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The Luftwaffe May 1944 to May 1945  

Extracts from ‘The last year of the Luftwaffe May 1944 to May 1945’ written by Alfred Price) 

 

In April 1945, as the Soviet fo0rces moved closer to Berlin, Hermann Goring ordered that all documents held in the Luftwaffe historical archives were to be destroyed.  In general these orders were carried out.  There is thus a shortage of official documents.

 

The major air fighting formation was the Luftflotte, a combination of combat flying units of all types and their supporting services, based within a defined geographical area.  At this stage in the war there were seven.  Luftflotte Reich, based at airfields in Germany, Austria and western Czechoslavakia, had nearly 1300 aircraft of which just over a hundred were serviceable FW190s and just under three hundred and fifty were serviceable Me109s.  Luftflotte Three, responsible for air operations in the Western Front, had just over 500 serviceable aircraft, slightly more than eighty of which were serviceable FW190s and just over thirty of which were serviceable Me109s.  Luftflotten 1, 4 and 5, located on the Eastern Front, had just under ninety serviceable FW190s and just over two hundred serviceable Me109s.  Luftflotte Two, based in Italy and responsible for air operations over central and western Mediterranean, had just over eighty serviceable Me109s.

 

Missiles

 

The Fieseler Fi103 (V1) carried a 1870 pound high explosive warhead, was powered by an Argus pulse-jet engine which produced 740 pounds of thrust at launch and had a running life of about half an hour.  It flew at a cruising speed of between 300 and 400 mph at a height of about 3000 feet.  The bombardment started on the 13th June 1944 and continued to be launched from northern France until the 1st September (1944) by which time the sites had been abandoned due to the advance of the Allied troops.  V1’s continued to be launched from other sites and from aircraft (modified Heinkel 111s) until the middle of March 1945.  Just over ten thousand V1s were launched, of these just over 2400 reached London, about thirty reached Southampton and one hit Manchester.  

 

The external casing of the V1 was of welded sixteen gauge mild steel.  The covering for tail unit and controls was lighter and riveted to 22 gauge pressed steel ribs.  Workmanship was often of a poor quality.  The nose was an alloy cone and had a small propeller that controlled the length of the flight.  In the nose was a hollow wooden ball which contained a compass.  Behind the compass was the warhead of Amatol, a high blast explosive which was activated by two fuses connected to two impact switches.  The V1 was just over twenty five feet long and had a wingspan of just over seventeen feet

 

The V1 was set in to motion by the flick of a switch which caused a hiss of compressed air (pressure in two cast iron compressed bottles was 900 lbs/sq in) to force 75-octane petrol or B-Stroff (tank held 140 gallons) up the burners of the Argus pulse jet mounted above the fuselage.  A spark plug crackled, the fuel ignited and flames belched from the rear of the engine as it roared to life.  Simultaneously, below the base of the launching ramp, a separate supply of compressed air forced T-Stoff (hydrogen peroxide) and Z-Stoff (calcium permanganate) from their tanks into the combustion chamber built into the base of the ramp.  As the two liquids came into contact there was a violent chemical reaction producing super-heated steam and oxygen at rapidly increasing pressure.  During the seven seconds after the pulse-jet engine came to life, it reach maximum thrust.  At the forward end of the combustion chamber was a firing piston, held in place by a  6mm diameter steel pin.  When the combination of engine thrust and chemical reaction produced sufficient force, the retaining pin sheared.  With nothing to restrain it, the firing piston shot forwards up the launching ramp, taking the flying bomb with it.  The missile accelerated rapidly and when it left the end of the 156 feet ramp it was moving at about 250 mph. 

 

Once the V1 was moving air entered through a series of metal flaps which closed when the fuel explosion took place and then opened to admit more air.  The burning exhaust gasses passed through a venturi system which gave forward thrust.  There was enough flame left in the venturi to ignite the next batch of fuel so, once started, the engine was self firing.  This is what gave the V1 its characteristic, forty two strokes per second, engine sound which was similar to a badly tuned motor bike.   

