and say that in fact the R2/R8 debate is a complete can of worms since they were essentially the same thing!
A brief round-up of the various 'Sturm' variants of the Fw 190 was provided by 'squirrel' on ARC a while ago. I've reproduced the bulk of his text further down, but amended it where it is incorrect! It should of course be born in mind that the 'R2' was the designation introducing the 'definitive' Sturm variant which entered service with IV.(Sturm)/ JG 3 during April/May 1944 when Sturmstaffel 1 was incorporated into the unit as 11./JG 3. II./JG 300 became a 'Sturmgruppe' some time in July 1944 ( the exact date is not known) while II./JG4 was not established until late July/ early August 1944

Firstly, the following is excerpted from the September 1944 edition of “D. (Luft) T.2190 A-8, Fw 190 A-8 Aircraft Handbook.” This is the Luftwaffe erection and maintenance manual for the A-8 series aircraft.

“Technical description No. 284, Fw 190 A-8 Fighter, Page 4 – 5”

Armament: The normal armament of the Fw 190 A-8 consists of:

2 MG 131 in the upper cowling with 475 rpg.
2 MG 151 in the wing roots with 250 rpg.
2 MG 151 in the outer wing with 140 rpg.

An armament modification currently in production is the:
Fw 190 A-8/R2 with MK 108s in the outer wing panels with 55 rpg (replacing the outer MG 151s.)

Fw 190 A-8/ R7 with increased cockpit armour for use by the Stumstaffeln, with the following armament: 2 MG 131 and 4 MG 151 as per the standard Fw 190 A-8.

Fw 190 A-8/R8 also with the increased armour, but with 2 MK 108s in the outer wings as per the Fw 190 A-8/R2.

So much for the 'official' manufacturer's documentation.

A-6: When the first Sturmstaffel - Sturmstaffel 1 - was formed in the autumn of 1943, ie a full year before the handbook quoted above - the A-6 model was in production. It had a lightened wing structure and was designed to mount four MG 151s firing armour-piercing and incendiary rounds. It received the additional "Sturmjägerausrüstung", consisting of an armoured glass windscreen, triangular glass panels and side panels (otherwise known as "Scheuklappen", i.e. blinkers) and cockpit armour plates. This additional armour package had no Rüstsatz-number at the time, although it is sometimes designated "R7" as above. In order to save weight, the MG cowl machine guns were removed on these aircraft.

Besides one prototype, there was no A-6 with MK 108 in the outer wings; i.e. an A-6/R2 did not exist.

A-7: a good percentage of the approximately 700 A-7 models were built as A-7/R2- this version was fitted with the heavy MK 108 cannon in place of the MG 151/20 in the outer wings. These aircraft were flown by other Reichsverteidigung units in early 1944 - not only by Sturmjäger. A good example is JG 11. The aircraft for the Sturmjäger additionally had the "Sturmjägerausrüstung" (i.e., additional armour), and the MG 131 were usually removed.

A-8/R2: A-7/R2 were quickly supplanted by the similar A-8/R2; the aircraft for the Sturmjäger additionally had the "Sturmjägerausrüstung", and the MG 131 were usually removed. The additional armour was not popular with the pilots. 'squirrel' writes that in II./JG 300 the "blinkers" "were always removed". This is not stricly correct as Lorant shows several JG 300 machines in a lineup with the 'blinkers' but was a common modification carried out at unit level in the various Sturmgruppen. The formation of ice at altitude restricting visibility was a problem with these fittings.

A-8/R8 and A-9/R8: These aircraft were "planned" to replace the R2 in the Sturmgruppen. The R8 had the armament of the R2 (i.e. 2 x MG 151/20, 2 x MK 108, no MG 131) plus the armoured windscreen and quarter panes. However the key change here relates to the uprated TU or TS engine to replace the BMW 801 D - if available. There were other detail amendments for 'R8' mainly involving additional internal armour protection (for the oil cooler) which would not be an issue for the modeller..

However when 'squirrel' writes " It is hard to tell how many A-8/R8 and A-9/R8 were actually built, and the only distinguishing feature between the R2 and R8 on pictures is the armoured glass windscreen and triangular glass panels.." I'm not quite sure what he is trying to argue since these features were present on all Sturm variants.

When the MK 108 cannon armed Fw 190 A-8/R2s entered service with IV./JG 3 in April/May 1944 they already had the armour in the optimal 'Sturm' configuration with the armoured windshield glass and quarter panes. To go into combat against Pulks of B-17s and B-24s, the Fw 190 was modified with bolt-on 5 mm armour plates, so-called "Panzerplatten", scabbed onto the fuselage sides. Additional 30 mm armoured glass panels were mounted on the canopy and extra glass was added to the windshield quarter-panels. The outboard 20 mm wing guns were replaced by the MK 108 30 mm cannon. Most A-7 machines of Sturmstaffel 1 were so-equipped long before an 'official' 'R2' designation existed. The first A-8s arrived in the Sturmstaffel during April 1944 (cf. Siegfried Mueller Flugbuch)- this combination was thus the 'classic' Fw 190 A-8/R2 "Sturmbock" (Ram). In an effort to save some weight, the 13 mm machine guns that were mounted over the engine were often removed.

