Jagdgeschwader 11: Wikis

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Jagdgeschwader 11
JG11 Emblem.png
Emblem of Jagdgeschwader 11.
Active 1943 – 1945
Country German Reich
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Branch Balkenkreuz.svg Luftwaffe
Type Fighter Aircraft
Role Air superiority
Size Air Force Wing
Fighter Aircraft Bf 109, Fw 190
Engagements Defense of the Reich,
Operation Bodenplatte
Disbanded 4 April 1945
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Major Hermann Graf
Major Anton Hackl
Major Herbert Ihlefeld
Oberstleutnant Günther Specht
Aircraft flown
Fighter Bf 109, Fw 190

Jagdgeschwader 11 (JG 11) was a German World War II fighter aircraft unit or "Wing". It primarily used the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 aircraft. It was formed in April 1943 and was dissolved upon surrender in 1945.

Growing daylight bomber offensive of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 8th Air Force forced the Luftwaffe to counter these bombing raids by expanding the number of daylight fighter units in Defense of the Reich. It did so by splitting existing unit in order to form a new Unit Jagdgeschwader 11. JG 11 was initially based across the North German coast, protecting the northern flank of occupied Europe, along with III./JG 54. With the departure of the latter unit in July 1943, for the rest of 1943 and early 1944 JG 11 was in the forefront of the defensive operations against the USAAF bomber formations of the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator. During the summer of 1943 as the unescorted bombers penetrated deeper into Germany JG 11, along with JG 1, saw intensive action during this time, evidenced by the fact that of some 1,200 'kill' claims submitted by the Western front Jagdgeschwadern in this time, about 40 percent were submitted by those two units alone.[1]

Contents

Formation history

Under the increasing threat of the Allied heavy bombers, Luftwaffe decided to augment its fighter strength by creating new Geschwader by splitting a parent Geschwader. Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) was designated to be JG 11's parent or donor unit. On 31 March 1943, JG 1 had four component Gruppen I.,II., III. and IV./JG 1. III./JG 1 (located in Husum, Germany) was redesignated as I./JG 11 while I./JG 1, under Günther Beise, (located in Jever, Germany) was redesignated as II./JG 11. A new III./JG 11 was raised under Hauptmann Ernst-Günther Heinze at Neumünster, equipped with theMesserschmitt Bf 109G-6. The former Gruppenkommandeur of II./Jagdgeschwader 77, Major Anton Mader was to command the new Jagdgeschwader. A Headquarters Flight (Geschwaderstab) was formed in Jever.[1][2][3]

The defensive operations of the new Geschwader entailed the day defence of the German Bight, southern Norway and Western Denmark. This was previously the eastern portion of JG 1's area of responsibility. JG 11 reported to Jagdfliegerführer Deutsche Bucht in 2. Jagd-Division. By mid 1943, JG 11 came under the control of Luftwaffenbefehlshaber Mitte which later formed the Luftflotte Reich.[1][2][3]

Hauptmann Günther Specht (left) with Dr. Kurt Tank beside the tail of his aircraft in July 1944

In late June 1943 Hauptmann Günther Specht replaced Major Adolf Dickfeld as II./JG 11 Gruppenkommandeur. Specht was a former Zerstoerer pilot with I./ZG 26 and Knight's Cross recipient. A perfectionist and one of the most competent gruppe commanders, Specht led almost every mission after taking command. In a few months, II./JG 11 became one the most effective day fighter units.[3][4][5]

Jasta Helgoland

In 1941 two short runways were built on neighboring sand dunes to Heligoland, a red rock rising in the middle of Deutsche Bucht (German Bight). A staffel called Jagdstaffel Helgoland was established on 7 April 1943 under Oberleutnant Hermann Hintzen. It was equipped with the Bf-109T Toni. This was the only Bf-109 variant able to take off from those short runways due to its longer wing span. The staffel reported to Jagdfliegerführer Deutsche Bucht. In mid April 1943, the staffel was subordinated to 2. Jagd–Division.[6][4]

Aircraft of JG 11

When JG 11 was formed it was initially equipped with the Fw 190 A-4 and Bf 109 G-1. It had operationally used the Fw 190A-6/R1, which carried six 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons. Towards the end of 1943 III./JG 11 started converting to the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. During this time the JG 11 tended to use a combination of Bf 109s and Fw 190s, the Bf 109 for attacking fighters and the Fw 190 for attacking bombers.[1][2][7]

