Category Last Days of the Luftwaffe

On the Road to the Abyss


he coming collapse of the Luftwaffe could be seen relatively early, although at the highest level, in particular for Reichsmarschall Goring, this was not accepted. After the disaster at Stalingrad, the overall war situation deteriorated and with it the general situation for the Luftwaffe. Offensive capacity declined as a result of the heavy losses over the Eastern Front and the aircrew losses sustained during the attempts to supply encircled troop conglomerations. During the fighting in the East and Italy, the Allies found it increasingly easy to win territory and so force the Wehrmacht completely to the defensive.

From the summer of 1943, the US Eighth Air Force demonstrated that the Allies could successfully attack important ground targets everywhere in Europe with high precision even by day and in unprecedented numbers. RAF four- engined bombers attacked one major German city after another, mosdy by night, their purpose being to demoralise the German people, particularly the labour force, and bring about the greatest possible war weariness in the medium term.

The increased use of long-range escort fighters and ever better protected four – engined bombers such as the B-17 and B-24 was decisive for the course of the air war. In this way the Allies forced the squadrons of the once ‘invincible’ Luftwaffe step by step onto the defensive, even over Reich home territory. The fire storm at Hamburg showed the Luftwaffe leadership the strength of the enemy against which it was pitted, and more and more towns disintegrated into ash and rubble. The beginning of the end had been reached.

As 1944 dawned, large enemy bomber formations were attacking the production centres of the German aviation industry even by day. Heavy bomb- loads were dropped on shipyards, power stations and above all fuel refineries so important for a war effort in which all had been wagered on mechanisation. Nevertheless the number of completed fighters still rose noticeably. The monthly increase in production from 1,000 to 3,000 single-engined machines was intended eventually to force the Western Allies to abandon their bombing policy.

Aircraft Production Programmes 223 and 224 had this aim but increased production of fighters was not possible at once. One difficult problem was the

Подпись: The Ju 88 S and T, here aT-3 reconnaissance version with exhaust flame dampers, were no match for Allied fighters from the autumn of 1944.

shortage of aluminium and other necessary raw materials for aircraft manufacture. Fuel production and the adequate training of aircrews also declined from 1944. The decrease in training flights was proportional to the lack of operational successes experienced later. An infrastructure disintegrating under constant bombing and a gradual flattening out of fuel production provided little prospect of cheer from mid-1944. Lines of communication, particularly the railways, were the constant target of air raids and low-level attacks, while attacks on inland shipping and other traffic, especially in the West, ensured delays to raw materials and other supplies.

Operation Steinbock, the resumption of the bombing offensive in the West, proved little more than a flash in the pan over England. In comparison, the ever­growing enemy air forces were so superior that they could strike with great precision wherever and whenever they chose. On account of the shortened training schedules, losses during tactical training rose. This was partly due to the lack of flying instructors and training aircraft with dual controls. In the summer of 1944 the training period of Luftwaffe fighter pilots was only 35 per cent of

its former length, and the training units also faced severe shortages of fuel. Pilots newly operational were often referred to as ‘three-day wonders’ by veterans because so many failed to survive their first sorties.

The massive delays which occurred before the large-scale introduction of jets, and the numerous related technical hitches, spawned serious doubts in the possibility of final victory. The advent of a miracle weapon was a factor even amongst a section of the Reich government which provided hope for a favourable change in the situation, and became important in evaluating the military situation to the very end.

Heavy Fighters and Destroyers

A final attempt to realise an all-weather jet aircraft besides the Me 262 was made at the beginning of January 1945. Apart from the 1 TL aircraft already mentioned, of which many designs exist, for the first times guidelines were established for an equally powerful 2 TL fighter.

On 27 January Chief-TLR issued his first instruction for the planning of such an aircraft. By early February the decisive specification for the later development, worked out with members of the EH К Flugzeuge, were notified to individual manufacturers. The result was to be a heavy fighter and destroyer armed with at least four, or if possible six MK 108s, and 160 rounds per gun. The fixed, forward­facing weapons were to be housed in a sealed turret. In place of the MK 108, the installation of up to six MG 213s was considered, of which four would have been located in the turret, but this was reduced to two to save weight. Two 30 mm MK 108s were planned as upward-firing weapons. This powerful armament was to be supplemented by a trainable gun firing to the rear. All machine guns had extremely efficient automatic aiming devices. This was extremely important because OKL proposed to deploy the heavy fighter, and the fighter-bomber version, in all weathers and at night. The installation of two HeS Oil A-ls or TLR engines would make the machine into a long-distance fighter with a fast rate of climb.