However - and it's a very big however - after the first 'successes' - and more importanly for the pilots - the heavy losses, canopy and in some instances the fuselage armour was progressively removed by some pilots. The well-known photos of Dahl's 'Blue 13' taken during the autumn of 1944 show a machine which has had its Panzerplatten removed. Dahl left JG300 during December 1944. An 8./JG 300 pilot comments (Lorant JG300) that he wanted to remove the Mk 108 cannon as well - the entire raison d'etre of the type - although this was not authorised. So by the time frame late September-early November 1944 you have a situation where 190 Sturm variants at unit level have lost the prinicipal Sturm features - prior to the manufacturer even issuing the R8 designation.

In my view the R2 and R8 can be seen as being to all intents and purposes the same thing - the 'R8' designation in particular was a purely 'administrative' device introduced by the manufacturer to pull together all the 'different' Sturm fits - and had very little or nothing to do with what was happening at unit level by the time of its introduction in late 1944. Some of the more knowledgeable enthusiasts quote Rodeike here.
I think its very difficult to come to any hard and fast designations on the basis of a single factory document - but I would suggest that what was happening at unit level anticipates later 'official' developments, with Rüstsätze & engines being retro-fitted and then removed according to operational requirements, pilot preferences etc.

However lets look at what the Focke Wulf document (dated 20 October 1944) in Rodeike actually says;

"...The A-8/R2 with the MK 108 & armour fitted with the TU/TS is re-designated R8… Das Triebwerk BMW 801 TU ..ist nach Möglichkeit ...einzubauern. Grund: Verstärkte Panzerung für Kühler und Behälter..... Die Schusskanale in der oberen Triebswerksschale sind dabei adzudecken... .. the gun troughs in the upper engine cowl cover are as a consequence to be faired over ..."  ( ie ...where the BMW 801 TU is installed).



However such external configuration can be seen in very many photos taken prior to issue of the above-cited document where such aircraft were designated R2. Note the erhöhte Notleistung as identified by the small yellow ring to rear of the upper cowl cover was featured on both the D-2 & TU powerplants..

Klaus Bretschneider's Fw 190 A-8 WNr. 682204 Red 1 (lost on 24 December 1944) displays all these features and is ‘officially’ listed as an R8. However despite reproducing the document referred to above, Rodeike captions the picture of ‘Red 1’ on P363 of his Jagdflugzeug 190 book as the R2.  Indeed his 444 page book on the Fw 190 doesn't show a single photograph of a Fw 190 A-8/R8 - which at least demonstrates to me that an 'R8' cannot be identified from photos and should be of no concern to modellers!

To conclude and based on my readings of Rodeike, correspondence with Sturm pilots from II./JG300, and IV./JG 3 and Lorant's two volume history of JG300, the 'R8' designation was essentially a manufacturer's 'catch all'. Note again that although most pilots weren't happy with the heavy wing cannon (MK 108) they were not allowed to remove them. Those pilots such as Ernst Schroeder who did fly A-8s in the Sturmgruppe with no Mk 108 cannon or armour fit were those generally recognised to have had some success in fending off the Mustang escorts so flew as top cover escorts for their more laden comrades. To repeat, by the time 'R8' designation appeared in late 1944 the Sturmgruppen had little requirement to put into service fully fledged 'Sturm' machines. There are very few 'R8' machines appearing in the loss lists of II.(Sturm)/JG 300 - a unit which suffered huge losses in attacks against the bomber Pulks.



The reason for all these apparent adhoc variations in the Sturm config is straight forward and largely determined by the pressure of events at unit level. Invariably caught by the P-51s before being able to reach the bombers, by September 1944 through November, December and culminating on 14 January 1945 - when huge numbers of them were shot down -the Sturm 190 pilots were having to fight for their lives..

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Waldwerke - late war Luftwaffe fighter production in 'forest factory' complexes



The field of German late war production is a fascinating aspect of Luftwaffe history - from underground facilities such as mines or tunnels to so-called "Waldwerke" - literally 'forest factories'. Examples of these were the KUNO I Waldwerk set up to turn out Me 262 jet fighters or the Cham-Michelsdorf site in northern Bavaria which produced the latest Bf 109 K fighters. Allied bombing raids starting early in 1944 with ‘Big Week’ set about dislocating aircraft and aero engine production. At their Augsburg and Regensburg plants Messerschmitt quickly organised the ‘relocation’ and ‘dispersal’ of some of their manufacturing capacity.

Kuno I was one such ‘plant’ established in pine forests in the vicinity of Leipheim. Issue 16 of ‘Luftwaffe in Focus’ gives a description of the production ‘facilities’ in the KUNO I Waldwerk set up to turn out the Me 262. So-called Waldwerke usually comprised a production line set up on a long forest road, so-called "Holzrückewege". Concentration camp internees – production line workers - would be housed in wooden barracks alongside the ‘production line’. Paint shops and compass platforms were all built under cover with various airframe components arriving at different points along the ‘road’ for final assembly. On completion airframes were towed out of the forests onto a stretch of the nearby A8 Stuttgart - München Autobahn comprising a two kilometre long straight which was also camouflaged with green paint from where the freshly turned out Me 262s were flown off to Memmingen or Leipheim to be handed over to the Luftwaffe. With dispersed facilities under heavy cover, the KUNO forest complex was turning out five completed Me 262s per day from late April 1944 in complete impunity from prowling American Jabos almost right up until the complex was captured by American troops on 21 April 1945. In fact Leipheim was heavily damaged on 28 April 1944, and no fewer than fifty Me 262s were written off, while KUNO I was untouched until a raid on 18 November 1944 caused slight damage, resulting in the setting up of KUNO II south of the original Kuno Waldwerk.