In March 1943, II./JG 11 started to replace the Bf 109G-1 with the Bf 109G-6. The G-6 had the option of two 20 mm cannon in underwing gondolas, and harder hitting compared to previous armament.[4]

Unit Emblems and color schemes

In January 1944, JG 11 was located in Dortmund alongside one gruppen of JG 1. In order to make it easier to regroup after an engagement, as well as aid unit identification, both I./JG 1 and JG 11 followed new Luftwaffe policy and painted their aircraft with special Defense of the Reich, or Reichsverteidigung, aft fuselage bands. I./JG 1 used a Red band and JG 11 used a Yellow band.[2]

3./JG 11 formed from 9./JG 1 and had a distinctive logo of a Flintlock pistol on a red heart surrounded by the words in German: Wer Zuerst schiesst hat mehr vom Lehen. (Who shoots first gets more out of life).[2]

Wartime history

Defense of the Reich April – June 1943

JG 11 was immediately pressed into operations against the increasing numbers of USAAF daylight bombing raids. On 17 April 1943, 115 aircraft from 4 B-17 groups were assigned to bomb Focke-Wulf factory outside Bremen. They were initially intercepted by II./JG 11 with Jasta Helgoland and accompanied by 2./JG 27, III./JG 54 and NJG 1 and NJG 3. Major Adolf Dickfeld was the first to claim a B-17. Lt. Heinz Knoke leader of 5./JG 11 dropped a bomb over the formation, which missed its target, although he then shot down one B-17 using his guns. Interception lasted for two hours along the length of the bomber route, with 16 bombers claimed downed, including 6 of the 401st Bomb Squadron (91 BG). II./JG 11 alone claimed 7, with one credited to Jasta Helgoland. Four aircraft of II./JG 11 were damaged in Deadstick landings as they exhausted their fuel. One aircraft of the Jasta Helgoland was shot down north of Norderney but the pilot bailed out.[4]

The same day Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 2 Group light bombers conducted an afternoon raid on Abbeville. Their escorts were engaged by JG 2 and JG 26, while I./JG 11 and II./JG 11 tackled the bombers before their bomb run. Knoke's 5./JG 11 was armed with bombs, but on this occasion all of the bombs missed. Both gruppen conducted frontal attacks on the bomber formation for almost an hour. 5 victory claims were confirmed out of 13 filed by JG 11, for no losses. Three Bf 109s of II./JG 11 ran out of fuel and had to do Deadstick landings over the Frisians.[8]

On 14 May 1943, multiple groups of heavy bombers were sent on several missions across the Low Countries. One hundred B-17s and B-24s bombed the Kiel U-Boat Base on the Baltic Sea. II./JG 11 along with Jasta Helgoland scrambled to meet them. II./JG 11 had just received the Bf 109G-6 variant with underwing 20 mm cannon. Knoke led 5./JG 11, still attempting to prove the concept of aerial bombing. The leading bombers reached the Germania shipyards located on the port's eastern side inner basin. Knoke gave up on trying to position his formation above, and after dropping their bombs individually over the bombers, tried a head-on pass on a group of bombers slightly separated from the main formation. A B-17 (42-30003) of 92nd BG was hit. According to Knoke, the Fortress reared like a stricken animal, before falling in steep spirals to the right. Other bomber crews described it circling and going down under control with one engine out and a stabilizer missing. It came down near Husum and the crew of ten survived. This was Knoke's fifth bomber in less than three months, making him the first Bf 109 ace of the "Defense of Reich" campaign. Two other B-17s went down, one credited to Hauptmann Egon Falkensamer Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 11. Thereafter I./JG 11 and the Bf 110 Night fighters of NJG 3 intercepted, and two pilots of I./JG 11 and one of NJG 3 claimed one each. Behind the B-17s, a group of 17 B-24Ds (44th BG) were intercepted by II./JG 11 and III./JG 54. They claimed 7 of the B-24s (One claimed by Specht) for 5 fighters lost. Five bombers actually went down and 12 sustained various damage.[4][b]

Within 24 hours of the attack on Kiel, the nine groups of B-24s returned to attack the North Sea ports of Wilhelmshaven and Emden. The Wilhelmshaven formation turned back due to cloud cover and went for their secondary target, the base at Heligoland-Düne and Wangerooge. They were intercepted by II./JG 1 and III./JG 54. II./JG 11 claimed 4; credited to Dickfeld, Specht, Knoke and Unteroffizier Helmut Lennartz. Lennartz claimed his B-24 by air bombing.[4][c]