The turbine-rocket combination would climb steeply to the ceiling of 10,000 metres (33,000 ft) with good endurance at that altitude. Propulsion and an offensive radar system with automatic solution finding were to be situated forward and a target-finder in the rear was to be used to detect attacking enemy aircraft. The most important elements were to be well armoured and resistant to 20-mm hits; 4,500 litres (1,200 Imp gal) of fuel was to be carried. Wing loading worked out at 300 kg/sq. metre (7,100 lb/sq. ft). Speed was to be at least 1,000 km/hr (620 mph), adequate for engaging all known enemy aircraft.

Focke-Wulf, especially from 1944 onward, developed numerous studies for a two-seat heavy fighter with up to three turbines. Starting from the ‘two- propulsion system TL fighter with the HeS Oil’of 23 November 1944, various studies were completed by the end of the year. Their aim was an all-weather night fighter with two HeS 011 turbines. At the conclusion Focke-Wulf could put forward five different designs, the last being completed on 19 March 1945. The almost 20-tonne aircraft with three HeS 011 turbines could operate at 14,000 metres at a top speed of 900 km/hr (46,000 ft; 560 mph).

Dornier had also given thought to a multi-engined heavy all-weather fighter with mixed plant such as As 413 with Jumo 222 C and D, or two DB 603N and two BMW 003. This kind of thinking was too cosdy to build having regard to the war situation, and for this reason Dornier went over to a three-seater operational aircraft with two HeS Oils. Even then, none of the designs was possible at that time. Nevertheless EH К was still duty-bound – with the greatest optimism – to announce that it would soon be possible to turn out 100 2 TL fighters monthly. On 9 March 1945 OKL completed its previous specifications for the 2 TL project, now known by its final designation ‘2 TL All-Weather and Night Fighter’. Besides improved oblique armament the

Подпись: From 1944 Focke-Wulf designed a number of heavy night- and bad weather fighters with combined jet/high-performance piston engine propulsion.
machine would have a tactical brake (a special flap designed to reduce flight speed rapidly) from the start. On 2 April the equipment for the later operational aircraft was debated at Bad Eilsen. Although nobody knew where the next tank of fuel would be coming from, EH К was now considering even more complicated additions such as blind-firing processes and other advanced electronics for the concept. Discussions included a four-turbine long-range bomber to replace the Ju 287.

On 12 April 1945 all work on the new fighter was given up. There had been no possibility of the project being realised; the only result was to offer the victorious powers plenty of opportunity to catch up to the level of development achieved by the German aircraft industry.

The Baptism of Fire

The heavy Luftwaffe losses led to ever younger pilots filling the gaps in the ranks. Both the NSFK and the Hitler Youth could not remain inactive. New operational pilots, especially for the He 162, were to be trained at the Reich Glider School at Trebbin, and also at Laucha and Brno from the end of January 1945. At all three aerodromes, training was arranged for the Me 163 and other types kept secret from the novices, perhaps the Natter.

The ‘total mission had been rejected by Hitler in principle, but from the beginning of the year had numerous advocates, amongst them the famous female aviator Hanna Reitsch. What the young candidates were actually being trained for seems to have been a mystery to all involved. Ever greater importance, as was obvious, was being attached to the He 162. A whole Geschwader was to be equipped with it. The idea of giving the second formation the name HitlerJugend was received with enthusiasm in the ranks of the boyish heroes and their promoters. It was necessary to press ahead as soon as possible but as neither the required infrastructure nor airworthy He 162s were available for the planned training, instruction tended to be mainly theoretical.

From the end of November 1944 therefore, life was breathed into Recruitment Group Oesau by accepting volunteers born in 1928 for training in theory at Luftkriegsschule 1, Dresden-Klotzsche, from where they would be drafted to Oschatz in central Germany for continuation training as fighter pilots. A training company and supply unit were set up from the various recruitment groups. In February 1945 Kompanie Oesau was spread between Celle and a holding camp at Goslau instead of Dresden. This was a unit whose personnel were to be used as ‘fighter pilots recruited for special purposes’ and then – depending how things turned out – as infantry. Once aviator training was dissolved, many of the pilots went to recendy formed anti-tank commandos.

