Category Last Days of the Luftwaffe

Operations Over the Reich

Once the Luftwaffe staff had evaluated the experience of several test commandos, they decided to introduce the Me 262 and equip whole Geschwader with the aircraft. JG 7 was selected to receive the Me 262 A-la first. Eleven machines had arrived by the end of November 1944 following Kommando Nowotny being disbanded, and most completed aircraft were delivered there. Using previously – gained expertise it was relatively easy to get a Staffel of III./JG 7 operational, but the supply of new aircraft fell short of the numbers wanted by the Geschwader – by 10 January 1945 it had only 19 Me 262s.

During that period the first jets had been delivered to 1. and 3. Staffel of I./JG 7 at Kaltenkirchen. The commander of the incomplete Gruppe was Knight’s Cross holder Oberst Johannes Steinhoff. On 14 January the former

Operations Over the Reich
commander of I./JG 7, Major Theodor Weissenberger, took over from Steinhoff. In January 1945,1. Gruppe took charge of 15 and III. Gruppe of 11 Me 262s, from which it was calculated that JG 7 would not be at hill strength for at least two to three months.

On 8 February OKL redesignated IV./JG 54 as II./JG 7, and shortly afterwards I. Gruppe had 12 new jets while III. Gruppe was close to full strength. A few days later II./JG 7 began re-equipping with the new fighter. Whilst this re-formation of the Gruppen was under way, the possibility of combat had been rather thrust into the background. The immediate necessity was for pilots to undertake more training flights to gain experience with jet aircraft. Even so, some of the more experienced fliers obtained victories against Allied machines, amongst them Hauptmann Georg ‘Schorsch’ Eder, Oberleutnant Gunther Wegmann and Leutnant Rudolf‘Rudi’ Rademacher.

In the first major sortie on 21 February, 15 Me 262s of the Stabsstaffel and III. Gruppe engaged P-51 Mustangs of479th Fighter Group over Potsdam, but none of the various piston-aircraft aces obtained a shooting opportunity. Only gradually did the successes come. Almost daily in addition to the usual technical problems there were serious faults and pilot errors which caused fatalities amongst JG 7 airmen.

Подпись: This Me 262 A-la ofJG 7 flown by Oberfahnrich Mutke landed in Switzerland in April 1945.
In February 1945 JG 7 received a total of 42 Me 262s to replace losses and increase its complement. These were distributed 25 to I./JG 7,10 to II./JG 7 and 7 to III./JG 7. The Geschwader was thus still in the expansion phase at the beginning of March. Although the number of daily flights rose, Allied aircrews were not confronted by large jet formations. However, the new machine was soon carving its reputation amongst B-17 and В-24 bomber crews over Germany. The four 30 mm MK 108 cannon would bring down a heavy bomber with only a few hits, while a single hit from an R4M rocket would do the same. Rockets were carried below the wings in wooden racks. The first Staffel to be equipped with the R4M was 11./JG 7.

The first clash occurred on 18 March. The target was bombers heading for central Germany. In tussles with the escort fighters, the Geschwader lost several of its best pilots including Oak Leaves holder Oberleutnant Hans-Peter Waldmann and Oberleutnant Gunter Wegmann, the latter parachuting to safety although seriously wounded.

In the heavy air raids over Swabia and Bavaria on 22 March 1945,28 Me 262s were lost, a setback in the current war situation which could not be made good
quickly. In subsequent attacks by ‘fast fighters’, as they were termed in War Diary entries, against Eighth Air Force units, five jets were lost on 26 March. Four days later in an engagement over northern Germany, 36 Me 262 fighters from

III. /JG 7, some armed with the R4M rocket, scored successes. Instilled with confidence, on 31 March pilots of I. and III./JG 7 claimed to have destroyed 21 heavy bombers including 12 RAF Lancasters taking part in a daylight raid. In an action against all three divisions of Eighth Air Force on 1 April 1945, 32 Me 262s were involved. For the loss of only four of their own the German aircraft shot down 15 enemy aircraft. Successes were also reported by Me 262 pilots against a 300-strong bomber force heading by day for Hamburg.

Between 1 and 4 April, I./JG 7 was transferred from Kaltenkirchen to central Germany to give better cover over the remaining Reich territory. Although other Gruppen in the process of formation had litde flying training, their pilots hoped for the chance to fly operations soon. During April 1945 the expansion of

IV. Подпись: Me 262s marked with a white ‘S’were used exclusively in the training role and were unsuitable for combat.
/JG 7 had started, but proceeded only slowly and trickled to a halt by the end of the month. Nevertheless the victories obtained by operational pilots did increase. Between 2 and 6 April alone, JG 7 shot down at least 60 enemy aircraft, although at a high price: 146 pilots were either killed, wounded or landed by parachute sustaining injury. These men came principally from I. and III./JG 7.

Major Heinrich Ehrler of the Stabsstaffel rammed a B-17 after having gunned down two or three others. He claimed 201 victories in all and received the Oak Leaves, but fell in action over the Reich on 6 April 1945.

On 7 April 1945 there occurred the despairing Sonderkommando Elbe operation in the Magdeburg area when American bomber formations were attacked by 183 Rammjciger over the Steinhuder Meer; 77 pilots were lost in the ramming action, and only 50 aircraft returned. JG 7 flew escort and support,

I. /JG 7 shooting down several P-5 Is and B-24s over northern Germany. In all 28 victories were claimed by Me 262 pilots. On 10 April 25 jets scored five victories over the shrinking Reich. Near Magdeburg Oberleutnant Walter Schuck of III./JG 7 shot down three B-17s and rammed a fourth, landing safely by parachute. In this action the Geschwader lost seven pilots dead and two seriously wounded. Other aircraft were disabled but outflew their pursuers and landed safely. Over Saxony on 14 April Oberleutnant Fritz Stehle and Leutnant Rademacher had successes, the latter claiming three B-17s. Hits sustained during combat with the American bomber fleets decreased day by day the number of Me 262s operational. Since there were few replacements, in mid-April the

Geschwader was converted into a mixed fighting unit. On 19 April over Prague and environs it shot down at least six B-17s. Allied fighter groups including the 357th, 364th and 404th were on the scene very quickly and inflicted damage. On 25 April III./JG 7 alone claimed three B-17s as ‘definites’and another four as ‘probables’. Next day IV./JG 7 became IV.(Erg)/JG 7, absorbing important elements of the former EJG 2. Only in this way was the unit able to maintain a viable level of operational machines.

On 28 April most of the surviving Me 262 A-las of JG 7 grouped up with other jet units in the Prague area. Bohemia had meanwhile become one of the last regions outside the Reich still held by the Wehrmacht. The remnants of numerous Luftwaffe units had been driven there by the Allied advance. Amongst the pilots present was Oberleutnant Friedrich Schenk, originally with JG 300, who scored his eighth victory with an Me 262 on 1 May 1945 with III./JG 7. Despite the closeness to the cessation of hostilities, on 3 May JV 44 was redesignated IV./JG 7 and sent via Munich to Salzburg where its career ended in a meadow near Innsbruck.