 

Once the missile was airborne the firing piston and launching cradle fell away. The V1 flew straight ahead climbing at a shallow angle and building up speed.  Three minutes after launch the on-board compass took over control and with a small correction to allow for the forecast wind along the route the nose swung on to the pre-set course for its designated target.  Six minutes after launch it reached its pre-set cruising altitude of about 3000 feet and leveled off.  The missile continued flying towards its target, the wind driven propeller on its nose driving a counter that logged the distance flown.  When the counter reached the previously set figure at which the flight was terminated a pair of electrical contacts closed and fired a couple of detonators in the tail of the machine which locked the elevators and rudder in the neutral position.  Simultaneously spoilers under the tailplane sprung out which moved the tail of the missile up with the result that the V1 went into a steep dive. This action threw the remaining petrol to the front of the almost empty tank which uncovered the feed pipe and caused the pulse-jet to flame out. The engine roared ceased as the weapon continued to fall out of the sky. 

 

Fighters like the Spitfire, Mosquito, Typhoon and Gloster Meteor downed over 1800 V1s.  Anti aircraft guns brought down over another 1800 whilst over 200 were destroyed by barrage balloons. 

 

Some 40000 workers of the Todt organization had constructed sixty four main and thirty two reserve firing sites in northern France.  Allied medium bombers carried out a series of intensive raids which resulted in the majority being wrecked or severely damaged.  German engineers devised a new type of launching ramp which consisted of a kit of steel parts that were far less conspicuous from the air.

 

The A-4 (V2), launched from a small square of flat concrete that was easy to conceal, carried 2010 pounds of high explosive and was powered by a liquid fuel rocket motor which produced a maximum thrust of twenty five tons.  The motor operated for sixty five seconds.  The missile reached a maximum velocity of 3600 mph, and during its ballistic trajectory of two hundred miles obtained a maximum altitude of sixty miles.  Flight time from launch to impact was just under four minutes.

 

June 1944

 

On the 6th June (1944) Allied seabourne troops began landing on the coast of Normandy.  The powerful Allied air umbrella meant that the Luftwaffe was unable to make an effective attack during the critical period which followed the initial landings.

 

III, Gruppe Schlachtgeschwader 4, a ground attack unit with some forty FW190Fs were not ordered to move until 09.35, although reports of the invasion reached the Gruppe at 03.00.  Each aircraft carried its mechanic in the rear fuselage.  Whilst airborne they were attacked by P-47s and P-51s.  Five FW190s were shot down with eight of the ten men on board being killed.  The mechanics did not have parachutes and the pilots refused to bail out. 

 

Home defense units were transferred to France.  II Gruppe Jagdgeschwader 1 was one of these units and was luckier than most.  On the afternoon of the 6th June the unit moved from western Germany to Le Mans. 

The following day they were airborne on three occasions and were lucky to not encounter any Allied aircraft.  On the 9th they tried to attack Allied shipping but were unable to penetrate the flak.  On the 10th Le Mans airfield was bombed by RAF Lancasters and Halifaxes.  The FW190s had been dispersed and camouflaged in the surrounding fields, none were damaged but it took six days to repair the airfield sufficiently that the FW190s could get airborne.  At this point the unit moved to Essay where it flew fighting patrols for the next four days.  The unit then transferred to Semalle and as it was establishing itself on its new base P-51s swept over the airfield.  In the space of a few minutes fifteen FW190s had been destroyed and II/Jg 1 was effectively out of the battle.

 

Throughout the invasion the Allied commanders had a frequent and comprehensive photographic coverage of the German positions.  The same was not available to the German commanders.  Allied fighter patrols meant daylight photography was impossible. 

 

Night reconnaissance at an altitude of 20000 feet with the use of a six million candlepower flash ignited 400 feet above the ground produced a fragmentary picture of the location of the Allied forces.

 

At the end of July the American troops broke out of the western side of the lodgement area.  Their rapid advance down the western side of the Cherbourg peninsula was unknown to the German High Command.  On the last day of July the Americans seized the bridges over the rivers See and Selune.  General Patton did not wait to draw up movement plans or march tables but poured his troops across the bridges.  In seventy two hours he moved seven divisions into the open countryside beyond the bridges.  Whilst the American troops were crossing the bridges the German fighter bombers could have severely disrupted the advance but they were not allowed to penetrate the defensive air patrols protecting Patton’s troops.     

