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.