In the Prague area pilots of the Hogeback battle unit had become embroiled in the ground fighting, using their Me 262 A-las and A-2s in an attempt to put down the Czech resistance movement and the people’s insurgency in Prague itself. These pilots also distinguished themselves on occasion in the air in repeated combats with Russian fighter-bombers such as the 11-2 Shturmovik, when their four MK 108s proved well able to deal with these armour-clads.

The KG( J)s, those bomber units selected for conversion to the fighter role, had also been equipped with the Me 262 A-la. The pilots had formerly flown bomber operations with Ju 88s or He Ills and been reassigned to fighters for shortage of fuel and lack of replacement aircraft. After conversion training with Fw 190 A-8 or Bf 109 G-10 fighters, instruction followed on Me 262s. The first of these KG(J) units was the former KG 54 which had attacked targets in England in early 1944 and then suffered heavy losses in the summer over Normandy. A new chapter in the Geschwader’s history began in early September 1944 when Me 262 A-lAs came in dribs and drabs from the production line. At the beginning of December 1944,1./KG 54 had ten Me 262s plus a few Fw 190 A-8s, F-8s and S-8s for pilot conversion training. Deliveries then began to pick up and numbers at I. Gruppe rose while III./KG 54 also received its first jet aircraft. The Geschwader Kommodore, Oberstleutnant Riedesel Freiherr zu Eisenbach, had his command office with the Geschwaderstab at Giebelstadt aerodrome where I. Gruppe under Major Otfried Sehrt and II. Gruppe were stationed. III./KG 54 was at Neuburg/Danube.

On 9 February 1945 16 Me 262 A-las of I. KG(J) 54 led by the Kommodore took off to intercept inbound Eighth AF bombers. Visibility was very poor with cloud at 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). Interception point was north-east of Frankfurt/

Main. Due to the cloud, the unit began to disperse and within minutes the defensive fire of the heavy bombers and attacks by P-5 ID Mustangs of 55th Fighter Group had claimed seven Me 262s. The Kommodore, I. Gruppe’s technical officer and adjutant failed to return: the Kommandeur of I./KG(J) 54 was seriously wounded. Three pilots baled out at the last moment. Unaccustomed fighter action thus resulted in a tragic end for the former bomber pilots.

Подпись: The successes of KG(J) 54 and similar bomber units with the Me 262 were modest in comparison to those of JG 7.
Conversion training and preparation for the coming battles in early 1945 continued at III./KG(J) 54 (Kommandeur Hauptmann Eduard Brogsitter). On 10 February 1945 the Gruppe could boast over thirty Me 262s as the result of new deliveries. Ground staff reported 90 per cent of these fit for operations. On 16 February 1945 Fifteenth Air Force operating from northern Italy attacked III. Gruppe s airfield at Neuburg/Danube. Several Me 262s were written off, and 16 suffered shrapnel damage. There were only light injuries amongst personnel. New machines were awaited, but by the beginning of March damage to the airfield had still not been repaired.

On 5 March 1945 I./KG(J) 54 concluded its Me 262 A-l training and was declared fully operational, the only Gruppe of the Geschwader to be so. On 18 March OKL ordered I. Gruppe and elements of the incompletely equipped

II. /KG(J) 54 to Zerbst in central Germany. On 19 March 125 Eighth Air Force bombers appeared over Neuburg but their aim this time was not so good, and

III. /KG(J) 54 survived until the attack by 366 B-24s on 21 March. Three days later another 271 Liberators arrived to finish the job. What was left of the infrastructure was transferred to Ganacker aerodrome between Straubing and Landau, the pilots being distributed between I./KG(J) 54, IIIVKG(J) 6 at Prague-Rusin and EKG(J) of IX Fliegerkorps at Pilsen (Plzen). Following another air raid on Neuburg the last airworthy Me 262s were flown to Ending near Munich.

I./KG(J) 54 flew its first operation from Zerbst over central Germany on 28 March 1945.Twenty-five Me 262s from III./JG 7 and KG(J) 54 attacked a 750- strong bomber stream despatched by Eighth Air Force. Ten bombers were shot down, most by JG 7 pilots. On 7 April 1945 I./KG(J) 54 pilots formed part of the fighter escort for the ram-fighters, taking off from airfields at Alt-Lonnewitz, Brandis and Zerbst.

On 9 April the Allies shot down or seriously damaged 17 of 21 Me 262s sent up by KG(J) 54. These losses could not be made good. The supply of new Me 262 jets had dried up, the last Me 262 A-l from the production line having been absorbed by KG(J) 54 on 20 February. Despite numerous losses in the first half of April, an average of 15 missions was being flown daily. During one of these on 10 April in bitter fighting with American aircraft, seven P-5 Is pursued Leutnant Jurgen Rossows Me 262 A-l of III./KG(J) 54: when he reduced speed for landing at Stendal they pounced. The aircraft was destroyed and Rossow seriously wounded. Other attacks on the jets ensued.

On 18 April III. Gruppe at Erding was attacked on the ground: on 1 May – without aircraft – the unit moved to Rinsting/Chiemsee. Four days later American tanks rolled in and took the greater part of the personnel prisoner. A few Me 262s of KG(J) 54 had reached Prague meanwhile and joined up with the Hogeback battle unit. On 8 May the last two airworthy Me 262s broke up while landing on pasture near Innsbruck. The unit, without aircraft, pulled back to Hallstadter See short of its intended destination, the airfield at Zeltweg.

Elements of III./EJG 2 flew fighter missions briefly from Lechfeld. From the autumn of 1944 the squadron served as a training unit for jet pilots under Major Werner Andres. On 17 January the unit had 14 Me 262 A-ls, 3 A-2s and 1 B-l plus 19 Bf 109s and Fw 190s, 20 Bf 110s and 4 He 219s. Between 5 February and 18 April the Gruppe received 27 Me 262 A-las. At the end of March the Kommandeur of III./EJG 2, Horst Geyer, was replaced by Oberstleutnant Heinz Bar, recently returned from the Eastern Front. Up to 19 April he obtained at least 18 victories with the Me 262, his last being on 28 April. Shortly before the war’s end it was proposed to incorporate III./EJG 2 into JG 7, while the ground staff were earmarked for I.(F)/100, a reconnaissance unit stationed within the Alpine Redoubt’.

Led by Generalmajor Adolf Galland, Jagdstaffel Galland was converted into JV 44, officially commissioned on 24 February. It received its first batch of 13 Me 262 A-Is and an Me 262 B-l with dual controls at the beginning of April. On 1 April 1945, JV 44 moved from Brandenburg to Munich-Riem, and a few days later had its first encounter over Bavaria. At that time, OKL was considering operating the unit from northern Italy, and had requested Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring to search out suitable airfields. The choice fell on Gallarate Malpensa and Lonate Possolo south-west of Lake Como, but the plan was dropped in the face of major problems of maintenance and transport from the replacement – engine shops.