 

At the end of July two Arado 234 jet aircraft (the fifth and seventh prototypes) were shipped to France.  They remained on the ground for a week until liquid fuel rocket boosters, required to get the jet airborne with a full fuel load, were delivered to France.  On the 2nd August one of the jets took to the air and made a forty minute flight during which it took nearly four hundred photographs.  When developed the pictures showed that the allies had landed more than one and a half million men and three hundred thousand vehicles on to French soil.  The photographs provided a picture of a battle that the Germans had already lost.

 

August saw the rout of the German armies in France.  As one German soldier commented; ‘If the aircraft above us were camouflaged, we knew they were British.  If they were silver, we knew they were American.  If they were not there at all, we knew they were German!’

 

Eastern front

 

Four days after the initial landings in Normandy (10th June) the Soviet ground forces opened their summer offensive. 

 

On the 21st June the He111 medium bomber units of Lufflotte 6 had a rare success.  On that day 163 B-17s took part in an attack on the oil refinery at Schwarzheide after which they flew eastwards over Poland escorted by P-51s and landed at Poltava and Mirgorod in the Soviet Union.  It was intended to fly another bombing mission a few days later in the opposite direction and land in Italy.  A Ju88 reconnaissance aircraft followed the American bombers and photographed them on the ground.  That same night 200 He111s took off to attack Poltava and Mirgorod.  Poor weather over Mirgorod led to all units attacking Poltava.  Of the seventy two Fortresses dispersed around the airfield only two were undamaged.  400000 gallons of aviation fuel was also destroyed.  The B-17s at Mirgorod were moved to an airfield (Zaporozhe) 150 miles south to put them out of the reach of the German bombers.  The evening after the destruction at Poltava, Mirgorod was attacked.

 

On the 23rd June the main Soviet offensive began with a series of attacks on the Central front.  Six months before the offensive several fighter Gruppen had been withdrawn from the east for the defense of the German homeland this left insufficient fighters on the Eastern front to stem the heavy attacks by Soviet bombers and ground attack aircraft.  The soviet army stormed forward.  The Germans dispatched forces from the Western Front, Germany and the Mediterranean, it was too little and too late.  By the end of July fuel famine restricted every type of air operation in the east.  On the 20th August the Soviet forces began their offensive in the south.  In Rumania there was a well planned coup d’etat.  The new government made peace with the Soviet Union. 

 

Germany, who was now its enemy, loss the use of the Rumanian oil fields.  Almost as important was that the US Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, could now expend all its energy in destroying the synthetic oil refineries.  On the 6th September Bulgaria changed sides and a week later so did Finland. 

Pause

 

During September and October the Allied advance in the west and the east came to a halt as their armies outran their supplies.  The Luftwaffe gained some respite.  At the same time the Allied bombers shifted their attack to the German transport system.  This allowed the German oil industry to increase production.  During the same period the German aircraft industry delivered nearly 4000 aircraft and almost eighty percent of these were Bf109s and Fw190s.  Fifteen fighter Gruppen that had suffered heavy losses were re-equipped.  In addition there were extra pilots from training schools and from bomber and other units that had been disbanded.  The Fw190D (Dora) fitted with a Junkers Jumo 213 in-line engine (instead of the BMW 801 radial) was entering production.  This 190 model promised to have a performance that matched the Spitfire XIV and P-51D.  The Bf109 had reached the end of its development potential and was outclassed by the latest versions of the P-47, P-51 and Spitfire.

 

Luftwaffe influence at Hitler’s HQ was at an all-time low.  Every German city or industrial complex wrecked by the RAF or USAAF (United States Army Air Force) was proof that the Luftwaffe was unable to protect the Reich.  As a result the popularity and prestige enjoyed by Goring diminished. 