On 11 June 1943, VIII Bomber command flew its largest mission to date with over 250 B-17s. II./JG 1 under Specht, with III./JG 1, intercepted a formation of B-17s approaching Wilhelmshaven. Ten claims were made by II./JG 11, with one by III./JG 1, including one each for Specht and Knoke.[4]

Sixty B-17s returned on 13 June 1943 to attack Kiel. II./JG 11 again scrambled to intercept accompanied by Jasta Heligoland. Unteroffizier Ewald Herhold was the first one to score west of Neumünster. But he was injured in the knee during the two passes it took to down that 95th BG bomber and bailed out. A pilot of Jasta Heligoland had to crash land on Föhr. A second 'probable' B-17 was claimed by Leutnant Kilian of 5./JG 11. Over Kiel, 6 more B-17s went down to II./JG 11 attacks.[4]

The B-17s attacked again on 25 June 1943 but cloud cover meant primary and secondary targets were not visible, so two convoys were attacked off the Frisian Islands. Eight fighter gruppen scrambled, including II and III./JG 11, and claiming 6 bombers. Specht was responsible for one as was Lt. Knoke, who was injured in the hand.[4]

On 26 June 1943, a trial Wilde Sau unit was established to verify the night-fighting theories of Major Hajo Herrmann. Equipped with the Bf 109 at Bonn-Hangelar, the unit was expanded into I./JG 300 and JG 300 Geschwaderstab. However there were not sufficient numbers of Bf 109 aircraft to equip the formation and so they 'borrowed' aircraft from II./JG 11 (at Rheine) and III./JG 11 (at Oldenburg), with the Bf 109s of JG 11 operated by day and then by JG 300 by night. This extra wear and tear on their aircraft and the lower servicability rates resulting made the arrangement very unpopular with the JG 11 maintenance personnel.[2]

24–30 July 1943; Operation Gomorrah/"Blitz week"

During the period of 24 to 30 July the RAF and USAAF launched a combined series of attacks on German targets known as "Blitz Week". This was a six day round the clock offensive on targets inside Germany.[9] Weather on 25 July was not favorable so two of the bomber formations went for their secondary target, while a third abandoned its mission. II./JG 11 along with Jasta Heligoland claimed 6 destroyed, with 4 pilots injured. Next day the target was the Continental and Nordhafen rubber works in Hanover along with Hamburg U-Boat Yards. Fifteen bombers were downed, and among the claimants were Specht and Hugo Frey.[4]

On 28 July 1943, 15 bombers of the USAAF Eighth Air Force targeted the aircraft plants of Fieseler Works in Kassel and AGO Factory in Oschersleben, used for subcontract work on the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter. In a twenty minute engagement II./JG 11 claimed 12 bombers shot down.[10] Those claiming included Specht and 4./JG 11 Staffelkapitän Oberleutnant Gerhard Sommer, Knoke's 5 staffel carrying bombs, claimed 7 bombers. Unteroffizier Wilhelm "Jonny" Fest's bomb hit B-17F of 385th BG (42-30257). It crossed the path of two other bombers. Betty Boom (42-3316) and Roundtrip Ticket(42-30285), and all 3 went down west of Sylt. Allied records suggested a flak hit for the first bomber loss, and other sources credit the bomber to underwing rockets of Erprobungskommando 25 attached to I./JG 1 at the time. III./JG 11 claimed 2 more bombers over Hanover, while a refueled II./JG 1 and Jasta Heligoland claimed 3 more on the bomber's return journey.[4]

Arming the underwing WGr 21 rocket mortar

The following day, the 8th Air Force targeted Kiel U-Boat yards in northern Germany and the Heinkel factory in Warnemünde. Elements of JG 11, along with JG 1, used Werfer-Granate 21 (Wfr. Gr. or WGr) 21 under-wing rocket mortars for the first time. The American bomber crews dubbed these as "flaming baseballs". While being wildly inaccurate, these rockets containing 40.8 kg (90 pounds) of explosive could be launched from well outside the range of the bomber's defensive fire and were intended to break up the bomber formations. The launchers did however seriously reduce the performance of the fighters, making them easy prey to any Allied fighter escort. II. and III./JG 11 engaged the bombers on their return route near Heligoland, JG 11 claiming 8 B-17 destroyed (III./JG 11 was credited with 3 aircraft) One pilot of III./JG 11 was injured.[11][4]