On 18 April the first six Me 262 A-Is at Munich-Riem were at readiness for a defensive action over Bavaria: Oberst Steinhoff crashed on take-off and sustained severe burns. Next day JV 44 pilots used R4M rockets against enemy aircraft for the first time. After a lull of a few days, on 24 April the highly decorated fighter ace Oberst Giinther Liitzow failed to return from a mission near Donauworth. On 26 April the unit shot down five В-26 Marauders and a P-47; one Me 262 pilot had to bale out. Adolf Galland himself claimed a medium bomber, but while attacking a second B-26 was lightly wounded and finished the war recovering at Bad Wiessee/Tegernsee in a fighter-pilot convalescent home with one leg in plaster. Heinz Bar took over command and led JV 44 to the end. Meanwhile the tally of operational machines at JV 44 had risen to 40 Me 262s making it one of the strongest Me 262 units of the Luftwaffe in the final phase. IX. Fliegerkorps( J) accordingly ordered JV 44 to Prague. The instruction was then rescinded due to bad weather, and even the order to get the unit at least to Horsching/Linz was not executed.

On 1 May 1945 Major Wilhelm Herget’s Fi 156 landed unexpectedly at Schleissheim aerodrome north of Munich. It was in American hands, and he brought Generalmajor Galland s offer to surrender JV 44 to Brigadier General Menoher, Chief of Staff, US XV Corps. The American general accepted willingly. Herget returned with the unit adjutant – protected by American fighters – to Salzburg. It had been agreed that the 26 Me 262s would be divided into two groups and flown to Darmstadt and Giebelstadt respectively. As alternatives Major Herget nominated Leipheim and Schwabisch Hall, these being airfields held by the Americans. The plan to hand over the unit was delayed by bad weather and the limited fuel reserves at JV 44. On 2 May contact was severed abruptly after Major Herget’s Fi 156 was shot down in error and the Major hospitalised by the Americans, and thus the plan failed. On 3 May JV 44

Подпись: During the final phase of operations numerous Me 262 A-las were grounded for lack of spare parts and J-2 fuel.
(Salzburg) was renamed IV./JG 7 and ordered to Innsbruck provided the airfield could take the aircraft. From there they were to fly to Klagenfurt and Horsching/ Linz. Nothing came of this, for on the morning of 4 May the SS blew up all 25 serviceable Me 262s of JV 44; one which had suffered light damage after a heavy landing at Salzburg was later captured by the Americans.

Prague – The Last Station

Meanwhile it was not only the situation on the ground that was becoming more confused. On 27 April, Luftflotte 6 surprised JV 44 by ordering it to return all its Me 262s to KG 51 Edelweiss, after which KG 51 was to proceed forthwith to Prague-Rusin to strengthen IX Fliegerkorps. During the flight as many enemy positions as possible along the River Regen were to be attacked. After bad

Prague - The Last Station

Bombing-up an Me 262 A-l/bo. with two SC 250s.

weather held up the transfer, on 28 April Luftflotte 6 ordered JV 44 to fly escort for I./KG 51. Because a direct flight was ruled out, and a reserve supply of J-2 fuel existed at Horsching/Linz, a detour was arranged to Lower Austria to refuel. Once they reached Prague units of KG 51 under Hauptmann Abrahamczik were to assist in the defence of Berlin, and in particular carry out low-level attacks on the supply lines to the rear of the Soviet 3rd and 4th Guards Tank Armies.

On 30 April, seven Me 262s of I./KG 51 arrived at Horsching. Most of II./KG 51 had been overrun by US XX Corps near Straubing on 29 April and captured. On 1 May I./KG 51 headed for Prague where it was redesignated KG 51 Prague. Next morning Me 262 Blitzbomber units attacked Russian troops in the Berlin area for the first time. Targets at Bautzen, Hoyerswerda and Kamenz were also bombed. Several Me 262s were damaged by barrages of anti­aircraft fire. On 2 May, Luftflotte 6 ordered IX Fliegerkorps (J), to which KG 51 Prague was attached, to operate exclusively to the east, all attacks on the Western Allies requiring prior approval from above. However, on 5 April an uprising broke out in Prague leading to heavy fighting between the insurgents and units of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.

After the uprising began, KG 51 pilots attached to the newly formed Jabo unit Hogeback flew dangerous low-level missions, while some II./KG 51 pilots even joined in the house-to-house street fighting in Prague’s Jenco district. On the orders of the German city commandant, the jets were to drop containers of incendiaries. Amongst the most important targets was the area near Prague-

Stred central railway station. During a lull in the fighting on the night of 6 May, the insurgents erected more than 1,500 barricades in the streets. That same afternoon a Jabo unit destroyed Prague radio station, which had fallen into insurgent hands, with SD 250 and SD 500 bombs. Some of these fell in Wenceslaus Square.

Ground staff attempted to fight through to Pilsen with part of General Vlasov’s anti-communist Russian force. While General Vlasov was negotiating

Prague - The Last Station

The series-produced Me 262 A-2a Blitzbomber had a reduced armament of two MK 108s and was operated mainly by KG 51.

Подпись: To obtain better accuracy, two experimental Me 262s were converted to accommodate a prone bomb aimer in the nose.

to change sides, his troops surrounded Prague-Rusin airfield. On 7 May, Me 262 pilots then bombed the Vlasov units around their own airfield while German troops in Prague launched a massive counter-attack against the insurgents. II./KG 51 had arrived meanwhile at Eger (Saaz) and was serviced by JG 7 ground crews. Six Me 262s were bombed-up and flew to Prague where two were lost. The machine of Unteroffizier Pohling was shot down by insurgents over Prague old city, Leutnant Heinz Strothmann also lost his life when his badly damaged machine crashed during the return flight.

On 7 May, after Germany’s overall capitulation had been announced, the last four pilots taxied their machines to the runway at Saaz having been informed by Hauptmann Abrahamczik that on the orders of Luftflotte 6 all aircraft were to be delivered to the Western Allies to prevent the modern Me 262 jet bombers falling into Red Army hands. At 1430, Leutnant Wilhelm Batel flew his Me 262 A-2a from Saaz to Liineburg and landed in a field two miles from his family estate at Pomeissel. It was a wheels-up landing but he emerged unharmed. 2./KG 51 Staffelkapitan Hauptmann Abrahamczik and Oberleutnant Haeffner landed at Munich-Riem and surrendered their aircraft to US forces. The fourth pilot, Oberfahnrich Frohlich, touched down at Fassberg where RAF fliers invited him to join their victory celebrations. Two days later they captured him ‘officially’ and he went into a PoW camp.