Completed - even down to the camouflage paint finish - Me 262 discovered at the KUNO I forest factory complex - note the line up of Me 262 tail assemblies under the pines



Messerschmitt also shifted production of other major types such as the Bf 109 K-4 into the dense pine woods in northern Bavaria, adhoc facilities manufacturing major assemblies such as wings and fuselages all under cover of dense foliage. Wings and fuselages would then be delivered usually by rail to final assembly plants. There were a number of known or no doubt some unknown Waldwerke in the area around Regensburg. The designations of the production sites are for the most part deliberately misleading. The records name the next larger town - little settlements with a railway station in most cases.
Mtt Flossenbürg is KZ Flossenbürg
Mtt Flossenbürg is Altenhammer
Mtt Vilseck is Heringnohe
Mtt Bodenwöhr is Mappach
Mtt Cham is Michelsdorf

These sites would very often exploit labour sources locally – KZ or concentration camp internees for the most part. There is thus little information in the respective town administrations, at least none about technical details and production. Most research on these sites – such as it is – has been carried out by private individuals eg the discovery of abandoned rail tracks leading from Vilseck to Heringnohe airfield. The site itself nowadays is part of US Grafenwöhr training ground and thus not accessible.
The subject of the MTT delocalised assembly lines in the Vilseck, Cham-Michelsdorf area, north-east of Regensburg, was given new impetus in a recent lengthy thread on the TOCH forum. One particularly interesting shot taken in December 1944 at Cham - Michelsdorf, shows a wingless BF 109 G-10 or K-4 parked outside a restaurant in the old town and was no doubt being pulled from Michelsdorf through the centre of Cham to Cham freight yard- an indication of just how tortuous the transport route of these particular wingless Bf109 fuselages was. Similarly for the transport arrangements from the KZ Flossenbürg production site to Flossenbürg railway station. These logistical difficulties were imposed by Messerschmitt for the sake of concealment.




Other Waldwerke sites near Regensburg, Hagelstadt (Gauting) and Stauffen produced the Me 262 to the end of war. Gauting also produced K4 types in the 330105-330491 Werknummern Block. From 331323-335210 Cham is named as supplier. It would appear that Gauting was more specialized on G-6 and G-14/AS types to the end of war although the Bf 109 K-4 was also produced there. By night the completed – but wingless -airframes were towed by tail on a truck to the airfield of Obertraubling via the Reichsstraße 15 (now B15). Here the wings were attached and the acceptance flights were made. Me 262s produced at Stauffen were transported to Obertraubling via a small railway track along the Autobahn. Acceptance flights were conducted at Obertraubling.

The method of transport of the various Bf 109 assemblies being produced at dispersed sites was similar at Flossenbürg - by truck to the railway station. Here the completed fuselages were loaded on stake cars and ferried to Vilseck-Heringnohe, where the wings were attached. Acceptance flights were made at Amberg-Schafhof, Messerschmitt test pilots ferrying the Bf109s from Vilseck to Schafhof.

In Bodenwöhr the finished fuselages where brought to the narrow train station here: ( 49°15'52.39"N / 12°22'47.00"O ) by trucks. Resilent bridges up to 10 tons can still be found in that forest.

A number of books by local German historians have shed further light on the so-called Waldwerke in this area such as Timo Bullemer’s "Das Kriegsende in Cham: Ereignisse und Entwicklungen - November 1944 bis Mai 1945". This work is illustrated with photos taken by US Army Signals Corps photographers, including shots of the 50 fighter aircraft found when the Michelsdorf complex was overrun.

"Beiträge zur Geschichte im Landkreis Cham" Band 23 ("contribution on the history of the district of Cham" vol 23 ) includes on pages 203-212 a short essay on the Cham-Michelsdorf airfield, including pictures taken by the U.S army. The aerial overview photo presented here depicts every step of the final assembly and test flying process. This was a Messerschmitt production site, were wings were attached to the fuselages delivered from Waldwerk Bodenwöhr. The Cham-Michelsdorf site exploited a small patch of forest to conceal these ‘production’ facilities.






Aircraft found at Cham-Michelsdorf include this Bf109 lying alongside a FW190A and a rare Fw 190D-9 with a Stkz, ?S+DH with the old style canopy. Fw 109D-9 W.Nr. 210034 is totally undocumented so far, both by Jerry Crandall or by Eric Larger and al.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Hornchurch vs the Luftwaffe - a Battle of Britain day post

Enzo Matrix recalls the story of two Battle of Britain pilots with the kind authorisation of Peter Bagshaw

During the late summer of 1940 Oberleutnant Helmut Rau was Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 3, based at Colembert in the Pas-De-Calais. While with Stab I/JG 3, he had gained four victories in the Battle of France; a Morane on 13 May, two Curtiss Hawk 75s on the following day and a Wellington on 29 May. On 24 August he was appointed Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 3.