30 July was the last day of the "Blitz Week". VIII Bomber command mission No. 80 targeted the Fieseler factory in Kassel. III./JG 11 and III./JG 1 were not scrambled for two hours since the bombers crossed into Germany over Eifel. By the time they were in the air, the bombers were near Emmerich am Rhein before they were intercepted. The Bf 109s were however surprised by some 100 P-47 Thunderbolts escorts, newly equipped with Drop tanks. III./JG 11 shot down 2 bombers, but in the first major fighter combat of the "Defence of Reich" lost 4 aircraft, with one pilot wounded and one dead. In all, at the end of Blitz Week, JG 11 had claimed 49 Bombers while 6 pilots were injured and one died.[4]

August - December 1943

VIII Bomber command had only one mission in September 1943. The B-17s bombed Emden on 27 September, which saw the introduction of H2S radar on four of the bombers, and the introduction of larger 108 Gallon "paper" drop tanks on the P-47. II./JG 11 intercepted the bombers from the South and Knoke's 5./JG 11 made a pass with their rockets, shooting down 2 bombers. Despite the escort, II./JG 11 shot down 6 more bombers and 2 P-47s, but lost 10 pilots and 4 wounded.[4]

The bombers returned to Emden on 2 October 1943, escorted by the P-47s. III./JG 11 and II./JG 3 intercepted with III./JG 11's new leader Anton Hackl credited with 2 bombers,( taking his score to 127) and one more credited to III./JG 11. On 4 October, VIII Bomber Command targeted Frankfurt and Saarland with two separate groups of B-24s, splitting the fighter response. The groups made a successful diversionary sweep across the North Sea, disrupting unified Luftwaffe defense. II./JG 11 scrambled along with Jasta Heligoland and claimed 6 B-24s; Specht, Knoke and the new Staffelkapitän of Jasta Heligoland Oblt. Hans-Heinrich Koenig credited with one each. Feldwebel Hans–Gerd Wennekers of 5./JG 11 claimed two with the 30 mm MK 108 cannon on his Bf 109G. His attack on the B-24 caused it to collide with the bomber above, taking both down. According to Allied records just 4 B-24s were shot down in the action, despite JG 11 claiming 11. Specht bitterly complained to the High Command about the inadequate armament of the Bf 109 that allowed damaged bombers to return home.[9]

Six days later, the bombers returned to Bremen and U-Boat yards of Vegesack. II. & III./JG 11 and III./JG 1 claimed 11 bombers in total. The respective Gruppenkommandeure Specht, Hackl and Olejnik all claimed one each. Knoke and Wennekers were also among the claimants, while Siegfried Zick claimed one bomber south of Quakenbrück. Next day, there was another attack on Kiel by B-17s. B-17F(42-5407) "Fightin Pappy" was possibly downed by Hugo Frey, Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 11.[1][4]

General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland flew during the day's fighting and witnessed some of the attacks. After taking a courier aircraft to Staaken he scrambled in a Fw 190 and, following the Reichjägerwelle (Reich Fighter Frequency) he flew to the Frisian Islands and watched the fighting. To his "disgust", he saw the 21 cm rocket equipped fighters open fire from too long a range. He also noted attacks were disorganized. Galland waited for the fighters to return to base before making his own interception. He attacked and shot down a B-17 on his second pass, though he did not report the kill as he was not supposed to fly in combat.[12]

In mid November 1943, Mader had a public fall-out with General Major Max Ibel of 2. Jagd-Division and was sent to the Eastern Front to command Jagdgeschwader 54. He was replaced by Oberstleutnant Hermann Graf, an Eastern Front Bf 109 ace and the first pilot to claim 200 victories.[2][13]

Defense of Reich 1944

1./JG 11 relocated to Salzwedel and 2./JG 11 to Lüneburg in April 1944, remaining there until June 1944, while Specht was transferred to Geschwaderstab JG 11 as a Kommodore-In-Training. He was replaced by Major Günther Rall from JG 52 as Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 11, located at Eschborn while rebuilding. III./JG 11 was dispatched to Minsk in anticipation of the impending Soviet offensive, and its ten-week stay did little to effect the outcome of the land battle.[14]

JG 11 was posted into II. Fliegerkorps for operations over France soon after the Allied invasion of 6 June 1944. Given the overwhelming superiority of the Allied fighter screens over the beach heads, the Luftwaffe units suffered heavily, JG 11 being no exception.[3]

On 9 July 1944, Hackl was the 78th recipient of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern). This was following his 150th victory.[3]

