Saturday, 19 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Hartmann's 300th on this blog here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'FalkeEins - The Luftwaffe blog' presents another blog exclusive  -albeit heavily copyright marked to deter the usual photo-thieves - this very rare image from the collection of JG 300 historian Jean-Yves Lorant.

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 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 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