Ronald Berry was born on 3 May 1917 in Hull. He worked for Hull’s City Corporation Treasury Department and joined the RAFVR in 1937. He was called up in June 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war. He was posted as a sergeant pilot to 603 Squadron at Turnhouse flying Spitfires and was commissioned in December of that year.
No 603 Sqn carried out defensive patrols over Scotland, gaining a number of victories. Finally, on 27 August 1940, the squadron moved to Hornchurch near London, as part 11 Group right in the thick of the Battle of Britain.
Berry was to claim 9 kills during the battle and a total of 17 during the war. He remained with the RAF after the war and served as the CO of the AFDU and 543 Sqn, flying Valiants. He retired in 1969 with the rank of Air Commodore. Ronald Berry passed away on the 13 August 2000.

On Saturday 31 August 1940, Hornchurch took a battering. The station was bombed heavily in the afternoon while 54 Sqn were taking off. One bomb detonated between three aircraft that were taking off. One, X4236, was piloted by Al Deere. All three aircraft were destroyed, but all three pilots were uninjured and were in action again the following day.
The station was again attacked in the evening. This time 603 Sqn were up and ready for the raiders. Richard Hillary and Peter Pease downed a Bf110 each. Brian Carbury claimed a Bf109 on this sortie, which made a grand total of five for the day. However, Carbury’s aircraft was hit by cannon fire, wounding him. He managed to land safely at Hornchurch.

Helmut Rau was flying top cover for the raid at 30,000 ft when they were attacked from behind by the Spitfires of 603 Sqn. Rau attempted to climb away from the attack, but saw that his wingman was in trouble. As he dived to engage the attacking Spitfire, he himself was hit.

Because of an unserviceability with his aircraft, Ronald Berry had not stayed with the rest of his unit. However, his chance came when the dogfight above him came down to his altitude. His combat report stated:

" As I had no oxygen, I had to leave the squadron at 22,000 feet and waited below in the sun for straggling enemy aircraft. After patrolling for 30 minutes, I saw a Me109 proceeding very fast. To overhaul him I had to press the emergency boost - indicated speed - 345. I caught the enemy aircraft off Shoeburyness. I opened fire at close range and fired all my ammunition until the enemy aircraft streamed with smoke and pancaked on the mud at Shoeburyness..".


Rau managed to make a forced landing on the mudflats and walked away unharmed from his aircraft. Berry made a low pass over the downed aircraft to confirm the kill and saw a defiant Rau stood on the sand, shaking his fist angrily. Rau was taken prisoner and spent the remainder of the war as a POW.


Spitfire Ia, R6626 was ordered as part of Contract No. B19713/39, built at Eastleigh. The constructor’s number was 715. It cost £4,250.
Its first flight was on 23 May 1940, flown by George Pickering Two days later it was delivered to 12MU and placed in storage. Issued to 603 Sqn on 20 July, it received the codes XT-V but was later coded XT-Y.
It was transferred to 266 Sqn on 20 October and later to 111 Sqn on 11 April 1941, where it was damaged on operations on 16 April and repaired on the unit. On the 17 June 1941, it was transferred to 58 OTU where it remained for a year. It was received by Scottish Aviation Ltd on 4 June 1942, presumably for mods and then issued to the PRU at Benson on 24 September, where it remained until withdrawn from use on 10 August 1943. Placed in storage at 222 MU, it was sold to Portugal. Embarked on the SS Empire Rhodes on 14 August, it arrived in Portugal on 29 August.

Little is known of Bf-109E-4 Werk nummer 1082 besides the fact that it was barely six weeks old when it was shot down. It was recovered from Shoeburyness and was used in a fund raising tour. In the photo it is shown on display in Bolton, Lancashire. The aircraft has three kill markings on the tail. This does not match Rau’s record so I assume that they represent the kills made by the aircraft.




Both pilots' aircraft can be modelled on the Southern Expo 'Hornchurch vs the Luftwaffe' decal sheet available from Peter Bagshaw via his link

Southern Expo Hornchurch vs the Luftwaffe decal sheet



Saturday, 11 September 2010

General der Jagdflieger Galland visiting Kurt Tank in Berlin




A Wochenschau newsreel sequence showing Galland, Streib and Trautloft as they inspect the latest Focke Wulf 190 developments as guests of the designer and his team. Alongside Prof. Tank can be seen his assistant Obering. Willi Kaether as well as chief test pilot Hans Sander and test pilot Alfred Thomas, who was later killed during the testing of the Ta 152 H.



According to Dietmar Hermann the time and location of this footage can be determined from the flight test reports of the Ta 154 A-0, Werknummer 0014, TQ+XD glimpsed briefly in the footage and the Fw 190 V17/U1, an airframe that served as a Fw 190 D-9 prototype – Galland made flights in both these aircraft on 2 June 1944 in Berlin-Staaken.