 

Hitler rescinded his earlier decree that Me262s be delivered only to fighter-bomber units.  The Messerschmitt 262 had a maximum speed of 540 mph and a climb rate of zero to 30000 feet in seven minutes, giving it a substantial performance margin over any Allied fighter.  It was armed with four 3cm cannons and powered by two Jumo 004 turbojet power units.  Hitler made his decree, prior to the Normandy invasion, in the  believe that the outcome of the war would hinge on the success or failure of the Allied invasion of north-west Europe.  He felt it was very important that the Allied troops be bombed as they attempted to invade and consequently in late May 1944 insisted that the Me262 be produced as a fighter-bomber.  By this time there were less than fifty Me262s in production and the poor reliability of the Jumo turbojet meant none were in operational use. 

 

A jet fighter trials unit, commanded by Major Walter Nowotny and known as Kommando Nowotny, was set up in July (1944) and by mid-August possessed fifteen aircraft.  Engine serviceability remained poor.  The engine had a number of design problems which,  compounded by the shortage of high temperature resistance alloys, meant an average running life of early production engines of little more than ten hours.  Another problem was that the Jumo 004 throttles had to be operated slowly or the engine was liable to flame out or overheat and catch fire.  This meant that once a landing approach was made and the pilot had throttled back, the aircraft was committed to landing as the engines took so long to build up power if the throttles were reopened. 

 

By September the Jumo 004 was ready for mass production and nearly a hundred Me262s were delivered.  In the same month the jets of Kommando Nowotny entered operational service.  The engine serviceability remained poor and with the jets landing at speeds of 120 mph there were tyre problems.  It did not take long for the Allied fighter pilots to discovered that on take-off and on the approach for landing the Me262 was vulnerable.  Allied fighters mounted standing patrols over jet airfields.  In early November Major Nowotny was shot down and killed.  Adolf Galland happened to be at Achmer, the Kommando Nowotny base, on the day Walter Nowotny lost his life.  Galland ordered the unit to withdraw in order to receive further training,

 

Bomber Offensive

 

In April 1944 the German oil industry produced 175000 tons of aviation fuel, two months later production was down to 55000 tons.  The sharp fall was a result of the Allied bombing offensive.  Initially large numbers of anti-aircraft guns were transferred from other areas to protect the refineries.

 

The Eighth was to attack refineries in central and eastern Germany, the Fifteenth was to attack refineries in Austria, Hungary, Rumania and southern Germany.

 

The Luftwaffe had introduced the Fw190 ‘Sturmbock’ (battering ram) which was a heavily armed and armoured bomber destroyer version of the fighter fitted with additional armour plating around the cockpit and the ammunition boxes and with extra panels of laminated glass on the sides of the cockpit.  It carried two 3cm cannons whose high explosive shells were extremely destructive against aircraft at short range, three hits were sufficient to bring down a heavy bomber. 

 

The modifications meant a 400 pound weight increase with a corresponding reduction in performance.  The ‘Strumbock’ were thus accompanied by standard fighters, normally Bf109s.  The Sturmbock Fw190s escorted by Me109s caused some problems for the B-17s and B-24s.  The answer to the new German tactics was to send large numbers of fighters to sweep the areas ahead and to the flanks of the bombers in order to catch the slow German formations and break them up before they reached the American bombers. 

 

As well as the ‘Strumblock’ Fw190 the Germans introduced the Messerschmitt 163 rocket powered aircraft into the fray.  The Me163 had a maximum speed of 558mph, could climb to 30000 feet in about three minutes and carried two 3cm cannons.  The Walter HWK 509 motor ran on C-Stoff (combination of methyl-alcohol, hydrazine hydrate and water) and T-Stoff (highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide).  The fuel tanks held sufficient chemicals for four minutes running.  After take off the pilot would climb at full power, level off, accelerate to fighting speed and shut down the rocket.  The pilot would cut in the motor in short bursts to restore speed.  In this way the aircraft’s endurance under power could be extended to seven and a half minutes.  When the fuel was exhausted the machine would glide to earth.  The  Me163 was limited to a radius of about twenty five miles from its base.  Jagdegschwader 400 were the only combat unit to receive Me163s.