In August 1944 each JG 11 Gruppe was increased to four staffel, with a new 4./JG 11 formed from 10. and 11./JG 11. The old 4./JG 11 became the new 8./JG 11 Staffel. Old 7./JG 11 become 10./JG 11 and a new 7./JG 11 was formed from scratch.[3]

On 17 December 1944 I./JG 11 was heavily engaged over the Ahr mountains near Bonner. Initially engaged by P-47s over Munstereifel and later by P-38s, 4 of the German pilots were wounded, with Unteroffizier Liebeck bailing out successfully. Unteroffizier Heyer, flying Black 1 was able to shoot down one P-38 before being seriously wounded and bailing out.[5][15][16]

By December 1944, I./JG 11 were frequently paired with the 'Sturm' FW 190's of IV./JG 4 in attacking heavy bomber formations over the Moselle River. The other two Gruppen of JG 11 operated under the administrative control of JG 2 engaging the fighters of Eighth and Ninth Air Force.[1][5]

On 23 December I./JG 11 and JG 4 intercepted American bombers before they reached the Trier region. JG 11 claimed 28 B-26s and several escorts, 12 Fw 190s and one Mustang went down. Major Arthur F. Jeffrey of 479 FG was credited with three victories. Fahnrich Kaluza and Oberleutnant Georg Ulrici of I./JG 11 failed to return from operations over Daun and Cochem while Unteroffizier Ehrke and Gefreiter were probably killed near Gillenfeld. Oberfähnrich Hans–Joachim Wesener was shot down south of Kaisersesch. JG 11's losses included 12 pilots killed, 4 missing with 11 wounded.[1][5]

On the same day in the afternoon, JG 11 scrambled to intercept some seventy B-26 Marauders of 387th and 394th Bombardment Groups heading for Marshalling yards at Mayen,Germany. Over Prüm and St. Vith, they ran into the fighter escort and several of the JG 11 pilots were killed, including Major Erich Putzka, of the Gruppenstab', (missing in action) and Oberfeldwebel Holland, who was chased by thirty P-47s. Oberfeldwebel Titscher was shot down by a Spitfire over Cologne. Two others were wounded over Munstereifel.[5]

Next day American B-17 Flying Fortresses targeted JG 4 and JG 11's airfields. As JG 11 tried to protect its airfields, they lost 4 pilots; Unteroffizier Stöhr killed over Gross-Ostheim, Feldwebel Horlacher over Gross-Karben while Leutnant Richter and Feldwebel Schulirsch did not return from the Moselle near Trier.[5]

On 25 December there were more losses. Flight Lieutenant Sherk of No. 402 Squadron RCAF intercepted a lone Fw 190A-8 southeast of Düren, which he shot down. This may have been Unteroffizier Wolfgang Rosenow of 11./JG 11, who failed to return from a mission to Euskirchen. III./JG 11 also lost four pilots near Bonn and Cologne. I./JG 11 ran into more fighters over Eifel, which resulted in Unteroffiziers Holzinger and Weismüller being lost.[5]

Operation Bodenplatte

On New Year’s Day 1945, as support for the German offensive in the Ardennes, the Luftwaffe launched Operation Bodenplatte, a massed low-level fighter strike targeted at Allied tactical airfields throughout France, Belgium and Holland. Elements of JG 11 were allocated the USAAF air base coded Y-29 at Asch, where the 366th Fighter Group (366th FG,Ninth Air Force) and the 352nd Fighter Group (352 FG, Eighth Air Force) were based. North of Asch was the Spitfire airfield at Ophoven, the base of Royal Air Force Squadrons No. 41, No. 130, 350 and No. 610 of the 2nd Tactical Wing.[5]

At 8:00 AM, the three Gruppen of JG 11 took off from Darmstadt-Griesheim, Gross-Ostheim and Zellhausen, led by Günther Specht. The formation of some 65 Fw 190 and Bf 109s formed up over Aschaffenburg at 8:30 AM, with two Junkers Ju 188 pathfinders leading them. With the secrecy surrounding the mission, very few were aware of their objective. At a height of 400 feet, they passed over Koblenz.[5]