First aircraft to be seen in the footage is Fw 190 A-8, Werknummer 174 014, BH+RN. The camera pans to Galland pulling on his parachute pack in front of Fw 190 V17/U1, CF+OX – the ‘O’ of the code can be made out –and reveals for the first time elements of the changes made to the airframe in modifying it into Fw 190 D-9 configuration.






There then follows a short clip of the V17/U1 in the air. Galland´s flight appears in the flight testing log of the V17/U1. There are the briefest views of the Ta 154 in the clip showing the forward fuselage and the open canopy. Streib also flew the Ta 154 in Staaken.



Watch the clip here at criticalpast.com

General der Jagdflieger visiting Staaken

Friday, 10 September 2010

Battle of Britain KG 3 Dornier Do 17 Z recovery wreck lifted from the English Channel - latest page update 10 June 2013









Above; war-time image of  a KG Dornier Do 17 and crew  - (not Effmert's KG 3 machine as shot down on 26 August 1940) and below; a Dornier 17 Z of KG 2

more on the Do 17 Z sub-type on this blog

http://falkeeins.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/dornier-do-17-z-5-of-1kgr-606-over.html


http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=380656903458&ssPageName=ADME:B:SS:GB:1123&autorefresh=true





latest news on the recovery 11 June - Dornier 17 lifted from the English Channel  

On Monday 10 June the Royal Air Force Museum lifted the Dornier 17 off the bottom of the English Channel. After two years of planning, the Museum finally achieved a successful lift with conditions around the Goodwin Sands on Monday evening with calm seas and no wind offering a window of opportunity to lift the Dornier 17 following the aborted attempt on 6 June. In the end the salvage team abandoned the 'cradle lift' plan and took the risk of simply attaching the lift cables to the wreck  - note that in the pictures above the aircraft is on its back..

This morning (11 June) dive director Dave Franklin has confirmed that the team are still diving in the hope of locating more parts from the wreck and that the barge and Dornier wreckage are not due into the harbour at Ramsgate, Kent until later on this afternoon (11 June). Meanwhile Andy Saunders appeared on the BBC's regional news programmes to state that he was doubtful that this machine was indeed Effmert's KG 3 machine.....

On board with the wreck

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22856177




".. the Royal Air Force Museum has been hugely encouraged by the support we have received from across the globe. Not only has this taken the form of messages of goodwill, but the Museum has received substantial additional funding from private individuals and organisations in both Europe and America.

After studying the long range weather forecast, the Museum will make another attempt at raising the Dornier 17 late next week (the week ending 16th June), as soon as an appropriate weather window presents itself. As soon as the Museum is confident that it can make an attempt we will inform the public via our social media platforms and website of this...."


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22848117


A rare German wartime bomber has been discovered on the Goodwin Sands, off Deal, Kent, seventy years after it was shot down during the height of the Battle of Britain. With a crew of four and loaded with 2000 lb of bombs, the aircraft, a twin-engined Dornier 17 - known universally as 'The Flying Pencil' - was part of a large enemy formation intercepted by RAF fighter aircraft at midday on 26 August 1940 as they attempted to attack airfields in Kent or Essex. (above, Do 17 of KG 2 displaying this unit's diving eagle emblem..)

Boulton Paul Defiant fighters attacked the Dorniers of KG 3 at 13,000 ft over Deal in Kent before they had reached their intended target. They claimed at least six Dorniers destroyed and one damaged for the loss of three of their own aircraft and two air gunners killed. One of the Dorniers, flown by Feldwebel (Flt Sgt) Willi Effmert, attempted a wheels-up landing on the Goodwin Sands. He touched down safely and the aircraft sank inverted. Effmert and his observer were captured but the other crewmen died and their bodies were washed ashore later.

More at the RAF Museum's web site

RAF Museum Dornier 17 conservation project

Edit:  11 April 2011

Story related by the BBC's ' The One Show' and subsequently picked up by the BBC who interview the RAF Museum's Ian Thirsk
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13000925

" ...The discovery of a unique German warplane off the Kent coast left experts "incredulous". New images suggest the Dornier 17 is still intact and there are hopes that it will go on show. They called it "the flying pencil": a slim, elegant aircraft originally designed in 1934 to carry passengers, which by the start of World War II had been converted into a deadly weapon of war. The Dornier 17 was one of the mainstays of the Luftwaffe bombing fleets which began their assault on British cities and RAF airfields in the summer of 1940, in what became known as the Battle of Britain. A total of 1,700 Dorniers were built, but the plane discovered in Goodwin Sands is thought to be the last remaining one. Dornier 17 Z-2, serial number 1160, of number 7 squadron, 3 Group, third Bomber Wing, was shot down on 26 August 1940 and made an emergency landing in the sea just off the Kent coast. Two of the four crew members died, two - including the pilot - survived to become prisoners of war...."


