Saturday, 19 August 2017
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 52, greets 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.
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
Friday, 11 August 2017
Fw 190 A-6 'Grüne 1' Werk Nr 550 445 Oberstleutnant Hajo Herrmann Stab./JG 300 and his seven wilde Sau night victories
This is Focke Wulf Fw 190 A-6 'Grüne 1' Werk Nr 550 445 flown by Oberstleutnant Hajo Herrmann and photographed between 03 August 1943 -date of Herrmann's 7th and last wilde Sau victory- and 24 August 1943 when Herrmann was shot down in this aircraft and bailed out 'unverletzt' (uninjured) according to the loss record. Click on the image to view large.
The original photo -measuring just a couple of centimetres square- was in the possession of Stab./JG 300 mechanic Feldwebel Alfred Rademacher for much of his life. It was though in fact retrieved from the dustbin by the author Jean-Yves Lorant who just happened to be visiting Rademacher's widow Gerda as she was disposing of her recently deceased husband's personal effects!
In his 'wilde Sau' article recently published in issue 60 of Aérojournal magazine, C. Ehrengardt attempts to reinforce two 'myths' concerning Herrmann's aircraft and his wilde Sau victory tally. Firstly, that Herrmann flew a Bf 109 T on the Berlin raid of 23-24 August 1943 - he did not.
The author of the JG 300 history located the relevant loss listing during his research - '100% Fw 190 A-6 WNr 550445' - for the night of 23- 24 August, the pilot being listed as 'unverletzt'. This evidence, along with that of the photo presented above and Herrmann's own account of being shot down that night (he took to his chute and came down in one of the many lakes in the Berlin area) was more than enough evidence to remove any doubt.
M. Ehrengardt thus labels the neat profile artwork published to accompany his article - " August 1943 ?". The question mark suggests - whether intentionally or not - that the original source of Herrmann's 'Green 1' may be incorrect while in actual fact the caption in Lorant's JG 300 history is perfectly accurate...
Below; just to clear up any 'misunderstanding' the inscription appearing on the reverse of the original photo above reads "Bonn 1943, August, Maschine von Obstlt Herrmann ". That doesn't even require a translation. "Bonn, 1943 August".
Another 'suggestion' that can be inferred from Ehrengardt's article is that Herrmann only returned five night victories - in fact he clearly states that Lorant is incorrect to attribute 7 night victories to Herrmann. Well aside from the fact that the rudder markings are perfectly clear in this image, here is a brief listing of the 7 confirmed night victories returned by Hajo Herrmann during wilde Sau operations:
Nachtjagdversuchskommando 4 July 1943 = 1 bomber at 1h30 over Bonn Mehlem
Stab./JG 300 26 July 1943 = 1 bomber
28 July = 1 bomber
30 July = 2 bombers
31 July 1943 = 1 bomber,
03 August 1943 = 1 bomber for his seventh and last night victory as per the rudder victory markings
Even as recently as April 2017 it was still possible to find the less-than-knowledgeable posting images of the horrendous caricature artwork of Herrmann's machine that has been doing the rounds of out-of-date books, articles and internet pages since the mid-1960s!! Take a (very) quick look here for example. Posting out-dated caricature profile artworks with hopelessly incorrect captions - rather like attempting to revise and refute certain facts diligently proven by a recognised authority - doesn't do much for your credibility I'm afraid.
Ehrengardt presents some interesting photos in his article (Gniffke's 'white 11' at Hangelar, Döring's 'Red 6' at Bonn etc...all incorrectly attributed) but his text is rather error-strewn. The 'problem' with writing about wilde Sau operations is that the 'official' victories - as usually found on the Internet - represent no more than about 60% of the actual victories returned by the wilde Sau pilots as researched by Jean-Yves Lorant. Numerous victories appear in log-books that were simply never filed with the OKL for reasons that the pilots themselves explained;
- absence of witnesses
- inability to pin-point the crash-site of a downed aircraft and/or wreckage ( at night, downed in many instances over a heavily bombed target area)
- claimed by the Flak who 'appropriated' a certain 'quota' of shot-down bombers according to the number of shells fired.