As they reached Aachen, flak burst around them, hitting the Fw 190 of Oberleutnant Hans Fielder, adjutant of III./JG 11. He had rejoined his group the previous day from Göttingen, force landing on 23 December due to engine trouble and was grounded. He wasn't expecting to participate in this operation but had to fly with a brand new Fw190 A-8 as wingman for Oberleutnant Grosser, Staffelkapitän of 11./JG 11. He spotted a lone P-47 that shot at him, and a result of flak hits and fire from the P-47, Fielder was wounded in the head, crash landing, being then sent to a British hospital. Unteroffizier Ernst Noreisch was shot down and died. JG 11 maintained radio silence until they reached Asch airfield.[5]

Legend of Y-29

At 8:42 AM, Captain Eber E. Simpson was leading the 391st squadron on a mission to bomb German tanks near St. Vith. They ran into two Bf 109s south of Malmedy with Lieutenants John F. Bathurst and Donald G. Holt claiming one each.[5]

At 9:10 AM, Lieutenant Colonel John C. Meyer of 487th Fighter Squadron (352 FG) was preparing for take off in "Petie III" P-51 Mustang with eleven others. As he lifted off he noticed Flak bursts over Ophoven and one Fw 190 heading straight at him, piloted by Gefreiter Böhm. Böhm, intent on strafing a C-47 Skytrain transport, did not notice Meyer's P-51. Meyer had not retracted his landing gear when he fired at the Fw 190, which cartwheeled and exploded next to the C-47. Despite the attack, other P-51s were able to take off, and JG 11 soon lost eight pilots. Obergefreiter Karlheinz Sistenich, Feldwebel Harald Scharz, Feldwebel Herbert Kraschinski, Oberleutnant August Engel were among those who died. Feldwebel Karl Miller was severely burnt after crash landing. There was only one casualty among the Allied ground crew. The US flak crews was unable to fire for fear of hitting a friendly aircraft. Likewise Allied pilots were also cautious of firing at low flying 109s to avoid strafing the base. The flak crews hit one chasing P-51, which had to land damaged.[5]

By 9:15 AM, eight P-47s of 366th FG "Red" and "Yellow" flights were preparing for armed reconnaissance over Ardennes. Captain Lowell B. Smith with Lieutenants John Kennedy, Melvin R. Paisley and Flight Officer Dave Johnson. "Yellow" flight included Lieutenants John Feeny, Robert V. Brulle, Currie Davis and Joe Lackey. After the flights took off , Kennedy noticed flak bursts to the north east. Red flight discovered JG 11 strafing the base at Ophoven, along with 50 JG 11 fighters heading for their own base. With the German pilots intent on strafing parked aircraft they did not notice the P-47s.[5]

Lieutenant Paisley was the first to score a Bf 109 using an underwing rocket, and downed two more using gunfire. Smith and Brulle both shot one down, with Brulle shot and damaged another before running out of ammunition. Feeny and Lackey were able to shoot down JG 11 aircraft as well. Six pilots of the 352th FG claimed multiple victories. Captain William T. "Whiz" Whisner and Lieutenant Sanford K. Moats claimed 4 each, with Captain Henry M. Stewart II and Lieutenant Alden p. Rigby claiming 3 each. Meyer and Lieutenant Ray Littge claimed 2 apiece. Whisner's wingman and Lieutenant Walker G. Diamond and Meyer's wingman Lieutenant Alex F. Sears claimed one each.[5]

The air battle of Asch, later known as the "Legend of Y-29", was a disaster for JG 11. US fighters claimed some 30 German fighters shot down, while JG 11 lost 28 aircraft out of 65. 25 pilots were killed. 5./JG 11 was the only unit of II./JG 11 that returned unscathed, though all the aircraft returning showed signs of damage. III./JG 11 lost 6 pilots including Major Vowinkel. Approximately 40 percent of the JG 11 pilots died in the operation. At Asch, four P-51s were shot down in the attack but the pilots survived. One P-47 and one P-51 were shot up on the ground.[5][17]

Other Allied Engagements

Over Ophoven Airfield, a Spitfire of No. 610 Squadron flown by Australian Flight Lieutenant A.F.O. "Tony" Gaze took off but was shot at by the P-51s chasing the JG 11 aircraft. He however shot down one Fw 190.[5]

At Ophoven, JG 11 were able to shoot up several Spitfires of No. 125 Wing RAF, seven fighters of No. 350 Squadron RAF were destroyed along with several C-47 Dakotas. Several buildings were strafed as well. Although the flak crews claimed credit for 8 to 10 aircraft downed, several downing claims were duplicated by both Allied pilots and flak crews. Claims by pilots and flak crews came to a total of 42. III./JG 11 strafed for forty five minutes, taking heavy losses including Unteroffizier Kurt Nüssle. As JG 11 turned home, they were chased by several Allied aircraft. Unteroffizier Hermann Barion and Feldwebel Peter Reschke wee shot down and killed, with Oberfeldwebel Franz Meindl listed as missing.[5]