On 2/3 of June 2010 the Royal Air Force Museum in conjunction with Wessex Archaeology conducted a survey off Goodwin Sands to examine the wreck of Dornier 17 Z-2 WNr.1160 of 7./KG3. Here we show part of the survey




Edit 04 May 2013

Operations to raise the Dornier have begun off the Kent coast - weather conditions are fine currently with a highs of 20-23 C forecast for next week. However as the aircraft was constructed from aluminium which corrodes badly in sea-water the chances are that not much of the wreck will survive - according to some German experts based at the Deutsche Technik Museum in Berlin. However some parts already brought to the surface have been successfully cleaned up by treating them in citric acid - lemon juice in other words. The wreck is so fragile that a special 'lifting frame' will be constructed under water around it, an operation that will take some 3-4 weeks. Once brought to the surface it will spend up to 18 months in a tented 'spray unit' being showered in citric acid to both clean the airframe and stop the corrosion.




The current state of the operation to recover the Dornier is being reported on the BBC's web site at this link - however it appears that while a lift was to be attempted last weekend (01-02 June) operations have halted due to the keen northerly wind still blowing

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22380915

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22848117

latest from the RAF Museum's Facebook page




Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Walter Krupinski bio from 296 Verlag



from the publisher's blurb

" ..with more crash landings, bail-outs and injuries than aerial victories, an easy-going Draufgaenger or "daredevil" both in combat and on the ground, Walter Krupinski was a hopeless case according to his CO Johannes Steinhoff. However under Günther Rall, he developed into one of Germany’s outstanding fighter leaders. “All I needed to succeed as a youngster, I’ve learned from this man”, said Erich Hartmann about his 23 year old superior. After three years in the east, Krupinski fought over the Reich and northern France. Alongside Adolf Galland, he scored the last of his 197 kills flying the Me 262 out of München-Riem with JV 44.

From 1946, Krupinski worked for the CIA to establish postwar Germany’s own secret service. Being retrained as a fighter pilot by the Royal Air Force, he became one of the key figures in forging the new Bundesluftwaffe. Krupinski was the first German to test-fly and recommend the F-104, and the first to lead a German fighter-bomber wing equipped with nucelar weapons at the height of the cold war. Being appointed the armed force’s youngest General in 1966, he rose to deputy air chief. Adored by his men in war and peacetime, he was feared for his uncompromising and challenging clarity on the carpet floors of the Ministry of Defence until his dismissal in 1976. He died in 2000.

Now here is his biography: Walter Krupinski – Jagdflieger, Geheimagent, General. From Stalingrad, the Normandy beaches and the balls-out flying of the 50s and 60s to the previously undisclosed, nightmarish details of nuclear warfare, it reflects a life packed with drama, hardships, glory and passion.."

JG301's black day in the Defence of the Reich - 26 November 1944- Willi Reschke newspaper article 2004

26.11.2004:
Heute vor 60 Jahren tobte über dem Deister eine der gewaltigsten Luftschlachten des Zweiten Weltkriegs / Erinnerungen
Quelle: Neue Deister Zeitung (NDZ) vom 26.November 2004 / Von Dr. Petra Hartmann

"Here we are.." The 82 year old gazed out over the meadow in the vicinity of Nettelrede. Clear blue skies above - the landscape has changed somewhat since the huge airbattle that raged overhead sixty years ago to the day. " Over there is where Josef Löffler crashed ", recalls Willi Reschke referring to that day. 26 November 1944 - Jagdflieger Reschke recounted events as if they had happened yesterday. One of the biggest air battles of WWII.

„Wir hatten gar nicht damit gerechnet - we were not expecting to have to get airborne that day. There was thick fog hanging over the airfield - visibility was nil." But then suddenly the order to take off came through at 11:40. Reschke, and with him thirty nine of his comrades at the controls of their machines, climbed for altitude...

By the autumn of 1944, JG 301, like other former Wilde Sau night fighting Geschwader had long since converted to the daylight fighter role. Its Gruppen were organised in 'heavy' and 'light' wings, with units to provide high cover and units to combat the bombers. Unlike the majority of the pilots airborne on 26 November 1944 Reschke had at least acquired some combat experience. The young Nachwuchs of the unit such as Unteroffizier Siegfreid Baer were flying only their second or third mission.

On Sunday 26 November 1944 the storm front that had been stationary over central north Germany for much of the previous week was clearing. Fortresses of the 1st Bomb Division and Liberators of the 2nd set out to raid the Misburg hydrogenation plants near Hannover, the Hydrierwerk Miesburg, partially destroyed only a few weeks previously. The Fortresses led the raid, followed by Squadrons of B-24s from the 389th, 445th and 491st Bomb Groups, an armada of over one thousand bombers. High and Low Squadrons all jockeying to remain in tight defensive formation. Several B-24s aborted and timings began to go awry which was bad news for the 491st flying 'tail-end charlie' . Over the North Sea the 389th and the 445th turned late, spreading the Divisions over an area stretching for forty miles instead of twenty and effectively rendering the escort ineffectual. The B-24s were on their own for some 30 minutes to Misburg. Reschke continues;

.." that morning had been like other recent mornings for the pilots of the III Gruppe in Stendal - dickes QBI or very poor visibility - even the birds were on foot and it wasn't long before the pilots had settled down to games of chess and skat. But weather conditions were improving and gradually communication between the operations room and Central Fighter control at Döberitz became more intense. Games were soon put aside as pilots moved to readiness . Everyone was gripped by mission fever. There was a hive of activity around the planes as the 'black men' helped their pilots into the machines. The order to scramble was not long in coming. At around 11h40 all three Gruppen took off setting course to the west. The enemy was heading directly towards us. None of the pilots knew that they were about to face the biggest air battle in the short history of the Geschwader..."