From the summer of 1944 Edelweiss squadron received a total of 342 Me 262 A-l fighters, Me 262 A-la Jabos and Me 262 A-2a. This represented a third of

all delivered Me 262 production. Of these aircraft at least 88 were lost in action and another 146 to technical defects. The remainder were given to JG 7, KG(J) 54 and JV 44. Kommando Stamp at Oranienburg received five, three went to the air reconnaissance wing and one machine to KdE. Thus only four remained on 8 May.

In the estimation of OKL, the Me 262 A-l and A-2 Blitzbombers were litde suited to low-level attack against small ground targets because they had no proper bombsight. It was also very difficult at such high speeds to hit battlefield targets like lone tanks, locomotives and bridges, although it was rare for AA fire to hit a jet for the same reason.

Searchingfor Superior Ideas

At the end of 1944 it was clear that many promising projects were not yet ready for service. By the harshest work measures, including the construction of ever
more satellite camps and annexes of existing concentration camps, Himmler attempted to bring about a crucial change at the eleventh hour. Intensive efforts were made to produce fighter-bombers in which great hopes had been placed. The later Horten Go-229 A-l design was less a fighter-bomber than a promising cross between a fighter and a Jabo armed with two ETC 503s. The SS believed that this Kampfjager (‘battle fighter’) was in itself a powerful fighter by its speed and manoeuvrability, but the design was problematical for many. The ‘flying­wing’ (.Nurfliigel) was elegant but not easy to fly. The use of jet turbines and rejection of the traditional tailplane did not help the attitude of the Go-229 in flight, and the indifferent BMW and Jumo turbines of early 1945 would have kept the aircraft out of operations.

Подпись: The Horten Но IX V-2 was driven by two Jumo 004 В jet turbines and tested in February 1945 at Oranienburg near Berlin.
At the beginning of the war, Hans Multopp, who was working on the development of the Та 183 at Focke-Wulf, opposed the idea of flying-wing fast bombers because they were not capable of carrying heavy bomb-loads. A further objection to flying-wing fighters was that if one or both turbines failed the aircraft would immediately become uncontrollable. As well as the designs and constructions of the brothers Reimar and Walter Horten at Gotha, Arado, BMW

(Messerschmitt) and Focke-Wulf in particular produced numerous studies for all-weather fighters of this kind. None had any possibility of being realised towards the end because resources were exhausted.

Horten Но IX (Go-229)

The Kampjjager concept fitted the flying-wing designs of the Horten brothers. Their Но IX (Gotha Go 229) was a highly efficient machine intended to complement the Me 262 as the front-line fighter pairing from the beginning of 1945.

Подпись: The last flight of Leutnant Erwin Ziller with the Но IX V-2 on 18 February 1945 ended in tragedy when the machine crashed and he was killed.
During the 1930s the Horten brothers had experimented successfully with the construction of flying-wing type aircraft. The Go 229 was not a pure fighter but a ‘heavy fighter’. Development of the machine under the works specification Но IX proceeded initially at Luftwaffenkommando IX at Gottingen. The first prototype V-l received an RLM number and was reclassified as Ho 229 V-l. The second prototype Но IX V-2 had two Jumo 004B turbines. Test pilot Leutnant Erwin Ziller probably made a few flights with this machine before the ‘official’maiden flight on 2 February 1945. Shortly before landing on 18 February

a turbine failed and in the attempted emergency touchdown the aircraft hit the ground too fast and somersaulted, killing Ziller.

At the beginning of 1945 work began on prototypes V-3 to V-5 at Friedrichsroda near Gotha. As Horten did not have sufficient assembly capacity, the Chief-TLR ordered 20 machines, now designated Go 229 A-l, built at Gotha Waggonfabrik and at Klemm, Boblingen. Because of the shortage of reconnaissance jets, some of these 20 were to be produced as ‘attack reconnaissance’ aircraft (Gewaltaufklarer). The original armament of four MK 108s was reduced to two and two Rb 50/18 cameras installed for overlapping-frame photography. All later aircraft were to have four MK 103 fixed guns to free MK 108 production for the Me 262. When the US 9th Armored Division advanced on Gotha, it captured the almost complete Go 229 V-3 and the early-stage fuselages of the V-4 and V-5 similar to V-2, and V-6. V-3 was dismantled and shipped to the USA for testing.

Go 229 V-6 was the precursor of the series type A-l having a thicker profile with partially armoured cockpit and various weapon combinations. The common assumption that it was a two-seater is incorrect. Go 229 A-l was to be the Gotha series-built aircraft resembling the Но IX outwardly, but modified in nearly all

details by Gotha. On 4 April 1945 the Chief-TLR decided that apart from prototypes V-3 to V-5, prototypes V-6 to V-15 were to be built at Gotha before the series run started. Despite the war situation, it was still intended to turn out a series of 100 Go 229 A-Is, but based on the Gotha project P-60, from which the Chief-TLR expected a better performance, The P-60 was planned as a heavy fighter with two recumbent crew. The design continued into April 1945 because the Go 229 formed part of the Emergency Programme.

Leonidas Staff el, KG 200

The Leonidas Staffel or Kommando Lange, named after the Staffelkapitan of l./KG 200, Oberleutnant Karl-Heinz Lange, was comprised exclusively of volunteers so committed to the cause as to wish to offer their lives unconditionally. In view of the fact that in the long run the Allies could deploy not only more soldiers but more importantly far more fighting machines than the Wehrmacht, Lange had realised that the most effective and accurate weapons possible were required. This meant a manned glider bomb with rudimentary wings descending at a steep angle of 1 in 2 or 1 in 3. The pilot would be seated in a pressure cabin wearing oxygen apparatus. Watching through a small window of armoured glass, he would steer his machine for the objective. The piloted bomb would be brought near to the target by a bomber aircraft flying beyond the range of enemy anti-aircraft batteries.

On 31 July 1943 Oberleutnant Lange had discussed the project with Professor Georgii, leader of Goring s research division, and on 3 September 1943 he had a conversation with Oberst Oskar Dinort, who was fundamentally opposed to suicide operations and had been asked to form the Aerial Target Division. On 27 September 1943 Oberst Dietrich Peltz was reported to have spoken out positively on the ‘total mission and sent a memorandum to that effect to Luftwaffe Command. Three months later Lange was detached to Transport – kolonne ХЗ-Ost but continued to work on his idea. By 25 January 1944 when his proposal had become known to Goring and Generaloberst Lorzer, he had the names of 26 volunteers. At the beginning of February 1944 Lange had a chance to discuss his plan with Hanna Reitsch, and with her help he tried to win Hitler over to the idea of suicide operations.

Generalfeldmarschall Milch and most staff at OKL remained opposed and operations with the manned bomb were prohibited. The KG 200 Kommodore was also against it. However, on 3 February 1944 OKL ordered the formation of a suicide Staffel, for which 120 men had already volunteered. The unit had no motorised aircraft although several Grunau ‘Baby’gliders were available and training went ahead with the Stummelhabicht. On 10 March 1944 Oberst Heinrich Heigl, Kommodore of KG 200, argued that the pilot of a manned, disposable aircraft must be offered at least some small prospect of getting clear before impact.