- dislike of and disinterest in the administrative paperwork especially following the stress and shock of a nerve-shredding and hazardous night-time sortie
- simple lack of diligence : by way of example the log-book of leading wilde Sau ace "Nasen-Müller" details only FIVE of his thirty night victories.
Hence the importance of locating primary source documents or photos or accounts which enable the reality of what happened on wilde Sau operations to be painstakingly reconstructed.
A further word on a couple of the colour profiles/ caption text in Aérojournal no. 60 :
Page 48, top. "Leutnant Reinhard Krumbach" is an invention of Bobo and his jg300.de site - evidently an inspiration and source for M. Ehrengardt. This 'pilot' did not exist on any JG 300 flight roster! "Black 3" as illustrated was indeed a III./ JG 300 aircraft but it was assigned to Lt. Otto Schwamb of 7.Staffel and was an ex III./JG 54 machine, retaining this unit's BLUE fuselage band and black Gruppe Balken. III./JG 300 aircraft never displayed a vertical Gruppe bar - as readers of Jean-Yves Lorant's JG 300 history would know. For some reason - an inscription on the reverse of a photo of Schwamb - Bobo at jg300.de has misidentified this photo as he likewise did with Kurt Gabler's machine . Either that or he doesn't read English particularly well!
Page 51 top; now that the original photo on which the profile of "White 4" is based is in the possession of JG 300 authority Jean-Yves Lorant we can confirm that it is not a G-5 but a G-6 (the Werk Nummer is clearly visible). Assigned to I./JG 300 it was a 'Moskito' hunter painted in overall pale grey-blue equipped with power-boost as described by Herbert Schlüter in the JG 300 history (Vol I). It was not equipped with an 'infra-red' detector. Obviously to stand any chance of catching a 'Moskito' the aircraft did NOT mount 20mm Gondelwaffen slung under the wings. The pilot of this machine was a well-known ace of 1./JG 300. See more here on this blog.
wilde Sau cover illustration Aérojournal no. 60 by P.Forkasiewicz
Also on this blog;
biography/obituary of Hans-Joachim Herrmann on this blog
".. Even as defeat appeared imminent, he refused to countenance any concessions to the enemies of National Socialism, vehemently rejecting an idea, floated by the Luftwaffe High Command, that the remnant of the air force should join with approaching American forces and fight alongside them against the Russians. Having fought throughout the war almost entirely against the western Allies, Herrmann was taken prisoner by the Russians on May 11 1945. He spent 10 years in Soviet camps and was one of the last to be released, returning to Germany on October 12 1955. After a period studying law Herrmann opened a legal practice in Düsseldorf in 1965. His clients included Holocaust deniers such as Otto Ernst Remer, Fred A Leuchter and David Irving. Something of an idol to the far-Right, he held political and historical evenings all over Europe to tell a younger generation what it meant to "live for the cause". He continued to make public appearances until 2009. For his services to the Third Reich, Herrmann was awarded the Knight's Cross, Oak Leaves and Swords..."
wilde Sau fighter pilot - Fritz Gehrmann 10./ JG 301
the aircraft of wilde Sau ace Friedrich-Karl Müller of NJGr. 10 and NJG 11
Monday, 31 July 2017
III./JG 2 convert onto the Fw 190 May-June 1942 - 7. Staffel Kapitän Oblt. Egon Mayer. Fw 190 im Westen, Channel Front aces
Above; Oblt. Egon Mayer, about to climb down from the controls of a Stab III./JG 2 Friedrich, seen relating a successful combat account to his erster Wart (Gefr. Bender) probably on or around 17 April 1942. In the three days between 14 and 17 April 1942 7./JG 2 claimed no fewer than 17 victories including 8 claims for Staffelkapitän Oblt. Egon Mayer himself. This tally included two Spitfires on 16 April for his 31st and 32nd victories and three more the following day (two of these remaining unconfirmed).