Reschke continued to gaze out over the field where his comrade had died. He was probably remembering in his mind former comrades ; Werner Raygrotzky, Kurt Gabler or Fritz Brinkmann, all of whom died near Eimbeckhausen. He was probably recalling Siegfried Baer, who was brought down near Holtensen, or Anton Schmidt, who's machine was hit over Völksen. There was still something of the fascination for aerial combat in the voice of the old man who had shot down some twenty four-engine bombers and seven fighters, who was himself shot down eight times in 53 combat sorties, who had ended the war with the rank of Feldwebel and who was a holder ofthe Ritterkreuz - his own personal combat record.

" The further west we headed the better the weather became, " he recalled. " Over Braunschweig the first American bomber Pulks were sighted. The first contact with the enemy was over Gifhorn. Misburg, Hannover, Altenbeken, Bückeburg and Stadthagen were being attacked. In total 1137 American B-24 and B-17 bombers had got airborne in England, escorted by 732 fighters ". Yet the first contact found Reschke and his comrades alone in the sky with a Pulk of forty bombers - no escorts in sight.

All three Gruppen of JG 301 converged on the bombers as the lead elements were approaching Hannover. Visibility was good and the contrails from the bomber streams stretched out into the far distance.
".. Zusatzbehälter ab ! .." - jettison drop tanks !

The following is extracted from the official 8th AF report.

"… As the two Liberator Groups left the IP and headed for the target of Misburg, with the squadron of 9/10 enemy a/c in trail, the escort fighters atacked a large concentration of 190's and 109's east of the I.P….. The middle squadron (491st), of the second group released its bombs early.......
Instead of staying in the column this squadron went ? toward the R.P.? point, leaving a gap between the first and the third squadrons…. (Jerry), probably spotted this opening, and if on signal, the heavy flak stopped abruptly. Just after the isolated third squadron released it's bombs and turned toward the I.P. 50-70 109's and 190's launched a company front attack in mass of 7-10 abreast. Some fighters hit from 5 o'clock, others from 7 o'clock. The entire squadron of 9 B-24's were shot down…... Enemy aircraft went after the middle squadron catching it just before the rallying point. They attacked singly from 4 o'clock high and low and from 8 o'clock high and low. Enemy fighters broke off early when gunners opened fire at long range, but resumed their attacks to within 100 yards if they were not fired on…."

Six of the ten B-24's in this squadron were lost. Research indicates that this is the squadron that Siegfried Baer attacked.
As the Geschwader pressed home attacks on the bomber formation, the escort having let its screen be penetrated, made frantic efforts to intercept. The ensuing combats were some of the most intense in the history of home defence or Reichsverteidigung.

Reschke stated, " They could make mistakes as well you know. I shot down one bomber. But as we'd seen so often before, radio communications between the bombers and their escorts brought the P-51s to the battle from all directions. A few of our fighters were still able to press home their attacks on the bombers but as the battle progressed pilots of JG 301 were left fighting for their lives against the escorts. Our losses were so heavy that this was to be our blackest day in the history of our Geschwader. Just in the Hildesheim sector alone some forty of our pilots were killed or wounded. "


Staffelkapitän of 5./JG 301 Oberleutnant Alfred Vollert flying Fw 190 A-9 'weiße 1' was killed in combat, shot down over Rethen as he was pursuing a B-24. Siegfried Baer was also shot down and killed, possibly shot down by 339th FG P-51's while attacking the 491st BG south east or so of Hannover around Peine. Plotting the demise of Baer and his Staffelkapitän and their crash locations reveals that they fell along the B-24's route. This tends to confirm that Siegfried Baer attacked the B-24's in a pass and possibly scored hits if not an Abschüß and in so doing was hit by the devastating fire of the B-24 boxes crashing to his death. Eye witnesses on the ground reported that each attacking Focke Wulf was set upon by several P-51's after diving through the Pulks. The bomber escorts had a tremendous tactical advantage and their numerical superiority was overwhelming.

JG 301 did have some notable success. Oberfeldwebel Hans Müller of 2. Staffel claimed three B-24 Liberators shot down. Jupp Keil in 10 Staffel claimed two B-24s. 12 Staffel suffered no losses at all but were comparatively experienced. As I./JG 302 12 Staffel had flown escort missions with IV./JG3 back in July.

The first part of the official account quoted above concerns the 491st BG. The 445th lost 5 bombers. Again quoting from the 8th AF report..
"… In a ? from this battle, some aircraft made single attacks on the lead squadron at this same group shorlty before the R.P. But this squadron which was in tight formation and only 20 seconds behind the Group(445th) ahead, suffered no losses……The low squadron of the preceding group (445th) however, lost 5 of it's 11 bombers to a series of single attacks, apparently made by some of the same fighters. Here again the enemy aircraft hit from 4 and 8 o'clock high and low, making numerous belly attacks. Enemy fighters which made individual attacks frequently broke away to the side without losing altitude, pulled ahead of the bomber formation, then turned to make a new attack, flying across the bombers path without attempting a pursuit curve..".