 

On the 16th August the Eighth sent about a thousand bombers to attack the refineries in the Leipniz area. Five Me163s were scrambled, two were promptly shot down.  On the 24th August the Me163 achieved its first aerial victories when four B-17s were shot down, this was to be the high point in its operational career.  During September it fate was sealed when bombing attacks on Leverkusen amd Ludwigshaven resulted in two of the main sources of C-Stoff production being greatly reduced.  All future C-Stoff production was allocated for V1 use.

 

During the spring of 1944 the air battles fought by the Luftwaffe against the United States Army Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces resulted in serious loss of Fw190s and Me109s.  Whilst the German aircraft industry could produce sufficient new fighters the Luftwaffe training organization could not turn out effective fighter pilots as quickly as they were being lost.  There were no replacements for experienced pilots lost in combat. 

 

The Me109, in the hands of an inexperienced airman could be a difficult machine, there was a high accident rate at conversion schools.  The conversion course contained only thirty flying hours, sufficient only to learn simple manoeuvers.

 

Meanwhile the piston engined aircraft continued to mount attacks and from time to time were able to pick their way past the American fighters.  On the 27th September of the thirty seven  B-24’s dispatched from the 445th Bomb Group twenty eight were shot down in a time span of three minutes.  The effect on the whole of the US Eighth Air Force was however minimal.  On most days when the American bombers attacked targets in Germany their losses were less than one percent.

 

In parallel with the American daylight attacks, the RAF sent in similarly large raiding forces to attack Germany at night.  The night fighter force controlled by Luftflotte Reich was numerically smaller than its day fighter counterpart and in the spring of 1944 was at its peak of effectiveness. 

 

During the previous summer, by the use of ‘window’ (aluminum foil) and other counter-measures, the RAF bombers had considerably reduced the effectiveness of the German air defense system.  The development and introduction of three new electric devices (SN-2 airborne interception radar, which operated in the 85-90Mhz band and therefore was invulnerable to ‘window’, and ‘Naxos’ and ‘Flenburg’ two passive devices which enabled night fighters to home in, respectively, on emissions from the bombers H2S ground mapping radar and on the ‘Monica’ tail warning radar) allowed the German night fighter force to inflict heavy losses on the RAF bombers.  On the night of the 30th-31st March ninety four bombers were shot down during a bombing raid on Nuremburg.

 

On the 13th July a fully equipped Junkers 88G night fighter inadvertently landed at Woodbridge in Suffolk.  The Ju 88G carried SN-2 radar and the ‘Flensburg’ homer.  SN-2 was found to be vulnerable to ‘window’ of a longer length.  The ‘Monica’ tail warning radar was removed from all aircraft in Bomber Command.  Soon after the RAF sensed the existence of ‘Naxos’ and restricted the use of H2S.

 

The loss of French territory after the Normandy landings made a large ‘hole’ in the German early warning radar chain, this had an enormous effect on the German night fighter force.  Fuel famine also started to take effect on night fighter operations.  To make matters worse 100 Group began to make its presence felt.  RAF night bombers began to operate almost at will over Germany and suffered minimal loss.  

 

The last months

 

Adolf Galland drew up a plan to assemble a large number of fighters to delivery a single massive attack on the US bombers.  To this end he withdrew several units from action in order to re-form and re-train.  On the 2nd November nearly five hundred German fighters took off to engage more than a thousand bombers who were escorted by nearly nine hundred allied fighters.  The Sturmbock Fw190s of IV/Jg3 brought down thirteen B-17s of the 91st BG, two of them by ramming.  The aircraft of II/Jg4 destroyed nine B-17s from the 457th BG.  On each occasion P-51s arrived with the result that the predator became the prey.  Thirty one of the sixty one Fw190s involved were shot down.  On this particular day the Luftwaffe lost one hundred and twenty fighters but much more importantly seventy pilots were killed or were posted missing.  The Eighth lost forty bombers and sixteen fighters. 

 

When the results of the 2nd November action were discussed at Hitler’s HQ he (Hitler) decided that the German fighter force would be used to give air support (Operation ‘Boddenplatte’) to a counter offensive (Operation ‘Wacht am Rhein’) being planned.  Adolf Galland and other Luftwaffe officers pointed out that the air defense training the new pilots were receiving was quite different from that required for make-shift operations from small airfields close to a battle front. 