Mayer's last victory with the Bf 109 was a claim for a Spitfire shot down on 7 May 1942. At that point Staffelkapitän Mayer and his 7.Staffel were taken off operations to convert onto the new Fw 190 fighter. Conversion training took place in Théville. Within a month 7.Staffel was back in action. The first clash of III./JG 2's new Fw 190s and RAF Spitfires took place on 3 June 1942 in a hard-fought action north of Cherbourg. The RCAF's 403 Sqd lost at least seven Spitfires in this action with Mayer himself claiming two, his 43rd and 44th victories
Among the other 7./.JG 2 aces Ofw. Willi Stratmann, Uffz Guenther Toll and Lt. Jakob Augustin all returned victories. Augustin flew "white 8" (WNr. 333) and returned his 12th victory on 6 June. Oberfeldwebel Alfred Knies returned his first victory, which was feted as the 100th for the Staffel. The next day 7.Staffel was again in action against RAF Spitfires claiming four more and on 6 June Knies returned his second victory, another Spitfire. JG 2 claimed a remarkable eleven Spitfires on this date for no losses.
Below; Fw 190 A-2 "white 11' of 7./ JG 2 (WNr. 105) features the Staffel Zylinderhut emblem on the nose (a thumb pressing down on the British top hat) rather than the III. Gruppe cockerel's head. After only a few hours flight time the exhaust has already stained the lower forward fuselage and this area of the airframe would soon be over-painted with the usual black trapezoidal eagle wing or Adlerflügel shape outlined with a white border.
Two views of Fw 190 A-2 (WNr. 2194 ?) "white 12" of 7./ JG 2 which sustained 20% damages in a forced landing at Théville on 6 June 1942. JG 2 filed some 23 claims for Spitfires on this date alone. In a letter home, another 7./ JG 2 pilot Uffz. Otto Kleinert wrote;
"... on one of my first sorties from Théville with 7./ JG 2 on 3 June 1942 we ran into a formation of about ten Spitfires and shot them all down - our Focke Wulfs are largely superior to their machines. I flew as Lt. Augustin's wingman but really saw very little of the action, so close did I stick to my leader's rudder. After we landed I was somewhat surprised to learn that we had accounted for so many enemy machines. Of course as a relative beginner I had little appreciation of the bigger picture..." ( 'In the skies of France' -Vol 3)
While the introduction of the Fw 190 into service with JG 2 proved to be remarkably successful, fully one quarter of all JG 2 victories for June 1942 were returned by Mayer's 7.Staffel. July 1942 saw a notable decrease in contact with the enemy as the RAF reduced its incursions over northern France while preparing for the (delayed) landings at Dieppe a month later. Of course by that time Armin Faber of the Stab III./JG 2 had presented the RAF with a new Fw 190 after landing in Wales.
Our look at Erik Mombeek's superlative "Dans le ciel de France" Vol 3 elsewhere on this blog
See "Starker Auftakt" - Alfred Knies' photo album in the August 2017 issue of Flugzeug Classic
Monday, 24 July 2017
The following 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.
View footage on the AKH site here Geschwaderstab and I./JG 54 machines, including the Kommodore machine decorated with Gruppe badges on the green heart
Saturday, 22 July 2017
A video introduction 'virtual browse' through the new Dunkirk - Air Combat Archive book - the latest book from Red Kite - by co-author Mark Postlethwaite. A single click to view here
Friday, 21 July 2017
Fw 190 versus Bf 109 Friedrich Rechlin test report - did the Focke Wulf 190 really pose a problem for the RAF in 1941 ?
"..When the German Focke Wulf Fw190 fighter burst onto the scene over France in 1941 it took the RAF by surprise, outperforming the Spitfire Mk V. At the time the RAF described the performance gap as a quantum leap.."