In mid-February 1944 the volunteers were assessed to select those most suitable for the first operation, and on the 24th Gotha Waggonfabrik received the

contract to build the machines, but the preparations were wiped out by an air raid. Instead of major warships a new target had now begun to interest OKL. Suicide pilots could attack Soviet-held dams and power plants using gliders. Lange informed Heigl of his opposition to the idea on the grounds of the small quantity of explosives which a glider could transport.

The Kommodore had been in favour of using the Fw 190 F-8 with SD 1000s or PC 1400s, and Lange supported him, submitting a memorandum in May 1944 requesting that the children of dead suicide pilots should automatically receive a place at the Adolf Hitler School or one of the National Institutes (Napolas), and also have the opportunity to take part in the Bayreuth Festival or attend the Furtwangler concerts, to mention just a few of the benefits.

After the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 the military situation in Western Europe had deteriorated rapidly for Germany. When KG 200 was asked six days later if the suicide squad was ready with its Fw 190s, the answer was no because the volunteers had not been trained on motorised aircraft. On 15 June Fw 190 flight training was begun with JG 103 at Stolp and Parow. Fifteen to twenty circuits were to suffice! On 21 June the training was declared concluded

and the pilots returned to Dedelsdorf. Since attacks on the invasion fleet had to be made at dusk or at night, or on a blind approach through cloud, this was too much to ask of poorly trained suicide pilots, and they were now called for bombing training. When the men arrived at Rechlin on 26 June 1944 to practice releasing bombs in a 70-degree dive, they were told that they would have to share one Fw 190 F-8 between them, although a second was expected shortly. Bombing large warships was difficult and, despite the help of Travemiinde test centre only eight to ten bombs came near the target cross.

For the attacks against the south coast of England required by the Luftwaffe planners, 11 Fw 190 F-8s were available on 26 June but the standard of the pilots was poor. At the end of July 1944, however, Hanna Reitsch used Himmler’s office in an attempt to get Hitler to start the ball rolling, but the Fiihrer not only forbade the attacks but the entire piloted-bomb concept. Oberst Heigl was blamed for not having prepared the Fw 190 operation properly.

Подпись: These KG 200 pilots had the task of demolishing great bridges with SD 1000 bombs. In the end the few operations they flew hardly mattered.
Apparently, according to Robert Eck, five named members of the suicide Staffel at Rechlin-Larz were to be shown how to fly the manned V-l, and it had even been possible to arrange for five cubic metres of fuel per pupil for the

ramjet. Unfortunately the engines were still not reliable in the late summer of 1944 and the idea had to be postponed.

As the sworn declaration of commitment related to a ‘total mission with the manned bomb as proposed by Oberleutnant Lange, this left the ‘suicidees’ at liberty to refuse any other kind of dangerous mission. Later some of the Leonidas Staffel joined the KG 200 commandos. On 10 January 1945 Oberleutnant Lange was identified as a disruptive influence and transferred to a pilot training school at Braunschweig. The suicide pilots were absorbed into IV./KG 200.

Oberst Siegfried Knemeyer and Oberstleutnant Werner Baumbach both spoke out openly against suicide missions at the beginning of 1945, provoking a controversy with Generalmajor Walter Storp, General der Kampfflieger (Bombers), and the commander of II. Jagdkorps, Generalmajor Dietrich Peltz, who had been put up to it by Goring, and in January the two generals combined to use their influence to help gain acceptance for the kamikaze idea. Through Minister Speer, whom he knew well, Baumbach succeeded in getting Hitler to speak out against the ‘total mission. Leonidas Staffel at KG 200 was disbanded and the men referred to the Luftwaffe Personnel Bureau for new assignments. This brought to an end the efforts inspired by Lange to develop kamikaze tactics. At the end of March the volunteers comprised the SO (Selbstaufopferer-‘smci&z) Groups A and В at 1. Fliegerdivision under Generalmajor Robert Fuchs.

Fohn, Taifun and Other Developments

Shortly before the war ended the development of costly flak rockets such as Wasserfall had come to nothing. The last remaining hope was simple projectiles under construction which could be turned out in large numbers in various versions. These included the Fohn and Taifun. The latter was an unguided, arrow – shaped stabilised flak-rocket shell of 10-cm diameter. Easy to produce, it was propelled by either a solid-fuel or liquid-fuel motor and was stabilised by four tail fins. 1.98 metres (variant F) or 2.10 metres (variant P) in length (6 ft 6 in or 6 ft 11 in), the projectile could hit at 10,000 metres (33,000 ft) altitude. Salvoes of up to 48 rounds could be fired at a time from a multiple launcher on an 8.8-cm Flak 36 or 37 mounting. Taifun was an independent development of the Elektro – mechanische Werke (EW).

Development began at the beginning of 1944. On 14 September 1944 80 were ordered from EW and another 420 from Benteler Werke at Bielefeld. In October 1944, in order to speed up the development, the Taifun work-group was established. Problems with materials went hand in hand with a shortage of experienced specialists and technicians. The shortage of expert workers led in December 1944 to a postponement of the desperately needed ballistic testing for a month. The powerplant also caused concerns in the initial phase.

By January 1945 flight testing had shown that the projectile tender to wander about its axis if the start velocity was too slow, and as a remedy longer rails were introduced on the starting launch trailer. Structural changes also stopped Taifun rockets exploding on tests. On 13 January the first examples were fired with live warheads. Although these exploded satisfactorily when the clockwork stopped, the liquid-fuel rockets were widely dispersed. For simplicity of construction solid – fuel rockets seemed preferable, and the first test with a rocket of this kind was not long delayed, the first being fired at Torgelow and – according to visual observations – followed a good flight path. By the end of January, 11 Taifun F had been fired with good results, although in another test 6 of 20 exploded in mid-air without a reason being found. Constant problems hampered progress in the subsequent weeks, and by the end of March 1945 neither had the Taifun P made its test debut at the front nor had series production of the F version begun, even though both F and P were listed on the Fiihrer Emergency Programme.

Подпись: Towards the war’s end the Eberspacher company of Esslingen near Stuttgart manufactured this 48-chamber Fohn rocket launcher to combat low-flying aircraft. Therefore all-last minute efforts to series – produce the Taifun were in vain. By the war’s end only 100 rockets had been completed.

The only flak rocket ever used against enemy bombers was the primitive Fohn, which existed in numerous variations and had been subjected to some practical tests. A spin-stabilised Fohn projectile was tested experimentally in the armaments factory at Brno in October 1943. The intention was that salvoes of between 18 and 48 rockets would be used to bring down low-flying enemy aircraft. One month later the new Flak Emergency Programme foresaw the production of 1,000 Fohn by the end of April 1945, while construction of a multiple launcher, Fla-R-Werfer 44, for use against low-flying aircraft was also begun; 25 of these were scheduled for delivery by late October 1944.