Among the German pilots killed that day was Major Specht. Paisley's wingman Johnson claimed two German fighters shot down but his aircraft was heavily damaged from return fire. Bailing out he landed in a field near Asch. One of the aircraft, a Bf 109 had "belly landed" not far from the field. He went over to inspect, riding a borrowed bicycle. The Bf 109 was still intact, but the pilot was dead. Johnson claimed that the dead pilot's Identification Card named him as a Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant) Specht. The claim has been disproved by German records that indicate Specht flew a Fw 190 Wknr. 205033, and that he was ranked as a Major. Johnson's actual victim that day was Oberleutnant August Engel. Specht was shot down on that day. He received Oak Leaves to his Knight's Cross after his death. Hauptmann Horst-Günther von Fassong, leader of III./JG 11 went missing near Opglabbeek chased by P-47s.[18][5][19][a]

Defense of the Reich 1945

A severely weakened JG 11 next faced Hawker Tempests of No. 3 and 486 Squadrons on 14 January 1945. With the Allied fighters trying to keep the German fighters away from the Saar region, other Geschwaders joined JG 11. JG 11 lost two pilots in that engagement. JG 11 was finally ordered to move to the Eastern front in Poland on 23 January 1945.[5]

Dissolution

On 24 April 1945, one pilot was listed as killed facing Spitfires, P-51s and Yaks over Tempelhof, Germany. Specht's successor as JG 11 Kommodore was Jürgen Harder, a Bf 109 ace formerly Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 53 . He died on 17 February 1945 near Berlin, crashing due to oxygen failure. The task of withdrawing to the West and surrender came to the sixth and last Geschwaderkommodore Anton Hackl. He surrendered the unit to British forces in early May 1945.[2][5][20]

Bomber interception tactics of JG 11

Since JG 11 was formed in summer of 1943, when the bombers of Eighth Air Force were starting to expand, they were immediately put into action aganst the USAAF. The pilots were quick to learn to wait until then short ranged escorts were forced to break off.[1]

As a means of combatting the massed fire power of bomber streams, JG 11 personnel trialed the viability of bombing the formations from above with 250 kg bombs. On 28 July 1943 Unteroffizier Fest of 5./JG 11 claimed three B-17's with a single bomb. However, the loss in performance of the bomb-laden Bf 109's, along with their vulnerability to escorting fighters, soon curtailed the practice.

5./JG 11 were at the forefront of tactical developments for effectively intercepting the day bomber formations. The most effective were mass frontal assaults, and other methods trialed were the use of Werfer-Granate (Wfr. Gr. or WGr) 21 under-wing rocket mortars. These were inaccurate fired from any distance, and were used primarily to break up the bomber formations.[1]

Notable successes and losses

Several 'Bomber-killer' Aces (Experte) were produced from among the veterans of II./JG 11. Hauptmann Gerhard Sommer of 4./JG 11 and Oberleutnant Heinz Knoke, of 5./JG 11 claimed 14 victories each by the end of 1943. Sommer claimed 10 heavy bombers and Knoke claimed 12. Knoke's 5./JG 11 had claimed as many heavy bombers as the total claims of other two staffel put together. This prompted 5./JG 11 to consider themselves as experts versus heavy bombers (Viermot Experte).[1]

Like its sister units engaged in Reich defense, JG 11 suffered heavy casualties in both pilots and aircraft. Many of the pilots killed were highly experienced and irreplaceable Experte. Hauptmann Hugo Frey (32 claims, including 26 heavy bombers, killed 8 March 1944) Hauptmann Gerhardt Sommer (20 claims, 15 heavy bombers, killed 12 May 1944) and Feldwebel Wilhelm Fest (15 claims, 8 confirmed victories May 1944) were just three of JG 11's best aces to fall.