Most of the barely 17- or 18-year-old pilots still believed, on the basis of assurances given by their superiors, that there would be a chance to fly the Natter, over which the SS had great influence, or the Volksjager if things changed. Behind the scenes the power struggle between the Party (that is the SS, NSFK and Hider Youth) and the Luftwaffe raged on. The Reich Youth leader attempted to shrug off NSFK influence by making a deal with the SS. Meanwhile Himmler had accepted the Natter, successfully test flown by Oberstleutnant Siegfried Knemeyer, despite Luftwaffe objections that it was included in their projects classified as ‘manned flak rockets’. The machine was a ‘disposable’ unit from which the pilot would bale out after firing his Fohn rockets. The idea of a ‘Luftwaffe Suicide Division’, openly proposed by Generalmajor Walter Storp during his stint as General der Flieger to 31 January 1945, also found a reception at the RLM. Most at OKL, and Hider himself, were opposed to suicide missions of all kinds, but could not always prevent them, although they remained few.

As development of the Natter and other aircraft needed time, the NSFK attempted to conjure up at least a couple of He 162s. In mid-February 1945 work had barely begun on the first two planned training machines with an engine. The He 162 training glider built by the NSFK at Dresden was flight- tested for the first time at Trebbin on 1 March 1945. In the provisional judgement of veteran airmen the aircraft was unsuitable for Hitler Youth pilots, being so unstable that the planned run of prototypes had to be halted while attempts were made to improve the design. Time was lacking in which to turn out a useful glider tug after production centres in the Erzgebirge came under threat from the Red Army sooner than expected.

Besides the single-seater with normal surfaces (as a glider), work on a two-seat trainer with greater wing surfaces began. The fourth variant in preparation at the beginning of 1945 was a two-seater with BMW 003 E-l turbine at DLH Oranienburg. Due to under-capacity the prototype engine for the two planned experimental machines was never completed at Heinkel-Siid Heidfeld/Vienna, as was the case with all other mixed-construction He 162 trainers. In the end, none left the works. So long as it remained possible, training and instruction was given in the hangars, but youthful dreams of the aviator’s life now faced an imminent end.

On 19 March training for fighter pilot recruitment in Bohemia was abandoned upon the approach of the Red Army, and as a result the NSFK agreed with OKL to concentrate practical flying training mainly in central Germany. After even the meagre requirements for two geographically separate training institutions could no longer be met, the best candidates from each of the three

The Baptism of Fire

At least one Grunau Baby glider was fitted experimentally with a cockpit in which the pilot could fly the machine in the prone position.

schools were assembled at Trebbin. The Reich Glider School belonged to 4. Group NSFK Berlin/Mark Brandenburg. In comparison to the unit at Brno, the school was relatively well equipped at the beginning of 1945.The last course began at the end of March, some of the trainees having been transferred in from Laucha and Brno.

According to the diary entry of instructor Georg Cordt, in the second half of March there was at least one He 162 training aircraft in its component parts in one of the hangars at Trebbin. On 26 March construction of the machines began and two days later several flying instructors attached to the course for ‘Fighter Pilot Recruitment for Special Purposes’ made at least seven flights in the unpowered school glider, an especially powerful winch being used for the take­offs. On 29 March an aircraft was used as a tug. On 8 April the famous aviator Hanna Reitsch arrived unannounced in her Bii 131 and flew for the first and probably only time over Trebbin airfield in the He 162 S. Meanwhile motorised training flights at the Reich Glider School had been ordered severely restricted. Constant air alarms made any useful work on the ground or in the air extremely difficult and although some flying was done it could not be called very useful.

From 15 April flying routine gave way to Panzerfaust training. This involved firing the weapon at a wooden mock-up of a T-34 and at targets set up in the terrain. That their future role in the war, whether trainee or instructor, would be as ground troops became ever clearer. A few days previously Oesau units at Celle and Goslar with a total strength of 1,500 men were ordered to prepare for the

front. On 1 April 1. Kompanie Oesau at Celle was raised to Bataillon Oesau of three companies. On 6 April 2. Kompanie Oesau, also of battalion size, went direcdy from Goslar to the front. Only two weeks later, on 21 April at the hamlet of Michelstein, the battalion had been reduced to 65, all others being dead, wounded or missing in action. The survivors served as ‘paratroops’ on the so – called ‘Innermost Line’.