The first projectiles built in November 1944 were used for evaluation purposes by Rheinmetall at the Unterliiss range. It was found that a five-man crew was sufficient. The first salvo of 5.5-cm rockets was fired at Wischau on 26 November 1944. The later series was of 7.3-cm calibre. In operational testing up to the end of 1944, 15,000 had been fire at enemy aircraft, but only one was shot down. In December 1944, 5,000 were fired in 70 salvoes at enemy machines at ranges between one kilometre and 1,500 metres, two hits being reported.

The principal drawback of the Fohn launcher was its short range of only 1,250 metres. At the beginning of 1945 the first of three experimental batteries from Flugabwehrschule (Flak-school) 2 were brought from Rerik on the Baltic to the Western Front. Flak-Lehr und Versuchsabteilung (Flak Instruction and Testing Unit) 900 commanded by Major Ehm was later composed of three batteries: I./900 railway flak on flat wagons, II./900 partially motorised, III./900 fixed localities and operational testing. On 28 February 1945,59 mobile 7.3-cm flak rocket launchers were available for training and operations, together with 24 permanent units mainly for training.

Подпись:At the beginning of February 1945, III./900, consisting of three companies with a total of 120 men under the command of Oberleutnant Karl-Heinz Peters, arrived in the Remagen area on detachment to the local Flakfuhrer for tactical purposes. Over the next few weeks the rocket battery engaged a number of enemy aircraft, particularly single-engined fighter bombers, without success. The unit had 21,000 projectiles and plentiful reserves but only a single 3-tonne lorry. III./900 at Remagen was split into two halves, one stationed on the west bank, the other on the east bank of the Rhine.

On 7 March, Allied units advanced into the area in strength to capture the bridge over the Rhine. That morning the battery crews on the west bank crossed to the east after having destroyed their rockets and the sight mechanism on the launcher. The batteries were abandoned because there were no towing vehicles available. Following this incident, a flying court-martial was set up by Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring on 10 March. Oberleutnant Peters was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad in a wood near Rimbach on the 13th. Generalmajor Adolf Erhard, Commander 7. Flakdivision, committed suicide in protest against the sentence on the 14th. Whether there were any engagements involving the use of the launcher on the east bank is unknown.

Another interesting weapon was the HASAG Fliegerfaust in which the Riistungsstab had set great hopes in the spring of 1945. The Fliegerfaust was a simply produced but powerful weapon which enabled the individual infantryman on the battlefield to defend himself against low-flying aircraft. It was made up of nine 2-cm barrels and could be used against aerial targets at a range of 500

Fohn, Taifun and Other Developments

Fliegerfaust A and В were designed for the protection of ground troops on the battlefield. Trials were begun under operational conditions but not completed.

metres. The first version appeared on 15 December 1944. Almost ready by the end of the year, 10,000 weapons and 4 million rounds were expected in January. A problem preventing the early introduction of the Fliegerfaust was vibration after firing. On 21 January 1945 the first hundred of the pre-series were ready. Problems with ammunition included difficulties in manufacturing machinery to produce porcelain nozzles for the rounds. On 4 February the weapon was designated ‘FF I and IT. According to Oberleutnant Jorg Muller when in US Third Army captivity, in mid-March there was a short test period at Saar – briicken. The large number of FF required could not be met.

The claim attributed to Hermann Goring ‘The technology must obey me!’ showed how litde the Luftwaffe leadership understood the development of new weapons. They designed numerous, basically futuristic, flak rockets and other very good ideas, but the general situation ensured that these were only available at best as examples.

Production Problems

The first Me 262 A-la series aircraft were built for test purposes at the Messerschmitt Works, Augsburg Haunstetten, from March 1944. Five prototypes had been constructed first, Me 262 S-l to S-5, and then S-6 to S-10 and the first Me 262 A-las at Leipheim. As assembly there was threatened by air attack, a large complex was set up in woods at Horgau. These were large, well camouflaged hangars, screened by numerous trees, and in a short time the production lines were running smoothly, as was also the case for the final assembly at Hasenbiihl near Schwabisch Hall. By the end of July 1944, 99 completed Me 262s had been turned out.

The Jagerstab conference of 22 July 1944 ordered that production must be accelerated in order to fulfill more of the Luftwaffe requirement. More factories

were erected such as the Donau Moorkultur AG at Neuburg/Danube or REIMAG at Kahla. A gigantic underground production facility was set up in the nearby Walpersberg in 1944. On the ridge of the mountain was an airstrip accessible by a precipitous cable-lift from the mountain flank. A new assembly centre for parts was built in Brandenburg-Briest by November 1944 while production and assembly shops sprang up at Berlin Staaken, Wenzdorf/ Hamburg, Eger/Bohemia, at Memmingen and Kitzingen. The most brutal methods were employed to construct the gigantic production bunkers at Kaufering and Gusen in record time using innumerable concentration camp inmates. Regardless of the countless casualties, by 31 December 1944 568 Me 262 A-ls and A-2s had been turned out. Because of numerous breakdowns and losses during transfers to the front-line units, only a limited proportion arrived. Meanwhile failures in the electricity supply and problems with turbines and the shortage of parts began to show how threadbare things were becoming due to the incessant air raids. Little changed before the spring of 1945, and thus the dream of having several fighter Geschwader equipped with the jet by March

evaporated. Only at JG 7, KG(J) 54 and Blitzbomber Geschwader KG 51 were Me 262s present in numbers. In January 1945 the QM-General had 108 machines to distribute. Besides 15 for I./JG 7 and 11 for III./JG 7, 36 went to EKG(J), 2 to III./KG(J) 6, 6 to III./KG(J) 54, 3 to the Welter night-fighter commando and 8 to industrial protection flights (ISS 1 and 2).

Deliveries of the Me 262 A-la rose, but not to the levels hoped for. Only 155 aircraft became available for distribution in February. Of these, I. and II. Gruppen at JG 7 received 42, while KG(J) 54 acquired 58. One machine went to JV 44 and another to ferry Geschwader FIUG 1. In March 1945 JG 7 received about 75 new Me 262s and JV 44 ten. The other units had to make do with repairs.

Finally 85 Me 262 A-la training machines remained to be distributed. Besides ten apportioned to III./EJG 2, II./KG(J) 54 got 6, FIUG 1 and JV 44 had two each, Chief-TLR and III./JG 7 received one each. The remaining three were listed for II./EKG 1.