 

The German pilot loss continued.  On the 21st (November) sixty pilots were killed or wounded, on the 26th another eighty seven were lost or wounded and on the 27th fifty seven were killed or wounded.       

 

Operation ‘Boddenplatte’ (Baseplate), was a plan to carry out a large scale attack on the Allied airfields.  The attack was to be launched on the same morning as a ground offensive attack, Operation ‘Wacht am Rhein’ (watch on the Rhine).  Early on the morning of the 16th December a massive German artillery bombardment heralded the beginning of ‘Wacht am Rhein’.  There was a thick fog over the battle area which protected the German armoured units who moved into the American forward positions.  By the 20th the German advance was halted.  On Christmas day the American forces began to drive the German’s back.  On the 31st December, at 05.00, nine hundred German fighters and fighter-bombers attacked Allied airfields, they achieved complete surprise.  One of the most successful attacks was on the airfield at Eindhoven.  The German force arrived at the Typhoon fighter-bombers of 438 and 439 (RCAF) Squadrons were taxiing out.  Within minutes most of the aircraft in the two Canadian squadrons were destroyed or seriously damaged. 

 

In all the Allies lost 114 aircraft and a further sixty two were damaged beyond unit repair.  Within a couple of weeks the aircraft were replaced.  The Allies suffered minimal pilot loss but the Luftwaffe lost nearly two hundred and fifty pilots, several of those lost were experienced leaders.  

 

Although Hitler still thought in terms of holding back the advancing forces at the eastern and western frontiers of Germany he was forced to give priority to the Eastern Front as Soviet forces threatened to advance into Berlin.

 

The American bombers continued to mount almost daily raids over Germany.  On the 14th January nearly one hundred and ninety German fighters, which included six Me262s, meet a force of over nine hundred B-17s and B-24s with fighter escort.  II (Sturm)/Jg 300 shot down eight of the B-17s of the 390th BG but this was the only real success the German forces had.  In all the allies lost seventeen bombers and eleven fighters whilst more than one hundred and forty German fighters were lost with over a hundred German pilots being killed and over thirty wounded.  This action brought a virtual end to large scale operations by the German piston engined fighter units.  A large part of the fuel stocks had been consumed and a renewed attack on German oil refineries meant that production was reduced to a ‘trickle’.  Most of the new German planes would wait out the war in aircraft parks. 

 

At this stage of the war Galland was openly critical of Goering, particular in regard to the failure to get the Me262 into service with combat units.  By the first week in January (1945) about six hundred Me262s had been delivered to the Luftwaffe.  Of these six hundred about sixty were in service with operational units but none in service with an operational day fighter unit. 

 

Before the war, in order to shorten training time and save resources, pilots assigned to day fighter units received no training in instrument flying.  Many of the more experienced fighter pilots has received this kind of training later in their careers.  American bombers carried radar and attacked targets covered by cloud. 

 

To climb and descend through cloud with a relatively slow piston engined aircraft presented few problems but for a pilot not trained in instrument flying flying a rapid decent through cloud in a Me262 was an operation fraught with danger.  Goering believed it was easier to retrain bomber pilots who were proficient in instrument flying than to retrain fighter pilots to fly on instruments.  Galland felt the opposite. 

 

Of the four hundred and forty Me262s not in operational use, about 150 were with training units, about 150 had been destroyed by enemy action in the air and on the ground, thirty were with various test centres and the remainder were located on the German rail system.  After acceptance test flight most Me262s were dismantled and transport to the operational units by rail.  Nearly a third of the total Me262 output was ‘lost’ on a rail transport system that was pounded daily by the allies.  Some aircraft had not left the production line.  Within the German aircraft industry the increasing number of impressed foreign workers and slave labourers created problems.  It is difficult to achieve quality of production when everyone is working towards that end.  It  is impossible if some of the workforce is willing to sabotage the process even when to be caught meant summary execution.

