Horror Over Kalamaki
Up to the raid on the airfield of Kalamaki south of Athens on November 17, 1943, the 486th Bomb Squadron had not
lost a single airplane over a target. Fate turned its back on the crew of 2/Lt. John D. O’Leary. His Mitchell ended up
in a flat spin and inverted after several flak hits. And to top it off, the unlucky B-25 was also taking hits from JG 27
L’enfant Terrible arrives
Obfw. Heinrich Bartels became a member of JG
27 in August, 1943. He came to 11./JG 27 after being expelled by JG 5 Eismeer. He had committed
several “indiscretions” there, but on the other
hand, he was an ace with 49 kills. He rounded his
INFO Eduard - April 2021
score to fifty in his new environment on October 1,
1943, when he was credited with the shot down of
a Boston northwest of the island of Kos.
After that, Bartels began to add to his tally quickly, with his Bf 109G-6. Over the month of October,
he added fourteen kills, and over November, he
would paint another ten kill marks on his rudder.
Bartels claimed four American P-38s on November 15 in the span of a mere three minutes
(1310 – 1312h), and these kills brought his score
to seventy. A small celebration followed and the
photographs of a smiling Bartels, in front of the
rudder of his airplane displaying seven rows of
ten kills each, is well known. The problem comes
in the fact that the Americans didn’t report any
Lightning losses that day. All of them returned
from their respective missions. Bartels wasn’t
the only one that day who was busy painting kill
marks on his aircraft. JG 27 fighter pilots claimed
a total of fourteen P-38s! Besides Bartels, this
included, for example, Hptm. Joachim Kirschner
(Stab.IV/JG 27) who also claimed four, and Fw.
Ernst Hackl (12./JG 27), with a claim of three.
Two days later, Bartels was credited with another
P-38 along with two B-25s that were a part of an
attack on Kalamaki. In reality, though, the 340th
BG, who conducted the raid, only lost one aircraft.
Although Bartels did attack the stricken aircraft,
it was brought down by flak.
Bartels was an interesting character even so. He
was a native Austrian born in Linc and wasn’t
exactly a subscriber of discipline. He also belonged to a group of flyers that, to put it politely, felt no affinity for the Nazi regime. His road
took him through JG 26, where he claimed two
kills in combat against British fighters, to JG 5.
He had good success against the Soviets while operating over the Northern Front, and he
would spend more than a year and a half there.
He would hit 46 kills before the patience regarding his behavior ran out and he was shipped
off to JG 27. He stayed with this unit until his
death, first with 11./JG 27 and then with 15./JG 27.
Fighter wing JG 27 had been active in practically
every battle zone that the Luftwaffe was involved
in during the Second World War. Its duties began
to be carried out on the Western Front, followed
by a move to the Balkans, to later support the
invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941. But
three months prior, I./JG 27, commanded by “Edu”
Neumann, relocated to Africa to be followed by
II./JG 27 five months later, commanded by Wolfgang Lippert. The unit was made complete in
Africa in December after the arrival of III./JG 27,
and would remain there with short stints of its
groups in other areas until November, 1942, when
it transferred its remaining assets to JG 77 and
After their rest period and rearmament, the
group’s components operated in France, over Sicily, and within the Defense of the Reich system.
In May, 1943, IV./JG 27 was newly formed at Kalamaki airfield in Greece, which then transferred
over to Romania to defend the oilfields of Ploesti. It was united with II./JG 27 and Stab./JG 27 at
Kalamaki after returning from that unsuccessful
mission. The unit was tasked with the interception of Allied raids that were designed to support
landings on several Greek islands, and to defend
their own bombers. The Allied landings in France
in June, 1944, brought about a need to relocate
both groups of JG 27 from Kalamaki to “hotter”
Heinrich Bartels was a fighter pilot with a low sense of discipline. He also did not hide his disdain for the Nazi regime.