There is a lot of nonsense written on the Net and elsewhere about the arrival into service of the Focke Wulf 190. It is possible to read how it swept the RAF from the skies over northern France, how it managed to put the brakes on the RAF's 'Non-Stop Offensive', even how various RAF service orders curtailed incursions over France in 1941 for fear of coming up against the new 'super-fighter' - I'm afraid all of that simply does not stand up to examination. Incidentally the quote above is from the latest Fw 190 publication in English - the Haynes "Owners Manual"..
Above; Fw 190 A-1 "Brown 13" of 6./ JG 26. II./JG 26 was the first unit to receive the new fighter during the summer of 1941. Note the sheen of the paint finish - early reports from JG 26 complained - among other issues - of the poor quality finish on their Fw 190s and stated that simply polishing the upper surfaces was sufficient to increase top speed ( photo via Crow, text reference in Le Focke Wulf 190, Lorant, page 94)
Let's be clear. Arriving in the Channel Front Gruppen from mid-1941, the Focke Wulf 190 posed no problem for the RAF in 1941. In the first combat with the RAF the JG 26 pilots won 2-0, downing two Spitfires without loss. The Fw 190 A-1 was considered better than the Spitfire IIb in almost all respects. But the Germans had serious problems with the new type. Reliability of the early 1560 hp BMW 801 C engine was poor from the start and it took time to sort out. The early trials of the Fw 190 were horrendous with BMW and Focke Wulf at logger-heads over a variety of technical issues. The type's gradual introduction into service in the latter half of 1941 over the Channel coast resulted in some painful losses for the Germans themselves - including leading aces. To some the Fw 190 appeared to be no better than the Bf 109 F it was largely intended to supplant in the race for fighter dominance. The Germans' own comparison trials demonstrate this - but are of course mostly unexploited by non-German speaking authors.
Above; page two of a Rechlin report detailing comparison flights - Vergleichsfliegen -between the Bf 109 F-4 and FW 190 A-2 dated 10 December 1941 - source: BAMA Freiburg via beim-zugmeister.de. Note that this page states clearly the test flights and their evaluation were carried out by a Luftwaffe 'test' detachment incorporating the experiences and findings of combat pilots in Jagdgeschwader 26. It also clearly indicates that the test flights were not performed with special aircraft, but rather standard series machines at full combat weight..('mit vollem Einsatzgewicht').
In the Rechlin report the Fw 190 A 2 is flown against the Bf 109 F-4. The first variants of the Friedrich appeared in late 1940 and by early 1941 the F-2 was being delivered. By May 1941 production of the F-4 started and the variant entered service in June 1941, with the first loss reported on 1 July 1941 (a machine in JG 52 service quoted in Prien 'Bf 109 F/G/K'). For the RAF and by way of comparison, the Spitfire V entered service in Feb 1941 (one squadron) and a further four squadrons in May. The Bf 109 F-4 was the upgraded variant of the Friedrich powered by the new DB 601 E. Initially the 601 E could only be operated under certain restrictions (Notleistung was not allowed), the aircraft was capable of attaining 635 kmh on next best rating (Steig Kampfleistung). The F-4 started to appear in numbers from July/August of 1941 and by February 1942 - with no restrictions - the aircraft handbook indicates upper speeds attained of some 670 km/h.
In series production from June of 1941, only one hundred or so Fw 190 A-1s had been completed by late 1941 when the A-2 went into production. This was the variant tested at Rechlin by the test detachment including experienced aviators from JG 26 who had flown the type in combat. Comparison flight tests produced the following results.
The Fw 190 A 2 is not quite as fast as the F-4 and this becomes more apparent at higher altitudes, the difference amounting to as much as 20 km/h. At low level the Fw 190 may be slightly faster. Dive-performance on the other hand according to the report is excellent with the Fw 190 always able to pull away at all heights.
Climb performance of the Fw 190 is considerably inferior - "..stark unterlegen " - to the Bf 109 F-4, taking some six minutes longer to reach 10,000 m. The A 2's performance is 50% poorer at altitude -over 30,000 ft - than the Bf 109 F-4
..While roll rate is considered excellent and reprsents good progress in the Fw 190, it could not be established conclusively whether the Fw 190 can out-turn the Bf 109..