 

On the 9th February I. Gruppe KG(J) 54 put up put up ten Me262s against a multi-pronged attack by 1500 American bombers.  The fighters damaged one B-17 before escorting P-51s shot down six Me2626s in rapid succession. On the 25th four Me262s of II Gruppe, which had taken off on a training flight, were pounced by Mustangs who shot down three of them.  The same day II Gruppe lost another nine Me262s, three in combat, four during a strafing attack on the airfield they were operating from and two in flying accidents due to technical failure. 

 

On the 21st (February) Mustangs of the 479th FG encountered fifteen Me262s.  The German pilots were experienced.  The jets could not easily be caught in a turn and when caught in such a position would roll out and climb up and away.  Neither the American or German pilots could get the better of each other.  The encounter illustrated that when well handled jets confronted well handled Mustangs the Me262 was no real threat to the P-51.  The jet fighters did however pose a real threat to the bombers for with its high speed it could pierce the screen of escorting American fighters with relative ease.

 

On the 3rd March twenty nine Me262s, the largest response by jets so far, attacked American bomber formations. The German pilots claimed the destruction of six bombers and two fighters, one jet was lost.  On the 18th thirty seven jet fighters engage a force of over 1200 American bombers.  Eight B-17s were shot down, two jets were lost.  The next day the German jet fighters pilots claimed six bombers shot down, two Me262s were lost.

 

On the 19th the jets claimed nine bombers destroyed, four Me262s were lost.  On the 21st the jets shot down five American bombers, three Me262s were lost.  Action between the jets and the American bombers continued throughout March.  Whilst the American bombers were the main victims of Me262 attacks the jets also attacked the aircraft of RAF Bomber Command who in the closing months of the war mounted powerful daylight attacks on targets in Germany.  Lancasters, Halifaxes and Mosquitos were lost  to the cannons of Me262s.

 

Towards the end of February a new Me262 unit, Jagdverband 44, was formed under Adolf Galland.  With many piston engined fighter units grounded because of lack of fuel Galland was able to attract many experienced and successful pilots to the unit.  By the beginning of April the unit was established at Munich/Riem and was ready for action.  By this time the Luftwaffe fighter control organisation was in ruins. 

 

Technical, tactical and supply difficulties together with the fact that their airfield was under continuous observation by P-51s meant that JV 44 were unable to operate effectively.  The special fighter unit achieved so little that its entry into the battle passed unnoticed by the Allied air forces.

 

At this stage in the war the Me262 had become an effective machine and existed in sufficient numbers, but the Luftwaffe was beset by so many problems that it could not exploit the advantages of its new jet fighter.  The Americans alone were dispatching raiding forces of over twelve hundred heavy bombers with eight hundred escorting fighters almost daily to targets in Germany.  Against such attacks the jets were merely irratants.  Had six times as many Me262s gone into action it would have only had a transistory effect on the outcome of the war.  The B-29 was operational in the Far East and if necessary would have flown over the skies of Germany.  Cruising at 30000 feet and well protected by large numbers of machine guns a formation of Superfortresses would not have been an easy target for the first generation of jet fighters.

 

Oberst Hajo Herrmann, a bomber ace earlier in the war, proposed the formation of special units, whose pilots (all volunteers) would ram the American bombers.  It was proposed to use Bf109s stripped of armour and all unnecessary equipment which could thus outclimb and outrun the P-51.  During February a special Order of the Day signed by Goering, was posted at fighter training schools.  There was no lack of volunteers.  The operation, code-named ‘Wehrwolf, took place on the 7th April.  About 120 of the specially prepared Bf109s took off to attack a force of 1300 B-17s and B-24s, with a strong fighter escort, who were heading into central Germany.  Eight of the bombers were brought down by ramming.  Fifty nine German piston engined fighters were destroyed.  There was no attempt to repeat the operation.

 

On the 25th April the Soviet forces completed their encirclement of Berlin.  On the same day the American and Soviet troops linked up on the River Elbe at Torgau..  On the 30th Hitler nominated Karl Donitz his successor and committed suicide.  The following day the German forces in Berlin laid down their arms.  From the time he assumed power Donitz worked to end the war as rapidly as possible.   

 

 

 

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