The Baptism of Fire

Probably only a single version of the two-seater unpowered He 162 S training glider was built and flown at the Reich Glider School atTrebbin near Berlin.

The Baptism of Fire
Numerous weapons for pin-point bombing, such as this ‘Special Machine with Bomb – Torpedo 1400’were projected from 1944 onwards. They would have demanded kamikaze tactics from the pilot.

On 20 April the Special Course at Trebbin was dissolved and all personnel at the Reich Glider School were attached to the newly formed Division Friedrich Ludwig Jahn of Twelfth Army, for the defence of Berlin. During the heavy fighting around Potsdam, the unit was encircled for a while but reached German lines after sustaining heavy losses. Casualties rose. One of two Hitler Youth companies was reduced to 14 boys, the other, including its company commander, fell in the field. Shordy afterwards the surviving unit broke up and its members sought refuge in flight.

The Manned Flak Rocket

The midget fighters such as He P 1077 Julia developed from the summer of 1944. The Bachem Natter was another midget fighter intended to assist jet

Подпись: Miniature fighters such as the Julia or Natter were built by small wood-working firms.
fighters such as the Me 262 to regain mastery in the air. These and all similar projects arose from the stated desire of the RLM on 15 July 1944 for a light fighter for local defence. By mid-November 1944 it was evident that it had poor tactical potential, contrary to the assessment of the light fighter with BMW 003 engines given in September 1944. For this reason, on 15 November a ‘single – seater special aircraft in wood’ suitable for anti-bomber work in the local protection role was demanded. Simpler than ‘midget fighters’, the new fighter generation would fire rockets of great destructive power into the enemy bomber formation.

Mistel 6 (Ar E 377/He 162 orAr234 C-3)

The two Arado plans presented to the RLM in August 1944 were discussed on 4 and 5 September at Landeshut/Silesia with RLM representatives. An average speed of700 km/hr (435 mph) was proposed, as with the Ar 234 B-2.The Mistel would have an additional powerplant of two ‘cast off’ turbines which had to provide between 300 and 500 kg standing thrust. They would be limited in size to 0.5 metres diameter and 2.5 metres in length and easy to maintain. Arado’s idea for a plastic fuselage was rejected by the RLM because the material had not

been perfected: the lower aircraft would be all-wood. The wings were to be shoulder-mounted and tapered and would serve as auxiliary fuel tanks for the parent aircraft as suggested by Dr Hiitter. The 20-tonne Mistel would take off using a Rheinmetall-Borsig chassis which could remain attached to the lower aircraft during flight to enable landings without fuel and payload. The power – plant was an Ar 234 C-3 using four 1,000 kg-thrust rockets on the take-off chassis. The Ar E 377 itself could be piloted if necessary by means of fighter pilot controls once the upper machine had detached. A 2-tonne explosive charge in the nose was sufficient to sink a 15,000-ton ship. For ground targets a thin – cased container with up to 500 kg flammable liquid was planned.

On 30 November 1944 the design division completed detailed drawings of the two versions in which the previous SC 1800 was replaced by a more destructive 2-tonne bomb. On 7 December 1944 the Arado team provided the completed specifications for the new Mistel as follows:

(i) Ar 234 C-3 with Ar E 377 or Ar E 377a on 20-tonne take-off chassis;

(ii) He 162 with Ar E 377a on 20-tonne take-off chassis.

The lower unit with explosive payload would be steered in flight on a straight course to the target by means of a gunsight in the Ar 234 C-3. An He 162 could

have been used in place of the jet bomber. Probably the only difference in construction from the Ar 234 would have been in the use of explosive bolts to hold the Volksjager and Arado body together, since the Ar 234 spring bolt was not practical for the lighter He 162 to guarantee the release. If used with the He 162, the lower unit would have had two BMW 003 A-l turbines installed below the wings to supplement the engine power of the fighter, and a reserve of 4.5 tonnes of fuel.