In April 1945 JG 7 and JV 44 took receipt of more than 50 Me 262s, but these were too few to equip all four Gruppen at JG 7. With the termination of
all work on the Bf 109, Fw 190 and Do 335 on 22 March 1945, Me 262 production was forced to the forefront. On Hitler’s order, all production, excepting the Ar 234 jet bomber, was now to be concentrated in the fighter sector. As a result of the war situation, the instruction was only met to a limited extent as work at Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf on piston-engined fighters had to be completed before winding down, which would last several weeks. A statistical document issued by OKL shows delivery of all versions of the Me 262 from Blitxbomber% to fighters, reconnaissance aircraft and night fighters as at 10 April 1945:

JG 7




KG 51


JV 44


KG(J) 54






Testing, industry and research


Short-range reconnaissance Gruppen I and VI


This was how at least 1,049 Me 262 A-ls, A-2s, B-ls and B-2s were distributed within the Luftwaffe. At the war’s end another 400 Me 262s were either ready for delivery, or virtually complete but lacking parts necessary for operational readiness. A further 500 were at a more or less advanced stage of construction. The shortage of engines, radio/radar equipment and increasingly MK 108 guns was making itself felt. J-2 fuel for delivery flights was also critical. The production of smaller jet fighters with a more powerful HeS 011 A-l jet turbine was therefore seen as a rational alternative to the Me 262 A-la.

New Ideas and Designs

Besides the inadequate numbers of Blitzbombers, much lighter machines were designed. In the long run dwindling supplies of materials prevented the mass production of machines such as the Me 262. What was needed was a far cheaper solution which could be made operational in large numbers. OKL was thinking here principally of small, nimble aircraft which would be difficult for enemy AA defences, fighter pilots and air gunners to sight. Quite a few ideas were thus in the wind at the end of 1944. Mass producing mixed construction He 132s and giving the Junkers EF 126 its chance were proposals which accompanied thoughts of using the He 162 as a Jabo or arming the future Та 183 with bomb containers. No stone was to be left unturned.

Henschel Hs 132

Without doubt the Hs 132, a new kind of one-man bomber powered by a BMW 003-1 (Hs 132A), Jumo 004 B-2 (Hs 132B) or the far more powerful HeS Oil A-l (Hs 132C), was amongst the most advanced designs at the beginning of 1945. Of mixed materials, the planned machine would have carried the pilot in the prone position and protected by a massive 75-mm armoured glass plate direcdy before him. The pilot s tub was well armoured against hits from below, and could be lowered to enable him to enter and leave the machine comfortably once on the ground. If necessary the pilot had space to bale out through the tub opening. In the course of a wheels-up landing only a relatively small escape hatch on the upper side of the cabin was available, a less favourable option.

In order to reduce Hs 132 production costs, only the fuselage was to be built using expensive light metals. The wings were to be steel or wood. Main armament was to be two MG 15 l/15s with 250 rounds each. A 500-kg bomb could be carried easily below the fuselage. In action as a Jabo against less well – armoured targets two 50-kg bombs in disposable containers could be mounted outboard. If an HeS 011 powerplant had been available, the fixed weaponry would have been four MG 151s and a bomb of up to 1,000 kg. The use of

New Ideas and Designs

General arrangement drawing of the Hs 132 A-l. Its planned series production was abandoned as the end neared.

Panzerblitz rockets fired from simple wooden racks was also considered. The development of the Hs 132 began as project study HsP 123 in the summer of 1943. At the beginning of April 1944 a full-scale mock-up of the proposed short- range aircraft was inspected closely by RLM and KdE representatives. At the end of August it was decided that the aircraft should be used as a Jabo.

By November 1944 the fuselage of the first test aircraft was almost complete, and the wind-tunnel studies were carried out at Gottingen aerodynamic test institute (AVA) using a one-sixth scale model. These tests showed that the planned aircraft, at least in its original form, would be nose-heavy, and a prone pilot would probably have had no chance of escaping his narrow cabin in the event of an emergency. Work on the first experimental aircraft was under way by the end of 1944, and the first of these, Hs 132 M-l, was scheduled for testing at Schonefeld in March. After the Henschel design bureau was transferred to Silesia, and the wing/tailpane factory in Saxony damaged by bombing, series production became less likely, and in the spring of 1945 testing was postponed indefinitely.

The Red Army impounded the partially complete but lightly damaged fuselage of Hs 132 Ml at Berlin Schonefeld. As neither the Heinkel turbines nor the wings from Dresden ever arrived because the factories had been captured, the prototype remained a wingless fuselage, as did two other specimens at the Berlin manufacturer. In July 1946 these were discovered in a cellar in their component parts and packed in cases. The fuselage of the third prototype, complete but for wooden wings and tailplane, made the best impression on Russian engineers. Hs 132 M-3 was shipped off to the Soviet Union where its subsequent fate, and that of the other parts, is unknown. Possibly they were scrapped at the end of the 1940s. A similar fate was met by the other light jet, Ju EF 126, due to join the Luftwaffe ranks in the summer of 1945. It was simpler than the Hs 132, and was therefore even more suitable for mass production.

The Go-229 in SS Hands

Towards the end of 1943, the SS-RSHA (Reich Main Security Office) began to document all imaginable command structure weakness in the Luftwaffe and aviation industry. Obergruppenfiihrer Kaltenbrunner’s enquiries eventually produced two comprehensive dossiers which concluded, as had been hoped, that ‘the Luftwaffe has lost quantitative and qualitative superiority in the air on account of incorrect measures taken by the RLM.’Most responsible officers at

the SS-RSHA were secretly convinced that only the SS could bring about a favourable change in the air war, only the SS (as they saw it) had the necessary brutality and commitment to score important victories in the shortest time frame. In the summer of 1944 SS-Standartenfuhrer Dr Martin Brustmann, a veteran in aviation affairs, began advocating an ‘SS air arm’. Under SS auspices, extremely fast flying-wing aircraft would be built as soon as possible in factories both above and below ground. In view of the shortage of raw materials SS-WHA had to accept substitutes: steel plating for aluminium, and in particular wood for high performance machines. SS-Obergruppenfiihrer Hans Jiittner, whom Himmler had appointed Deputy Chief of Army Armaments on 21 July 1944, was considered the man to take over air armaments for the SS. He enlisted the cooperation of SS-Hauptsturmfiihrer Kurt May, whose furniture factory at Tamm near Stuttgart would initially produce 12 Ho IXs. It seems that the idea must have been to check its development potential as a fighter. The first 12 would be trainers. After Himmler approved the project, Jiittner started producing the

Ho III, but progress was slow because May was increasingly involved in procuring wood for He 162 production and was in charge of the Stuttgart – Esslingen assembly region for Volksjager wooden parts. Work on the Ho III remained below manufacturing targets and at the beginning of 1945 the Horten design dropped out of the picture.

Подпись: This design with six jet turbines was far more efficient than the piston-engined version illustrated opposite.
After Kammler was appointed to head all development, testing and completion of jet aircraft on 27 March 1945, he found he was unable to achieve miracles. Even though all Horten designs being worked on now received greater impetus than before, nothing came of hopes that the Но IX could regain air superiority. Despite the SS s determination to set up a fanatical SS air corps, there was no progress, not even with recruitment. SS losses on all fronts were so high that ensigns commanded companies. Assembling sufficient men suitable for training as fighter pilots was impossible, and even the omnipotent SS service centres were frustrated in their self-appointed task of bringing air armaments under SS control. Nevertheless, in apparent ignorance of how the war was going, at conferences involving the Riistungsstab and Chief-TLR, almost utopian ideas and projects continued to be discussed.