The engine powering the Fw 190 A 2 is "..so unreliable at the present time that in the view of Oberst Galland it has only limited combat capability and currently no missions over the Channel into England should be considered..." (December 1941). With so many modifications required (already some 20 at the current time) on the BMW 801 C and also the 801 D it will take at least another six months to iron out the bugs..
The report clarifies two facts. On the one hand the BMW 801 C was seen as not ready for service, so many modifications being required - it had at this time an average service life of just 25 operating hours (!!). In contrast the DB 601 E was evaluated as ready for service and 'mature'. Any initial problems with the DB 601 E had been remedied by the time of the comparison flights in November/December 1941 ( 'frontreif''). The report continues by stating that the technical difficulties encountered with the Fw 190 would persist well into the new year (ie 1942) and that at that time only the F-4 of these two machines could be considered truly combat-capable ('frontreif'). In addition the 801 C ran on B4 87 octane fuel and it was not until the 801 D appeared using using C3 100 octane fuel that performance was boosted accordingly - although even this engine had restrictions until mid-late 1942!
So why does the Fw 190 enjoy the reputation through 1941 that some attribute to it?
In the comparison testing carried out at Rechlin in late 1941 between the Bf 109 F-4 and early Fw 190 A-1/A-2 the Bf 109 F-4 was assessed as a "mature" and well tested and proven design, while the Fw 190 A-1/A-2 was a new design with a new engine just reaching the front with many issues not yet ironed out, engine reliability being an obvious one. Not that a new German fighter was really a surprise either. In England, "Flight" magazine published an article in October 1940 describing the Bf 109 Emil as "..a German design which missed being a success..the Luftwaffe probably expected to bomb its way to a quick victory..(so) it is unlikely that Germany will rest content with the Me 109 as its only single-seat fighter.." The Friedrich when it arrived on the scene presented a number of enhancements over the successive improvements introduced to the venerable "Emil" with which the Jagdwaffe had gone to war over Poland. The basic airframe had undergone a redesign with the aim of improving aerodynamic efficiency - especially in the area of the wing and tailplane. Both spinner and wingtips were rounded and more streamlined and the Emil's out-moded horizontal stabilizer brace supports had been eliminated. In addition the tailwheel was now fully retractable. However the Friedrich did not feature wing armament and weight of fire was thus reduced in comparison to the older sub-type.
The F-4 was of course a better machine than the Emil but it was also better than the F-1/2 - and a difficult opponent for the Spitfire V - and as the report above makes clear it was easily as good as the new Fw 190. The 'advantage' of the Fw 190 lay in the fact that it was visually different enough to make identification easy. Here was a new type for which new tactics might have to be developed. No RAF pilot could tell an early Friedrich from a late one visually and even though the RAF very quickly had an example of the Friedrich to evaluate when the Kommandeur of I./ JG 26 landed near Dover on 10 July 1941 it was a while before any test data could be passed on to front-line pilots. And with the DB 601 E initially operating under restrictions for a few months, then its initial introduction did not have that same impact. Elsewhere Hooten looks at Fighter Command's losses over France vs the Friedrich up to late 1941 and compares them with RAF losses in the four months up to mid-1942 with the Channel Front Geschwader almost fully re-equipped with the Fw 190 and concludes that RAF losses over France were falling following the introduction of the Fw 190.
The Fw 190 had a few performance advantages that were readily apparent and especially useful in combat, like the rapid rate of roll and dive performance - ".. die Rollwendigkeit ..die sich insbesondere im Luftkampf stark bemerkbar machte..." Nor was it announced to the British public until the spring of 1942. However, it was not until that time in 1942 and the introduction of the A-3 with the improved reliability of the BMW 801 D-2 with increased output from 1560 hp to 1750 hp and improved armament that the Fw 190 became a better fighter and not until the A-5 that the Fw 190 became a mature design design, having solved overheating and vibration issues better with a nose-plug extension and MW 50 power boosting. Taken from the very end of Dietmar Hermann's article in Jet and Prop 3/2012; "In this form it was surely the highest performing fighter in the west and the east 1942-1943..". But during the type's initial service it could hardly be said to have "burst on to the scene"..