In total some forty bombers were lost that day along with eleven P-51s. Over 40 JG 301 pilots were either killed or wounded on 26 November 1944 alone, more than a third of JG 301's pilot complement, a terrible blood-letting in defence of the homeland….


JG 301 would be unable to make good its enormous losses in trained pilots. Siegfried Baer is buried in the cemetery at Holtensen near Hannover. ( see below )



Baer flew a Fw 190A9/R-11 with 5./JG 301 'weiße 2' WNr 206085. Built in Focke Wulf's Cottbus plant, Gruppen of JG 301 receiving the first A-9s off the Cottbus production line in September 1944. In the absence of any period pictures the accompanying model photo shows Baer's 'white 2' with the yellow & red Rumpfbände of JG301 and a II Gruppe bar. The R-11 Rüstzustand was a 'bad weather' package featuring the PKS 12 autopilot and heated canopy glass. The A-9 featured the Schiebehaube blown canopy and an up-rated BMW 801 TU/TS engine with wide-bladed wooden prop, although these could also appear on the A-8. The A-9 variant in JG 301 service was equipped with two 2cm Kanonen and two 13mm MGs with the outer wing cannon perhaps only fitted in the schwere Staffeln.



It would almost certainly have been equipped with the standard ETC 501 Zusatztank carrier fitting. Pilots in the Reichsverteidigung had long complained of the absurdity of hauling 250kg reserve fuel tanks and their bulky carrier fittings around when flying missions to close to their home bases.

Competition model and display by Wayne Little

Focke Achgelis Fa-330 Bachstelze autogyro



The Focke Achgelis Fa-330 Bachstelze (Wagtail) specially developed for use aboard U-boats - in effect replacing the mast as an observation post - was a simple autogyro weighing little more than 75 kg. The 'pilot' or 'observer' sat under a free-turning three-blade rotor mounted on a vertical pylon attached to a simple framework and controlled a rudder and horizontal stabiliser mounted on a tubular boom structure. Connected to the U-boat by cable and winch the 'rotor kite' was designed to be towed behind a surfaced U-boat, the observer communicating by telephone. A German Air Ministry conference report referred to the engine-less contraption as a "witch's broom"..
About 200 Bachstelze were built although only a handful were used operationally and then only in the Southern Atlantic and the Indian Ocean where aircraft patrols were infrequent. In an emergency the pilot could jettison the rotor and deploy his parachute although at least one successful pilot recovery was recorded following autorotation after a towing cable snapped. According to Coates in "Helicopters of the Third Reich" there was only one recorded sinking by a U-boat following a sighting from a Bachstelze when U-177 sank a Greek coal freighter south of Madagascar in July 1943.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Captured Luftwaffe Fw 190 - 1426 flight in colour





Screen grabs from private footage - enemy types seen touring USAAF fighter bases during the spring of 1944. Ex-SKG10 machine FW 190 A-5 PN 999 (W.Nr 2596) seen in Dark Earth and Dark Green scheme - flyable enemy aircraft were repainted in these uppersurface colours even after the RAF had switched to grey and green for temperate fighter camouflage. Note that Kecav in "Captured Butcher Birds" indicated that the colour scheme was green and grey as seen here on the Bf 109 VX101.

The Ju 88 is either A-5 EE205 or HM509 probably HM509, ex M2+MK. Both VX101 and HM509 were written off on 19th May 1944




British Fw 190s

PN999 - Focke-Wulf Fw190A-5/U8 - W.Nr.2596 - "White 6" of I./SKG10 - despatched to unknown destination July 1946

PM679 - Focke-Wulf Fw190A-4/U8 - W.Nr.5843 - "Red 9" of I./SKG10 - used for spares July 1944

MP499 - Focke-Wulf Fw190A-3 - W.Nr.313 - single chevron of III./JG2 - SoC September 1943

PE822 - Focke-Wulf Fw190A-4/U8 - W.Nr.7155 - H+ of II./SKG10 - crashed October 1944

NF754 - Focke-Wulf Fw190A - W.Nr.unknown - unknown unit - fate unknown

NF755 - Focke-Wulf Fw190A - W.Nr.unknown - unknown unit - fate unknown

AM 27 - Focke-Wulf Fw189A-3 - W.Nr.0173 - coded 3X+AA of unknown unit - scrapped 1947

AM 29 - Focke-Wulf Fw190F-8/U1 - w.Nr.584219 - "Black 38" of unknown unit - static display RAF Museum, Henson

AM 36 - Focke-Wulf Fw190F-8/U1 - W.Nr.580058 - coded "55" of unknown unit - not delivered to UK

AM 37 - Focke-Wulf Fw190S-1 - W.Nr.582044 - coded "54" of unknown unit - crashed November 1945

AM 111 - Focke-Wulf Fw190F-8/R15 - W.Nr.unknown - uncoded - scrapped 1948?

AM 230 - Focke-Wulf Fw190A-8D/NL - W.Nr.171747 - coded "13" on rudder on ferry flight to JG26 - fate not recorded