The Go-229 in SS Hands
Messerschmitt and Junkers both designed powerful jet bombers in the flying-wing configuration. The Me P 1108, for example, would have been capable of carrying four SC 1800 bombs over long distances.

Operation Freiheit – Flight to Death

Once the situation on the Eastern Front had become completely hopeless during April 1945, volunteers for suicide operations – more committed than ever before – made themselves available. Every effort now seemed justified if only to buy a few more days. Whether this might allow time for the ‘Miracle Weapon to be ready was irrelevant. Towards the end of January 1945 when the Red Army had reached the Oder, the Luftwaffe had been told to ‘exhaust every means’ to halt the enemy advance. When the offensive against Berlin began on 16 April 1945, the German pilots took off on previously planned missions against bridge targets.

For this purpose ‘suicide squads’ stood ready at the Altes Lager airfield Magdeburg and on other airfields near Jiiterbog in mid-April 1945. About 40 volunteers with varied operational experience and flying knowledge had gathered there and in the face of the Russian offensive were ready to do and die. Generalmajor Fuchs gave SO Group A their orders on the evening of 15 April after briefly explaining the general situation. In the late afternoon of the next day, pilots of III./JG 3 flying Bf 109 F, G and К fighters led the way east for the suicide squad. The SO Group machines were each armed with a 500-kg bomb. Since there were too few single-engined machines available for all pilots, those without an aircraft were transferred to SO Group B. The objectives were the pontoon bridges over the Oder at Kiistrin and Frankfurt. Young officers and

NCOs dived their aircraft into the targets. The pilots of the escort machines saw impact explosions. These ‘total missions’, as described later in the War Diary, resulted in numerous hits on the bridges, air reconnaissance reporting an 80- metre long gap between sections in one of them.

On 19 April 1945 a total of 36 ‘SO’ single-engine machines took off for the Oder. A number of volunteers fell victim to Soviet fighters or anti-aircraft fire. Because of the prevailing weather conditions and smoke screening the bridges, three pilots could not find the target and returned to base. That night the Luftwaffe Command Staff put a stop to the operations. Since pontoon bridges could be repaired or replaced almost overnight, supply lines to the Red Army forward units were not seriously affected. The operations and their toll in Luftwaffe dead had little effect on events.

The Red Army was now advancing on a broad front from Cottbus towards Berlin and reached the Jiiterbog area on 24 April. The last 13 pilots of SO Groups A and В received orders by telex to transfer to II./SG 2 Immelmann which remained in action under Oberst Rudel to the end. Most men got through to the airfield at Kummer am See in Bohemia and reported to their new unit. Their operations lasted until 7 May.

The concurrent attacks of the Mistel combinations of II./LG 1 resulted mosdy in near misses, the immense groupings of Russian anti-aircraft batteries around the bridges preventing accurate bomb-aiming.

Pilots of anti-tank special Staffeln also apparently participated in what amounted to suicide actions. Many committed themselves to especially risky missions by a simple handshake. Some of the Вії 181 aircraft at Magdeburg were converted into makeshift bombers by removing the right-hand seat, cutting a hole in the fuselage with saw and shears and inserting a tube to hold a 50-kg bomb. Six of the 14 mosdy young pilots who took off on 20 April 1945 failed to return: Leutnant Schwarzer, Fahnriche (Ensigns) Bethe, Hauber and Fleisch – mann, Unteroffiziere Kleemann and Scholl. Some of the Bii 181s from Magdeburg carried two 50-kg bombs, and the pilots dived into the target to ensure that they exploded simultaneously. No further details are known.

Night Fighters?


owards the end of the 1944, the German night-fighter arm was in crisis.

The efficient He 219 had not been introduced in numbers. Problems also persisted with on-board radar. From 1945 some units could expect to receive more high performance piston aircraft, or Me 262 and Ar 234 jets. Well – equipped night- and all-weather fighters were already under construction, but few thought the time would come when they would be flown.


Ever larger formations of RAF night bombers over the Reich in 1944 had asked a lot of the night-fighter arm. The Bf 110 and Do 217, and increasingly the Ju 88 G-l and G-6 were too slow and their radar equipment inadequate. The German

Night Fighters?

The increasingly heavy air attacks of the RAF and American bomber fleets forced Germany constantly to increase flak artillery.

Подпись: **v

Night Fighters?

command centres, and individual crews, knew how susceptible the radar was to chaff and powerful jamming techniques at which the enemy excelled. Even the most modern versions of the once highly praised FuG 220 Lichtenstein were experiencing interference across the wavebands. Since Allied equipment used centimetric frequencies, all later Ju 88 G-6 night fighters were equipped with an FuG 350Zb to detect this range and so obtain advance warning of the arrival of enemy bombers.

The workshops of Deutsche Lufthansa also handled assembly work of the Wurzburg radar during the war.

Night Fighters?The real improvement occurred at the end of 1944 when, after a long and technically difficult phase of research and testing, the first centimetric sets began to filter through to operational units. These were modern 9-cm FuG 240 and FuG 244 radars. Their disguised parabola aerial was fitted alongside the conspicuously long aerials of the SN-2 unit at the nose. The bearing of the target was indicated by a tube on the FuG 240/1 Berlin N1 using a frequency around 3,500 MHz with a maximum range of 9,000 metres; 25 of the order for 100 of these Telefunken devices were delivered by the end of March 1945 and ten installed in Ju 88 G-6s of III./NJG 2 operating from Giitersloh. The unit had a working range of 5,000 metres down to 350 metres, and produced more precise data than the SN-2. The FuG 240/2 was similar to the Berlin N1 but had an improved panoramic screen showing successive sectors. Two different variants, Berlin D1 and D2, were under development, their frequencies ranging from 8,350 to 9,400 MHz.

The N2 and N3 centimetric-waveband equipment never left the laboratories and FuG 240/4 Berlin N4 was produced in 1945 as a contact keeper for wide-ranging night operations or long-distance chases. FuG 244 Bremen 0 had a powerful beam transmitter for the longer ranges to be expected in future. The equipment was fighter and more compact than the Berlin series and was scheduled to replace SN-2 radar within a few months, but a reported problem was masking of the field by the tailplane and wings. The single set of 100 ordered was at Diepensee under test early in April 1945.

Relatively few Ju 88 G-6s were fitted experimentally with Berlin N1 radar from the end of 1944 for operations over northern Germany. Their use contributed to ten RAF aircraft shot down by the end of March 1945. A few
others from the Gruppenstabe at I. and II./NJG 4 also carried the FuG 240. This provided the Luftwaffe with an on-board radar of equal value to Allied developments in the night-fighter sphere, supplemented by a system of field observers, air reconnaissance and radar.