This idea was abandoned by OKL on the grounds that there were insufficient He 162 A-2s to equip the envisaged JG 1, and the Riistungsstab would have had to free the necessary capacity to build the Ar E 377. In the few weeks before the final collapse, this Mistel would not have been possible no matter which system was chosen.

Chemical and Bacteriological Weapons

Despite the appalling experiences with chemical weapons to which troops of all belligerents had been exposed in the First World War, similar weapons were developed and improved after 1918 by the victors. Germany’s chemists had worked on tear gases such as xylyl bromide, then increasingly on anti-respiratory agents such as chlorine. Next came mustard gas and the dangerous lewisite, then the poisonous arsine or chlorzyan. Most gases were released to drift with favourable winds or were fired in artillery shells. Germany had been forbidden to have battlefield gases by the 1919 Versailles Treaty (and battlefield gases were declared illegal universally in 1925), but work progressed in secret and noxious substances which were easy to store, simple to fabricate and lethal were developed in laboratories. Deadly nerve gases such as sarin, soman and tabun were also produced in quantity.

In the late summer of 1939, the Luftwaffe had phosgene, tabun, several kinds of mustard gas and so called ‘mask-breakers’ (irritant gases which forced the wearer to remove his gas-mask and so expose himself to a far more dangerous
back-up gas). All these gases could be dropped operationally in cylindrical containers (КС). Apart from the КС 50 bomb, the standard weapons for this were the КС 250 and КС 500. One of the most dangerous was КС 250 IIGr filled with 100 kg of tabun. Germany produced almost 60,000 tonnes of battlefield gases. In the autumn of 1944 the Luftwaffe audit showed an arsenal of 1,160,340 bombs filled with chemicals, 1,600 of these being tabun-filled, 900 heavy КС 1800 with White Cross (tear-gas) and Green Cross (suffocating gas) and 3,600 КС 1000 Green Cross, enough to have laid low whole regions worldwide. Hitler imposed a strict rule that no such weapons were to be used at the front or against civilian targets in enemy territory. Most German chemical bombs were discovered by Allied forces in ammunition depots or underground facilities, such as Stassfurt. At the beginning of 1945 British forces captured a few Ju 88 G-ls and G-6s rigged to carry battlefield-gas payloads. The special containers were examined by British experts to determine their general purpose.

Подпись: The last He 177 A-5s and A-7s were held in reserve for possible reprisal attacks with battlefield gases, especially nerve gas.
Bacteriological weapons, especially those bearing easily transmissible diseases such as anthrax, went into the arsenals. All belligerents were aware of the dangers of these weapons. Exacdy how much Germany produced, if any, is not known but the research existed. Fortunately there seems to have been some kind of tacit

understanding between the various belligerents that even in defeat they would not resort to chemical or bacteriological weapons.


Rumours regarding certain kinds of research were used by the Third Reich leadership. Whether circulated deliberately or in error, these bred new rumours. It was easy to believe that work must be proceeding on larger and more terrible rockets, for example. The new America-Rocket or the solid-fuel counterpart V-101, both armed with a powerful warhead or lethal substance, were bound to strengthen belief in final victory. In the end it was all wishful thinking. There were to be no miracles, nor miracle weapons in a German Reich crumbling to ruin. Belief in a miracle weapon, however, inspired many senior military men to fight on. Even in the Fiihrer-bunker, in the embattled city centre of Berlin, Hitler spoke to his last Luftwaffe Commander-in-Chief, Generalfeldmarschall Ritter von Greim, about the many modern jet aircraft at readiness. Greims task was to

make the Luftwaffe leadership believe that the war was still not lost. It was a similar story with new rockets, death rays and other new weapons which existed only in fantasy. The Propaganda Ministry had no difficulty in convincing many people that weapons which would soon be on hand would bring victory, and whoever did not believe it hoped nevertheless that somehow it might be true.

Many Wehrmacht units kept fighting even when the war was lost and the capitulation was actually in effect. On 8 May 1945 there was aerial fighting in the East over the Erzgebirge mountains between Me 262 A-las of JG 7 and Soviet fighters. That same evening German aircraft attacked Soviet tanks for the last time near Eger (Saaz). In Bohemia, Generalfeldmarschall Schorner’s Army Group tangled on 9 and 10 May in skirmishes with the Red Army and partisans before throwing in the towel and admitting defeat.