Wednesday, 19 July 2017
7./ZG 1 Bf109 E-7 coded "S9+DR" W.Nr.4964 flown by Uffz. Hans Sennholz, downed near El Alamein on 31 August 1942.
Eduard 48th Emil with decals from the Rising Decals 'Unusual Emils' sheet, model built by Pierre Giustiniani
A recent issue of the excellent Flugzeug Classic magazine (July 2017) features the recollections of 5./JG 300 pilot Norbert Graziadei as he converts onto the Fw 190 in the summer of 1944 and flies some of the last Sturm sorties of the war - you can browse some pages at http://flugzeugclassic.de/
Markus and his team at Geramond.de continue to produce a high quality magazine featuring plenty of decent content for the Luftwaffe enthusiast.
The following image via Jean-Yves Lorant, author of the two volume history of JG 300 published by Docavia in France during 2005 - 'Bataille dans le Ciel d'Allemagne'. Norbert Graziadei (middle) with Hubert Engst of 6./JG 300 preparing for a spell of cockpit readiness during November 1944. On the left is Engst's wife Elisabeth. Note both pilots are wearing the Lederkombination leather flying suit with the 'Deutsche Luftwaffe' armband. These distinctive yellow armbands were introduced by the Luftwaffe in late 1944 to distinguish downed German aircrew from their Allied counterparts in German occupied territory - and presumably prevent them being shot or otherwise maltreated after bailing out.
Peter Cronauer's article focuses on Graziadei's last combat sortie of the war - 31 December 1944.
Graziadei, flying 'Red 14', not his usual 'Red 2' 'Moidl' (lit. 'girl') - claimed two B-17s on this sortie before he was shot down and seriously injured by RAF Tempests (sic);
"...A few moments later, we closed to within firing range of the Boeing B 17s. Around and especially above us, our Messerschmitts were now pitting themselves against the enemy escorts in a violent dogfight. It must have been around midday. The battle raged for long minutes over Rotenburg. Ahead of us, the bombers were rapidly growing ever larger. I sliced through the first boxes of bombers - their gunners putting up a fusillade of fire - leaving the field clear for the pilots that were following me. Closing on the bombers, I could see that some of them were attempting to jink erratically to make our aim more difficult. I selected a B-17 and closed on it from the rear with a clear height advantage. I unleashed short bursts. The first was for the upper gunner who immediately ceased streaming his fire at me. The other gunners soon gave up the fight when my second burst disabled the outer starboard engine which lost its oil and started to burn. Having fired my weapons a third time, I saw several of the crew bail out of the bomber, its starboard wing now ablaze. A few seconds later it entered a stall dive. Just at that moment, I pulled up the nose of my “Moidl” in order to stay inside the bomber box. I had caught sight of Thunderbolts in the sun clearly waiting for our attack to end before closing to intercept us! Their pilots evidently feared the Boeings' gunners too much to dare to approach any closer. A few seconds later, I had converged on another bomber and was no more than fifty meters above it. An ideal position... I throttled back, eased up on the stick and again opened fire with my cannon aiming for the cockpit. The B 17 reared up and went into a spin just meters from my 190, forcing me to break to starboard while ramming open the throttle. In this way I left the enemy bomber box, or what remained of it. It had taken me just a few seconds to destroy these two Boeings... I should mention that just prior to our assault, the bombers (around 60-80 aircraft) had jettisoned their bombs not far from Rotenburg. Their bomb bay doors were still gaping open as we ran in on our firing pass. Having practically exhausted my ammunition, I judged it preferable not to attempt to run the gauntlet of enemy fighters by flying another pass on my own through the bombers. This was not cowardice. Any other decision would have been sheer madness...."