In April 1944, staffelkapitän of 10./JG 51 Leutnant Horst-Günther Von Fassong was transferred to lead 7./JG 11. He was credited with 62 victories on the Eastern Front at the time. He added several B-17s to his victories in the next month before being promoted to Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 11. In June 1944, III./JG 11 was transferred to the Eastern Front. Operating from Minsk airfield at the start of the Soviet Summer offensive, the unit spent 10 weeks defending against the Soviet offensive before returning to Germany in September 1944. Von Fassong died on 1 January 1945 when III./JG 11 attacked the airfield at Asch in Belgium as part of Operation Bodenplatte. His aircraft cartwheeled after coming under attack from two P-47 Thunderbolts during a low level attack. Another major casualty of Operation Bodenplatte was Geschwaderkommodore Specht.[5][17]

Commanding officers

Geschwaderkommodore

Jagdgeschwader 11 was unit that was formed fairly late in the war. It was essentially a split from Jagdgeschwader 1 to augment number of day fighters for Luftwaffe. Hence it had a smaller lifespan compared to other units such as it parent JG 1. The list bellow provides its Geschwaderkommodores until end.[2][5][20]

Gruppenkommandeure

I./JG 11

  • Major Walter Spies, 1 April 1943
  • Hauptmann Erwin Clausen, 20 June 1943
  • Hauptmann Erich Woitke (acting), 4. October 1943
  • Hauptmann Rolf Hermichen, 16 October 1943
  • Oberleutnant Hans-Heinrich Koenig, May 1944
  • Oberleutnant Fritz Engau (acting), 24 May 1944
  • Hauptmann Siegfried Simsch, 1 June 1944
  • Oberleutnant Fritz Engau (acting), 8 June 1944
  • Hauptmann Werner Langemann, 24 June 1944
  • Oberleutnant Hans Schrangl (acting), 15. July 1944
  • Hauptmann Walter Matoni, 15 August 1944
  • Hauptmann Bruno Stolle, November 1944
  • Hauptmann Rüdiger Kirchmayr, 25 November 1944
  • Hauptmann Karl Leonhard, April 1945

II./JG 11

II./JG 11 was initially formed from the I./JG 1. A list of its leaders is as follows.[21]

  • Hauptmann Günther Beise, 1 April 1943
  • Major Adolf Dickfeld, 17 April 1943
  • Hauptmann Günther Specht, May 1943
  • Major Günther Rall, 19 April 1944
  • Hauptmann Walter Krupinski, May 1944
  • Hauptmann Karl Leonhard, 13 August 1944

III./JG 11

  • Hauptmann Ernst-Günther Heinze, April 1943
  • Major Anton Hackl, 1 October 1943
  • Hauptmann Horst-Günther von Fassong, May 1944
  • Oberleutnant Paul-Heinrich Dähne, 2 January 1945
  • Hauprmann Herbert Kutscha, 23 February 1945

Staffelkapitän

The following squadrons deserve special mention due to their nature. Hence their leaders although Staffelkapitän are mentioned here.

10./JG 11

  • Oberleutnant Heinz Sahnwaldt, July 1943
  • Oberleutnant Günther Witt, 1 August 1943
  • Hauptmann Siegfried Simsch, November 1943
  • Oberleutnant Heinz Grosser, 1 January 1944
  • Hauptmann Erich Viebahn, May 1944

11./JG 11

This was previously known as Jasta Heligoland. It was re–designated as 11./JG 11. Given bellow is a list of its leaders.

  • Oberleutnant Herbert Christmann, December 1943

Notes

Footnotes

  • a  The similar but differing meaning of Oberleutnant and Oberstleutnant may have contributed to the misunderstanding. It is not clear whether Johnson himself said Specht's name was on the ID card. Johnson died in 1976 and the authors were unable to confirm this.[19]
  • b  Its not known if those three claims were confirmed or not.[4]
  • [c] Lennartz's claim has not been confirmed by allied records.[4]

Citations

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Weal, (1999) p. 52
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Weal (1996) p. 44.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Caldwell & Muller (2007) p. 80.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Weal, (2006) p. 26
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Parker, (1998) p. 385.
  6. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, pp. 80-81.
  7. ^ Kay, Smith & Creek, (2002) p. 99
  8. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 84.
  9. ^ a b Caldwell & Muller (2007), p. 124.
  10. ^ Caldwell & Muller (2007), p. 100.
  11. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 101.
  12. ^ Caldwell & Muller (2007), pp. 126-127.
  13. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 156.
  14. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 184.
  15. ^ Weal, (2005) p. 20
  16. ^ Miller, (1997) p. 42.
  17. ^ a b Weal (2007b) pp 78–79.
  18. ^ Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 78.
  19. ^ a b Manrho & Pütz, (2004) p. 149.
  20. ^ a b Weal (2007a) p. 125.
  21. ^ Weal (2001), p. 93

See also

Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II

References

External links


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