4./NJG 1, St. Trond, Belgium, February 1942
NJG 1 was the oldest night fighter Luftwaffe
unit and was founded by the legendary Oberst Wolfgang Falck. At the beginning
of 1942, the unit’s II. Gruppe was led by Major Walter Ehle, who kept the
commanding position for over next three years. In 1942, the well-known night
fighter Wilhelm Herget, for example, also served within the ranks of 4. Staffel
II./NJG 1. This “G9+JM” is interesting not only for the shark mouth marking,
but also for the temporary application of a “naval” RLM 72 green on the upper
surfaces, as this plane took part in patrol flights for Operation Donnerkeil. A
quick identification mark came in the form of a yellow fuselage band. During
the operation, the Germans managed to navigate the battleships Scharnhorst and
Gneisenau as well as the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen through the English Channel
from Brest (Bretagne, France) to northern Germany. The Luftwaffe, between February
11 and 13, 1942, ensured uninterrupted patrols over the formation. II./NJG 1
and II./NJG 3 were tasked with cover duty during twilight and overnight hours.
On the second day of operations, elements of both night fighter units relocated
to Lister airbase in Norway, from which the last segment of the fleet’s cruise
was covered. The unit’s detachment stayed in Norway through to the end of
February. All air to air victories during Operation Donnerkeil were achieved by
day fighters of the Luftwaffe.
Lt. Herbert Kutscha, 5./ZG 1, Soviet Union, 1942
Herbert Kutscha ((*1917 †2003) served with II./JG 77 at the
beginning of the war, but he was soon transferred to 5./ZG 1 equipped with
Messerschmitts Bf 110. During the Battle of France, he shot down a number of
aircraft, including a Bf 109 of the air force of neutral Switzerland. Later, he
also gained much success on the Eastern Front as a ground attack pilot,
partially due to II./ZG 1 transformation into II./SKG 210. Kutscha’s II.Gruppe,
under the command of Hptm. Rolf Kaldrack, was specialized in ground attack
operations, especially in low level bombing. The Bf 110 was able to move faster
over the enemy territory than other bombers. Here is where the term “fast
bombardment wing” (SKG; Schnellkampfgeschwader) was coined. Kutscha was awarded
the Knight’s Cross after his 22nd victory. At that time there were 41 aircraft
destroyed on the ground, 41 tanks, 15 locomotives, 11 anti-aircraft guns and
157 transport vehicles added to his tally. In June 1943 he took command of 15.
Staffel JG 3 “Udet”, utilizing single engine fighters. In the summer of 1944,
he took control of II./JG 3 in Normandy and by the end of the year he changed
the unit to lead II./JG 27. From February 1945 he commanded III./JG 1 on the
Eastern Front. All in all, he flew over 900 sorties and achieved 47 kills, six
of which were four engine heavy bombers and 22 of his kills he achieved behind
controls of Bf 110. German Geschwader was much bigger unit than RAF or USAAF Squadron.
In fact, it was corresponding to USAAF Wing, while Gruppe was equal to USAAF
Group and Staffel was similar unit as the USAAF squadron.
Lt. Felix-Maria Brandis, 1.(Z)/JG 77, Malmi, Finland, 1942
One of the aircraft of 1.(Z)/JG 77
commander Lt. Felix-Maria Brandis while stationed on the Eastern Front. His
credit count tallied 14 victories of which five victims were British (including
a pair of Fairey Albacores) and nine Soviet aircraft. Lt. Brandis died on
February 2, 1942, when flying Bf 110E-2 (WNr. 2546) LN+AR at Olang. He crashed
on the return leg of a combat sortie in bad weather conditions. By that time,
his unit had been re-designated 6.(Z)/JG 5 (January 25, 1942). The designation
of the unit progressively changed from 1.(Z)/JG 77 to 6.(Z)/JG 5, 10.(Z)/JG 5
and 13.(Z)/JG 5. On the nose of the aircraft, there was the emblem of a
dachshund with a Rata (Polikarpov I-16) in its mouth. It was a typical marking
of this unit, as a number of these dogs were mascots of the “Dackelstaffel” through
its existence, irrespective of the unit designation carried at any particular
time. Some sources even say each crew had their own dog. The wiener dogs even
occasionally flew on combat missions with the crew. The unit opposed British
aircraft as well as Soviet ones in northern Europe. This aircraft, flown by Lt.
Harry Kripphal, fell a victim of anti-aircraft fire 30 km west of Murmansk on
June 18, 1942.
WNr. 4035, Sonderkommando Junck, Mosul Air Base, Iraq, May 1941
After the outbreak of the
Anglo-Iraqi War, which lasted from April 18 to May 30, 1941, the Italians and
Germans gave their military support to the Iraqis. The Luftwaffe opposed the
RAF with the unit named Sonderkommando Junck, which had Messerschmitt Bf 110
fighters, Heinkel He 111 bombers, and Junkers Ju 52 transport planes in its
inventory. The unit was commanded by Oberst Werner Junck, who, during the
course of the First World War with Jasta 8, gained five aerial victories.
Between the wars, he was a well-known sport pilot. The Messerschmitts Bf 110
carried Iraqi national insignia but were manned by German crews. In fact, the
aircraft in question came from ZG 76 and ZG 26. The only unit’s victory during this
episode was achieved on May 20, 1941 by Lt. Martin Drewes (a future night
fighter ace) of II./ZG 76, when he shot down a Gloster Gladiator flown by Sgt.
Smith of A Squadron of Habbaniya Strike Force over Fallujah. Messerschmitt Bf
110E WNr. 4035 was found by the British after a forced landing. It was repaired
in September 1941 and christened “Belle of Berlin”. Later it was flown to Egypt
to No. 267 Squadron. The aircraft was written off after a forced landing
enroute to South Africa.
6./ZG 1, Russia, Summer 1942
The wasp emblem (Wespe) was designed
in the autumn of 1939 by Lt. Richard Malchfelder, a technical officer of one of
the Zerstörergruppe (II./ZG 1). It was originally composed of three small
wasps, and was utilized by the same Gruppe of heavy fighters that went through
several designation changes (including II./SKG 210) and, finally, in early
1942, ended up as II./ZG 1. Soon, other Gruppe of Zerstörergeschwader 1 came to
use the wasp emblem and their Geschwader carried the operational name of “Wespen”.
This aircraft sported the RLM 74/75/76 camouflage pattern.