Below; Graziadei log-book detail for 31 December 1944; two Abschüsse and a parachute bail out on his 25th combat sortie, 31 December 1944
More Sturmbock Fw 190 JG 300 pieces on this blog; (translation copyright Neil Page)
" ...but Bretschneider ordered us into a defensive circle, a manoeuvre no doubt dictated by prudence but hardly appropriate in the circumstances! But what else could my comrades do? They were mostly former blind flying instructors or ex-bomber pilots used to flying the Junkers 88 and were barely capable of performing the most basic fighter pilots' moves. They were there to bring down enemy bombers — American escort fighters permitting! There followed an intense and confused mêlée, during the course of which I was more fearful of a collision than enemy aircraft. Indeed there were more Focke-Wulfs than Mustangs around me. I recall catching sight of “Pimpf” Erhardt’s “Red 8” with a P-51 hard on his heels below my plane. I yoked brutally around to port and let myself “fall” in behind the American. My bursts struck home and hit by several shells, the Mustang disappeared from Erhardt’s tail and dropped out of my field of vision. Matthäus Erhardt had not been hit. Unfortunately his period of grace lasted only until the following 14 January, the day his knee took the full force of an explosive round fired by a B-17 gunner..."
Sturmbock JG 300 Bretschneider
"... At 10:30, II./JG 300 put its first Schwarm in the air from Schönfeld-Seifersdorf: five Focke-Wulfs of 5. Staffel and the Gruppenstab flown by Fhj.-Ofw. Richard Löfgen, Maj. Alfred Lindenberger, Ofw. Karl Rusack, Uffz. Walter Beuchel and Uffz. Karl Werner. Leading the Schwarm, Löfgen brought his small force down to 500 meters altitude as they arrived over the front. Having overflown the Oder, the pilots were unable to discern the slightest sign of enemy activity. Ofw. Löfgen throttled back and flew a series of wide weaving curves. The Russians had infiltrated woods and villages everywhere, yet there was nothing to betray their presence. In the skies the enemy air force was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, just as Ofw. Rusack made out the town of Steinau and the river Oder in the distance, a string of tracers flitted through the air around the German fighters..."
II./JG 300 on the Eastern Front
"..Suddenly all hell broke loose. The terse order “jettison drop tanks!” came through the earphones, and in the second that followed, numerous pale blue auxiliary tanks went tumbling down into the void. Löfgen had just peeled away, bunting over to the right and was diving between the box of Flying Fortresses that had just gone past below us and the following box which was looming — menacingly — ever larger. I tightened my turn a little to keep close to our number one. I now kept my eyes fixed on him, which meant that I couldn’t watch what was happening around us. Then, exactly 1,500 meters ahead of us, I counted 25 B 17s. Despite being well out of range at this enormous distance, their gunners opened up. The sky was suddenly streaked with thousands of sparkling pearls. Or at least this is how the tracers appeared in the dazzling blue sky. I was instantly reminded of the games that we played as children in our garden and how my brother Helmut would love to try and turn the water hose on me! Thousands of bright, sparkling drops just seconds from sluicing down on me. But I could only throw the briefest of glances forward, forced to keep station on Löfgen’s wing, and anxious, above anything else, not to collide with him.Another order came over the radio: “Pauke, Pauke, auf sieee, Rabazanella!” I had to pick out a bomber immediately. I quickly switched on the gun sight and flicked off the armament safety switch..."
'Red 19' Uffz Ernst Schröder Sturmgruppe 5./JG 300
"..As I peeled away, my Focke-Wulf flew through a hail of rounds hosed out by one of the gunners. At least three rounds smashed into the cockpit; the first one slammed into the instrument panel showering me in splinters of glass and metal, the second was stopped by my parachute harness buckle and the third shattered my left knee. I heard several explosions and could see that the cockpit was filling with smoke. As it dissipated a little, I realized that my left knee had gone. My leg and foot had slipped back off the rudder bar and through the enormous tear in my leather flying suit, I saw the blood bubbling from a terrible wound..."
Red 8 'Pimpf' 5./JG 300 Matthäus Erhardt